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Heart of Goodness: The Life of Marguerite Bourgeoys in 30 poems

Heart of Goodness: The Life of Marguerite Bourgeoys in 30 poems

Du coeur à l'âme: La vie de Marguerite Bourgeoys en 30 poèmes

By Carolyne Van Der Meer

In 1653, Marguerite Bourgeoys arrived in New France, determined to bring faith to the developing Ville-Marie community and education to the young women of the colony (now Montreal). Carolyne Van Der Meer delves into the heart and mind of Marguerite Bourgeoys and, through poetry, explores the hopes and challenges she faced as she established the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. These poems, originally written in English, have been translated by the author into Bourgeoys' native French, thus bringing to life the aspirations of this extraordinary woman who changed history.


Guernica World Editions ()


94 pages |

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I found myself deeply moved by this collection: won over by Van Der Meer’s clean, crisp, contemporary sentences that sing with empathy and paint a powerful picture of a historical figure who possessed a seemingly unbending devotion to the betterment of women. I set skepticism aside—a leap of faith, if you will—and emerged on the other end of Heart of Goodness feeling remarkably…healed.

Carolyne Van Der Meer’s achievement in these poems is to capture the essence of this remarkable seventeenth-century woman, humble but fiercely determined. She allows us a glimpse into Marguerite Bourgeoys’ soul, to appreciate her deep spirituality and her practicality in 30 intricately-crafted poems which, pared-down and polished, shine like their subject with sincerity, originality and fidelity to essential truths.

Michael Farry, author of Asking for Directions, The Age of Glass and Troubles

Poetry transcends the limits of language. Sometimes it is explosive in the spaces between words, sometimes moving, sometimes contemplative. Heart of Goodness by Carolyne Van Der Meer is all three. The explanatory subtitle, The Life of Marguerite Bourgeoys in 30 Poems (1620 -1700), defines the poet's context but by no means limits the content. With an austere economy of language and in the spaces around her words on the page, she conveys the essence of an astonishing life. This is not a devotional or visionary poem (the separate poems are really stanzas in a singular work). It is a compassionate revelation, a poem exploring the psyche a woman whose devotion and vision inspired her to great works on behalf of other women. As a committed atheist, I found it a heartfelt joy to read. Face to face translations, French and English, create inspired echoes bound to resound. Long after the book is set down, the title character remains with us.

John Moss


The Word Guild (Short-listed)

Catholic Media Association's Book Awards — Poetry category (Second Place)

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About the author

Carolyne Van Der Meer is a journalist, public relations professional and university lecturer. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in literature from University of Ottawa and Concordia University respectively, and a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers. She has published articles, essays, short stories and poems internationally. Her first book, Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience, was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in 2014. Her second book, a collection of poetry entitled Journeywoman, was published in 2017 by Toronto-based Inanna Publications. Another collection of poetry, Sensorial, is forthcoming from Inanna in 2022. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.