Jane Eaton Hamilton

"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted."

Floundering

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2017

Floundering

A friend and I spend the warm, sunny day on Crescent Beach. I once housesat a block from the beach so I could do a concentrated writing stint—a retreat for one. For months, shine or rain, every wintry morning I circled the town, trodding past tossing ocean headed for the mud flats with my binoculars, DSLR camera and my ubiquitous umbrella. Work was not going well. This riparian area beside the Nicomeki River, Mud Bay on Blackie Spit, was balm. Known for birdwatching because it’s on a migratory path called the Pacific Flyway, it’s also the only place nearby where Purple Martins nest. The swallows looped above while I strolled through demarcated paths beside the eelgrass, able to pull from my photography belt lenses of different focal lengths. I discovered seed pod decay was as beautiful through a macro as a blooming flower. I took photo after photo of rotting pylons, cormorants drying their wings atop. Later, when I became an art student at Emily Carr, I made a painting of one of the bleached white morning pylons. One day I walked late, and rounded the corner to town just as the sky lit up pure radiant orange from top to bottom, north to south; I shot the silhouettes of people as they stood watching. The photos were gaudy, like seventies’ paintings.

Today, I’m older, and for the same stroll I’ve brought a walker. I sit on our blanket, pulling my gear out to photograph great blue herons—I don’t count; are there ten? Fifteen?—fishing along the low tide banks, but I understand it would be chancy for me to hoist this heavy, long-lensed equipment while standing up. We eat our overheated picnic lunch while I feed a crow egg salad from my hand, hoping some nestlings will be the healthier for it. Kayakers paddle past. Behind us, a woman reads in a purple outdoor inflatable. We turn up our pants’ legs and make our way down to the water while mud oozes through our toes. The water pulls the sand from under our feet. It’s hard going indeed for my arthritic body, rife with pain the way uneven surfaces always are, but I love it—my body’s screams of objection at least have the courtesy of silence. A bay has formed a sand shoal and in the intermediate strip of water, as I slosh through it, I notice a creature leaping and flailing. I head for it, but I am slower than everyone, so have lagged behind when a father picks up a flounder to show his kids. I see the milky under-body, which looks like sole in the frying pan. I don’t know my flounders, but I enjoy pointing and saying, “Look there. A flounder is floundering.” It may be a gulf, summer, southern or winter flounder. It may be a sole or (just for the halibut), a halibut. It thrashes. It has two eyes on the top side of its body, jumbled close, which I later learn are ordinarily placed at birth then metamorphose to the top of the fish’s flat head. The child carries it across the spit to the deeper ocean on the other side, but it just lies there looking quite dead, exhausted from its ordeal, far too visible. It’s heron bait, if you ask me.

It’s low tide in my love life too. Epitonium sawinae seashells, dead mollusks picked over by crows, crusty seaweed. Brackish water, poor circulation. The water makes alligator patterns on the surface. My feet keep sinking. My hips keep hurting. My feet are in agony.

Sad, I think of that flounder all evening. I think how it needed a world, a circumstance, it was helpless to create. In the survival of the fittest game, it lost. It’s a bird eat fish world out there.

I am not strong, either, after multitudes of surgeries. I think of sanctuary, where to find it, what it means to the various creatures of the world. I’m lucky that for me, sometimes, sanctuary is as simple as the arms of a beloved wrapped tightly around me, the simplest of homes.

 

 

Mud Bay, Crescent Beach, Jane Eaton Hamilton, acrylic on loose canvas 2013

The Dayne Ogilve Prize 2017

I’m pleased to say that our three finalists for the 2017 Dayne Ogilvie Prize, a $4000 award to an emerging LGBTQ author admininstered by the Writer’s Trust, were announced this week. I was pleased and honoured to have spent the last three months engrossed in our longlist reads with Elio Iannacci and Trish Salah. We have such a prolific and talented community, and you all to a one make me so proud. It was a great honour to read you. The ceremony announcing the winner will take place in concert with the Writer’s Union of Canada AGM and is open to the public, 5 pm Sat June 3 at SFU Harbourfront, with last year’s winner Leah Horlick presenting the award.

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O publishes “Flipping the Script on Race Expectations”

Chris Buck, photo

Here, at O and Afropunk, the great photo essay flipping the race script.

“For women who are difficult to love”

Warsan Shire, people.

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

 

Dorothy Allison on Lenny

The inimitable Dorothy Allison on Why Working-Class Literature Is the Strongest

Meantime, at the Writer’s Union of Canada

The Equity Task Force of the Writer’s Union of Canada (TWUC) has released a statement further to the editorial by Hal Niedzviecki in the union magazine WRITE called “Winning the Appropriation Prize.” The magazine requested Indigenous writers contribute to a special Indigenous issue, but Niedzviecki prefaced their pieces with his impassioned support for appropriation. Thank you, task force, for your swift, thoughtful and thorough work on this insulting situation. I add my personal apologies as a member of TWUC to Indigenous writers, and, in particular, to those who trusted TWUC to publish and honour their work. UPDATE: The WRITE editorial board does not vet articles at WRITE.
Statement from the TWUC Equity Task Force in Response to Niedzviecki editorial
“Winning the Appropriation Prize”:
We, the Equity Task Force of TWUC are writing in response to the editorial in the latest
issue of WRITE. We are angry and appalled by the publication of “Winning the
Appropriation Prize” by Hal Niedzviecki in the editorial column. In the context of working
to recruit writers historically marginalized in the union, this essay contradicts and
dismisses the racist systemic barriers faced by Indigenous writers and other racialized
writers. This is especially insulting given that this issue features the work of many
Indigenous writers.
Cultural appropriation, for Indigenous writers, is often theft of culture. As a concept, a
practice and an issue, it has a long and complex history on Turtle Island/in Canada. It is
one of the more recent phenomena marking a long history of violent colonial
appropriations by settlers against Indigenous peoples. An important, if contentious, part
of its history resides in the 1993 conference The Appropriate Voice, held in Orillia,
Ontario and led by Lenore Keeshig-Tobias and Daniel David Moses, which was a TWUC
sponsored conference. For Niedzviecki to suggest that cultural appropriation is just a
device for our imaginary work is highly problematic and re-entrenches the deeply racist
assumptions about art, and about what constitutes giving and taking.
Niedzviecki states: “There is no formula to appropriately appropriating. Instead it’s up to
each of us to find the right measures of respect, learning and truth telling.” In making
such a statement, he fails to recognize or acknowledge that not all writers play on the
same playing field and that “appropriation” is not a fair game, as the page is not a terra
nullius, in spite of appearances to a privileged few. Appropriation is thus not a practice
that can simply be taken up by anyone at any time. There are historical and colonial
relations in place, which we all inherit, each of us differently. The theft of voice, stories,
culture, and identity are part of a long-standing settler agenda for cultural genocide and
can not be treated lightly. The tongue-in-cheek call for an “Appropriation Prize” is deeply
offensive and dismissive of the history of colonization. What will TWUC offer next, a
“Best Colonizer” prize?
Also to suggest further in the essay that, “… Indigenous writers, buffeted by history and
circumstance, so often must write from what they don’t know”, is both uninformed and
offensive, especially when so much Indigenous knowledge has been either erased from
the historical record or has already been appropriated without attribution. This statement
also partakes of a long-debunked false universalism.
The only statement in the editorial that is accurate is Niedzviecki’s claim, “Indigenous
writing is the most vital and compelling force in writing and publishing in Canada today.”
In this historical present when we speak of reconciliation, we as a union and as a
collective of Canadian/Turtle Island writers must make space and support Indigenous
writers.
Hal Niedzviecki’s resignation was the right decision under these appalling
circumstances. Frankly, what shocks us most, however, is that this piece was passed by
a TWUC editorial committee. This indicates now, in no uncertain terms, the depth of the
structural racism, not to mention the lack of historical memory, at TWUC. Either that, or it
indicates brazen malice, or extreme negligence. We very much hope this is not the case.
We thank TWUC for issuing its apology. This is an important first step, but we don’t think
it goes far enough. This issue is not about “hurt feelings”, but about justice. An apology
is only worth its salt if it opens the door to better actions and better relations in the future.
We offer a set of demands to rectify this truly dire situation, and to begin (again) the work
of respect and reconciliation.
Demands:
1. Retraction of editorial essay, “Winning the Appropriation Prize” by Hal
Niedzviecki.
2. Official apology from TWUC to be posted on the official TWUC site and published
in the next issue of WRITE.
3. Anti-racist education for all staff, National Council, editorial committee members.
4. Protocols for editing all issues of Write that build in accountability to issues of
race and colonialism.
5. Turn over WRITE to Indigenous and other racialized editors and writers for the
next 3 issues in consultation with the Equity Task Force.
6. Broadcast/publish this statement to all TWUC members, the public, on the
TWUC website and in the next issue of WRITE.
7. Affirmative action hiring for the next editor of WRITE. Job description must
specify not only “Indigenous writer or writer of colour” but also, “active and
respected in Indigenous sovereignty or anti-racist cultural movements for at least
three years”.
8. Affirmative action hiring for future TWUC office staff. Job posting to specify in the
criteria that eligible candidates should be able to demonstrate: “active and
respected in anti-oppression cultural movements for at least three years”. Priority
must be given to the following equity-seeking groups: Indigenous writers,
racialized writers, writers with disabilities and trans writers.
9. Dedicate a future issue of WRITE to bringing historical context to cultural
appropriation, Indigenous writers and writers of colour within TWUC.
10. Paid equity officer position housed in the main TWUC offices. Again, hiring
criteria must consider only candidates with “active and respected in antioppression
cultural movements for at least three years”. Priority must be given to
the following equity-seeking groups: Indigenous writers, racialized writers, writers
with disabilities and trans writers.
Signed, The TWUC Equity Task Force
Members: Farzana Doctor, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Ava Homa, Larissa Lai, Carrianne
Leung, Judy Rebick, Heather Wood, Waubgeshig Rice

ROAR Feminist magazine is 100 days old!

ROAR

The fabulous and fierce ROAR feminist magazine roared into our lives 100 days ago last week! In this short time, ROAR has already published 300 pieces, including their daily story about abortion. What a place! What writing! Every resister should be thrilled this publication is alive and thriving–this is intersectional feminism writ large and brave and confrontational. (Full disclosure: I’m a columnist for ROAR.) Join us, join us, join us! Join us as curious and engaged readers, as kick-ass writers, as financial contributors, as trouble-makers on the honed edge of change. Congrats, ROAR!

Here is the write up from the ROAR 100 day fundraiser and an update on some of the problems they’ve encountered along the way from haters.

Last week, Roar celebrated 100 days of daily publication. We are an intersectional feminist publication at the intersection of politics and culture. We launched to fight the new regime on Trump’s inauguration day, January 20. We’re in it for the long haul.  Now, we need your help.

In our first 100 days, we published 300 essays, stories, calls to action, poems, a daily first person abortion account, and much more.

Now we are expanding to offer a wider range of columnists who will look more closely at
the experience in Trump’s America of Black Americans, Native Americans, Disabled People, Jewish and Muslim Americans, Aging Peoplee, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming folkx and other hated groups.

We are expanding to get more involved in direct political action, to get into it around voter registration, voter suppression and getting out the vote.

We need your support to handle our increased costs, to pay our phenomenal liability insurance bill and to increase our security measures – because when you challenge hate, people hate you and try to hurt you.

It’s that simple.

We rely on the generous support of friends like you to make Roar possible. Help us by donating any amount today. Every bit helps.

And please consider joining our Founders’ Security Circle with a gift of $100 or more to help secure our future.

Thank you.

The Remedy for Monday

Here, by Hallie Cantor at the New Yorker, the cure for Monday: Everything I Am Afraid Might Happen If I Ask New Acquaintances to Get Coffee. Thank you, Hallie Cantor, for starting my week off right.

Writing Advice from the Winnipeg Review

 

A piece of mine about writing appeared in longer form at the Winnipeg Review.

Show Me Your Worm

Geeking out on trees. So sexy.

“I came to that realization, first, through my studies of birds and my work with students — teaching them bird sounds. As part of that, we tried to open our ears to the whole acoustic environment, and after several years of doing that, it became very clear to me that trees around me had their own distinct voices and all sorts of stories were tied up in those voices.” -David George Haskell

The Songs of Trees

Field Guide to Dumb Birds

Just in time for spring comes the Field Guide to Dumb Birds. I am bird besotted, but who hasn’t thought “golden crowned dumb shit” to themselves once in a while? I went on the famous Central Park birding walk once, and somehow didn’t fall over a boulder while trying to spy a flash of red in a tree at 800 metres.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. I swear it’s true.

Field Guide to Dumb Birds

Nietzsche: the why of art

Jane Eaton Hamilton

“We have art so that we shall not die of reality.” –Nietzsche

“Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing”

 

Really, this is all you need to know to get started and keep going, by Shawna Kenney, from Brevity:

Never Call Yourself a Writer

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 3.24.04 PM

The 2017 CBC Short Story Prize longlist

I’m thrilled to say that I join 27 talented writers on the CBC Short Story Prize longlist! Woo hoo! Special kudos to Alix Hawley who has two longlisted entries this year! Congrats, everyone, and thanks to the judges.

CBC Short Story Prize Longlist 2017

Smiley, my 2014 winning story

Interview with CBC about Smiley

Many Gendered Mothers

I edit for many gendered mothers, a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear.

This project is directly inspired by the American website Literary Mothers, created by editor Nadxieli Nieto and managing editor Nina Puro. While we hope that Literary Mothers might eventually return to posting new pieces, our site was created as an extension and furthering of their project (in homage, if you will), and not meant as any kind of replacement.

Even though we’re new, a lot of terrific pieces have already appeared. Catch up with the essays we’ve published so far:

 

“Alice began to undress the past.”

Here, then, from 2011, Jeanette Winterson peeking in at the cows between Gertrude and Alice. How, precisely, did Gertrude bring Alice to her bovine pleasures? Did Gertrude, too, have cows, whether self-administered or Alice-administered? From what acts did cows materialize? How often did they find each other? Did sex wane over the years as Gertrude took lovers?

I traveled to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and after I had run my palm over the red kisses on Oscar Wilde’s grave I strolled around the corner to Gertrude’s grave, which seemed immense. I thought about fat corpses needing fat coffins needing wide graves, and I thought about how small the eventual skeleton would be underneath. I thought that when Alice, years later, was interred and recognized on the back of Gertrude’s gravestone, she could easily have fit, by then, into Gertrude’s box, with Gertrude, there to produce bubbles of heavenly cows for the rest of eternity.

Granta

Do blue butterflies eat parts of the sky?

NY Times

This stunning piece of filmmaking brought me to tears. I hope you’ll watch this and be as moved as I was. Answering these questions is one of our most sacred trusts.

“What is kind?”

“Can girls be robots?”

“How do you make water?”

“Why do boys cut their hair?”

 

Many Gendered Mothers: Ntozake Shange

I’m not sure Ntozake Shange would be thrilled at being my literary mentor, but nevetheless, she was my first and I honour her every writing day.

Many Gendered Mothers

Lady Liberty Lit

I used to skate when I was a kid, and over the winter, I wrote a piece about skating and resistance, which Gayle Brandeis has been kind enough to publish at the new Lady Liberty Lit. Thanks, Gayle!

P.S. Gayle’s first novel ‘The Book of Dead Birds’ thrilled me. If you too are pelican-crazy, and want to understand more about the mother/child bond, and just admire great stylists, you should read it.

Lady Liberty Lit

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