Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Category: anthologies

Making Room: Room Magazine’s celebration of 40 years!

I’m reading at the Saturday BFFF, and the Sunday Insert Innuendo Here and the poetry bash. Please consult the website for change of venue.

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Help me celebrate Room Magazine’s 40th annniversary anthology, Making Room! If you are looking for a comprehensive cross-section of feminist literature in Canada, you’ve come to the right place. The Growing Room: A Feminist Literary Festival comes to life in early March.

“Making Room: Forty Years of Room Magazine celebrates the history and evolution of Canadian literature and feminism with some of the most exciting and thought-provoking fiction, poetry, and essays the magazine has published since it was founded in 1975 as Room of One’s Own. This collection includes poems about men not to be fallen in love with, trans womanhood, the morning-after pill, the “mind fuck” of being raped by a romantic partner, and a tribute to the women who were murdered in the Montreal Massacre. In one story, a group of sexual assault survivors meet weekly and come up with an unique way to help police capture their assailant, while in another a dinner party turns to witty talk of racism, sexism, pornography, and time travel. One author recounts how she learned multiple languages in order to connect with her father, another reluctantly walks down the aisle in order to stay in Canada with the man she loves.” -from the website

Growing Room: A Feminist Literary Festival

MAKING ROOM: Forty Years of ROOM Magazine

Older Queer Voices: an online anthology

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This anthology of older queer voices. Authors Sarah Einstein and Sandra Gail Lambert, thank you, and thank you to the contributors, too.
 

Best Canadian Poetry

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This arrived today, editors Helen Humphreys, Molly Peacock and Anita Lahey, and I look forward to reading this year’s crop of “best” poems. I already know some of the poems in the anthology … Rachel Rose’s affecting “Good Measure,” Sally Ito’s soul-weathered “Idle” and Maureen Hynes’ “Wing On.” Lucky me, to get to explore further.

I can quite often roll my eyes when I read my own work (I mostly hate reading it because I would never stop editing and once you see where you can take a piece the piece as it stands seems murderously bad), but this poem I found quite funny. I love when humour manages to seep through the cracks of my work–which reflects my life, too, how laughter finds its way in, a magic dust sprinkled over the bad or humdrum. “Wish You Were Here” first appeared in CVII.

PS Someone asked and I found a link to a shorter version of the poem here on the blog:

Wish You Were Here

 

Fear and No Fear

I am sixty-one years old. I’ve been telling everyone all week that love has to be twinned with action. And so, I acted at the launch for the anthology “Boobs” on Saturday night.

“I want to talk about the Pulse nightclub massacre. The queer community is reeling from these homophobic and racist attacks. 102 people have been shot, their names publicly listed online even though many of them have been living closeted in fear of coming out.

Which is effectively painting a target on their shirts.

Please join me in mourning this hate. I could spend a long time talking to you about while this slaughter belongs to queers of colour, particularly the Latinx community, it touches all queers, but I have an essay here on my blog that does that and little time tonight. But please stand with Orlando and say so on your social media and reach out to soothe a queer friend. As Holly Near sang in It Could Have Been Me:

You can’t bury youth, my friends, youth grows the whole world round.

To which I might add: You can’t bury queers my friend, queers grow the whole world round.

But I also want to tell you about this piece I’m going to read, which is quite short. It is, regrettably, a true story of the young me trying to come to grips with and fight back against misogyny and, even then, transphobia. For all that fierce summer I refused to wear a shirt because boys didn’t have to.

I never dared fight back again.

The event I wrote about for the anthology “Boobs” from Caitlin Press was a highly traumatic event for me because although I didn’t know any of these dads who stopped by our corn stand, I knew their children—went to school with them, played with them. These men were coming home from work in Hamilton, ON, to the safe homogenized suburb of Ancaster to lead their homogenized Disney happily-ever-after lives, but they felt so aggrieved by a little 7 year old child without a shirt that they felt it was okay to be assholes.

It cowed me back into shirts. I don’t know if anyone else even noticed, but I noticed, and I never stopped noticing.

More than those dads wanted the sex they oozed that afternoon, they wanted to push me back into line—the line being the script written from the womb for girls and women—and they succeeded. That was the exact moment that my defiance and grit drained out of my foot. The grit and defiance I have worked with limited success to get back.

I am here to say that however our bodies are displayed, whatever clothing we do or do not wear, ever, is nobody’s business. It does not invite salaciousness. It does not invite rape. It does not invite anything but respect as another mammal in this teetering world. Our bodies, and indeed our boobs, if we have them or we’ve chosen to have top surgery, if we are breastfeeding in public, if we’ve had breast cancer and lumpectomies or mastectomies or reconstructions without nipples, if we are tatted or scarred, are not yours—are never yours–to ogle and comment on.

Those 54 years ago, I caved. I put my shirt back on. And never took it off in public again, not even at Pride.

Tonight, at 61 years of age, I’m finally, in rage and defiance of the events this week that seek to tell us we can only be small and vulnerable and scared, not brave and huge and celebratory, am stripping it off.”

 

knobs

 

we sold corn from a card table at the end of the driveway

a man snapped out of his car like a measuring tape in a tie wrenched

from his neck top button undone sweat stains under his armpits

i refused to wear a shirt because it was unfair

he said, you sure you want to show off your knobs, girly?

i looked down at my knobs, across at my brother’s identical knobs

working out the difference

he said, you go to church yesterday, honey? did you pray for forgiveness?

he bought five ears, revved away but

another dad squealed in to take his place

long appreciative wolf whistle

exhibiting your titties today?

give you a dime to turn around and pull down your shorts

mister, i said, do you want corn?

he bought seven ears and tooled away in a caddy

a new man slid in, sweat beading his forehead

he said, what you sellin’, sweetheart? sure it’s corn on the cob?

i looked down at tassels ejecting from the ear so soft

said how many you want mister?

he said i want to shuck every last one hard and fast

his tongue came out pink and thick

like he needed a salt lick

i said 5 for 25 cents

green leaves and corn silk

dark yellow niblets

he grinned and leaned over, flicked my nipple

he said, i will give you 50 cents if you sit in my car

voice hollow my brother said, 25 cents mister, take them all

you can have them we don’t want them

he took the corn and he was gone, turquoise fins waving blue plumes laying rubber

you only get 5 cents said my brother cause you’re a girl

i get half i said

nu-uh he said

uh-huh i said i thought of how many wagon wheels i could get for half of seventy-five cents

which didn’t divide: eight

i thought of how many wagon wheels I could get with a nickel: one

he said just put on a shirt

 

BC Books to Kick Start the Year

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Jane Eaton Hamilton; photo: Jen McFarlane

The Vancouver Sun ran this pic of me in Paris in conjuntion with Zoe Grams’ and Megan Jones‘ recommendation of the anthology This Place a Stranger: Canadian Women Traveling Alone (Caitlin Press). Thanks, Vancouver Sun!

BC Books to Kick Start the Year

A Stern Look at the World for Writers Today

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Nicola Soloman, posting at The Writing Platform, dives into the rough tide that waits for today’s authors. For the average writer, income has plummeted to below the poverty line. A grim read.

The State of the Author

Around the World: How I Travel These Days

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I’m pleased to be a part of a spiffy new anthology of travel writing with my travel essay “The Blind Warthog,” assembled by the gang at the Harvard Bookstore and printed by their in-house robot.

Here’s a small excerpt from my piece “The Blind Warthog:”

___________________________________________________________________After we check in, we go along to the lodge, picking our way with a flashlight. The sky is darker than ink, the stars dice-rolled across it. Beside the catapulting flames in the fire pit, there’s a blind warthog snorting, burying himself in the sand, trying to get comfortable. Warthogs are uglier old and up close, their weird almost-rhino faces, their piggy bodies with manes, nothing quite matching anything else. Flagstones in fields of cement look like giraffe skin. Everyone is so nonchalant. I’m apparently the only one who wants to jump up and down shouting, “Warthog! Warthog!”

But then, I’ve just arrived.

There’s a night walking safari; I shouldn’t go at all, but I definitely can’t go unless my wife will take me. Back at our room, we squabble, I get irate, I go to spite her.

Yeah, well, I don’t need you.

I spray nitro, slap on a nitro patch.

I hurry to grab the group, bringing up the rear of maybe 30 people out through the gates. They’re moving too fast, an amoeba with one shared cell, one shared will; I get angina. I lag behind with my swinging camera and my penile lens.

We’ve moved into pitch; they’re scarily far ahead. I swivel. Total darkness in every direction.

My voice doesn’t carry. They don’t have a clue I’m here, fallen behind, embarrassed and lost.

10)

Blind animals: some moles, blind huntsman spider, troglobites.

11)

I wanted to study inter-species communication to work the way Irene Pepperberg did with Alex, the African gray parrot, at U of AZ, Harvard and Brandeis; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study gorillas, chimps, dolphins, corvids or parrots.

Maybe you mean to become something, and you end up becoming something else; maybe if I hadn’t gotten sick, I would have ended up researching the breeding habits of angelsharks or the nesting habits of brown cowbirds and not lived out my dream anyhow. Maybe I would have ended up doing something completely different—law, say.

12)

African lodges skew male: trips built around encounters with the Big Five: lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, rhinocerous, elephant. Action adventure, chase and claw, living animals scored from their bones as they scream, predators up to their shoulders in blood. Yeah yeah yeah yeah, The law of the jungle. Life, death.

Let’s ask the question: What is a traveling woman’s Africa?

Would female-only safaris opt for a different wildlife experience? If women shaped the intinerary, drove the vans and were the clients, would our days be markedly different? Would our wish-lists be less linear? Would we observe a troupe of baboons for hours, watch a Vervet infant suckle, read a book while birds in the treetops chatter?

13)

The angina goes from regular angina to crescendo angina with every lurching step. Here are my options: Halt in a wildlife preserve with no lick of light, resident lions, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas and warthogs around me, or go forward, possibly into cardiac arrest.

I think of my wife, my kids, the stories they will be able to tell if I root to the spot: My poor mother. My darling wife. Shredded by hyenas.

Possibly I’m dying, I think, as I go forward. Possibly I’m dying right now.

14)

A scorpion of pain. A hippopotamus of pain.

Arrythmia an erst of bees behind my ribs.

15)

a coalition of cheetahs

a sounder of warthogs

a leap of leopards

a tower of giraffes

a pit of vipers

a cackle of hyenas

an obstinancy of buffalo

a bask of crocodiles

16)

The safari blind, I want to hug it. Thank you thank you, I think as I sag against it until the angina partially subsides. In-breath, slow. Out-breath, slow. In-breath deep. Out-breath shallow. Oxygen, oxygen, oxygen; I need nothing more. My heart is doing flips as my lungs back up; CHF, my old friend, left ventricular insufficiency.

I stumble into the blind productively coughing, maybe five minutes behind everyone else. The kitchen scraps have been distributed to draw animals into the light. I still have angina so I can’t speak. I need to sit urgently. Unoccupied stool. Nitro assist. I wait, I wait. When I finally feel okay, I feel okay, more or less. I didn’t die. I still could die in my sleep from the strain I put my heart through, but this is how I live anyway, the guillotine blade above my head, fate’s hand on its string. You are a vascular disaster, a cardiologist once said. The tree of you is dying, said another. Any day, any day, any day now, curtains. I point my camera out the window. African porcupine with black and white striped quills longer than forearms, bristling at some warthogs, bristling at a caracal, bristling hard at a shadowy hyena.

17)

What I could have seen: Leopard, Cheetah, Caracal, African Wild Cat, Brown & Spotted Hyaena, Black-backed Jackal, Aardwolf, Bat-eared Fox, Aardvark, Pangolin, Honey-badger, Porcupine, Large & Small Spotted Genet, Striped Polecat, Kudu, Oryx, Red Hartebeest, Gnu or Blue Wildebeest, Eland, Impala, Giraffe, Hartmann’s (Mountain) Zebra, Burchell’s Zebra, Steenbok, Common Duiker, Damara Dik-Dik, Warthog, Chacma Baboon, Rock Hyrax, Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit, Springhare, Scrub Hare, Ground Squirrel, Dwarf, Slender, Yellow & Banded Mongoose.[1] Lion.

When I get back to my room, my wife is asleep curled around dreams of the woman she wants to have as her lover, or perhaps does have as her lover, curled around her dreams of leaving me, so I curl on my side, my back to her. Seen from above, we look like quotations with no sentence. I dream of my neck extending, giraffe-like. I dream I can eat acacia thorns.

18)

The morning after I don’t get lost in the wilderness, the blind warthog is on his small front knees in the grass, praying in the yard, as iridescent starlings and red-belled Shrikes hop by him. Shrieks go up and the sky grows very quiet—a black-shouldered kite loops the air waves.

[1] Okonjima.com

___________________________________________________________________

Here are my fellow travelers:

  • Kristin Amico
  • Kitty Beer
  • Katie Feldman
  • Katy Llonko Gero
  • Ann Goodsell
  • Jane Eaton Hamilton
  • Sue Hertz
  • Kyle Ingrid Johnson
  • Megan Low
  • Stephen J. Lyons
  • Ariel Maloney
  • James Murphy
  • Paulina Reso
  • Michael Sano
  • Maia Silber
  • Jodie Noel Vinson
  • Taline Voskeritchian

Around the World

This Place a Stranger: Canadian Women Traveling Alone

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Get your copy soon at the book launch, May 9th, 7 pm, Artspeak.  (I won’t be reading since I’m out of town, but my included essay is “Things That Didn’t Happen,” which was first published at the Manifest Station by Jen Pastiloff.)

From the Caitlin site:

“Sometimes tragic, sometimes uproariously funny, This Place a Stranger is a diverse collection of Canadian women writing about their experiences of travelling alone. From the deceptiveness of the everyday to the extremes of geography, weather and violence, these stories go beyond the usual tales of intrepid male explorers and reveal the varied and unique circumstances in which women travellers find themselves when “going solo.”

When an Afghan soldier asks one Indo-Canadian woman, “Where are you really from,” her false sense of belonging comes sharply into focus. After thirty-seven years of marriage, another woman prepares for her return trip to Africa: vaccination boosters, nausea pills and lots and lots of condoms. A seventeen-hour journey by car through the Great Lakes region of Ontario leads another to dreamlike reflections on the travels of her Anishinaabe grandmothers and the ever-present “fear, worry” she experiences today. In another story, a woman poignantly searches for what many seek on solo journeys—inspiration, renewal, discovery—by returning to Paris only a few years after the painful dissolution of her marriage. But the grey February, a body in pain and the funeral of Mavis Gallant offer a different insight.

With new work from twenty-three emerging and award-winning authors including Yvonne Blomer, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy, Catherine Owen, Karen J Lee and more, these stories explore the unexpected blessings and soul-searching that aloneness offers: clarity, liberation, danger, misery, adventure, devastation and joy.”

Where the Nights are Twice as Long

JEH2                                                         Sketch by Jane Eaton Hamlton, 2015

I’m one of the many correspondents in this book of love letters of Canadian poets.  I haven’t seen the book yet, but I hear it’s lovely.

Where the Nights are Twice as Long

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