Author Shirley Camia reads at Pluma’s literary event on November 23  in Toronto. (The Philippine Reporter)

Updated: Dec. 30, 2017, 6:11 AM

Vancouver, B.C.

Children Shouldn’t Use Knives  gains praise

By Ted Alcuitas

Shirley Camia explores the ‘darker’ side of youth in her daring new book, Children Shouldn’t Use Knives which was  released this fall.

The Winnipeg-born and raised Camia will do her last book tour in Vancouver on Sunday, January 7 at the The Paper Hound, 344 W. Pender at 4:30 PM.

She will be joined by Cindy Mochizuki, the internationally acclaimed, Vancouver-based interdisciplinary artist.  She produced  the illustrations in Camia’s first collaborative effort.

The two first met at the LiterAsian Writer’s Festival  in Vancouver in 2015.  Camia did a reading of her book, The Significance of Moths and was a featured workshop panelist at the festival.

Shirley Camia launches book in Vancouver

“In her distinct style of disciplined word-economy, Camia layered every word with intense intentionality. During the silences between each poem, the audience sank in pool of emotions…”, Rachel Evangeline Chiong of Pluma described Camia’s reading.

Camia was among those featured in the Filipino-Canadian literary group Pluma’s inaugural launch November 23 at the University of Toronto.

The book had its first launch in Winnipeg on November 21 at McNally Robinson where it was on the Best Seller List for the week of November 19-29.

Published by At Bay Press, it can be purchased at Amazon.

The Winnipeg Free Press’ Jonathan Ball calls Camia’s book “Disturbing but delightful, Camia’s sharp,stark poems unfold crumpled childhood memories and meditate on the beauty of their horror.”

“Shirley Camia’s Children Shouldn’t Use Knives and Other Tales, reads and looks like a nightmare version of a Shel Silverstein book: “the dawn has a skeleton rattle//winter nags at her young bones/frozen from the blankets of sharp cold// carved blocks of hardened shadows.”

If childhood were a room, Shirley Camia’s Children Shouldn’t Use Knives paces off the corners, fiddles with the light switch, and breaks the blinds. Camia writes ‘the dawn has a skeleton rattle,’ and we see all the moments of boredom and crisis, the lights and darks, all the joys and confusions of being young, of being alive.
– Ariel Gordon, author of Stowaways, winner of the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry


The blue skies of childhood exist in the warmest of our memories, but what chases us all through the rest of our lives are the storm clouds. This is the premise of Children Shouldn’t Use Knives, a harrowing but exhilarating examination of life before adolescence by Canadian poet Shirley Camia. In a series of razor-sharp sketches, Camia’s piercing observations are offered as a perfectly balanced counter-weight to the sing-song melody of innocence. Camia and Vancouver illustrator Cindy Mochizuki offer an individual reckoning that unpacks the universal truth that fear and danger respect no age and ignore all boundaries.
Shirley Camia has produced a gorgeously sculptured work of poetry that is as beautiful as it is devastating.

Her other books include The Significance of Moths (Turnstone Press, 2015) and Calliope (Libros Libertad, 2011). Her work has been featured in North American publications such as The New Quarterly.

A former CBC broadcaster, Camia now works with UNHCR based in Copenhagen, Denmark as an Associate Fundraising Communication Officer.