Chenille or Silk

By Emma McKenna

Categories: Poetry, LGBTQ+
Imprint: Dagger Editions
Paperback : 9781987915891, 72 pages, March 2019

Emma McKenna's debut book of poetry unflinchingly examines what it means to find belonging in an urban queer Canadian community, while traversing the boundaries of poverty, desire and trauma.


Chenille or Silk is a startling first collection of confessional poetry examining the slippery relations of desire, class, embodiment and trauma. Emma McKenna's writing traverses the bounds and the wounds of a family marked by poverty and intergenerational trauma. The collection asserts the primacy of intimacy and sexuality to subjectivity, as the poems move through the struggle to find identity, love and belonging in an urban queer community's ever-shifting economy of desire. Striking, brave and at times uncomfortable, Chenille or Silk captures the ambivalence--and the hope--of possibility.


  • Short-listed, Hamilton Literary Awards 2020


"Emma McKenna's confessional poetics hold power, subtle shifts and bittersweet complexities. With a voice that is just as striking on the page as off, McKenna's debut collection provocatively straddles an evolution of queer desire, multi-layers of intergenerational trauma and class. This is poetry undressing slowly. Poetry coming undone. Poetry redressing pain and beauty, knowing all material is part of the fabric of being.''

--Shannon Webb-Campbell, author of I Am a Body of Land and Still No Word

''These poems are as much about hiding out as they are about finding oneself, running away and coming to. They're a testament to a difficult girlhood, where worth was not a given. And they're a testament to surviving--finding likeness, light and calm--catching your breath. McKenna's poems arrive with bloody lips and grass stains--sometimes tentative, but never frail--ready to be seen.''

--Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, author of Whatever, Iceberg

''I love Emma McKenna's Chenille or Silk--these poems are tough and tender and perfect.''

--Zoe Whittall, author of The Best Kind of People