Michelle Poirier Brown

Michelle Poirier Brown

poet + performer + photographer


Donna McCart Sharkey and Arleen Paré, sisters and writers, have co-edited an anthology Don’t Tell: Family Secrets, about what may be hidden in families. For each individual, even in the same family, what is secret and what is not, may be different. In Don’t Tell: Family Secrets, fifty-nine writers tell their stories in either prose or poetry, of their own family secrets. So often, mothers bear the burden, stand over time as the keepers of these secrets, trying to keep families intact. Spanning continents, cultures, wars, belief systems, and the private lives of families, the secrets in this book range from over one hundred years ago to the present and include stories – some serious, others quirky, some resolved, and still others that remain a mystery. 

Michelle’s personal essay “Understanding My Face” about discovering her Métis heritage is published in its entirety in this anthology. An excerpt of “Understanding My Face” originally appears in You Might Be Sorry You Read This.


Don’t Tell not only spills the tea about family secrets; it also delves into the conditions of their endurance in old letters and faded photos, and their revelations via DNA testing, slips of the tongue, and uncomfortable silences. This collection reminds us of the lengths families go to maintain silence, safety, or respectability, and of the courage of those who reach into that dark rain barrel of the past and draw up the truth, dripping and wriggling, into the present day. If you’ve ever discovered – or been – the family secret, Don’t Tell is the book for you.” 
–Tanis MacDonald, Professor, Department of English and Film Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, and author of seven books, including Straggle: Adventures in Walking While Female

“A secret becomes an ugly starved thing…writes one of the authors in this compelling anthology. Co-edited by sisters Arleen Pare and Donna McCart Sharkey, tales of sadness, loss, murder, grief—even humour—emerge through poetry and story. This brave collection redefines what secrets we believe should be disclosed. With each quest, the revelation of a once toxic family secret creates a path to closure and understanding, or to continued searching. Readers may feel uneasy about the skeletons cloistered in their own lives; but, not telling is no longer an option.”
–Barbara Herringer, Ph.D. Dean, School of Health and Human Services (ret’d), Camosun College

“Family secrets breed silence and shame, for which language alone is the antidote. The stories and poems in this volume transmute shame into understanding and empathy. They will offer insight, comfort, confidence, and purpose to anyone whose family history has been scarred by mental illness, adoption, suicide, abandonment, crises of identity, or intergenerational trauma.”
— Susan Olding, author of Big Reader and Pathologies: A Life in Essays.

Published by Demeter Press Jan 2023

Michelle Poirier Brown is an internationally published poet and performer, currently living on the traditional unceeded territories of the syilx peoples, in Vernon, BC. She is nêhiyaw-iskwêw and a citizen of the Métis Nation. Her poem “Wake” won PRISM international’s Earle Birney Prize in 2019. The song cycle, “The Length of a Day” (Jeffrey Ryan, composer), premiered in 2021. Her work has appeared in Arc, CV2, The Greensboro Review, Grain, Emrys Journal, Vallum, and several anthologies. A feminist activist, Michelle won a landmark human rights case establishing reasonable accommodation in the workplace for breastfeeding women. Retired from careers as a speech writer, conflict analyst, and federal treaty negotiator, she now writes full-time, enjoys the produce of her permaculture garden, and has taken up birdwatching.