I was thrilled recently to find out that one of my poems was shortlisted for the Arc Poem of the Year contest. It’s an odd little poem that I wrote in Flatrock, NL, this past summer, when I was just visiting Newfoundland on a writing grant and hadn’t yet upended my entire life and moved here.
I stayed a small blue house right on the ocean. Nearby was a swimming hole at the river which was populated at night by teenagers who drank beer and energy drinks and jumped off cliffs and poured entire containers of Sunlight dish soap into the waterfall to make bubbles. In the mornings I went there to swim, naked if it was early enough. Then I collected some of the trash that had gathered, and brought it home. At some point I decided to transcribe the text from the beer bottles and chip bags and soggy cigarette containers, and to use this as source text to write about the river. It wasn’t found poetry, or erasure poetry, exactly; I refused count how many Blue Star beer cans I’d collected. But I limited myself to the scope of the words found on those cans and labels.
It was fun. And addictive. And strangely informative. I learned that beer is about choice and vitamin water is strangely verbose — hello trigonometry. Bubble bath was the source of wonderful. I learned that pronouns shape so much of what I could write, and how. That it was good to learn to do without me or I for a while. That cigarette packages knew a lot about health conditions. That everything was trademarked and licensed and imported for somebody, and not a significant source of a lot of things. And that potato chips were the only ones who mentioned love.
The poem that was shortlisted, Middle Pool, was one in a series that came out of that accidental daily writing prompt.
In conclusion, I blame the beautiful chaos of my recent life on a little blue house by the ocean in Flatrock and that early morning swimming hole. And I’m not at all sorry.
Il me fait vraiment plaisir d’annoncer que je vais participer au 27ème Festival International de la Poésie a Trois Rivières!
This coming October, I’ve been invited to Trois Rivières for one of the world’s largest international poetry festivals. I am thrilled beyond belief, and curious to find out how much French I actually still understand. Apparently the festival draws an audience of over 38,000 people, which I find somewhat mind-bending. We are talking about poetry, right? There are poetry picnics, poetry dinners, poetry statues, poetry walks, poetry installations, poetry in the park events, poetry talks, family poetry events, and a fantastic variety of poetry and art programs for schools.
Apparently every year on Valentine’s day, the mayor of Trois Rivièresgoes out to the statue of the unknown poet outside city hall and leaves a bouquet of flowers. For real. This is a town that loves poetry. And it is my very good fortune to get to spend several days there basking in it.
One of the most exciting bits is that the festival is hiring a translator to translate 15 of my poems into French. For three days I’ll read my poems at events, and then someone else will read out the French translations. I can only barely believe I’m going to get the chance to hear my own words in the only other language I even mildly understand. I think it will be quite a moving experience.
I’m nervous about my French skills, which haven’t been exercised very much in recent years. I speak only enough French to be dangerous, but I’ll try to be dangerous as often as possible.
For a schedule of events, you can see my events page or look at the festival website (I’m reading on October 6th and 8th).
Apparently, today is Butch Appreciation Day. Since I’m home sick, and unlikely to be appreciating anyone in person, I’d like to send out a butch appreciation poem to the world in the hopes that it makes someone out there smile. All you fine, fabulous, fierce butches – consider yourself appreciated. I’m so very very glad you exist.
You’re standing by the mirror,
and I watch your fingers
slip cufflinks through buttonholes.
Your shoulders ease back,
as if the world finally had room for them,
as if your skin fit differently
under this shirt. Your small breasts
press out, unexpected
in these starched folds.
For you I would learn
the forgotten motions of my father’s hands,
the foreign ritual of folding a tie
in on itself, anything
for an excuse to reach behind your neck,
slide my fingers up under your shirt collar,
that sharp cool crease.
The last time I had my picture in the Vancouver Sun, I was about seven years old and my entire elementary school posed on the front steps of the school for a “last day of school” feature. Wish I could find that one, but as a close second here’s today’s article in the Sun…
“Ideas not Money:” That’s the thought behind this award for the best of the small presses. That doesn’t narrow it down that much for poetry in Canada, but it also reminds us how much weight the small presses carry in keeping Canadian poetry alive. The prize is a handcrafted ring with four moveable rings, each imprinted with the entire alphabet so they can be turned to spell words. It’s a gorgeous ring – I’ve seen it on the fingers of my talented friend Jill Wigmore, when she won for her book Soft Geography. I’m always interested to follow this one, so I’m thrilled to be on the long list this year. It is a long list, a very long one, full of fabulous folks, but the great thing is that I get to share it with friends like Ariel Gordon and Sheryda Warrener. See the list and the ring here.
I’m the featured poet today on Todd Swift’s UK poetry blog, Eyewear. Check it out!
(File under: Life! Is! Exciting! Am overusing exclamation marks!)
When I found out that The Nights Also had won the Gerald Lampert Award, I screamed and hyperventilated a little. I dragged my houseguest out of the shower to make her read the letter. Then I oscillated between a ridiculous childlike bicycle-parade kind of excitement, and the utter conviction that it was some kind of clerical error. Not until it was announced on a stage last Saturday at the League of Canadian Poets gala dinner did I believe it was real.
The event itself was a pleasure. I was thrilled to meet some of the other nominees for the Pat Lowther and Gerald Lampert awards – Karen Enns, Nela Rio and Nikki Reimer – who all did beautiful readings. At the beginning of the night, the League honoured Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane – two very generous teachers and talented writers who had a huge impact on my writing. Fifteen years ago, when I was studying Chemistry and Geography at university, a friend dragged me along to her writing class to sit in for an hour. At the time I figured that studying writing at university was a fairly stupid idea, and had told my friend so several times. Whatever Patrick Lane said in that one-hour class changed my mind, the course of my degree, and so much more. Lorna Crozier is a truly gifted teacher, and has been immensely supportive over the years. I owe them both an enormous debt of gratitude, and I know I’m not alone in this, so it was a pleasure to see them both honoured in this setting.
What a fabulous night and a fabulous room of poetry-loving people – it was deeply satisfying to stand at a podium and say “Fuck you, Al Purdy” to a crowd who loves him as much as I do. It was one of those moments that made me feel like I was a part of something. And that felt good.
A big congratulations to Evelyn Lau who won the Pat Lowther Award, also announced that evening.
See coverage in the Quill and Quire, and read the judges’ comments at Open Book Toronto.
Apparently I’ve won a Lambda! What an incredible honour to be listed with all these amazing folks. Wow. Just being nominated was such a thrill. And, as it turns out, it was a big night for Canadian queer writers. Big congratulations to everyone! And a huge appreciation to the Lambda Literary Foundation for the incredible work they do shining a spotlight on LGBT writing.
I’m still reeling, and having fun remembering that when I was coming out the formative books in my life were also Lambda winners. My first girlfriend lent me Stone Butch Blues, which I read in a single very long night and which truly did change my life.
Winning this award has been an interesting experience. I strongly identify as queer, and have for many many years, but I never used the word lesbian, even when I was only dating women forever and ever amen. I didn’t mind being called a lesbian (my parents used the word a lot and it wasn’t inaccurate), but I just loved the word queer – it fit for me. Recently I find myself in love with a man, and sometimes wonder what the queer world will make of that. I don’t feel any less queer for it, and don’t particularly want to trade in my label for any other. I’ve been happy to find out that I can follow my heart and desire even if it means changing ideas about myself. It does make winning an award as a Lesbian Poet a little complicated. But I’ve decided that I’m just going to let the joy win out – I’m feeling excited and deeply deeply honoured.
The Lambda Literary Foundation is doing poetry spotlight for all the nominated poets. Today they’re featuring a poem of mine, When Women Were Clouds. Check out the other nominees as well.
I am thrilled and honoured and still slightly gobsmacked to have been nominated for a Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry.
And what fabulous company I’m keeping! The other nominations are:
- The Crow’s Vow by Susan Briscoe (Signal Edition of Vehicule Press)
- That Other Beauty by Karen Enns (Brick Books)
- Tiny, Frantic, Stronger by Jeff Latosik (Insomniac Press)
- [sic] by Nikki Reimer (Frontenac Press)
- Here Is Where We Disembark by Clea Roberts (Freehand Books)
Check out the League of Canadian Poets website for more on this year’s nominations, including the Pat Lowther Award nominees, and for more information on the Gerald Lampert Award.