Rona Shaffran, poet


Review by Alejandro Bustos on Monday February 17th, 2014,

in Write On Ottawa, Apartment613 - Arts. Culture. Ottawa. Puns.

Write On Ottawa: Poetic novella ‘Ignite’ offers an explosive love story

It is too easy to differentiate between literary styles.  Poems go in one group, fiction in another, and drama is often seen as if it were a whole separate species. The best story telling, however, often ignores the boundaries between genres, and opts instead to mix and match different traditions until a unique work is produced. This thought occurred to me while reading Ignite by Ottawa-based writer Rona Shaffran.  If you were to go into a book store or library, you would almost certainly find this work in the poetry section.  This categorization, however, does not fully describe this intriguing book... The flow of the story left me with the feeling that I was reading a novella rather than a collection of poems.  Divided into three sections/chapters, and a mere 92-pages long, Ignite offers an interesting take on the loss of passion, the search to rekindle love, and how a couple deal with the change in their relationship after the parameters that had previously defined them have been altered.

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Review by Val B. Russell, Tuck Magazine

...the linear poetic journey works perfectly here...Ms. Shaffran's poems will illicit more than a few head nods from both women and men. .. Her writing is clean and insightful, her very personal imagery often painful in its descriptive beauty. The biting but artful observations she makes of the search for self within another are direct and clear. ...  Ms. Shaffran  opens doors and windows, pulls back curtains and rolls up blinds fearlessly. This self examination and exposure are the mark of a genuine poet and one that cannot be faked by even the most technically skilled wordsmith.  There are no smoke and mirrors here, but rather trembling hands trying their damnedest to hold the fragile heart of another lest we break our own. There is granite wisdom on every page of this book...

Read the full review at Tuck Magazine.

Review by Rachel Rose on and


January 5, 2014

By Rachel Rose - 5.0 out of 5 stars

“In her debut collection, Ignite, Rona Shaffran explores the subject of marital alienation with spare, muscular lines and startlingly original imagery. Heartache and despair are nothing new to poetry; indeed, poets Sharon Olds and Carol Ann Duffy have both recently written major works charting the end of a great love. What Shaffran writes, though, is something new and unexpected, something I have not seen in any collection. Without giving away the mysterious transformation in Ignite, let me simply say that this is a profoundly hopeful book for all who have stood on the abyss of a love affair and looked down. I would have liked to see a poetic investigation of such passionate transformations that extended beyond the personal, the mysterious and the miraculous (as finely wrought as these poems are). I wanted the author's insight; is this something that all great loves must pass through, either surviving it or being shattered by it? But perhaps the author's refusal is her own answer; Shaffran insists on an unflinching examination of a particular life, and it is up to her readers to draw their own conclusions about the universal. Shaffran's is a passionate and powerful new voice in Canadian poetry.”


Rachel Rose, author of three collections of poetry, as well as essays and short stories, has been published in literary magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United States. She has won the Bronwen Wallace Award for fiction, the Quebec Writers Federation A.M. Klein Award for Poetry, the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry, and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for poetry. She is poetry and lyric prose mentor in The Writer's Studio at Simon Fraser University.

from a review by Michael Dennis on his blogspot, April 22, 2013:

“...Rona Shaffran is fearless ... This book almost shudders in your hands as physical love and emotional passion are entwined...On these pages the horny Erica Jong battles it out with the contemplative Slyvia Plath on an erotic playground until Shaffran has reached an emotionally satisfying conclusion... This is a stunning first book full of strong poems.”

For the full review, go to …


Review in Vallum Magazine, 10:2, Reflections

Ignite by Rona Shaffran

(Winnipeg, MB: Signature Editions, 2013, $15.00 CDN, 96 pages)

Review by James Edward Reid

For Rona Shaffran, the ground beneath her feet is important. The linked poems in this collection present some of the most honest and true poetry I have read recently. Ignite opens with a sequence of poems bathed in mid-winter light. The heat in a relationship between a man and woman has gone cold, emotionally and sexually. Its dying embers are described clearly by the woman, especially in the first three poems of the book. "Impasse" contains these troubling and fearless lines about her partner's arrival home:

You scan my body

as though looking

for an answer and say,

I forgot

to pay

the electric today.

As he climbs the stairs, her partner is more concerned about his new "navy Nubuck shoes" than about her. So concerned, he thinks:

I notice

the double scallop

of your hips

as you stand

there on the landing,

your wedge of dark curls

a challenge

I just can't

seem to face.

While reading these lines, just for a moment, I thought I heard echoes of Sexton talking to Roethke.

But the voice here is Shaffran's own, speaking the naked truth in the woman's voice, and then in the man's. This is daring, high-wire poetry that requires perfect balance between the female and male personas. This balance and credibility in a dialogue between two voices is difficult to achieve convincingly, yet in Shaffran's hands, it appears to be easy-it isn't.

The second section of Ignite opens with an epigraph from "Life is Motion," a poem by Wallace Stevens devoted to "Celebrating the marriage / Of flesh and air." This section includes poems set on an island where there is a change, or transition, to a place where love and passion are re-awakened, as is evident in the poem, "Ignite:"

Supine on moist sand,

my spine curves

to meet the lissome earth

Kindled by a tangelo sun,

I ignite

into life

The third and final section of Ignite is the shortest and one of the strongest in this noteworthy collection of poems.  The epigraphs in Ignite quote the mid-20th century poets Anne Sexton, Theodore Roethke, and Wallace Stevens. Sexton's work was deeply personal and sometimes troubled. Roethke's distinctive poetry, such as "In a Dark Time," was also troubled. And Stevens' was brilliant and often cool. The best of these influences and a number of others are apparent in the sometimes cool and hot bursts in Ignite.

Contributor bio:

James Edward Reid publishes in The Sarmatian Review, Vallum, and the Pacific Rim Review of Books. He has also published in Prairie Fire, Highgrader Magazine, Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, and The Guardian.

from a review in The Central Plains Herald-Lead:

“ . . .A large part of how we identify ourselves is through our relationships with others. Rona Shaffran's Ignite, published by Signature Editions, is a collection of poems that takes a heartbreakingly honest look at the broken relationship between a man and a woman as the two move toward healing through a physical process of self-discovery. The poems use language that evokes primal reactions as we witness the rediscovery of desire on the path to repairing what is broken.”

—Tara Seel