Jane Eaton Hamilton

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

Tag: readings

The Weekends

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The cabbie called to say he was in the alley and 10 minutes later he dropped my bag outside Pacific Central Station before I had even unlocked my seat belt, which in Vancouver’s theft-frenzied city was crazy, and while I sat in front of the train station getting myself together I thought about how I had seen F- for the last time when I dropped her off exactly here, and I thought about the monument to the women massacred at École Polytechnique, the commemorative benches I could see across in the park where geese had shat into their bowls of tears, and how somewhere my name was etched into one of the stones, linked to a woman who had long been violent with me. I wondered what the engineers who had been killed would be facing now in their lives if they had lived through that day’s hell of misogyny. As I write this, it is almost an anniversary … this year, the 27th. My life, already strangled my disability then, has had its twists and turns. As those women were being slaughtered, I happened to be in Victoria shopping for my kids’ holiday gifts, and when I got back to Salt Spring Island, where I lived, I found the TV on in the living room blaring the shattering news. No woman alive was unaffected. We had all been harrassed, or raped, or battered, or bullied, or denied opportunities in our lives. There was at most three degrees of separation between us and the victims. They were living the dreams my generation had fought for, and they had been killed for them. We knew. We felt the truth move through us like scurrying rats.

I call October Hell Month because a friend was slaughtered in cold blood in October, shot to death during a custody dispute with an ex. I call November the month of twelve months. 2016 has been scarcely anyone’s friend.

There is always pushback when fighting for civil rights. We got same-sex marriage then Harper. The US got same-sex marriage then Trump.

There is always pushback, but we already know how to fight. We’ve done it before. We’ve won before. We will rise steadily to our feet and fight again. Every day we see the truth of this. We see harshness and harm. We see damage and death. We see our friends attacked. We see women losing abortion rights. We see people harmed by police. We wail and mourn. We kick back. We pull our hair. We long for bigger arms, more resources, a longer life to fight. We long for greater and greater capacities. But we also see desegregation, pipelines defeated, inquiries called, universal medicare, HIV drugs developed, poverty dealt blows, women elected, misogyny challenged, constitutions changed, glass ceilings blown to smithereens.

It takes a village, yes, but we are a village, a global village. And we are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore. We are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore.

I went indoors and waited on a hard bench for the train to Seattle, and then in a long lineup. In my ankles, blood was pooling, compliments of heart failure. I proferred my passport and the customs officer questioned why I was returning on Sunday. I didn’t know how to answer. Because two days is enough time with someone I’m just starting to date? He was suspicious. He looked at me for a long time before making his decision about me. I’m queer and not a snappy dresser; I was sending up his alarms. But he let me go forward when the press of people behind me got longer. I had brought editorial work for the ride, but when I started it, I got motion sick, and this made me close my computer. I thought about a dawn train to Seattle with my friend L-, how the frost had filligreed the grass down the coastline. I remembered how dawn had cracked on the eastern horizon so heavily it stained even the sky on our western side of the train pink. I thought about how, that earlier time, I’d just had a big surgery and how all day she’d pushed me around in a wheelchair looking at art. I hungered after art; I particularly recalled the work of Yayoi Kusami and Romaine Brooks, neither of which I’d seen in person before. The Elles exhibit was my first time with many artists whose work I had admired in reproduction. I loved Suzanne Valadon, whose work I would later search out in Paris to much frustration (she wasn’t represented with a painting even in the house she once owned, now a Montmartre gallery, or at the Pompidou, which owned the one piece in the Elles show).

When the train pulled in to Seattle, F- was there in her snazzy car and my heart lit up just a little and I wondered what kind of time we would have together. On Friday night we gazed at the Space Needle from her apartment; behind us was a desk so huge it took up nearly half her living room, a family heirloom or maybe lodestone. In the morning, F- went out for croissants and we sat in her dining room with thick coffee and the NY Times Book Review.

After our weekend ended, another weekend began, and during this one I had four readings, two of them up-coast. F- and I didn’t know each other well. I was suddenly sicker than I could remember having been before, and indeed I then had a mini-stroke while performing in Fanny Bay (as pictured). The next day, when I should have been in hospital getting cardioverted, instead we took ferries to Hornby Island for another reading, me hanging on to F-‘s elbow like the cripple I’d become. I remember the time there only in flashes: my host’s beautiful garden, my difficulty breathing, my cardiac asthma, my horrible A-fib, lines from my co-reader’s poetry, being convinced I would die, trying to sleep sitting up, imagining/yearning for MediVacs. I just couldn’t see over the mountain of my illness into love. I would get back to Vancouver and go to the ER, while F- would drive back to Seattle and consider becoming part of Hillary’s administration. I wouldn’t end up with a cardioversion, but I would get a far more daunting cardiac ablation from which I’d recover, more or less. I’d publish that quickie novel I’d been finagling, and take up with a couple cute kids who called me “Nana” and landed me right back on Salt Spring Island after all those twenty-seven years.

Time threads you through the tiniest needle hole into your own vein, loops you around to your own past, to your own youth, to your own remembrances of women past. If there is one thing I’ve learned in this life it is that love is not enough. To make change, love has to be paired with action.

A Muslim youngster in Hamilton was brutally assaulted. The east and west have been postered with neo-Nazi fliers. Friends report queer attacks. POC friends report slurs, break-ins, attacks. The disabled are more frightened every day as their basic right to exist is challenged. Women report more public harrassment, a new level of anger in the attacks.

Time is a village we occupy. Rise, friends. Rise with me in power and patience and fortitude and intent. Together we are stronger.

 

 

 

Sharon Olds in Edinburgh

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The exquisite poems of Sharon Olds. Her voice, always.

Readings Tonight and Tomorrow Night!

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Folks, I’m reading in Peterborough at The Garnet tonight Jul 3 and in Ottawa at Venus Envy Jul 4. Check my events page for time and details.

Fear and No Fear

I am sixty-one years old. I’ve been telling everyone all week that love has to be twinned with action. And so, I acted at the launch for the anthology “Boobs” on Saturday night.

“I want to talk about the Pulse nightclub massacre. The queer community is reeling from these homophobic and racist attacks. 102 people have been shot, their names publicly listed online even though many of them have been living closeted in fear of coming out.

Which is effectively painting a target on their shirts.

Please join me in mourning this hate. I could spend a long time talking to you about while this slaughter belongs to queers of colour, particularly the Latinx community, it touches all queers, but I have an essay here on my blog that does that and little time tonight. But please stand with Orlando and say so on your social media and reach out to soothe a queer friend. As Holly Near sang in It Could Have Been Me:

You can’t bury youth, my friends, youth grows the whole world round.

To which I might add: You can’t bury queers my friend, queers grow the whole world round.

But I also want to tell you about this piece I’m going to read, which is quite short. It is, regrettably, a true story of the young me trying to come to grips with and fight back against misogyny and, even then, transphobia. For all that fierce summer I refused to wear a shirt because boys didn’t have to.

I never dared fight back again.

The event I wrote about for the anthology “Boobs” from Caitlin Press was a highly traumatic event for me because although I didn’t know any of these dads who stopped by our corn stand, I knew their children—went to school with them, played with them. These men were coming home from work in Hamilton, ON, to the safe homogenized suburb of Ancaster to lead their homogenized Disney happily-ever-after lives, but they felt so aggrieved by a little 7 year old child without a shirt that they felt it was okay to be assholes.

It cowed me back into shirts. I don’t know if anyone else even noticed, but I noticed, and I never stopped noticing.

More than those dads wanted the sex they oozed that afternoon, they wanted to push me back into line—the line being the script written from the womb for girls and women—and they succeeded. That was the exact moment that my defiance and grit drained out of my foot. The grit and defiance I have worked with limited success to get back.

I am here to say that however our bodies are displayed, whatever clothing we do or do not wear, ever, is nobody’s business. It does not invite salaciousness. It does not invite rape. It does not invite anything but respect as another mammal in this teetering world. Our bodies, and indeed our boobs, if we have them or we’ve chosen to have top surgery, if we are breastfeeding in public, if we’ve had breast cancer and lumpectomies or mastectomies or reconstructions without nipples, if we are tatted or scarred, are not yours—are never yours–to ogle and comment on.

Those 54 years ago, I caved. I put my shirt back on. And never took it off in public again, not even at Pride.

Tonight, at 61 years of age, I’m finally, in rage and defiance of the events this week that seek to tell us we can only be small and vulnerable and scared, not brave and huge and celebratory, am stripping it off.”

 

knobs

 

we sold corn from a card table at the end of the driveway

a man snapped out of his car like a measuring tape in a tie wrenched

from his neck top button undone sweat stains under his armpits

i refused to wear a shirt because it was unfair

he said, you sure you want to show off your knobs, girly?

i looked down at my knobs, across at my brother’s identical knobs

working out the difference

he said, you go to church yesterday, honey? did you pray for forgiveness?

he bought five ears, revved away but

another dad squealed in to take his place

long appreciative wolf whistle

exhibiting your titties today?

give you a dime to turn around and pull down your shorts

mister, i said, do you want corn?

he bought seven ears and tooled away in a caddy

a new man slid in, sweat beading his forehead

he said, what you sellin’, sweetheart? sure it’s corn on the cob?

i looked down at tassels ejecting from the ear so soft

said how many you want mister?

he said i want to shuck every last one hard and fast

his tongue came out pink and thick

like he needed a salt lick

i said 5 for 25 cents

green leaves and corn silk

dark yellow niblets

he grinned and leaned over, flicked my nipple

he said, i will give you 50 cents if you sit in my car

voice hollow my brother said, 25 cents mister, take them all

you can have them we don’t want them

he took the corn and he was gone, turquoise fins waving blue plumes laying rubber

you only get 5 cents said my brother cause you’re a girl

i get half i said

nu-uh he said

uh-huh i said i thought of how many wagon wheels i could get for half of seventy-five cents

which didn’t divide: eight

i thought of how many wagon wheels I could get with a nickel: one

he said just put on a shirt

 

Eudora Welty reads Why I Live at the P.O.

 

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One of my favourite Welty stories. You can’t watch this one with its You Tube florid green screen, but you can listen to the master’s delicious voice:

Eudora Welty reads Why I live at the P.O.

Eudora Welty reads A Worn Path

Here she is talking to Gore Vidal:

Eudora Welty interviewed by Gore Vidal

Here is information about her photography career:

Eudora Welty, photographer

Half a Baby

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sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

I recorded a new poem for Sound Cloud this morning.  ‘Half a Baby’ from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes.

SoundCloud

Bravest Writer in the World/Bravest Audiences in the World

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I am awarding myself the Bravest Writer in the World Award, and my audiences the last week the Bravest Audiences in the World Award, after what has been a highly difficult two weeks for me medically, resulting in a dodgy quality of readings.

I limped through my readings for Douglas College’s LitFest and Swoon, neither of which I could, in the end, prep for: just showing up and reading took all my juice.  I am usually impecable with timing with readings, but at Douglas I went over, and apologize to the audience, my hosts and co-reader.  On Wed night, at Fanny Bay, I needed to sit while reading and read far too long.  On Thursday, reading on Hornby, I was full on sick.

“If I’d had more time, it would have been shorter.”  –Winston Churchill

 

 

 

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Patti Smith reads Virginia Woolf

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The godmother of punk reads from “The Waves.”

Patti Smith reads Virginia Woolf

McNally Robinson/River Volta readings

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Thanks so much to the hosts of the McNally Robinson and River Volta reading series.  It was great to connect with you and your audiences!  I appreciate you having me.  Lovely to read with dee Hobsbawn-Smith and sorry to have missed meeting and hearing Judith Krause.

Losing a flap

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The passengers just had to remove their stilleto heels–and our ties–(such odd requirements) for an emergency landing in Saskatoon after the plane lost one of its flaps. The runway was too short and the plane circled for a long time trying to figure out what to do and to get all the emergency vehicles in place. One possibility was that we might leave the runway. I wrote a last letter to my kids so they’d know I was thinking of them and the new baby. The crew said they would say, “Brace for impact! Brace for impact!” before we hit, but in the end, it was a very smooth and normal landing. I didn’t think it would end for me on a plane in Saskatoon full of hunters, and then it didn’t.

I’m reading at D’Lish Café at 7:30 if y’all want to come out and celebrate being alive with me.

Glad Day Bookshop

JEH-TORONTO Glad Day poster

Come on out!  Would love to see you.  My gay son, bill, has an exhibit of paintings up now, too!

Too Young Boys

Here is a recording done by Julie Wilson from Book Madam of me reading my short fiction piece, “Too Young Boys” from my collection “July Nights and Other Stories.” Recorded in Toronto, 2011.

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