Jane Eaton Hamilton

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

Tag: Amber Dawn

Remembering long readings

Have you, like me, been frustrated by short, short readings, authors who read 2-5 minutes from their work? They may answer some questions afterwards, or give over the mic to a new reader, but the new reader, too, will read for just a minute or two.

The DAISSI Queer Reading Series on Salt Spring Island takes aim at short readings, giving a single author an hour or longer to read what they really want to read. The time can be formatted however the author pleases. They can read one story, or read from multiple books, or have an interview format Q+A with me (or someone else), or an audience Q+A. Really, they can do whatever they want.

Lydia Kwa came from Vancouver to give us the most thoughtful, engaged reading in June, and Anne Fleming came from Victoria just last Saturday night, thrilling audience members and sending us all scurrying to the book table. Each author was able to use the hour to display the range of their work, and we, the lucky listeners, basked.

Readings used to be like this when I started out. It was not strange to have 1.5 hour single-author readings, with a 40-minute essay or story, a break, and then another 40-minute session. Though it can be agony if you’re not keen on someone’s work, it’s a dream come true when you are.

 

Lydia Kwa

Anne Fleming

Upcoming authors scheduled so far:

November: Arleen Paré

January: Amber Dawn

March: Maureen Hynes

April: Danny Ramadan

 

Stay turned for more info! Thanks to co-producer Salt Spring Public Library!

 

 

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.

 

 

Kai Cheng Thom wins the 2017 Dayne Ogilvie prize for best emerging LGBTQ writer

 

Kai Cheng Thom, right, with Amber Dawn (ed. of A Place Called No Homeland).

The three shortlisted authors, l-r: Carellin Brooks standing in for Eva Crocker, Kai Cheng Thom and Ali Blythe

Leah Horlick, host

Ali Blythe

Kai Cheng Thom

Carellin Brooks standing in for Eva Crocker

Big congrats to the shortlisted authors for the 2017 Dayne Ogilvie Award: Ali Blythe, Eva Crocker and Kai Cheng Thom. Reading your books was an honour and a pleasure, and awarding this year’s prize to Kai Cheng Thom on behalf of prize founder Robin Pacific, the Writer’s Trust, and my co-jurors Elio Iannacci and Trish Salah, was a wonderful celebration of queer writing.

Here is the jury citation:

“Kai Cheng Thom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars is a delicious and fabulist refashioning of a trans memoir as fiction. It is a cacophonous coming-of-age story and a genre-breaking refusal of the idea that the only stories trans people have to tell are their autobiographies. Her poems in A Place Called No Homeland are jelly-tender, tough as knives. They ride the borderland into and through trauma, relationships, love, and power, and carry us out deepened and changed over to the other side. Her work is sheer joyful exuberance, creativity, and talent.”

Congratulations, Kai!

 

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

Room’s exciting festival, Growing Room!

Join us at Growing Room!

“The Growing Room Festival is Room magazine’s inaugural literary festival, a celebration of Canadian writers and artists who identify as women or genderqueer. The festival will feature more than 40 writers and artists in more than 20 events.” -from Room

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Because we love your work and we thank you…

A lot of people included only men on a best-of-writers list going around FB, so other folks mentioned these women/genderqueer and trans folk as their recommended/favourite/influential writers. (There are some repeats.)

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Annie Dillard, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Mary Oliver, Jamaica Kincaid, Rebecca Solnit, Terry Tempest Williams, Alice Walker, Olga Broumas, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Zora Neale Hurston, Eden Robinson, Louise Erdrich, Alice Munro, Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Lee Maracle, Toni Morrison, Stephanie Bolster, Mavis Gallant, Joyce Carol Oates, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joy Kogawa, Elyse Gasco, Charlotte Bronte, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sylvia Plath, Miriam Toews, Vendela Vida, Maya Angelou, Danzy Senna, Han Nolan, Nancy Gardner, Maira Kalman, Anchee Min, Louise Fitzhugh, Bett Williams, Laurie Colwin, Jane Bowles, Colette, Sappho, Marilyn Hacker, Heather O’Neill, Eliza Robertson, Marianne Boruch, Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Tracy Smith, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Virginia Woolf, Louise Labe, Marguerite Yourcenar, Olga Broumas, Jeanette Winterson, Moniq Witting, June Jordan, Fleda Brown, Irene McPherson, Virginia C. Gable, Alice Walker, Lidia Yuknavitch, Kate Gray, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Joy Harjo, Zsuzsanna Budapest,Toni Morrison, Monica Drake, Leslie Marmon Silko, Alice Walker, L.M. Montgomery, Alice Munro, Dionne Brand, Joy Kogawa, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Hay, Adrienne Rich, Isabel Allende, Marge Piercy, Sappho, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, Nina Bouraoui, Nicole Brossard, Kathy Acker, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Jeanette Winterson, Zoe Whittall, Marnie Woodrow, Marilyn Hacker, Lydia Kwa, Gertrude Stein, Olga Broumas, Monique Wittig, Marguerite Duras, Joy Kogawa, Jamaica Kinkaid, Lidia Yuknavitch, Maxine Hong Kingston, Beryl Markham, Jane Smiley, Alice Walker, Ntokake Shange, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Katherine Dunn, Cheryl Strayed, Lidia Yuknavitch, Toni Morrison, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Jamacia Kinkaid, Amy Tan, Rebecca Skloot, Amanda Coplin, Miriam Towes, Rene Denfield, Louise Erdrich, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Gordon, Annie Dillard, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ann Patchett, Sharon Olds, Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison, Amber Dawn, Eden Robinson, Warsan Shire, Annie Proulx, Ntozake Shange, Mary Gaitskill, Shirley Jackson, Eudora Welty, Gish Jen, Ann Beattie, Flannery O’Connor, Shani Mootoo, Tillie Olsen, Miriam Toews, Lorrie Moore, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Nathanaël, Sappho, Anna Kavan, Sylvia Plath, Myung Mi Kim, Bessie Head, Caroline Bergvall, Anne Carson, Lisa Robertson, Liz Howard, Soraya Peerbaye, Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, Nella Larsen, Brecken Hancock, Audre Lorde, Emily Brontë, Natalee Caple, Natalie Simpson, Larissa Lai, Gertrude Stein, Unica Zurn, Sarah Waters, Maureen Hynes, Andrea Routley, Jane Byers, Tina Biella, Wendy Donowa, Emma donaghue, Rita Wong, Ali Blythe, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Betsy Warland, Daphne Marlatt, Persimmon Blackbridge, Gabriella Golager, Dionne Brand, Chrystos, Lee Maracle, Robyn Stevenson, Monique Grey Smith, June Arnold

We’ve left out far more stellar writers than we’ve included. I love that there are a few I haven’t heard of/many I haven’t read. I also love that if I could read no one else but the above-mentioned for the rest of my life, I’d be in superbly talented/skilled hands.

Thanks to: Sami Grey, Susan Briscoe, RF Redux, Ann Ireland, Celeste Gurevich, Cate Gable, Lisa Richter, Ellen K. Antonelli, Rene Denfield, Nikki Sheppy, Arleen Paré

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.

Contemporary Verse II: The Poetics of Queer

PoeticsofQueer

CVII had never brought out an all-LGBTQIA2 issue, but now they have! Featuring the work of these Canadian writers:

John Barton, Tamiko Beyer, Nicole Brossard, Randy Lee Cutler, Amber Dawn, Andrew Eastman, CE Gatchalian, Patrick Grace, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Maureen Hynes, Kyle Kushnir, Alex Leslie, Chandra Mayor, JJ Kegan McFadden, Doug Melnyk, Robin Metcalfe, Erin Mouré, Jim Nason, Billeh Nickerson, James B Nicola, Tomy “Teebs” Pico, Marika Prokosh, Rachel Rose, Andrea Routley, Marina Roy, jes sachse, Trish Salah, Kevin Shaw, Colin Smith, Bowen Smyth, Matthew Walsh, Betsy Warland, Daniel Zomparelli

My poem is Wish You Were Here

It’s time for queer Canadian poetry

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sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2015

Yay, Canadian poetry!

From Scott Dagostino of Glad Day Books in Toronto comes a round-up of Canada’s queer poetry scene.  Besides me, Canadians mentioned are Amber Dawn, John Barton, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah Horlick, , Ben Ladouceur, Jeffrey Round, Marcus McCann and Shannon Webb-Campbell.

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Reading! Let’s launch Sassafrass Lowry

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Come help me launch “Lost Boi” by Sassafrass Lowry with Leah Horlick, author of “For Your Own Good” and Amber Dawn!

Celebrate! We gonna have a good time! Amber Dawn glosas!

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I am a fan of Amber Dawn’s writing and I hope to interview her for the site before too long.  In the meantime, let’s take notice of the launch of her new book!  Here is an excerpt from Plenitude Magazine where she glosas one of my poems.  My poem reads just like notes, and Amber Dawn’s continuation is a work of stunning clarity, surprise and resonance.  I have always been resistant to form poetry, but it is works like this, that speak to my community, my people, that convince me that it is not the play but the player that matters.

A poem by Mac Ramsay

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prickly pear, photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2013, Sedona

Life is a lot of fun sometimes, and one of them is when your poems get taught in high schools and then used to make something new (a la Amber Dawn’s glossas).  The italics are mine.  (I hasten to add that I did not participate in this project, so all of this belongs to Mac.)  Hasn’t he done a great job?

Ringworm (with Jane Eaton Hamilton)

 

I’m sick with the sea

Salty, sunkissed soliloquy

With white caps

Bold and in all caps

 

Her adoring eyes

Brooding for the skin she never gave

 

To understand charm

We learn potential like a language

Oh how a lover is a fist

Bruising only to instill belief that you are still tender

 

Sweet pea where are you?

Between a cup of coffee and freshly potted daffodils

You etched my name on your palms and were not sorry

Reminiscing with the smell of blood orange

 

You put an apple on my cheek

And told me not to drop it

 

By Mac Ramsay

How cool, Amber Dawn

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sketch by Jane Eaton Hamilton (after Picasso)

Where the World End and My Body Begins

Reason for celebration!  Amber Dawn has a new book out this spring, and I’m excited.  Here, listen to what I cribbed from Arsenal:

The first full-length poetry book by the Lambda Literary and Vancouver Book Award Winner.

Award-winning writer Amber Dawn reveals a gutsy lyrical sensibility in her debut poetry collection: a suite of glosa poems written as an homage to and an interaction with queer poets, such as the legendary Gertrude Stein, Christina Rossetti, and Adrienne Rich, as well as up-and-comers like Leah Horlick, Rachel Rose, and Trish Salah. (Glosas, a 15th-century Spanish form, typically open with a quatrain from an existing poem by another writer, followed by four stanzas of ten lines each, and usually end with a line repeated from the opening quatrain.)

By doing so, Amber Dawn delves deeper into the themes of trauma, memory, and unblushing sexuality that define her work.

But wait a little more.  Here are the blurbs:

“Revel in the way Amber Dawn’s hard femme survivor poetics create testimony bridges between queer survivor poets then and now, mapping a cartography you can tuck in your pocket, reminding you of where we’ve been.” —Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence In Activist Communities and Love Cake

“You’ll be sweetened, entranced and scared in equal measure by Amber Dawn’s glosas. This is a wordsmith at the height of her powers. You’ll have to read these again and again, just to be sure the gorgeous is real.” —Jane Eaton Hamilton, author of Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes and Hunger

 

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