Jane Eaton Hamilton

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

Tag: Brick Books

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.

 

Brick Books, the sung heroes of Canpoetics

Celebrating Canadian Poets at the celebrated Brick Books is coming to an end, but I’ll bet if you wrote something about a Canadian poet–a line, a paragraph, a review, an anecdote–Kitty Lewis, the general manager, would still welcome it. You don’t have to be Canadian, but the poet you mention does.

brick.books@sympatico.ca

Brick Books

Right now, Brick Books is celebrating the release of Barry Dempster’s 15th book of poetry called DISTURBING THE BUDDHA. See an interview here.

The very very very last call for Celebration of Canadian poetry project at Brick Books!

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This is the very last call for articles for our Celebration of Canadian poetry project. If you have been wanting to write something but thought you had missed the deadline, you still have time…
The Celebration of Canadian poetry now has 271 articles posted and has continued into 2016. The articles are written by poets, publishers, novelists, musicians, politicians, readers – a real variety of articles and very interesting reading. Have a look… http://www.brickbooks.ca/category/news/celebrate-canadian-poetry/

If you would like to write something about a Canadian poet that you admire – a sentence, a paragraph, a page… whatever is feasible for you – please contact Kitty Lewis at brick.books@sympatico.ca to ask for more details.

I am hoping to stretch this project through the month of June – but only if I receive enough articles.

There is no restriction on who you can write about – it doesn’t have to be a Brick Books author; you can write about someone who has already been presented; living or dead; known or unknown… You can write about a particular poem that you admire. This is a wide-open celebration of Canadian poetry.

If you can send me something by May 15th, that would be wonderful. Send it to Kitty Lewis at brick.books@sympatico.ca

.

The number of visits to our website has increased 50% compared to our visits in 2014. So I know that people are reading the articles each week.

Breathing Underground

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Breathing Underground

Jane Eaton Hamilton, from “Body Rain”

You are making spaghetti sauce. There are no mushrooms in the crisper. You require mushrooms There are canned mushrooms in the pantry cupboard but you have just ·read that there are maggots in cans of mushrooms: twenty per can, per one hundred grams. This statistic startles you. You waffle, rationalizing that statistics can be made to say anything. You move to the pantry and open the cupboard. You climb and put your hands among the cans: you move peaches and green beans and tuna fish. You find three small cans of mushrooms, a total of sixty maggots, which for the four of you is fifteen apiece. You imagine watching the pasta covered in your spaghetti sauce curling around forks, larvae entering your son and daughter’s mouths, your husband’s mouth. The taste of canned mushrooms has always reminded you of rubber, nothing like the original, but perhaps this was not the taste of mushrooms after all, perhaps this was the taste of maggots. Maggots are things you’ve seldom seen. Twice in the garbage and once long ago your mother bought a piece of beef from the supermarket and turned it over to find it blue and crawling. She stood at the kitchen counter poking a knife at it saying Oh, oh. A few years back a sofa you’d left outside all winter had them bobbing like daffodil petals when you lifted the cushions. Your stomach heaved. Maggots are more disgusting even than slugs which are more real and slide across your walkways in the rain, black or mustard colored, sometimes with spots. you do not ever dream of slugs but occasionally you dream of maggots and coffins and the impossibility of breathing underground.

You open the three cans of mushrooms. You drain them. You throw the lids into the trash under the sink, carry the cans to the stove and place them beside the pot simmering on the burner, the glub and bubble of your spaghetti sauce. The smell of basil and oregano coddles your nose. You lift a can. Although you expect movement nothing moves. When you upend it, the mushrooms land on the sauce quivering normally. You watch them sink slowly out of sight and add the rest. Then you stir with a long-handled spoon.

Saguaro, a poem about parenting teens

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Saguaro

 

My little thorn

you have grown on a thicker stalk

than I expected.

Sharper

than I ever guessed you might.

 

You hurt me.

Nothing is as simple as that.

I hurt you too?

 

There are lotteries.

Your unlucky numbers tumble through

a bin of teenage years.

I never meant

to speak and so offend you,

to be a mother

to cringe from

and yet you say I am.

 

I remember before breasts and boys.

We were happy.

We lay together

in a moon crater,

swaddled and safe and bouncing.

Tall branched thistle

you were my baby,

my sweet girl,

the coup of all my days.

 

I am no longer

Precisely human in your eyes,

hardly divine,

only old and big.

You come to me with scorn

that rubs like sandpaper.

 

The trick is

to bear this jagged war

like labour.

The trick is to wear

protective gloves.

Méira Cook asks me questions about “allergy”

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sketch Jane Eaton Hamilton 2006

I once wrote a long poem, “allergy,” about serial murderer Ted Bundy from his (imagined) mother’s perspective.  It was included in my first book of poetry from Brick Books called “Body Rain” in 1991.   The excellent poet Méira Cook, whose new book out from Brick Books this spring, 2015, is the intriguingly-titled “Monologue Dogs,” and I had a conversation about “allergy” last year:

Méira Cook/Jane Eaton Hamilton and allergy

Here is my conversation with Méira about her poem “Adam Father:”

Jane Eaton Hamilton/Méira Cook and Adam Father

Immaculata: from Lemonhound

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sketch by Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2014

Always fun when old work sees new light. My poem ‘Immaculata’ from my Brick Books collection “Steam-Cleaning Love.”

Lemonhound

Landlords and their plumblers

Twice this week, women I know have had plumbers accuse them of putting things down the toilet and causing thousands in damages.

So this is for them, an old poem from Body Rain about just such a happenstance:
Landlord

I know him.
He comes with golden spikes
driven through his hands.
No one is as sad as he is,
no one has ben used more
or more filthily.

There are whores residing
in his houses, harlots
who cry on his toes for
repairs and discounts.
See?  We have children and
no men; we raise cats and
gobble his coins with our cunts.

His radiance is what we crave,
his extravagant goodness, divinity
like a bellows, clean, male and
blowing sensibly across our dignity.
How superior he is
with his plumber in tow,
with his plumber who kows
we have shoved things down the
toilet, clogged the copper
piping just for this.
Oh, it is like loving a saint.

Interview with poet Méira Cook

Interview with Méira Cook

Adam Father

by Méira Cook

He wakes up naked and drunk as a bear
on sun-fermented garbage.
Hungover and queasy and riled up by bees.
Nothing going well today, he moans,
life being short and the craft, ah, long.
Still, might as well take a stab at it,
lording it over misrule and tending the shame
that transforms a garden into Genesis.

So there he goes, stalking through the world
on his back legs, pelting down half-eaten words
from a great height.
Whatever he touches shrieks and bellows or writhes
like the alphabet.
A is for Crocodile, he croaks,
dashing through the Everglades. See you later!
And B is for the Wasp that stings him and C —
C is for the wide blue Ocean
in which he nearly drowns.

But nothing can drown him, our Adam
whose resolution is steadfast
and breezy at last, and buoyant
as a stone boat.

As is so often the case in Canada, I was at The Banff Centre with Méira.  This was in the early 90s.  When I was given the opportunity to interview a poet for Brick Books, I knew one of the ones I wanted to talk to was this talented writer.

A Walker in the City is Méira Cook’s third book of poetry with Brick Books. The opening poem of this collection won first place in the 2006 CBC Literary Awards, and poems in this series were selected as part of the Poetry in Motion initiative. Her earlier books with Brick Books are Toward a Catalogue of Falling (1996) and Slovenly Love (2003).  Méira Cook lives, writes, and walks in Winnipeg.

The “Adam Father” Interview

1) I asked you if you’d mind choosing the poem you wanted to discuss because I think poets are sometimes asked to answer questions about poems they are finished with or don’t maintain interest in or have frequently spoken of. Why did you choose this poem, and what about it interests, or still interests you?

I wanted to choose a recent poem because the thought of going back to an earlier book chills my blood. Oh Lord, what was I thinking, I say to myself although frequently with more commotion. I chose “Adam Father” from my recent collection, A Walker in the City as it’s the poem with the least amount of edits in my reading copy.

My continued interest in it takes the form of the usual colossal jealously we poets harbour towards old Adam. Him being gifted with the power to name things just because he was born at exactly the right moment into a blank and nameless universe. I wondered what exactly my Adam-jealousy consisted of. Was it because he’s a man or riotous or originary? All of the above or equally well, none.

The solution was not to rename the world — “tiger” for “blue” might muck about with species and the colour wheel but it’s no way to escape the cage of language. Instead I thought I would tinker with the heroic stature of the protagonist. I liked the idea of rendering him comic rather than tragic, rowdy rather than serious; a stumbler, a stutterer, a failed artisan.

2) Do you remember writing this poem (rather than the poem as artifact)? Do you remember what specifically generated it, what your poetic interest was as you approached it?

“Adam Father” was one in a series of Father Poems collected under the sequence heading “The Book of Imaginary Fathers.” They were written by one of the characters in A Walker in the City, a cranky, grudgy old fellow, a curmudgeon (a poet!). Some of the other poems in the sequence include “Vowel Father,” “Electricity Father,” “Our Father,” “Writing Father,” and “Dear Father.” The last is a letter addressed to an absent, peripatetic, lost and wavering father.

The Father Poems in the collection are concerned with issues of authority and authorship, with what is inherited through language, and what is lost — always, forever — in the infinitely fragile yet gallant act of writing.

3) I wonder what mis-rule he is lording over?

I like to imagine him lording it over the misrule of the languages and stories and books to come. I’ve sneaked in an allusion to Chaucer in the first stanza, some alphabetical word play in the second stanza, and an idea of the “stone boat” that is both metaphoric and literal, to end off with.

You see it would be easy enough to represent old Adam as mishandling the language that he is in the process of creating but I perceived him as even more of a fumbler. I saw him flailing and stumbling and trampling amongst the promise of all the world’s stories to come: of the Tower of Babel and the Sermon on the Mount, the stories of The Brothers Grimm and the shenanigans of The Marx Brothers, the Library of Alexandria and the drowned books of Prospero, all the stories, the lost fragments, the dead languages, the poetic muse and the demotic impulse, not to mention that crazy, stuttering pig at the end of the cartoon who tells us “That’s all folks!”

 4) Adam is languaging the globe into existence, but his alphabet is skewed, his blundering violent. I had a picture, then, of Genesis as overlarge, clumsy, stormy, destructive. Is this accurate?

Well I certainly like that, Jane. I like your vision of Genesis as unruly, destructive, wayward.

In fact I’ve loved and cherished almost all the interpretations that readers, over the years, have been gracious enough to offer. I am beguiled by the over-ness of a poem and the way that it then becomes part of a different interpretive discourse.

I’ll confide one exception, though. I was invited, one June, to read some of the poems from my new book (A Walker in the City) on CBC Radio. I was awfully excited until I arrived and was told that it was a father’s day celebration and asked to read some of my decidedly uncelebratory Father Poems and then chat sentimentally about my own father with the host (my father, I’m relieved to say, bears scant relation to those fathers). Oh, it was a terrible hour of stuttering self-justification. I felt exactly like a real poet.

 

 

Interview with GG winner Arleen Paré

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I was delighted to be introduced to Arleen Paré this fall when we read together at Russelll Books in Victoria; we had been writing together for some time in what we call the Electronic Garrett, which is in its own way a call and response, only this time between some of Canada’s finest poets (and me), plus I had asked to interview her for Brick Books.  It was a very busy time in Arleen’s life, that day we read, because, that morning, she had just discovered that she was a finalist for the GG.  People will know by now that she won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry this year, and I was stoked that I was invited to the ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, where the kick-ass Kitty Lewis beautifully introduced Arleen and her book “Lake of Two Mountains.”

I interviewed Arleen for Brick Books, where we are both authors.

Arleen Paré is a poet and novelist, author of two previous books including ‘Leaving Now,’ 2012 from Caitlin Press.  Originally from Montreal, she lived for many years in Vancouver, where she worked as a social worker and administrator to provide community housing for people with mental illnesses. She now lives in Victoria with her partner, Chris Fox.

Her award-winning title is poems for a lake where she spent her childhood summers.

1. I asked you if you’d mind choosing the poem you wanted to discuss because I think poets sometimes answer questions about poems they are finished with or don’t maintain interest in.  Why did you choose this poem, and what about it interests, or still interests you?

‘Call and Response’ represents the heart of Lake of Two Mountains. In the same way that nature uses a loop system to maintain itself and in ways that humans can only guess at or research, nothing that’s always apparent, I wanted this collection of poems to speak to each other in order to build on itself.  I wanted to write about this system of interdependencies, how humans too are woven into the loops.  But I also wanted to evoke the rhetorical and religious methodologies of call and response, for instance, in the Catholic mass, so that the tone of the collection could take on some sense of the sacred, which then reflects the monastic life. It also is suggestive of the way memory operates, memories and our responses to them.

2.Your book is about the Lake of Two Mountains.  Do you remember composing Call and Response in particular?  What did you want to say about the topography of the area?   

I wanted to show this topography so that the reader could imagine the lake and its environments more easily, graphically, calling out the names of the trees, for instance, the lake`s fauna, geology, the geographic origins of the lake, to pull the lake into the whole of central Canada.

3. If geography can have a call and response, as you imagine here, does it have a sensate purpose?  Is it just a cellular celebration (as it were), or, perhaps, can it alter the globe?  

I can only imagine these answers. Does it have a sensate purpose?  It does allow the cycle of life to spin through and on, but what kind of sensate does a maple tree include?  I don’t know.  I know that the leaves of some trees curl up when rubbed, but that’s not what a maple tree does.  On the other hand, I think any alteration in a single natural loop system could possibly alter more than its own loop, so perhaps, it could escalate to alter the globe.  Perhaps.

4.  Does the call and response ever see beyond itself?  Does it ever include panic at environmental degradation, if not within its self-ascribed borders, but in a wider way?  If it talks to sturgeon and green frogs, does it converse, too, with humans?

In the way that butterflies, honey bees, frogs tell us that something is very wrong by the dwindling of their numbers over time, I suppose we can imagine the flora and fauna conversing with us, warning us in this case.  In Call and Response, the human/arboreal exchange is limited to the human act of tapping into bark producing maple syrup.

5.  Is there anything else you wanted to say about this particular poem, Arleen?

I wrote this poem using a governmental survey of the Lake of Two Mountains region.  It was dated and spare.  I craved more information; I couldn’t find sufficient geographical information about the lake. I felt hamstrung because I don’t speak French well enough to know whether more and/or better information is available about this area in French. I now know there is, though I’m not sure more information would have altered or improved the poem. In the end, the form of the poem, the call and response structure, determined its purpose and end.

Call and Response

by Arleen Paré

1.

The Canadian Shield calls to the

in Timiskaming Lake. The Shield shelters

 

more than half the land. The , tectonic,

replies with the Ottawa River, whose waters run east

 

and spread at the place of two mountains.

Becoming lake. In this way the lake is of lake,

 

song of song, Deux-Montagnes out of Timiskaming.

The lake there, at the two mountains, calls

 

to the trees near and around, riparian trees

on rocky shores and the terrestrials

 

within two miles of the shore. Perpetual loop.

One verse then the other. Connecting

 

trees to the sand, the orthic, melanic, soil,

tree canopies, consolations of climate.

 

The way birds in the morning define the new day,

call sunrise from night.

 

2.

The trees call to each other their own

names: sugar maple, hickory, eastern white pine.

Black willow chants the alphabets of green ash.

Yellow birch calls to red maple, chokecherry to beech.

They bear multiple names, formal, scientific,

common French and Mohawk.

 

And no names at all. Their calls

travel through air, water, through earth,

sedges and shrubs, algae

and cumulus clouds. All conversing.

 

Rocks and black leeches. Sturgeon, green frogs.

Limestone and vascular plants.

 

3.

How does the sky

reply when silver-backed leaves tug at the

 

blocking the passage to sea?

Clouds ring with rain

 

and the lake lifts small pewter washes

in rows of applause.

 

What listens to sugar maples’ clear amber flow?

Rays: yellow and cold.

 

Fine beads of drizzle

hiss the filigreed ice.

 

What answers flood cover drowning hickory knees?

Clay or silt. Till or clay loam. Sap in the spring.

4.

Sugar maple is always and in all places attentive,

alert for replies from the open terrain.

 

The soil, fine or sandy, alluvium,

measures the length of flood time in spring,

 

speaks a name to the climate,

the warmest in the whole province. Call

 

and response: a dominant tree,

sugar tree that humans can tap into.

 

Love Canal

I don’t want to make another post today.  I am supposed to be on my way to two seasonal parties.  But I just heard that Love Canal is sending 100 truckloads of toxic waste to Canada.  I am heartbroken.

This, too, is from my old poetry collection Body Rain from Brick Books.

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CBC

On Considering Savagery

The wonderful poet Méira Cook is interviewing me for Brick Books about a long-ago poem I wrote from the imagined perspective of Ted Bundy’s mother during his execution.  I had to keyboard in this long poem tonight because I no longer had it on a computer.  What a surreal experience to be inside the imagined voice of an onlooker to violence while also being inside my young poet’s voice.  I remembered that mother-blaming was even worse then than it is now.  I remembered how enraged I became that Ted Bundy had caused so many women and their families pain and incalculable losses (my word, I had daughters, I could almost–), and how confusing was the struggle in my conscience when he was executed, since I remain against capital punishment.

To add to this, of course it just the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique this past weekend (along with the anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death, from whence many losses issued).  Here in Vancouver, there was a Saturday vigil in response to Montreal, then a Sunday vigil for Canada’s missing and indigenous women.

I have been worrying a lot about police violence, too, as everyone has.  Recently I watched Brian Lindstrom’s film Alien Boy about the Portland murder of James Chasse, and again footage of the Robert Dziekanski police murder at YVR.  Did these murders presage the militarization of police in N America and the new wave of shootings of Black men across the US?  A Vietnamese man in Vancouver, Du Na Phuong, waving a piece of lumber in a crosswalk, was also shot and killed by police a few blocks from here a couple weeks ago.  Story here.

And even as I watch footage of these men dying from police brutality, and try to come to terms, I know that women also die in police custody, and that reporters don’t note it the way they do male deaths.

Let’s see it.  Let’s name it.  Let’s not look away.  Can we not look away?

Can I not avert my eyes one more time?

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The break-up poem. Because, you know, break-ups.

Immaculata

Oh mud lover, oh dirt, oh sewage,

I’ve been wearing April like galoshes,

Stomping your ditch

in a swill of brown water,

nursing your weeds like tits.

 

Well, that’s over, it’s May tomorrow—

no more quicksand for me.

Is this love, this ooze and stain?

Your leeches ride my elbows.

Your scum exhales me.

 

Great exhaust, the monoxide

you call admirable

bubbles up from a low extreme,

up from the muck, up from the wallow,

hissing like a let-go fart.

 

There’s a stink, I’m raw from

this virtue, this clean clean clean rape.

Finger of smiles and lies,

I am on to you. Fecal soup,

your brown scrubbing

 

has a perfectly pious air.

Immaculate of the marsh,

sump pump,

diamond in a quagmire,

how to you rise and rise and rise

 

in your own estimation?

The trick of caress, say, a masturbation

toxic to others.

Never mind. Up you go, away, away,

dirty incandescence through the sun.

 

First appeared in Steam-Cleaning Love, Brick Books

Governor General’s awards, Ottawa

The Governor General Awards, 2014

Folks, it’s wild, it’s weird, it’s true.  Call them the GGGs (the Gay GGs).  Call it “Queering the GGs.”  Whatever you call it, Canada’s queers cleaned up at the GG’s in 2014, with most of the winners queer.  It was incredibly moving to be present the year this happened, and to hear both Candis Graham and Jim Deva’s names mentioned on stage moved me and made me prouder than I can say.  Kids, we queers rock!  Congratulations to all the winners.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled for you.

IMG_9258-1The Tent Room

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Me, with Governor General David Johnstone

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apparently, the above is one of the only paintings of the young Queen Victoria

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Pandora Collective presents Twisted Poets October 23 2014

Thursday 0ct 23
Pandora’s Collective presents
Twisted Poets with features Jane Eaton Hamilton , Susan Paddon + Open Mic
7pm-9:30 pm,
The Cottage Bistro 4468 Main Street Vancouver BC
Hosts: Chelsea Comeau + Bonnie Nish

Susan Paddon was born and grew up in St. Thomas, Ontario, attended McGill and Concordia in Montreal, and lived overseas in Paris and London before settling in Margaree, Nova Scotia. Her poems have appeared in Arc, CV2, The Antigonish Review and Geist among others.
Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths is a book-length series of poems written from the perspective of a daughter who reads Chekhov obsessively while spending a spring and summer caring for her mother, who is dying from pulmonary fibrosis. Th
rough the prism of the relationships in Chekhov’s work and life an honest, intimate, and even occasionally humorous portrayal of the energy we put into each other’s lives through deterioration and suffering.

 

Brick Books

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What’s awesome? You are, Brick Books.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’ve got a crush on Brick Books, the publishing house that published my first and second poetry collections, and Kitty Lewis, the most-able and hard-working manager in this country.  Stan Dragland, founder and editor, dragged me out of a pile of Writer’s Reserve grant applications a long long time ago and got me thinking about having a book someday–at the time when I was a committed fiction writer not a poet.  And now Brick is getting their authors together to make resource pages for students:  Student Portal.  This is going to be a wonderful resource.  Here’s my page:  Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Go to Brick and check out all their amazing writers.

Brick Books launch

Two nights at Cottage Bistro this week for poetry.  Mmm.  Terrific way to finish National Poetry Month.  The other night, it was 8 area poets for the Vancouver Literary Press Group NPM readings, and tonight, the Brick Books spring launch line-up, with Arleen Paré, Jane Munro, Joanna Lilley & Karen Enns.  Good also to catch up with the fabulous Kitty Lewis, whom I’ve known since before I published my first Brick book in I think ’91.  Thanks, peeps, for writing (and reading) so very well.   We can all go to sleep tonight knowing that many things, indeed, are right with the world.

 

 

Brick Books’ podcasts

Jane Eaton Hamilton reads from Body Rain

Ladder, a poem

It was the ladder I saw

the raw clop of hammer and nail

the wordless, tedious years between the provinces,

between the scars and who you think I am.

My hunger was unavoidable, though you assailed it.

My laughter was dense, a terrified thing running.

 

It was the placement of rungs too far between

or the six years of mornings

or the miles of provinces.

Your hips, drawing them over and over,

tongue to skin like pencil.

I didn’t know what I wanted.

Love.

A plane ticket away.

I read from my collection, Body Rain (Brick Books)

Me on You Tube reading from her poetry collection, Body Rain, Brick Books. 

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