Jane Eaton Hamilton

"It was her mouth that had a hand over it, not her eyes." -Jane Eaton Hamilton

Category: poetry

Berkeley Fire

Here is a poem from my second collection, Steam-Cleaning Love:

Berkely Fire

for Corbin

 

I know you are reading this poem

I said to Liz I want to understand the trees

I was speaking of eucalyptus in particular

When I met you I said Hello

You said Maybe it will sound ridiculous

but I pray for rain every day here

 

On the television I saw a woman

shaking hard

I watched her forearms

how she tried to hold herself together

by pressing her elbows on her knees

her face in her hands

Everything else was a still photograph

the still hush of smoke

 

You are reading this poem

You are rolling a cigarette, or Sharon is

putting flame against your lips

I meant to ask the names of what grows

I said The vegetation is so different

You said I love thunderstorms

 

Once I passed a burning house

I was safe but I was scared anyway

I didn’t understand

how loud, how hot, how big

Later a woman interviewed

standing in the rubble said

It’s like being dead then coming back

I’m scared now, I said

You are reading this poem in Berkeley

You said Is it raining?

 

You can order Steam-Cleaning Love through Brick Books here.

 

CBC poetry longlist 2018! Congrats to the longlist!

Congrats to the poets on the longlist! I’m delighted to be included with so many talented writers.

CBC poetry prize longlist 2018

National Poetry Month: The Hole in Her Cheek

One of mine today!

National Poetry Month

International Womxn’s Day

Happy International Womxn’s Day, people! So glad to cogitate and vesicate and tesselate and ungulate and agitate and fecundate and germinate and rider-rate and activate and depricate and actuate and exudate and arbitrate, interpenetrate and multi-mate and hypenate and permutate and ruminate and inundate and menstruate and fasciculate and tussiculate and fourth estate and and tête-a-tate and fiercely hate and stay awake and mitigate and oscillate and ecaudate and holi-date and epilate and execrate and and estivate and vacate-akate and rage-acate and rage-at-fate and exhalate and masturbate and irritate and celebrate and go-on-dates and generate and fornicate and levigate and bombilate and meditate and not-go-straight and medicate and desquamate and propagate and running-mate and damn-let’s-mate and replicate and deviate and make mistakes and multiplicate and catenulate and change the fucking world with y’all.

 

Trenchcoat: a poem about Columbine

Bags of potpourri that the Littleton, Colorado, fire department made from flowers placed at Columbine High School: 3000

Trenchcoat

 

It was hard to drop her at school

that spring. She made me leave her

two blocks away

Low on her hip she

flicked dismissive fingers at me

in a way she hoped would be invisible

to other kids

 

It wasn’t just Columbine

Children were dying video gun deaths

all over the US

Other teens were being snapped in two in car accidents

breakable as bread sticks

or taken to lonely woods

and crumpled like test papers

 

At the swimming pool after

I watched a teen boy toss Meghann like pizza

his arms newly strong, voice

loud, sure, traveling out over the heads of toddlers

and kids in grade school

moms with infants at breast

 

She fought for footing on the bottom of the pool

came up sputtering

giggling

happy to be vanquished

 

I wanted to tell someone I loathed potpourri

 

 

 

Words for Your 2018 by Louise Erdrich

Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich

Love Will (Still) Burst Into a Thousand Shapes

“…The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:

In the month before they find your son’s body

downstream, you wake imagining

his fist clutching the spent elastic

of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them

He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios

his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming

toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard

paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised

by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water

how his eyes glow green as algae

He amazes you again and again, how he breathes

through water. Every morning you almost drown

fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff

coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy

He’s learning the language of gills and fins

of minnows and fry. That’s what he says

when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman

riding the waterfall down its awful lengths

to the log jam at the bottom pool

He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat

He’s translucent, you can see his heart under

his young boy’s ribs, beating

as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly

blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive

HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.” -Casey Stepaniuk

I Show My Dick

unknown source: please contact me for credit

I wrote a new poem. I’m sure you can guess whose voice I wrote it in. Louis CK has been accused of showing his penis and masturbating to colleagues. I watched Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi Season 2 reference to one of his assaults recently, as it happens, and I wondered about the male privilege and disregard for others you’d have to experience to commit assaults like these. What relationship would you have to have to your penis? I bet you’d have to think it was pretty great, at least superficially, wouldn’t you?

 

I Show My Dick

 

I carry my dick in front of me

It’s an easy-glide dick

It’s a strong dick

It’s a big dick

a stand-up dick

It’s a straight dick, it doesn’t bend

My dick’s a trophy dick

My dick’s a race car dick

It’s a stallion dick

an elephant dick

a blue whale dick

In a bag of dicks, my dick perks up

In a bag of dicks, my dick’s a fountain

In a bag of dicks, my dick’s Dick of the Bag

 

-Jane Eaton Hamilton

 

The Blodwyn Prize

I didn’t win this new prize for emerging writers–I am far from an emerging writer–but I am glad thinking so caused someone to read and enjoy my latest poetry book Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes and All Lit Up to report on it.

Must-Follow-Canadian-Book-Instagrams-for-World-Photo-Day

“For women who are difficult to love”

Warsan Shire, people.

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

 

The fleet-footed thing among us

fleetingness

happiness.
you cannot lock it out,
nor bar the door against it.
like the midnight cinnamon
and ginger wafts
from the kitchen
of the insomniac
finnish woman one floor
down, sleepless and dour,
prone to nocturnal baking,
it simply arrives,
happiness, that is,
through the vents,
the radiators,
the small cracks
in the parquet or plaster.
uninvited,
unannounced,
unreserved,
it goes from room to room,
examining your favourite things,
touching them, gently,
not saying why it’s come,
where it’s been,
who it’s seen.
genial, uncritical,
it overlooks the dust,
the lingering odours
of squander and rancour.
astonishing how much
space it claims, something
so small as this happiness,
so small and so demure.
it does not want you to fuss,
not even to fill the kettle
let alone put it on.
what would be the point?
it won’t be staying long enough,
not long enough for tea.
there’s somewhere else it’s going,
it has someone else to see.
goodbye, goodbye, till next time.
it’s come and gone before.
its bags are packed and ready.
they’re waiting by the door.

–Bill Richardson

Best Canadian Poetry

1

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

 

Puritan Magazine publishes “rubber soul”

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Dear Friends, Editors, Writers, and Readers,

We are pleased to announce the launch of Issue 34: Issue 2016. This stellar edition features fiction and poetry chosen by our special guest summer editors for 2016: novelist and short-story writer Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and poet Dr. Sonnet L’Abbé. As always, the issue boasts lit-centric non-fiction (essays, reviews, and interviews) that set the bar for long-form writing about books and book culture in Canada.

Guest fiction editor Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer brings us seven prose writers who are all, according to the editor, unafraid to be weird—and refreshingly, bravely so. Read Kuitenbrouwer’s introduction, “Weird!,” where she reveals all the “odd, hidden nooks and crannies” of her taste in short fiction. Both The Puritan and Kuitenbrouwer are pleased to present writers Heather Birrell, Ellen van Neerven, Trish Salah, Sarah Maria Medina, Nehal El-Hadi, M.W. Johnston, and Khalida Venus Hassan.

Our guest poetry editor Dr. Sonnet L’Abbé has selected a fine collection of poems from writers both established and still new to publishing. Start with her introduction—“A Space for the Aggro”—in which she commends the way these poets “are plumbing, in the personal way only poetry can, the angry and aggro energies that seem to dominate this global cultural moment.” Those poets are: George Murray, Stevie Howell, John Wall Barger, Barry Dempster, Tanis MacDonald, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Kyle Kinaschuk, Maria Matuscak, Nicole Chin, Steven Artelle, Jake Byrne, Lauren Marshall, Natalie Wee, Lorin Medley, and Jill Talbot.

The issue continues with non-fiction, starting with two essays. In “Punching Like a Girl,” Krista Foss writes a gripping, hair-raising reflection on violence, propriety, gender, and rage, and in “Comparative Zoology,” Sunny Chan brings us a funny, searching tour of infograpic history, animal encyclopedias, and libraries, seen through the distorting and sweetening lens of nostalgia.

Then we’re on to interviews. The first is a three-part, nineteen-inning investigation of Andrew Forbes’ *The Utility of Boredom* (Invisible Publishing, 2016)—and of baseball, its boring lows and knuckle-whitening highs altogether—by Myra Bloom, Ted Nolan, and Joseph Thomas. The next is Meghan Harrison’s double interview with Dave D D Miller (“The Derby Nerd”) and Monica “Monichrome” Mitchell-Taylor—two major personalites in the world of flat track roller derby in Canada—on derby’s evolution and its pointed parallels to literature and other forms of pop culture. Third, we bring you “An Elegiac Conversation” between the mysterious artists ‘Grant Stonehouse’ and ‘Len Carey,’ as curated by writer Michael Trussler: a fascinating exchange that, we can promise, is not what it seems.

We end this issue, as always, with smart and engaged reviews of recent literary titles. Explore “LOLing with Claws,” Brecken Hancock’s take on Liz Howard’s *Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent* (McClelland & Stewart Poetry, 2015), “War without a Name,” Amanda Sarasien’s review of Mercè Rodoreda’s *War, So Much War* (Open Letter Books, 2015), “Solo Protests Against Solitude,” Myra Bloom’s thoughts on Steven Heighton’s *The Waking Comes Late* (House of Anansi Press, 2016), and, last but not least, “Pragmatic Complications of Perfections,” Aaron Boothby’s look at Klara Du Plessis’s chapbook *Wax Lyrical* (Anstruther Press, 2015).

We’re still reading submissions to Issue 35: Fall 2016 of The Puritan, and to our writing contest, the Fifth Annual Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence, judged by Rawi Hage and Jan Zwicky. It’s the writing competition that awards publication, celebration at Black Friday, $1,000 cash, and approximately $1,700 worth of books, donated from 35 Canadian presses, to each of our two winners. There’s still a whole month to enter, so please don’t be shy about those submissions! Visit our submissions page for more details.

That’s all for now. Enjoy the new issue, and share widely!

Woman With a Mango

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Woman With A Mango (by Gauguin): Etta Cone

 

Gertrude you are a Gertrude are a Gertrude

no one in Baltimore is a Gertrude anymore

If you can’t say anything nice about anyone

come sit next to me

you said

and I did

under Mother and Child come sitting

in Baltimore in Paris in Baltimore

no one is a Gertrude is a Gertrude enough

 

There were the two of us, you said, we were not sisters

We were not large not then we were not rich

we were not so different one from the other one

an eye was an eye was an eye, gazing

 

A woman would smell

a woman would hold out her smell and smell and petals

would drop from Large Reclining Nude

white petals cool and fragrant and soft

and dropping and dropping and dropping down

Three Lives my fingers sore my wrists aching typing

Come sit next to me you said

and I did sit I did sit I sat and sat and after I sat I sat and sat

 

I typed until the “G” key stuck

Three lives, yours, Claribel’s, mine

I was sitting and sitting under

Woman With a Mango under Blue Nude

I was sitting with textiles draped over me

hoping their weight

but they are not you, because you have–

Alice? Alice? Alice?

 

Is an Alice?

Gertrude you undertake to overthrow my undertaking

You say my dessicated loneliness is

across the ocean in Baltimore and you pull Alice onto

your lap on the large brown broken armchair

where you sat with me

while Pablo’s portrait strains above

You sit, running Alice’s hair through your hands

her hair through your fingers

Your fingers in my hair unpinning tangling

your lips against my neck

There is no there there now

anymore

there is Henri there is Vincent there is Paul and Paul there is Gustave

my neck a neck is a neck with a rose

that died and petals like brown rain

I like what is, you said

I like what is mine I like it

 

*with reference to: Three Lives, Stanzas in Meditaion (VII), Sacred Emily, by Gertrude Stein

-from the book Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

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

 

Best Canadian Poetry

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Best Canadian Poetry, 2016

Great news! Just received word today that I’ll have a poem in the 2016 volume of Best Canadian Poetry! The poem is “Wish You Were Here” first published in CVII. The editor for this year is Helen Humphreys, and the series editors are Molly Peacock and Anita Lahey. Thanks, Helen, Molly and Anita.

Best Canadian Poetry

Poets You Should Read!

Read Amber Dawn in the smoking “Where the Words End and My Body Begins:”

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Read Ali Blythe in the hatchet-strong “Twoism:”

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Share Elizabeth Bachinsky’s yearning in “The Hottest Summer in Recorded History:”

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Pith frogs with Anne Fleming in “poemw.”

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Hallucinate with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in “Body Map:”

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Torque time with Tanis MacDonald’s “Rue the Day:”

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Hear Tanis reading “Looking Into” here.

Make a parachute lure with Shannon Macguire‘s “fur(l) parachute:”

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Transform with Lydia Kwa’s “Sinuous:”

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Take wing with Brenda Schmidt‘s “Flight Calls: An Apprentice on the Art of Listening:”

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Splice intimacy with Maleea Ackers “Air-Proof Green:”

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Speak words with spoken-word poet Jillian Christmas, here.

WEEKEND, the launch! POEMW, the celebration!

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Bring your queer selves out to Historic Joy Kogawa House June 6, 2016, to help Jane Eaton Hamilton, the writer-in-residence, celebrate the launch of their first novel, WEEKEND, and Anne Fleming celebrate their first collection of poetry, POEMW!

All these firsts!

I’ve heard tell there might be s’mores on offer, and I know for sure Anne is going to take to her banjo for some campfire songs. Special MEC gift certificate draw for campers who buy books. Bring your guitars, banjos and a ghost story!

The Sick Boy

 

The Sick Boy

Jane Eaton Hamilton

from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, 2014

 

The spot inside the sick boy’s brain was

invisible, it burrowed there pale as a tuber,

stubborn and engorged. His hair lifted

from his scalp like angel fuzz; his eyes

gleamed and struck us. Dumb and

wanting, we watched him teeter to the lip of the

nest, his skin traced blue with veins. Fledgling,

we thought, and gathered our children closer, under

shivering arms. The sick boy wanted Christmas

cards and he got thousands, maybe millions,

a Guiness record in any case, cards enough

to fill warehouses, from everywhere

in the world. There was his father, his mother,

his sister and brother, and there were all those cards,

and there was his brain cancer, growing like

a nightmare’s garden, spreading like a bleach spot

into September and death. We almost

knew something dangerous that glowed

the way an umbilicus will; we almost

saw reflections of silver in the mirror, but then

we didn’t. We only saw ourselves, lustrous

as poster paints, our terrible good luck.

On Writing Across the Curriculum

Magnolia2JEH

magnolia: Jane Eaton Hamilton, unknown year

Instead of asking me to repeat myself, why don’t you challenge yourself to expand? I am not ever going to make myself smaller, my talents fewer, my range tiny, in order to garner your praise.

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