Mercedes Eng

Mercedes Eng is a teacher and writer who lives in Vancouver.


Mercenary English

Vancouver: CUE Books, 2013.
PS8609 .N43 M47 2018

Expanded 2nd ed. 2016 (available as a PDF from the publisher’s website)

Publisher’s Synopsis of the Rev. ed.

In its strident and unsettling debut, Eng’s Mercenary English seized “the politics of language” from the usual handlers and reassigned them to new terrains: the colonial battlefield, the racialized/radicalized body, and the insurgent neighbourhood. This second edition of a book that quickly became something of a benchmark in Vancouver poetry and poetics now seizes its own critical frames through the inclusion of a new afterword and an expansive conversation with poet and critic Fred Moten.


Prison Industrial Complex Explodes

Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2017.
PS8609 .N43 P76 2017

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

Combining text from government questionnaires, reports, and corporate websites, lyric poetry, and photography, Prison Industrial Complex Explodes examines the possibility of a privatized prison system in Canada leading up to Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government passing the Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as Bill C-51. This legislation criminalizes Indigenous peoples’ attempts to protect their traditional and unceded territories from ecological destruction by classifying their actions as acts of terrorism, and it criminalizes refugees who, as victims of colonization and globalization, attempt to flee genocide and poverty yet are targeted as suspected terrorists. Simultaneously, the incarceration of Indigenous people, refugees, and people of colour is rapidly increasing as corporations eagerly court the government for private-public partnerships to fund the building of new prisons and detention centres.

The impetus for Prison Industrial Complex Explodes was the discovery of a cache of Eng’s father’s prison correspondence: letters from the federal government stating their intention to deport him because of his criminal record; letters from prison justice advocate Michael Jackson advising her father on deportation; letters from the RCMP regarding the theft of her father’s property, a gold necklace, while in transport to prison; letters from family members and friends; letters from Eng and her brother. The cold formality of the government letters in accidental juxtaposition with the emotion of the personal letters struck a creative spark that led to the writing of this long poem.

Awards and Honours

2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (Winner)

Anthology (Prose)

Eng, Mercedes. “Notes for a Subversive Sampler.” In Open Text: Canadian Poetry and Poetics in the 21st Century. Volume 3, edited by Roger Farr. (North Vancouver, BC: CUE Books, 2013), 75-74
PS8293.1 .O64 2008 v.3


Publisher CUE Books

Publisher Talonbooks