Arguments with the Lake

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By: Tanis Rideout

April 2013
96 pages | ISBN 978-1-894987-71-4

In 1954, at the age of sixteen, Marilyn Bell became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. It brought her fame and adulation; her life seemed charmed. Enter Shirley Campbell, another young swimmer whose accomplishments were poised to rival Bell’s, but in falling short in her own attempts to cross the Great Lake, she found herself spiraling out of control into a life of addiction, petty crime, and personal tragedies.
            Tanis Rideout weaves the tales of these two remarkable women together in a series of stunning, lyrical poems. It is a story of courage and triumph, but also one of adversity and redemption. This is an exhilarating book of poetry, at once tender and terrifying; like a cold dip in Lake Ontario, it will engulf you and leave you breathless. Arguments with the Lake confirms Rideout’s arrival as a major new talent in Canadian letters.  

“Marilyn, mid-lake”

Pigeons make their way by magnetic, the trigeminal nerve,
Branched in their brains makes ninety degree turns, orients
by atmospheric odor.

The lake’s skin smells of a father’s garage: gasoline, aftershave
and repeating Sunday leftovers. A refrain on the tongue
pasted with pablum and honey: North.

Swim north and I’ll find you. But there’s no moon, no
line where the city, meets the sky, meets the offing.
The body is an astrolabe, the pull of home in her skull.


Navigating Shifting Currents (Nico Mara-McKay, Arc, 19/06/2014)
“There are risks in writing about real people and real events—that delicate balance between a commitment to the recorded past and the freedom to reinterpret important moments to suit art. Tanis Rideout once again proves adept at navigating these shifting currents.”

Review (Mark Sampson, Free Range Reading 27/10/2013)
“The listless, monolithic hulk of Lake Ontario looms large in this stellar collection of interconnected poems by Tanis Rideout.... By plunging into the aquatic depths of [Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell’s] fictionalized emotional lives, Rideout pulls off a poetic rendering of two historical figures that is as consuming as it is invigorating.”

Arguments with the Lake - Tanis Rideout (Michael Dennis, 11/10/2013)
“As much as these poems, as a collection, tell Marilyn Bells' story – emotionally, these poems are telling universal stories, ones that we can all identify with.... Tanis Rideout's Arguments With The Lake is accomplished stuff, compelling, well crafted and clever.”

Slave poems keep their horrors in plain sight (Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press, 28/09/2013)
“The relationship in Arguments with the Lake, which Rideout imagines as another sort of struggle, avoids most of the obvious tangles. She also manages to pervade the collection with water imagery without drowning the reader with clichés. After Bell's triumph, the 'bouquets come in waves to her door' but Rideout avoids the expected shift into sentimental, nationalistic applause to focus on the frustrations of Campbell instead.”

Arguments with the Lake (Emily Davidson, Salon Books/Telegraph-Journal, 31/08/2013)
"Rideout’s poems are awash with story, strongly structured and addictive. As the swimmers attempt the lake, the language sinks into the instinctive, close and measured."

Arguments with the Lake (Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This, 12/04/2013)
“The poems also examine the darker forces of friendship, of womanhood, of what inevitably follows girldom, stardom. The lake itself is Rideout’s main character though throughout the book, speaking back to each of the girls’ arguments, enduring but ever-changing.... I loved this book.”


Celebrating Women's History Month: Marilyn Bell v. Lake Ontario (LPG, LPG Staff's Blog, 21/10/2013)
“Writer Tanis Rideout, who weaved fact and fiction so beautifully in the novel Above All Things, does it again with Arguments with the Lake... The relationship between Bell and Campbell may be fiction but the feelings of courage and adversity, physical exhaustion and endurance are real. So too are Rideout's observations on friendship and womanhood.”

How Toronto is reconnecting with its waterfront (Andrew Seale, CityNews, 26/07/2013)
“Tanis Rideout, a Toronto writer and author of poetry collection Arguments with the Lake, thinks the shared waterfront should matter to everyone.”

Sharkgirls and Mermaids: A Sport Rivalry (David James Brock, 16/05/2013)
"So we forgive Campbell if it takes a while, or a lifetime, to recover from the weight of the lake. With time, everyone wins if the rivalry is remembered. Tanis Rideout’s Arguments with the Lake is a place to imagine two sides winning, even if the game has long left the water."

April 2013 Top Tens (Open Book: Toronto, 06/05/2013)
Bryan Prince Bookseller listed Tanis Rideout’s Arguments with the Lake as #9 on their April 2013 top ten list for Open Book: Toronto.

Spring preview 2013: Canadian short fiction, crime fiction and poetry (Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire, 10/01/2013)
"Tanis Rideout scored critical acclaim for her 2012 debut novel, Above All Things. She returns to poetry for her follow-up, a book that fictionalizes the rivalry between swimmers Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell."

H2Ontario: We've accepted that Lake Ontario is no longer ours, writer says (Tanis Rideout, The Toronto Star, 23/07/2011)
"Five years ago, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper — an environmental justice organization committed to protecting our rights on the lake — named me Poet Laureate of Lake Ontario and asked me to write poems that would connect people with it.... But it had to be if I was going to write poems about it, if I was going to get other people to make it theirs. I needed a story. Luckily, I found Marilyn Bell and, through Marilyn, a new way to begin to imagine the lake."


Rusty Talk with Tanis Rideout (The Rusty Toque, 2/23/2016)

The IMPAC Longlist is pretty's great affirmation for the work that's been done (buecom, The Library of Pacific Tranquility, 24/02/2014)

Tanis Rideout - Arguments with the Lake (an interview) (The Toronto Quarterly, 02/08/2013)
"I didn’t start out writing about Shirley and Marilyn; rather, I was writing poems about Lake Ontario as a result of my collaboration with the environmental justice organization Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Shortly after I became involved with them I started my MFA at the University of Guelph-Humber and had to write poems based ‘around’ a particular idea. I decided to keep writing about the lake which led me first to Marilyn and then to Shirley. Their attempts to cross the lake seemed like a great way to write about water, and my relationship with it."


Tanis Rideout reads her poem "Begin" from Arguments with the Lake at the Hamilton poetry launch in April.

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