Jane Eaton Hamilton

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

Category: writing

“The Also Best American Anthology,” said Kerry Neville. The Notables:

Here are just a few of the 2018 Notable Essays from Best American Essays, with mine stuck on the end, by people I know. It’s an honour to be listed with them; these essayists are skilled and talented. Have a look at Best American Notable lists … you’ll be in good hands if you seek out any of the work. It’s a trustworthy source of recommended literature.

The Grammar of Untold Stories, Lois Ruskai Melina, Colorado Review

(…), Lia Woodall, Literal Latte

How Deep is Your Love? Alison Kinney, Lapham’s Quarterly

Beyond the Primordial Ooze, Dinty Moore, Issues in Science and Technology

Mates, Kelly Sundberg, Gulf Coast

Swan, Late, Irina Dumitrescu | Longreads

The Human Cost of the Ghost Economy, Melissa Chadburn, Longreads

Things I Never Told Her, Marion Ryan, Granta

Finding El Saez, Alia Voltz, Travel Stories

Rain Like Cotton, Jennifer Kabot, Bomb Magazine

Manifestus, Kerry Neville, Juxtaprose

A Life Story, Ashley P Taylor, Entropy

What We Aren’t, Or the Ongoing Divide, Jennifer N Baker, Kweli Journal

Skinning the Rabbit, Jane Eaton Hamilton, The Sun

 

 

Exciting Queer/Trans Canadian/Turtle Island Authors to Discover

image: Lambda Literary

Being a non-binary author, I wanted to make a list of other Canadian/Turtle Island non-binary authors to help you celebrate their work, but I realized I don’t always know who in my writing community identifies as non-binary, particularly as identities shift. So instead, I considered authors I know who’ve written about FTM transitioning/not transitioning (as in my novel Weekend, where a character uses they/them/their pronouns but hasn’t completed their psychological shifting). I also thought about ways other than gender that people transition. Here are a few of our many brilliant Canadian queer authors you’ll love to explore. All but one of these people have more than one title, so if you dive into their work, you’ll be able to read back into their older books with an eye to their authorial evolvement–how did they transit from early to mid-career to (in some cases) older writers, and what changes in society did their work note or represent over those years?

This is not an exhaustive list. Today I wanted to bring a spotlight to a few whose personhood and writing have been important to me as I tried to find my bumble-footed way through life:

 

Ali Blythe: Blythe is the author of Twoism, the edgy poetry collection that set minds and hearts afire. Of Twoism, Read his new book, Hymnswitch, of which Goose Lane pubs says: “…in Hymnswitch, Blythe takes up the themes of identity and the body once again, this time casting an eye backwards and forwards, visiting places of recovery and wrestling with the transition into one’s own skin. Readers will find themselves holding their breath at the risk and beauty and difficulty of the balance Blythe strikes in the midst of ineffable complexity.”

 

Lydia Kwa: Lydia Kwa is the Singaporean-born author of fiction and poetry I’ve enjoyed all my writing life, including Sinuous, Linguistic Tantrums, Pulse, The Walking Boy, This Place Called Absence, and The Colour of Heroines. The transitions Kwa writes about are often complicated and psychological, and not necessarily about gender.

Of Oracle Bone, Larissa Lai says: “A beautiful and moving dream of old Chang’an, deliciously and fully conceived. Lydia Kwa’s Oracle Bone is at once a fantasy and a memory, recalling the fertile meeting of Daoism and Buddhism in old China with subtle yet potent implications for our present relations with the Earth and everything that lives upon it. This reader finds particular delight in the ways Kwa has breathed life into a fox spirit, a Daoist nun, a corrupt yet compelling empress, and an orphan girl who wants to avenge the unjust killing of her parents. Wide-awake to Chinese imperial history, traditional storytelling, kung-fu movies, and TCM, this novel is a must-read from a brilliant contemporary novelist.” ―Larissa Lai, author of When Fox is a Thousand and Salt Fish Girl

 

Betsy Warland: Betsy Warland is the author of a dozen cross-genre books, including Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas, Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing, Only This Blue: A Long Poem with Essay, Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss, What Holds Us Here, Two Women in a Birth, The Bat Had Blue Eyes, Proper Deafinitions: Collected Theorograms, Double Negative, serpent (w)rite: (a reader’s gloss), open is broken, and A Gathering Instinct. Betsy has always been at the forefront of interrogating identity.

“Vibrant and pulsating with life, Oscar of Between, like Warland’s other works, demonstrates Warland’s multiple engagements with crucial—and contemporary—literary, political, and aesthetic questions.” –Jule R Enzer, writing for Lambda Literary Review

 

Alec Butler: Alec Butler is another of Turtle Island’s longtime authors. Two-spirited, he is a Métis of Mi’kmaq heritage and also writes plays and films. His books are Radical Perversions: Two Dyke Plays and the extraordinary, must-read Rough Paradise.

“He was a nominee for the Governor General’s Award for English drama in 1990 for his play Black Friday. He has also worked on artistic projects with The 519 Church St. Community Centre as their first artist-in-residence. He was named one of Toronto’s Vital People by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2006.

He is a Métis of Mi’kmaq heritage.

Plays

  • Shakedown
  • Cradle Pin
  • Radical Perversions: 2 Dyke Plays (1990)
  • Black Friday (1990)
  • Claposis (1990)
  • Hardcore Memories (1993)
  • Medusa Rising (1996)
  • Trans Cab (2005)

Books:

  • Radical Perversions: two Dyke Plays by Audrey Butler published by Women’s Press, 1991
  • Novella called Rough Paradise published May 31, 2014 by Quattro Books” -Wikipedia

 

Alex Leslie: Alex Leslie is the author of 3 titles. Their second collection of short fiction after the extraordinary People Who Disappear is We All Need to Eat, about to drop from Book*hug. Leslie also authored the poetry collection The things I heard about you.

“Many of Leslie’s stories centre on gay relationships and often focus on the difficulty of being “out” in a small community. The narrator of “The Coast Is a Road” accompanies her journalist lover as she “roams the coast like an indigenous seabird” in search of stories. The journalist’s purposeful wanderlust is set in contrast to the narrator’s dependent lassitude. The story is the most lyrical of the bunch, awash in lovely descriptions like, “Whale backs sink dark ink into polished water” or, “The snowy road balanced against the side of the dark mountain, the ultrasound image of a bone inside an arm.” -Quill and Quire on People Who Disappear

 

Ivan Coyote: The popular performer/author Ivan Coyote, too, has a number of books across genres and has edited anthologies:  Tomboy Survival Guide, Gender Failure, One in Every Crowd, Missed Her, The Slow Fix, Bow Grip: A Novel, Loose End, One Man’s Trash: Stories, Close to Spider Man, Boys Like Her: Transfictions, and Goodbye Gender.

Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction; Longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction; Stonewall Book Award Honor Book winner; Longlisted for Canada Reads

“Ivan Coyote is a celebrated storyteller and the author of ten previous books, including Gender Failure (with Rae Spoon) and One in Every Crowd, a collection for LGBT youth. Tomboy Survival Guide is a funny and moving memoir told in stories, about how they learned to embrace their tomboy past while carving out a space for those of us who don’t fit neatly into boxes or identities or labels.

Ivan writes about their years as a young butch, dealing with new infatuations and old baggage, and life as a gender-box-defying adult, in which they offer advice to young people while seeking guidance from others. (And for tomboys in training, there are even directions on building your very own unicorn trap.)

Tomboy Survival Guide warmly recounts Ivan’s past as a diffident yet free-spirited tomboy, and maps their journey through treacherous gender landscapes and a maze of labels that don’t quite stick, to a place of self-acceptance and an authentic and personal strength.” –Arsenal Pulp Press

Tom Cho: Tom Cho is a recent transplant from Australia I hope Canada is lucky enough to keep.

“First published to acclaim in Australia, Look Who’s Morphing by Asian-Australian writer Tom Cho is a funny, fantastical, often outlandish collection of stories firmly grounded in pop culture. The book’s central character undergoes a series of startling transformations, shape-shifting through figures drawn from film, television, music, books, porn flicks, and comics. Often accompanied by family members, this narrator becomes Godzilla, Suzi Quatro, Whitney Houston’s bodyguard, a Muppet, a gay leatherman, a nun who becomes a governess to the von Trapp children, and, in the book’s lavish climax, a 100-foot-tall guitar-wielding rock star performing for an adoring troupe of fans in Tokyo.

Throughout these stories, there is a pervasive questioning of the nature of identity―cultural, racial, sexual, gender, and what lies beyond. Look Who’s Morphing is a stylish, highly entertaining literary debut in which nothing, including one’s self, can be taken for granted.” –Arsenal Pulp Press

“Cho’s deliciously astute observations regarding the mutability of identity make for the perfect juicy center in the box of candy-colored bonbons that is Look Who’s Morphing.”Lambda Literary

 

 

 

 

Anna March–yeah, no. And other scams:

Anna March

Anna March, literary gadabout and organizer in the US, has been exposed as a fraud with a storied history of taking financial and emotional advantage of writers (and others pre-her writing career). Anna and I were FB friends, and gradually grew closer. I hoped one day we’d meet in person. I got involved with Roar Magazine when she began it the week of the presidential inauguration, when Anna asked me to do a regular column. I was thrilled to be able to write regularly for a periodical I assumed I would love. It was something great coming on the terrible weighty shoulders of UBCA and Trumpet, and I hoped it would signal that the year was turning around–if not for imperilled Americans who would roll and march their bodies onto the front line to protest or for womxn students in Canada, then for me, personally. I wrote several columns, sent two, and Anna also bought some reprints. I know it won’t surprise you to hear that I never received payment, despite invoicing. Surprise, surprise, on its one-year anniversary, Roar folded with debts.

The only good thing was that I ended my involvement with Roar and Anna March early on when a friend ratted her out. It broke my heart, honestly. I’d really liked her. I thought she was doing good things in the world. I thought I could be a part of that. Even when her story went wonky–when, say, her only presence on the Binders was to solicit $–I wanted to believe in it, in her. And why would anyone scam writers/artists? We barely make it through a good month. But, yet, I had incontrovertible proof, lots of it, in front of me. She was everything the LA Times has confirmed today that she is. I’m glad the news is finally out in order that no one else ever gets scammed. But I’m also sad with the sadness that hasn’t really gone away since the US election and UBCA.

Thanks, Melissa Chadburn and Carolyn Kellogg. I appreciate you going to the wall.

Literary ambition. Fabulous parties. A hidden past. Who is Anna March?

Maribeth Fischer wrote an essay (perhaps) based on Anna March at the Yale Review in 2012. I read it 15 months ago, thinking it was published as fiction. You can find an excerpt here:

Maribeth Fischer: The Fiction Writer

Here is one about JT Le Roy, a traumatized teen author who turned out to be a 40 yo woman:

The Boy Who Cried Author

Avoid Blogging Course Scams

BBB warning on same author

Edited to add:

Another recent scam outside of literature:

“As an Added Bonus, She Paid for Everything”: My Bright-Lights Misadventure with a Magician of Manhattan

 

A recent portrait…

charcoal and acrylic on canvas 11×16

Skeleton Key

Karrie Higgins’ remarkable “Skeleton Key.”

Karrie higgins

vertebrae made of skeleton keys, a spinal cord, and a Master Lock brain, drawn in my homemade iron gall ink on a rich golden parchment paper

CW: abuse, CSA

My father is dying.

Every week, a new emergency: a stroke, pneumonia, sepsis, C. Diff. His lungs, filled with fluid, crackle through the stethoscope bell. His muscles are wasting. He falls a lot, shreds his skin clean down to bone. When my mother escapes the apartment to run errands, he speed-dials my sister, sometimes crying, sometimes ranting about our half-brother Scott, accusing him of getting a little too close to our mom.

My sister forwards me voicemails. We are building a case for Power of Attorney.

“Scott blew it, as far as I’m concerned,” Dad says in one, his speech slurred like all the times he drunk-dialed me after I went no contact in the mid 90s.

“He can go to…

View original post 5,812 more words

Ohhhh, pharting around

sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton, March, 2018, mixed media, 9×12, paper

Pharting around at sketching today, late today because I had an ultrasound at the hospital–yay! stand down on cancer scare! When I arrive at the atelier (which, here, is upstairs at the Lion’s Club), the model is usually doing one and two-minute poses, and my hand warms up, drops its daily concerns, finding its lines, remembering how to draw into the body, remembering how to make lines occupy space. Today I was only there for two long poses (long poses are usually 20 minutes). Since I started with this group in Jan, I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now–I’ve let myself play.

A long time ago, I started sketching in Bali. I was a photographer and couldn’t (from overseas) find a model, and so I signed up in Ubud for a day-long sketching session. I was really pleasantly surprised at what came out of my pencil, and I kept drawing. I’d drawn as a kid, a lot, and had been put into art classes which bored me to tears (perspective! it still bores me! I would fall down dead if I had to draw architecture!), but then I was told to do a self-portrait, which I did in front of my mother’s makeup mirror, above the mascara cake she always spit in, its little brush, her foundation and rouge, her pair of yellow earrings. I contorted my expression, and finally settled on horrified. I drew myself like The Scream, and I was really proud. I’d only ever been proud of horse drawings before that. But people were uniformly horrified. My mother, aghast. My teacher revolted.

So I quit. I must have been in grade six, so eleven, and I quit drawing for forty years. I was terrified of it, in fact. Any time someone said, “Pictionary?” I froze.

Until Ubud. From Ubud, I started taking night classes, some with James Picard. I started going to the Vancouver atelier which had just then moved to Main Street–what was cool about it was that it had sessions every day. What was uncool was that I was too disabled to park far from it and walk carrying a portfolio (not really a portfolio, just drawing supplies, which are heavy), so I had to stop. I kept taking classes, classes with Emily Carr, classes with artists I met through the atelier, and a shit-ton of classes with Justin Ogilvie. I liked Justin; I loved his work. One day, though, he said something very unkind–something like Well, you’ll produce something worth looking at in six years. On the spot, I quit for six years.

When I got over myself again, I started a certificate program at Emily Carr. But I kept having heart surgeries and not getting to class. And then I kept coming up against the fact that Emily Carr wanted me to have a broad education–which is to say, take that perspectives class again and a class on running a business, and these I had and have utterly no interest again. I want to draw figures, and I want those figures to be women or non-binary or trans. I have no interest in drawing cis men. When you are as sick and disabled as I am, you get particular. I started teaching myself at home instead, which made sense because I was mostly relegated, then, to a chair with my feet up against heart failure, and I could hold small drawing paper on my lap. I spent some time living in a friend’s apartment in Paris, and I found I was too disabled to use the transit system, so I was house-bound, and I gesso’d paper and painted on that, nothing too large to carry home in a suitcase (I was too disabled to get to the PO). I found some double sided tape and taped these (bright) paintings to the walls of the apartment, ceiling to floor. I only went out for two reasons: food, with a little cart/bag that I pulled, or art galleries, where I could borrow wheelchairs. I spent that time intensely engaged in writing and art/art history.

I’ve been seeking something in my fingers. It’s been inchoate–I guessed it was a “breakthrough,” but I don’t actually draw or paint often enough to have one of those. Still, suddenly, it seems far closer to me.

I’ve always previously been preoccupied with an accuracy I could never obtain, which kept my style stiff, and I have thrown that concern the hell out the window now. For a few years, mostly outside ateliers, classes and degrees, I’ve taught myself to draw lines. Over and over again, drawing without looking at the page, drawing without lifting the pen, drawing without lifting the pen while not looking at the page. Over and over, practicing lines, which is to say, rather than doing a figure with chicken-scratch, a thousand teeny tiny lines to get from armpit to waist, as is my natural wont, I’ve forsaken that for long lines in ink or paint and no chance to re-do. Committed, as you will. I’ve also tried to take poses to the fewest lines I could manage (a la Picasso’s animals). This was a very useful home-study. Now I’m just sitting in the atelier each week with my body screaming in pain (from the setup, from my auto immune disorder, from carrying in supplies), having fun. Not second-guessing my impulses, not thinking–in paper, in media, in line–just scribbling like a kid, making happy and occasionally felicitous mistakes. I don’t care what mediums I’m combining–I’ve put acrylic with charcoal with conte with pastels with watercolour blocks and back again. I just want my representation of a person to breathe on the page–and care nothing at all if the model is represented. (Partly I just don’t see well enough to do that sort of drawing any longer.)

All the while, I’m working beside actual artists who are honing their considerable skills. I watch with awe. And awe again at my luck in being able to be near people so talented. When I get over my shyness, I’ll ask if I can sit beside them to learn.

So, here is Marianne from today, hot off the presses, and some other sketches from other weeks from the 1-5 min bunches:

 

 

Growing Room grows room

Growing Room Festival

Where Does the Page Stop and the Body Begin: Writing the Body
l-r: Casey Plett, Samantha Nock, Amber Dawn, Mallory Tater, Kim Clark
Moderator: Mallory Tater

This weekend, while I was busy with Growing Room Festival here in Vancouver, and indeed listening to this informative, intelligent panel, above, two other womxn in my sphere made disclosures that blew me away. Not because I wasn’t familiar with the bones of what they needed to say, because we are social media friends and have intersecting bios, and they’ve talked about these disclosures in other ways over time, but because of the unique and brave ways they chose to bring sensitive information into the public.

Sometimes I can only stand back, jaw dropped. Wow, you two. I want to have half your courage when I grow up. I thank you with all of my being.

Thinking about this panel, above. When I read the phrase in the program “Where does the page stop and the body begin?” (a play on Amber Dawn’s poetry collection title) I wondered not for the first time where the page does stop and my body begins, and then I imagined the pages of my writing as a kind of external skin, a body suit I can climb into (is it always ill-fitting? Do I never get the seams sewn tightly enough? Was I smart to use a reinforcing stitch? Is it going to unravel anyhow?) Where does my body stop and my page begin? [And is that creepy? Can you stalk your own writing? If you text it too many times, will it stop responding? If you get in there with a scalpel, is it going to faint? Can you kill it? What if all you can bring back from your body is a translation, an approximation, a waned hope, a cataclysm?] Where do poems live? Do they live there, in your spleen, in your arteries, in your thyroid, in your ignored middle toes? I mean, Do you fuck your heart? Do you even have the ability, ever, to write your heart? What if your heart wasn’t born now? What if your heart only makes cave drawings? What if your heart is a crabbed ugly dessicated thing? What if it’s thick and messy and too hot? Where do poems live before they appear? Where do your characters live in the globe of your brain? Do they hang out in the right, left hemispheres? Is that an outmoded way to think about creativity/creation/the formation of theory? In the parietal lobe? In the pons, in the medula?

Seriously. What delimits us?

What is our personal scaffolding? Poverty, education, racism, homophobia, ableism?  Wealth, white skin, straight skin, an able-body. How have people treated us? How have we treated people? What is behind our scaffolding? What is our skeleton? How was it made? With generosity, banquets, kindness, bequeaths? The opposite? When we are composing poems, or essays, or novels, or stories, are we stripped bare, are we under our scaffolding, are we in our bodies then, are we in all of our bodies, are we in the parts we’ve never thought of, that small vein that feeds our baby finger? Deep? How deep? Real? How real? Is our marrow sucked clean? What survives?

I’ve been fighting my own cowardice for years. I’ve been using alternate means to tell stories slant, hinting around the edges, disclosing fragments, being circular and allusive instead of immersive. I’ve let people who’ve terrorized my time with them continue to terrorize my time after them.

This panel and the panel that followed it at Growing Room Festival, What Binds Us: Sex, Bondage, and Fetishes, with Amber Dawn, Kim Clark, Lydia Kwa, Samantha Nock and moderator Sierra Skye Gemma, were fascinating. These are intelligent, probing authors who have thought deeply about such matters for decades and have translated much of their thought into literature and, with the help of good, well-prepped moderators, knew how to communicate the act of having done so. The audience members too asked questions that probed for deep answers.

I’ve been excavating childhood experiences, putting mud on the wire structure of some of them, or building the structure under the wire of some others. Trying to pin the Jello of distant memory into words that will stay the course. In this process, I’ve also been trying to find a deeper understanding of metaphor–as a lyrical author I’ve worked with metaphor for 35 years–as a language I can open to parse experiences I’ve had down far inside systems such as ableism, such as homo and transphobias, such as rape culture/misogyny. I’ve been using braids for my exploration. My writing, I see, gets increasingly experimental and fragmented as it goes forward.

These panels (and other events) took place this year in the ambient light of Me Too and Times Up. Over the years, I’ve worked behind the scenes (as disability and circumstance allowed) to change things for the next generation, all actions that are in their own way brave, some of them shading into foolhardiness. Last year, I named one of my rapists, a man who raped me in Ontario when I was 18. If I had named him then (and hadn’t been laughed out of a police station), how many womxn could have been spared rape? One of those women would have been my mother, because some years later, he attacked her, too, in an attempted rape. The act of naming him has been interesting and anxiety-provoking. Of course I have questions about what my responsibility is. If it was (is) my responsibility to name him to save others, isn’t that downloading his criminality onto me, blaming the victim? Yet always the pit of my stomach churns (has churned) at the idea of others.

I’m old, I’m feeble, I’m done like dinner. I have more recent offenders, both a batterer and a rapist, I don’t name. I am shit-scared to associate their acts with their names. I refuse to stay silent about violence–the acts were illegal and remain illegal. The blame for the violence belongs to the criminal. I’m sure they both just got on with their lives, wiping the old slate clean, while the repercussions for their actions bequeath to me.

Why am I so scared? I don’t even know. I fear financial annihilation? But I have physical evidence. I have contemporaneous accounts. In court, these two would lose–lose something, I don’t know. Status. Money. Freedom. Perhaps everything. It would offload the burden of their crimes to them. It might feel great, the shucking of lodestones.

But, still. Still.

I am a feminist, and I don’t name them. I don’t believe I have the resources to fight them. I believe fighting them would kill me. Figuratively? Literally? I don’t know. I only know I’m scared, so scared, every day I’m scared of them. When people have proven themselves happily vicious, it’s hard to stop worrying they’ll go there again.

I watch the womxn I mentioned in the first paragraph name their offenders. I watch these acts of great or foolhardy courage. I ask myself whether these womxn are somehow protected by their education, by their literary or career success or other things I don’t know about? Are they less protected by other things I don’t know about? Are they just fuck brave fuck wow? Wow. Wow. Wow. Would they have been disbelieved two years ago? Does Me Too give them protection of a sort? Do we believe them now? Do more of us believe them now?

I want to live in a world where womxn are not silenced, where being the victim of an assault is given priority over the sensitivity of the offender. I hope someday I get to.

Lately, I’ve been watching high schoolers Jack and Shay in Ontario who started this initiative which may become viral across the country, changing our literature forever: Rethinking Diversity in CanLit. I’ve been watching the kids in Florida and more widely in the US be brave and insistent–and make change. I’ve seen how doggedness and anger can be forces of great good. I’ve watched disabled activists storm DC, I’ve watched water activists, watched Black Lives Matter, watched WOC take apart white feminist bullshit.

I bow down to the power of womxn and men and youth to reshape the dialogue and change the reality. Thank you, thank you. I salute your courage and fortitude and wisdom. I imagine sometimes that you don’t know you are cherished, so let me say that: In this faulty heart, you are cherished. I say this to the panelists from Growing Room, as well: You are cherished, for your work but for your abilities, also, to talk to the deep and dark sides.

You make me know my small pieces of intersectional activism are worth it. The fight is still worth it, that the fight is indeed the only thing that ever brings about change.

Lately some focus for me has been disability activism. Disability activism is hard because its practitioners are ill and disabled–health concerns intercede. Actions equal stress equal months of physical repercussions.

I am weak and I am flawed and I am uninformed and I am clumsy. But within my capacities and lack of capacities, I’ve been analyzing, and working in, disability activism for a year or two. I’ve started to excavate my 32 years disabled–what I’ve experienced, what happened to me because of my condition in the medical community, but also at home and with friends/family, and in my career. I’m rooting out my tumour of shame at being disabled (which stems from when I was a bald and bullied six-year-old), and replacing it with solid political analysis.

I understand, as I have since the early 80s, while I write essay after essay, and novel after novel, and poem after poem, and short fiction after short fiction, that the personal is still political. If it is not my personal, but rather a character’s, it is nevertheless political.

Always and forever.

I hope the womxn who performed in and/or experienced Growing Room this weekend are about to write with all the power and strength of their minds and hearts and blow CanLit open. But I also have wishes for you, if you’ve read this far: I send you courage. There is a fight ahead. If you are new to activism, I welcome you. If you are not new, then every one of you political feminists made my life more bearable. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

Introducing Dorothy Ellen Palmer

There are more and more initiatives with high school students demanding a more inclusive literature. All the support to them!

Rethinking Diversity in CanLit

In her own words:

“When I was in high school, my group of friends developed our own language, Narg. A kind of Pig Latin, it added ?arg? to every word, leaving meaning to context, inflection, and how well we knew each other. ?Arg do narg tharg I warg to garg swimarg todarg.? is, ?I do not think I want to go swimming today.? As unintelligible as it sounds, we understood it perfectly.”

Read Dorothy’s interview at Open Book Ontario

Just the facts:

  • Dorothy grew up in Alderwood, Toronto
  • She spent summers at a cottage on Balsam Lake, very close to Fenelon Falls
  • For twenty-three years, she worked as a high school English/Drama teacher, teaching on a Mennonite Colony, a four room school, in an Adult Learning Centre attached to a prison, and a highly diverse new high school in Pickering, where she created the only high school improv program in…

View original post 130 more words

Henceforth, I declare your backlash

Henceforth, I declare, and so it shall be: #UBCA #CanLit #USCongress #SupremeToad

Everytime a UBCA signatory or a CanLit gatekeeper pulls a piece of crap, or a GOP senator goes off, or the Congress or Supreme Toad issue nonsense, or damage, another womxn gets their brain-snakes (like angel wings but custom-made for banshee feminists).

Out of the blue

unknown photographer

I hear the repetitive hit of a hammer–the neighbours putting in a suite, I think. I notice motion, see a pileated woodpecker nailing the top of a countertop I have leaning against the porch railings. The woodpecker’s done a lot of damage–to the old junk countertop, but also, I see, to the porch beams, and I think how stupid it is to look for insects in new wood, the scars bright and bare. As I move closer to the doors, the woodpecker dives out of sight, makes three ovals so I can only briefly note its raised red alarmed crest. Like a cartoon, really, all wheeling motion.

I’m blue like the shortest day, the blue of indigo. I’ve been trying to keep my pecker up, as they say, and indeed here at the manse there are many other peckers up–this morning six flickers at a time, along with downy and hairy woodpeckers, and of course the big mama of them all, the huge pileateds who swoop in for leisurely meals of suet or peanuts before dashing away.

This woodpecker’s in trouble. This woodpecker, I see, on stepping outside, is entangled in the netting I use for clematis, in effect, caught just as certainly in a doll-size sea of six-pack plastic as any turtle or whale. I rue the problems with feeding birds, the list of which sweeps through me as the bird thrashes, hung by one over-extended claw … the window hits, the rodents, the birds of prey, the starlings (does one give in and just feed the things? I shout, Go murmur! as I bang the window, but they are never dissuaded), the expense, and now this.

Entirely my fault.

Whisper, I tell myself. So I go quiet and inside my head I tell her I know she’s stuck, and I’m going to go into my house and fetch something to free her, but the important part will be for her to make herself calm because when she struggles, I can’t get the netting off. When I get back with scissors the bird is wild, and wilder still as I extend an arm. I tell her, internally, I can’t help if you don’t stay still. I size up her bill, a fat three-inch needle. She heaves herself upright and lies out along the top of the counter’s edge with her snagged leg extended back toward me. Without thinking, I snip as close to her foot as I can get and before I can try a second time for the netting on her claw, she’s long gone. I watch her lift into the trees and snag herself onto pine bark.

I feel sad, though. Sad to have inadvertently caught her in a kind of leg-hold trap, as I’m sad when birds hit my windows. I’m trying two group whispers now, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, and the first is to stop the window carnage. It seems to be working here at the end of a week. Too soon to know for sure, but the rates seem down.

Is there a whisperer available to just talk to me? I haven’t been able to see my pipsqueak g-babies in weeks because of illnesses, even for tree trimming, and I am worried, tormented, filling up with more and more concerns, the personal ones, the bigger ones. There isn’t any point, is there, to struggling? I’m post-natal on (draft of) a major project. I’m agonizing about money. I’m worried for the welfare of friends, especially in the hot zones like Vancouver and the US. I’m cranked about desertification, jellification, plastics. I’m frantic about who will take in climate and political refugees, about Trudeau being so right-wing, about the Congress and omnibus bills and Mueller not being allowed to finish. I’m worried about the dreamers. I’m worried about the ACA. I’m worried about my disabled friends, because whatever problems others are having, they’re magnified for the disabled. I’m worried about the loneliness that capsizes people during the holidays.

I think about my dead parents-in-law, my dead cat, my dead marriage. I light what I call the “mama candle” for my dead mother and m-in-l, which is blue like my mood. It’s a green night tonight, small flame notwithstanding, with patches of white heavy on cedars, on today’s day that is seconds longer than yesterday’s. The dark falls like tree boughs in wind storms, and I can’t shake my depression.

I hope your holidays are the best they can be, with warmth and intimacies that cherish you. I wish you the return of light.

Jackson Katz,The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help

The power of “me too.”

“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other. Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’

Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine. Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don’t go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don’t put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man’s voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don’t use parking garages. Don’t get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don’t use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don’t wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don’t take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don’t make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.

― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help”

 

Samantha Dunn, folks

Samantha Dunn Rotating Header Image

Samantha Dunn is the author of Failing Paris, a finalist for the PEN West Fiction Award in 2000, and the memoirs Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life (Henry Holt & Co.), a BookSense 76 pick, and Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex and Salvation.

But right now she is also the author of this wise FB post, which I want to share with you:

“So a certain woman just published a memoir, have you heard? Some woman who ran for president?

Anyway. The news about it made me remember a time, recently, when a guy came up to me and was like,

“So it’s mostly women in your classes, right? Don’t they all want to write memoir?”

Evidently he was trying to make small talk. We were at the closing reception of The Writers’ Studio, an intensive four-day program through the UCLA Writers Program where I’ve taught memoir and personal essay since before there were smart phones.

It was, I believe, precisely the 400 bazillionth time anyone—man, woman, writer, non writer–had ever asked me that question, or some version of that question. Whether they’re conscious of it or not, underneath this query lies a nest of dismissive, condescending, sometimes overtly contemptuous, assumptions: Memoir classes are just a bunch of hens writing about their “feelings” and what happened to them. Oh, isn’t that sweet. I’m sure it’s all very therapeutic. [Snicker, snicker] But really, how *literary* can that be? How elevated an artistic endeavor can that be?

That question had pissed me off for years. Years. I’d find myself getting defensive, saying, “No, not only women, a lot of men too.” And then I’d instantly feel shameful about the wrongness of that reply, on so many levels–as if by holding up the fact that men also take my courses I validated the courses’ gravitas and rigor. My defensiveness itself has been a symptom that somewhere deep down, even I too doubted that a genre where the majority of practitioners—which is not to say that the majority of those publishing—are women could matter as much as other forms. Even I, me, moi, author of two memoirs and one highly autobiographical novel, battled an inferiority complex.

But earlier during that UCLA four-day intensive, a profound shift had happened for me while I was going through a lecture I have given many times, about the history of memoir as a literary form.

As I was talking about how St. Augustine’s Confessions, written around 400 A.D., are thought to be the root of modern memoir, establishing an inherently redemptive arc through the telling of personal experience, I was looking into the face of 20 women. White and black, some great grandmothers, some young women just out of grad school. One had never held a job outside the home. One had been the first female prison guard at San Quentin. One had been molested by a father. One was grieving the death of her mother. One had gotten lost in South America 20 years earlier and was still trying to understand the ripples that experience had sent out over her life. One had been on a plane hijacked by terrorists and had tried to keep it a secret because she didn’t want to revisit the trauma. All of them were complicated, soulful beings whose lives were unique expressions, singular combinations of personality and history and class and politics and race and art and whatever else forms us as humans.

All at once I had that bolt-of-lightening feeling as I spoke to them, realizing that no woman could ever have written what St. Augustine had. Even if a woman had been educated enough to write at that point in history (which was rare enough for men, even more so for women), she would have been burned alive for admitting to the transgressions St. Augustine details.

And as strange as it sounds, I had this, I don’t know what—this hallucination, this psychedelic moment, where it was as if the lost histories of millions of women through the ages, all the lives lived silently, all the agonies and the hopes and the dreams dared, were now shining through the faces of those 20 women in my class.

Acid flashback? Possible. Moment of satori talked about in Zen, instant of enlightenment? I dunno. But suddenly I knew, I felt, how incredibly subversive, how riotous, it is to be at a point in history where women are publishing the stories of their lives in significant numbers, the likes of which has never been seen in the record of human achievement.

By committing their experience to our collective literature they are changing not only their world but yours, ours. All these voices add up to an uncharted narrative about what it means to be human. Only the most radical of all potential endeavors: They are witnessing their story and we human things are therefore understanding more of THE story, and in that understanding we are thereby changing THE story for all of us.

This is the way the world gets reborn: One story at a time.

So I told random dude-at-writerly-reception-thingy-making–lame-small-talk,no, it is not “mostly women” who are writing memoir. It’s mostly A BUNCH OF FUCKING RADICALS WHO ARE ACTIVELY CHANGING THE COURSE OF HUMAN HISTORY.

Any questions?”

The Female Hat-Wearing Dog

Oh yeah. Raquel D’Apice over at the Ugly Volvo.

The Female Hat-Wearing Dog

 

Maggie May Ethridge: Atmospheric Disturbances

 

The atmospheric disturbances that are part of a coupled union … most of us know them.  In Atmospheric Disturbances, Maggie May Ethridge, a talented US essayist and memoirist, takes our hand and walks us into the abyss of her long, abiding relationship to a man with bipolar illness. Because of Ethridge’s soaring talent, this portrait of a disorder becomes a searing, raw chronicle at the closing shutters of marriage, and their re-opening and re-opening and re-opening.

 

Two Men and a Library

 

Natasha Frost tells us the bizarre (and entertaining) story of playwright Joe Orton, and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, during the time in the 1960s when they stole, altered and returned books to a London library. The story did not end well, but rather with heartbreak and murder.

The Strange, Sad Story of Joe Orton, His Lover, and 72 Stolen Library Books

Love Letters–of a sort

Will You Ossuary Me?

 Jane Eaton Hamilton

She wanted to kiss me in bones. Death, much? Spiraling down 19 meters. She pulled the ends of my scarf and I moved closer because hers were Parisian lips, the top lip thin, the bottom lip full, and I felt her deeply inside where my nerves snapped and I was decomposible. There were tibias all around us in the damp light, and scapulas from the plague, phalanges and fibulas and metatarsals. Infant bones. People dead of polio. People collapsed of childbirth and famine. Of war. Cries and tears and screams. The bones of six million Parisians dug up from cemeteries to make room, shovels of bones, wagon-loads of bones pulled by sway-backed nags for a full two years—carted down into these old mine tunnels, then arranged. We stood in puddles. The air was heavy with the motes of people’s lives—more broken dreams, I guessed, than dreams come true. It was quiet, but the past echoed. Ghost-din. Someone had written, Pour moi, mort est un gain. Pour moi, pour moi, pour moi, she whispered, rumbling her voice. Exhumations and exhalations all around us, the breath of death, bone-stacks, bone-crosses, bone-chips in heaps, my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, maybe, resting in pieces. My lips were swollen and sore, cut and scabbed over from all that had already happened. Skulls placed in the shape of a heart, eye sockets staring, and behind those eye sockets more eye sockets. Shadows moved across us; her nipples hardened. She pressed me up against a white cross against a black tombstone. I will leave you, she said as she bit my throat, but not yet.

Post-publication blues

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

I always look at publishing a book as throwing it down a well. Maybe you will hear echoes, and maybe they will be strong enough to hurt your eardrums, or perhaps as faint as whispers. Maybe, eventually, you will hear a splash when that book hits hard (bellyflops?). But mostly you will just peer down a very dark hole and watch your book careening through the air before drowning. You will see this even with reasonably successful books; even those have their season, and attention moves on. The pages become waterlogged, and sink, and tear. The glue loosens. Things sinking can be very beautiful. Things disintegrating can be magical. Think of fabric waving in water, of seaweed, of things barely glimpsed under surfaces. Of underwater dance. Of the grace and flow that you’ve been given back now the project is done. All that beauty of the finished book–sinking out of sight. This is exactly what leaves you alive and full and tarnished and battered and happy and excited for what’s coming next: the pause, the making.

Here is a piece I once wrote about failing to write a novel and giving it another try:

Congrats-Its-a-6-Pound by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 11.51.12 AM

Here’s an excerpt, too: Anna Maxymiw And also,

“Matthew Klam’s New Book Is Only 17 Years Overdue” and other tales of failure

 

the new book

Over at Vulture, Taffy Brodesser-Akner has a terrific feature about Matthew Klam’s career and his new book. Every writer should read this. We all deal with self doubt and castigation, I think. The article is a really a good look at Klam’s early fortune; about how just as he was deciding he’d quit writing, he got a yes from Dan Menaker, editor at the New Yorker, for one of his stories. (My stories got lots of comments from Menaker in my time, and once we even moved into editorial, but I never quite got the yes. The story that came closest was published in the Alaska Review.)

The world opened for Matthew Klam, and his list of early awards and honours was daunting. He had it all except for a second book. As the years passed, he still didn’t have a second book. He wrote continually, he tossed continually, he taught instead for its anonymity.

For me, the world never opened, and my talent, which was substantial but wanting, withered from lack of support. I didn’t have an MFA program to weed out weaknesses. I learned slowly. Sometimes folks went mad for one story or essay, but when they wanted more, the more was always so different they didn’t like it. This is a problem with range and writing across genres (and letting my heart have its way).

I needed an imprimatur I didn’t have. A Menaker imprimatur, maybe. Once Ellen Seligman at M+S spent six months telling me yes, telling me no, telling me I don’t know, I go one way, I flop the other way, and I wonder what would have happened if she had said yes eventually, whether that profound novel about child rape in the world of wild mustangs I was then working on would have come to fruition. All these years later, I’m still curious about what would have broken out of me if by chance I had just been valued and nurtured, and really had to work to an editor’s expectations. I would have risen, I know, because I am like that, but in what way, to what end?

What literature did I not produce because I:

a) wasn’t quite good enough?

b) wasn’t repetitive enough?

c) there was discrimination (even inborne and unacknowledged) against certain categories of writers (disabled/queer/feminist)?

d)  wasn’t from the US?

What would those stories and books have been?

I was low-income and a sole-support parent a lot of those years. And of course I asked the same questions Matthew Klam asked himself: What does this matter? Who needs another story? Another novel? To what purpose? To win a prize and still be unable to pay the bills? I certainly never cared about a postmortem reputation–that and $5 I’d get a plastic glass of latte at Starbucks to set on my gravestone.

I won the CBC contest a couple times. I published in the NY Times, the Sun and other strong periodicals (back then and again this year). But no successes ever built, no one ever tucked me under her mentor wing. I still write in my self-propelled bubble without much response. I certainly write now without any hopes at all for the marketplace–really, only to please myself.

I had my perfect form and lost it. I quit writing stories and nobody noticed. I quit writing stories and only a friable piece of my heart noticed. I struggle to write novels, but I am no novelist. I am no novelist.

Maybe Matthew Klam is. I look forward to reading Who Is Rich?

The Vulture

 

 

The Summer Book

Jane Eaton Hamilton, photo: Martin Krzywinski

Here is a lovely review for Mother Tongue Press’s new anthology The Summer Book, from BC Bookworld (Howard Stewart):

“Fertig’s stable of remarkably talented B.C. writers has wrought many exquisite portraits of this complex subject.

Otters on Savary Island dock. Linocut by Gary Sim.

Together, they comprise a delightfully diverse drawer full of explanations about why these long bright days and short warm nights affect us like no others.” -Howard Stewart

 

Poignant Ruminations of Summer

%d bloggers like this: