The Burden of Gravity: Poems
McConnell, Shannon Kelly 1983-
The Burden of Gravity, a poetry collection, explores the fraught history of Woodlands School, a former institution in New Westminster, British Columbia. Woodlands opened in 1878 as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. Over the years the institution evolved into a facility for children with disabilities, then simply a catch-all for children who were rejected by mainstream society. Shortly after Woodlands’ closure in 1996, public accusations from former residents and their families began to make headlines claiming physical, verbal, sexual, mental and emotional abuse. In 2007, Woodlands Memorial Garden was built on the former cemetery property, featuring recovered gravestones on memorial walls. The last remaining section of Woodlands, the Centre Block Tower, was demolished in 2011. The Burden of Gravity imagines residents based on researched source materials. While dehumanizing practices quite likely occurred throughout its history, this collection focuses on the1960’s and 70’s. The poems strive to portray the residents’ lives through an empathetic lens, shifting the focus from the staff to the experience of residents. The collection employs ekphrastic, erasure, free verse, found and constraint poetry to shed light on British Columbia’s treatment of its marginalized and vulnerable, and also explore the histories of those who perished and suffered a myriad of abuses at Woodlands.
DegreeMaster of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
DepartmentInterdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity
CommitteeOphir, Ella; Leow, Joanne; Dyck, Erika
Copyright DateJune 2017