Life Cycle of a Mayfly

Life Cycle of a Mayfly

A review of Life Cycle of a Mayfly by Maya Clubine

Published on March 14, 2024

Set along the banks of the Credit River, Life Cycle of a Mayfly, Maya Clubine’s debut chapbook, is a family chronicle written in water and soil. Sparse in images as the moonlit landscapes it describes, the collection quietly centres the river’s hidden lives – both human and non-human – revealing a world visible only through attentive observation. 

Life Cycle of a Mayfly
Maya Clubine


As the title suggests, the collection is cyclical, each section corresponding to a stage in a mayfly’s life cycle. Clubine works effectively within this self-imposed limit without wearing out the concept. Images come and come again: an icy grave, fishing boots, rustling swallows, returning each time charged with new life. Although slim, the chapbook spans three generations of river folk. Rather than in years, their lives are measured by other cycles: ecological, geological, hydrologic; at moments “suspended, / caught ragged on the rafters, swaying cold,” or collapsing only to begin anew: 

And for a time it seems that I belong 

to all past seasons on this river’s edge

where rain dripped down and ran along this canvas,

then drew away toward the skies again.

There is nothing especially enrapturing about Clubine’s language, which works more in service of narrative cohesion than abstract figuration. What the collection lacks in mystification, however, it more than makes up for in prosody. Clubine masterfully commands her form in inconspicuous ways: the length of stanzas grows as the speaker ages; scarce rhyme, deftly doled, evokes the staying power of memory as well as its tendency toward restless change.

Only briefly does Clubine allude to the fact that mayflies spend most of their lives in water, emerging as winged adults to live only one day. Less an omission than a conceit, Clubine’s extended metaphor for life after childhood recalls the sordid task of returning to those images that make a memory, anticipating how they might change, fearing they already have. To live as such is to live precariously, like the nymph tethered to the riverbank preparing for flight – “Remaining still / she merely seems a casting of herself.”mRb

Ronny Litvack-Katzman is a writer and poet who, after a decade in Montreal, still gets lost in the Metro. He recently graduated with a MA in English from McGill University.



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