Photo | Maia Kachan

Maia Kachan’s debut collection of poems poignantly outlines a coming-of-age narrative 

Drawing on themes of wintertime numbness, listless suburban life, and drunken young love, Victoria College student, Maia Kachan creates a small world within the twenty pages of her poetry collection On Growing Old. Published in May of 2017, this semi-autobiographical collection spans the teenage years of a young person who has grown up almost too quickly.  

The most notable aspect about the collection is the winter feeling that extends throughout Kachan’s poems. A chill can be found in the dorm room, the little prairie town, the graveyard, and the Toronto streets that the speaker passes through. Though this extended wintertime seems gloomy, the cold could be seen as an act of preservation. Winter is a mental state as much as it is a physical one. Kachan speaks of an “altruistic hibernation” and living in a universe in which “nothing ever changes and no one ever leaves.” These lines illuminate one of the speaker’s main struggles; she does not want to leave the confines of her memories and imagination. It seems as if she prefers, or at least accepts, their current state. Although she desires to rid herself of the cold, the winter has become a part of them. It is reliable and familiar. It also gives no hints of thawing. This characteristic in Kachan’s work is interesting in its refusal to comfort readers with promises of a springtime.  

On Growing Old also feels familiar because it evokes the images of sleepy suburban life. Kachan’s depictions of the “suburb of zero erotica” are reminiscent of songs by Lorde. She also shows how one’s family and its traditions can be stifling, despite the comfort they provide. The voices of her speakers grow restless in these poems. Kachan notes, however, that “still we tiptoe to preserve our sleepytown home.” As with the eternal winter, the speaker is both repelled by and drawn to what she knows best. What is interesting to note is that Kachan comes from Saskatchewan, but has also lived in Halifax and Toronto. Her experience has clearly influenced her work. In her poems, she moves between these places without warning. In one poem she mentions the prairie, and in the next, she describes the sea. This geographical instability augments the unsettling feeling.  

Another place in which Kachan does well is her depiction of young love and self-discovery. She pieces together a picture of an uncertain relationship with another girl; a best-friend-turned-lover. In this part of the collection, the tone changes dramatically between poems. Its changeability seems to reflect the fragility of the relationship. In “Let Me,” the speaker pleads for intimacy and comfort, while in “Champagne Hotbox,” she becomes more aggressive, unrelenting in her desire. However, she realizes in “Rules of a Drunken Hookup” that she will never truly receive the love that she craves. This change from gentle yearning to raw lust—and finally—to deflated acceptance, is what keeps the pace of the work interesting. Kachan’s depiction of this young relationship is universally understandable. She shows how inexperience and a longing for stability bind this person to someone who will not fulfill her needs. Kachan’s portrayal of a volatile teenage romance is tragic without becoming overdramatic, familiar without becoming cliché. 

The collection is a strong debut by Maia Kachan. Full of listlessness, self-awareness, and aching, this book of poems is a testament to its author’s emotional growth and determined voice. Victoria College welcomes On Growing Old to our growing collection of student publications and is excited for Kachan’s works to follow. 

On Growing Old can be purchased from Grey Borders Books at greybordersbooks.jigsy.com/maia-kachan