Monthly Archives: June 2018

BWS 11.07.18: Chang Liu

Chang

Chang Liu is a freelance translator and an aspiring forest conservationist. Half his genes are Chinese, the other half French. Somehow he also became a student of Thai dance, language and culture, a gay man, a year-round cyclist and a voracious vegan. So much for labels.

The last wild places—not to mention your local park—are fast disappearing under sterile, industrial surfaces. As we fall further under the spell of our self-reflexive technologies, we forget, even disdain, our age-old conversation with the non-human world that anchors us. Many of Chang’s poems address this non-human world: the soil, trees, animals and waters that still call to us and remind us of our ancient kinship with them. His gay poetry, too, inevitably weaves itself back into the non-human world—the grass beneath our love-making.

Chang’s poetry has appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Sky Island Journal, and in two anthologies, T.O.K. Book 5 and The Dry Wells of India: an Anthology Against Thirst. His first full collection, When it was Naam that I drank, not Water, is seeking a publisher but is downloadable as an e-book from Glad Day Bookshop. He is working on a second collection, Little spirits, Great spirits: a book of non-human poems.

In anticipation of his July 11 reading, here are two poems: one on earth love, one on gay love. At their best, the two are interchangeable.

 

Rainy season

 

it rains like the end of suffering twice, three times a day

or all night

 

our soi floods              noodle carts scatter                trees glow

 

the old teak houses below my building lean closer to oblivion

and the Bodhi trees’ leaves wait and wait for a new Buddha

to sit under their shelter.

 

all I can do is burrow back into my bed that smells

of my Isaan lover and me

 

and turn all my heavy-lidded energy

back to his tamarind skin

 

why go out?

this is the rainy season.

 

it’s day-long naps

kissing between bites of sweet sticky rice and tea

listening to him lilt old-fashioned louk-toung hits from when

he was new to Bangkok and young and hungry,

 

it’s loving, again and again, the roar of the rain drowning out our labours

and pretending we’re safe

 

under one of those rickety bamboo shelters upcountry, stranded

in the flooded rice paddies of your home village

where they wait for you

 

Stay.

My treat, we’ll feast.

what is tomorrow? there is no tomorrow. Only

more moisture—stay! this is the rainy season,

 

the great annual amnesty sweeping

though this sprawling guilt, this madness, this city

 

this is the rainy season, when

twice, three times a day

or all night

 

we surrender our dryness

and remember our past lives as fish

 

when, as soon as

you step out of doors,

rain washes you like a mother

 

Silence in the crab-apple trees

 

Spring was shooting up ecstatic

inside my body and

for weeks on end, their fuchsia blooms exploded too, birthing

constellations.

 

Twin Krishnas,

the two crab-apple trees in front of our house flung

their heady fragrance around

for miles,

 

and bees by the thousands answered

the pheromone flute—countless tiny suns spinning the cosmic dance

of the Nataraj.

 

What year was it they stopped coming?

 

Now, I sit on this bench,

high summer humming inside my body.

True to the contract that was sealed when the ocean of milk was still churning,

black-eyed Susan and swamp milkweed growing forgotten

in this downtown park still sag under the rites

of a scattering of fuzzy ministers. I cannot accept,

 

cannot believe

they are departing this sweet earth, one hive at a time.

 

Who planted this bed

of riotous fecundity? A genius, a master illusionist. All I can do is sit here

before this mass of flowers,

 

and wait for the heavy honey of summer to soothe

my clenched throat,

wait for the lullaby of life making love to itself with half-closed lids

to still my aching chest. And answer

the call of the flute.

 

Chang Liu visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Vanessa McGowan, Arielle Twist, Kiley May, and guest speaker Scott Fraser who will share his thoughts about, “Understanding Acquisitions: What Authors Should Consider When Pitching Their Book.”

 

 

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BWS 11.07.18: Vanessa McGowan

Vanessa

Vanessa McGowan is a Toronto, Canada based spoken word artist & singer/songwriter living with Cerebral Palsy. McGowan’s EP “Alive” was released by Factory Fast Records, New York City in 2014 and her work can be heard as the only poetry, on musical compilations “Americana Retrofit” and “Smoking Gun.” She opened for Buddy Wakefield during his 2014/15 world tour and was the highest ranking Canadian poet to perform in the Finals at The Capturing Fire Slam 2015 in Washington, DC. As a successful solo touring performance poet, Vanessa has featured at venues across North America . She is currently working on her first show, “I Don’t Remember” set for release in October 2018. Publications include Divine Cockeyed Genius (bojit Press, 2012) and I Make People Leak…Sometimes (Armora Press, 2015). McGowan is a proud co-founder of WordSpell, Canada’s only ongoing spoken word series showcasing women and non binary poets.

 

Ahead of her July 11th appearance, Vanessa shares an excerpt from her theatrical production currently in progress, “I Don’t Remember”.

 

Vanessa_child

“We’re hurried into a small dingy room @ The Hospital For Sick Children.

I wanted to wear my pleather pants, but noooo…

Mum reminded me,

“You’ll be sitting for a long time and want to be comfortable and you’ll have to take your pants on and off  and you’re not good at that“

sooo

they sat lonely in my dresser drawer, YEARNING to be worn

In favor of more something “more practical”

crisp cotton baby blue “rugby pants” (aren’t they cute? NO THEY ARE NOT CUTE)

 

With the thick elastic waist, from Bargain Harold’s. I HATE them.

I want jeans with zippers, like my sister.

 

This is my regular appointment. It feels special. I don’t have to go to school.

We wake up early and I get to spend the whole day with my Mum.

Everyone wears brightly coloured scrubs and is happy…like ALL THE TIME

The waiting room perpetually smells like nervous mother and disinfectant.

It’s packed. No one makes eye contact

Every adult has a bag of “Here, take this and sit down” treats at the ready

We’ll be here so long I will start to think time has stopped

 

As usual, the lady who calls out all the names

put us in this room long before the doctors are ready to see me

Mum is missing work. She does not like missing work

So we sit alone. Awkwardly waiting

Mum will tell me again to “walk the way you usually do” for the doctors

She thinks I “change it up” on purpose to “show off” or something

I don’t

My body fills with anticipation

That special feeling is long gone

I know I will be the centre of attention but, not in the fun way.

In the way I know is only for kids like me

 

They will ask me rehearsed questions I know they don’t want the answers to

So I look down at my swinging pasty bare legs and brace myself.

 

They always enter confident, men smiling sweetly, they greet me first

Their voices are consistently just a little bit too high pitched.

The way adults alter the timbre of their voice when trying to calm a child. It does not calm me.

Suddenly the room feels claustrophobic. I’m aware there are too many adult eyes on my body.

I want to put my pants back on.

I feel like a zoo exhibit.

They praise me for being so “high functioning”

They’ve “never seen another case like this before”.

I confuse them with my ability to exist.

I stand there pantsless in a room of adults

It doesn’t feel like a compliment.

There is a scream caught in my throat. I do not show it

I smile and stay silent wishing I could fly out of this room

 

Their too big,  always “sorry they’re cold” hands examine my body.

Weighty fingers press too hard

They talk to each other and my Mum but not me. Never me.

I don’t understand the words they use.

No one will explain

Instead I will concentrate on the Whitney Houston song on repeat in my head

 

There is a machine they think will help my legs

One of the nurses with little yellow hearts on her top and big blue eyes tells me

they are gonna put some electricity through my muscles.

Suddenly the room feels full yet again and

there is a doctor putting electrodes on my legs. (explain electrodes)

 

I hear a click and searing pain shoots through my legs. It disorients me.

I am dizzy and confused that pain like this is actually a thing

I want to curse (I’m not allowed)

I wanna tell them all to leave me alone but I know

I don’t get to do that

because they are trying to make me better, because

maybe there is a cure for this

and they just don’t know it yet.

I’ll try ANYTHING

They say I’ll be like this forever but

they said I wouldn’t be able to walk or point my toes AND I CAN

I’m pretty sure the big secret is

they have no idea what they’re doing

and

There is a  preacher on TV who makes people shake. He says “god can do that!”

and

I don’t understand why they call me a miracle when the preacher guy and the priest at school says

if god cured me THAT would be a miracle

 

I try to smile, I don’t wanna be rude

My mouth makes noises reserved for just these occasions

The embarrassing moments when pain forces my body to betray my brain

It’s always in front of strangers

I want to be tough, I swallow hard. Why is it always like this?

 

They leave this dingy room with pasted on grins

pat me on the head

I will wonder what’s next…”

Vanessa McGowan visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Chang Liu, Arielle Twist, Kiley May, and guest speaker Scott Fraser who will share his thoughts about, “Understanding Acquisitions: What Authors Should Consider When Pitching Their Book.”

 

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