Mrs Romanov by Lori Cayer  

Lori Cayer’s poetry collection Mrs Romanov reveals the unexpectedly quotidian concerns of Alexandra Feodorovna, the last tsarina of Imperial Russia.

Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna was many things. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, a dedicated dupe of the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin—and a loving wife of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and mother to their five children.

In her collection of poems, Mrs Romanov, Lori Cayer gives voice to the expectations and fears of the last tsarina of Imperial Russia. With great empathy and emotion, she presents a portrait of a woman whose concerns, even as she navigates the ‘forest of eyes and gossiping teeth’ of her unwelcoming adoptive country, prove startlingly domestic. Cayer captures Alexandra’s devotion to her husband and her children, in particular her constant anxiety over her young, haemophiliac son: ‘anyone who could see into this house / would see love / breathing itself like a tubercular lung / imprinting itself to life like a snapshot’. But in so doing, Cayer exposes another Alexandra, one whose attempts to bolster her politically inept husband caused Russia to veer sharply from autocracy to revolution, and her family from prosperity to fatal captivity.

Excerpt from book

Show your own mind, and don’t let others forget who you are

husband of capitulation, his father’s men who use him
for their own affairs, he bends a hundred times a day

to the will of the one with whom he last spoke
is it wrong to feel a secret shame for him?

he toils twelve hours a day, checking every paper himself
from the Easter egg list for staff to death sentences

it wears him out and he longs for the end of each day
my company and an hour with a good book

husband of avoidant ways, I am a poultice of pressure
describe a spine, a fist, a voice, push him out the door

inside and out I see all are displeased with him
he is ineffective and aligns his pencils

or fed up, he takes up his fist and pounds the desk
husband of brimstone and strife all around

stubborn like an abandoned old rail car
he is pushed squealing or he is frozen in place

I tell God I fear I have married not an emperor
but a man in his ordinary cloak of skin

When dawn opens like a sash, a moment of blank

I recall all that has happened in painful cascade
long lists of unjust acts, and we

imprisoned, still
tedious fabric of our humiliated lives

my blood runs cold as if sitting in dirt
entire days have gone abject, how much worse

our remaining riches spent
by our ten hands sewing for days

enough jewels to buy a quiet future
stitched into the bones of our corsets

into belts and hat bands, seams and false buttons
familiar work for confiscated days

whole garments of hidden stones
bright bands of soreness adorn our ribs


Lori Cayer is the author of three previous poetry collections, including Dopamine Blunder (Tightrope Books, 2016), Attenuations of Force (Frontenac House, 2010) and Stealing Mercury (The Muses’ Company, 2004). Her poetry is endlessly informed by her editorial work in scientific research publishing. She lives in Winnipeg.

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

POETRY / Canadian

POETRY / General

ISBN-13: 9780889844179

Publication Date: 2018-09-01

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 112

Price: $16.95