Autobiography of a Marguerite
by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle
Published 7 June 2014
94pp, paperback, 144mm x 215mm
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Autobiography of a Marguerite is an innovative autobiography about illness, family dysfunction, and identity, and how they can shape one another. The narrator struggles with the effects of her auto-immune illness, and struggles to separate herself from her troubled mother. The narrative that emerges from the connected prose poems is both revealing and mysterious. Fragmentation, non-linearity and the use of footnotes reflect the disruptive nature of illness and the nature of recalling memories and family patterns.
Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle's work has appeared in a wide range of publications. Along with Hue & Cry these include Sport and Landfall, and her poems have been selected for Best New Zealand Poems in 2011 and 2012. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern letters, where was awarded the Biggs Poetry Prize for her manuscript, the first rendition of Autobiography of a Marguerite.
Responses to the book
'Marguerite presents an intriguing and moving process, propelled by formal innovation, a strong voice and syntactical play. It also shows what Butcher-McGunnigle is capable of. We should definitely look out for what she does next.'
- Landfall Review Online
'In this profound, book-length poem, Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle undoes the self right back to the nucleus and explores an extraordinary event in her life: an anonymous illness that swamps her and the lives of her ill-at-ease family. A mother who is lean with her cooking, a philandering father, and a narrator with ever swelling wrists and limbs. Butcher-McGunnigle's poetry evokes Anne Carson and Thalia Field. It is original, startling writing.'
- Sonja Yelich.
'Workbook for surviving illness, guide to familial dysfunction and an intersection between fact and fiction, Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle's Autobiography of a Marguerite is one of the most innovative New Zealand books published in recent years.'
- Siobhan Harvey, Booknotes 'Books of the Year 2014'
'The inaugural James Joyce Memorial Award for unabashed, unfettered but utterly justifiable experimentation is shared by two essential books: Sam Sampson's Halcyon Ghosts (AUP) and Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle's Autobiography of a Marguerite.'
- Gregory O'Brien, Radio New Zealand 'Poetry 2014'
'Autobiography of a Marguerite is a grand achievement. The writing goes to the aching heart of disconnection and of longing for repair. It's obsessive and relentless, as befits the theme, circling and re-circling the fragmented self, drawing the pieces together. Butcher-McGunnigle has created a crooked beauty out of shards.'
- Sue Wootton, Takahe Magazine
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