Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich
“…The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:
In the month before they find your son’s body
downstream, you wake imagining
his fist clutching the spent elastic
of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them
He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios
his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming
toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard
paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised
by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water
how his eyes glow green as algae
He amazes you again and again, how he breathes
through water. Every morning you almost drown
fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff
coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy
He’s learning the language of gills and fins
of minnows and fry. That’s what he says
when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman
riding the waterfall down its awful lengths
to the log jam at the bottom pool
He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat
He’s translucent, you can see his heart under
his young boy’s ribs, beating
as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly
blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive
HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.” -Casey Stepaniuk
We’re lucky when we get a more or less up-to-date list of what’s happening on the contest scene. Here we are for fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry:
I wrote a new poem. I’m sure you can guess whose voice I wrote it in. Louis CK has been accused of showing his penis and masturbating to colleagues. I watched Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi Season 2 reference to one of his assaults recently, as it happens, and I wondered about the male privilege and disregard for others you’d have to experience to commit assaults like these. What relationship would you have to have to your penis? I bet you’d have to think it was pretty great, at least superficially, wouldn’t you?
I Show My Dick
I carry my dick in front of me
It’s an easy-glide dick
It’s a strong dick
It’s a big dick
a stand-up dick
It’s a straight dick, it doesn’t bend
My dick’s a trophy dick
My dick’s a race car dick
It’s a stallion dick
an elephant dick
a blue whale dick
In a bag of dicks, my dick perks up
In a bag of dicks, my dick’s a fountain
In a bag of dicks, my dick’s Dick of the Bag
-Jane Eaton Hamilton
photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton
Out presenting at Surrey International Writer’s Festival this past weekend, I popped into a workshop held by Meg Tilly to help improve writers’ reading skills. Here she is sitting on a participant’s feet. There’s probably a great story behind that, but I’m not whispering it.
photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton
Yonder at Terrible Minds, here’s the not-so-terrible truth about finishing your novel, by Chuck Wendig.
In this talk and reading at Barnard College, the Canadian poet, speaks to our questing, wanting hearts.
“I don’t believe in the notion of justice, since it presumes a state of affairs that is somehow formerly good but for certain anomalies is legitimate. In our case, I think that we live in a state of tyranny and to ask a tyranny to dismantle itself, to claim, to ask for, to invoke justice is to present our bodies, already consigned in that tyranny to the status of non-being, to ask that tyranny to bring us into being and that is impossible and it won’t.” -Dionne Brand
This talk is an excerpt from “Poetics of Justice: A Conversation Between Claudia Rankine and Dionne Brand,” part of the series Caribbean Feminisms.
I didn’t win this new prize for emerging writers–I am far from an emerging writer–but I am glad thinking so caused someone to read and enjoy my latest poetry book Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes and All Lit Up to report on it.
Gillian Jerome is a poet and essayist from Vancouver, British Columbia and a contributing editor at GEIST. Her work has appeared in GEIST, New Poetry, Colorado Review, Malahat Review, Canadian Literature and elsewhere.
“I write to define myself—an act of self creation—part of the process of becoming.”
“This workshop is designed for people who aren’t professional writers, but who have something meaningful to say about their lives. We will learn how to discover our stories and to focus our material using techniques of creative nonfiction and Life Review, an educational process that enhances our understanding of ourselves and our lives through storytelling. By reading, writing and participating in interactive exercises, we will be guided toward finding new ways to write about our lives, for ourselves and/or for others.”
…but especially if you’re attending one of the hundreds of Women’s Marches around the world this weekend. Or should I say especially if you’re not?
“These novels, essay collections, memoirs, histories, and more will help you understand why there is no feminism without intersectionality, why we should remember our history before we repeat it, and why Roe v. Wade is a lot more tenuous than you might think.” -Doree Shafrir
you cannot lock it out,
nor bar the door against it.
like the midnight cinnamon
and ginger wafts
from the kitchen
of the insomniac
finnish woman one floor
down, sleepless and dour,
prone to nocturnal baking,
it simply arrives,
happiness, that is,
through the vents,
the small cracks
in the parquet or plaster.
it goes from room to room,
examining your favourite things,
touching them, gently,
not saying why it’s come,
where it’s been,
who it’s seen.
it overlooks the dust,
the lingering odours
of squander and rancour.
astonishing how much
space it claims, something
so small as this happiness,
so small and so demure.
it does not want you to fuss,
not even to fill the kettle
let alone put it on.
what would be the point?
it won’t be staying long enough,
not long enough for tea.
there’s somewhere else it’s going,
it has someone else to see.
goodbye, goodbye, till next time.
it’s come and gone before.
its bags are packed and ready.
they’re waiting by the door.
This arrived today, editors Helen Humphreys, Molly Peacock and Anita Lahey, and I look forward to reading this year’s crop of “best” poems. I already know some of the poems in the anthology … Rachel Rose’s affecting “Good Measure,” Sally Ito’s soul-weathered “Idle” and Maureen Hynes’ “Wing On.” Lucky me, to get to explore further.
I can quite often roll my eyes when I read my own work (I mostly hate reading it because I would never stop editing and once you see where you can take a piece the piece as it stands seems murderously bad), but this poem I found quite funny. I love when humour manages to seep through the cracks of my work–which reflects my life, too, how laughter finds its way in, a magic dust sprinkled over the bad or humdrum. “Wish You Were Here” first appeared in CVII.
PS Someone asked and I found a link to a shorter version of the poem here on the blog:
What a celebration! The good folks at Room Magazine have put out a wonderful list of books for all tastes and styles. Much better fare than last night’s debate! Full of energy and humanity and hope. Full of talent and skill. Full of familiar names and books, and new-to-you names and books. Happy reading!
Alexandra Schwartz, writing in the New Yorker, about Sharon Olds and her new book, “Odes.”
“In some six dozen poems, Olds sings in praise of things that are not often considered worthy of appreciation—tampons, stretch marks, fat, composting toilets, douche bags, menstrual blood—and reconsiders others that are.”