Monthly Archives: October 2018

BWS 14.11.18: Anthony Easton

Anthony

Anthony Easton is a critic, from Edmonton, and now living in Hamilton. They have written about class, gender, and sexuality—including for the Globe and Mail, Pitchfork, the Atlantic Online, Spin, CBC, among many other publications.

 

I was wondering which essays I was going to read at Brockton, and I have kept returning back to this problem of the confessional. The essays that keep coming to me, are deeply personal, and it made me nervous. The following blog entry is intended to do two things: a) it is a defense of the confessional essay b) it positions the eventual public performance. If I was being truly honest, it also means that I cannot get out of reading it out loud.

Seven Anecdotes concerning the Queer Confessional:

“ Indeed to speak or write of homosexuality at all is to run the risk of being taken as a gossip. Given that historical events have conspired to make homosexuality a subject of scandal, then gossip, as that “low” discursive practice drawn to scandalous subjects, has come to enjoy a particular affinity with homosexuality. ”

Gavin Butt, “Gossip: The Hardcore of History,” in Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948-1963

 

To be queer is to be confessional. It’s genealogies are coded, underground—the wink, the nod, the hint and the bump. It’s subtle discourses are self protective, and that self protection has encased in endless layers of discourse and code. When a queer writer (when I) speak of self, these layers refuse singular meaning, the gossip and the code–is text and subtext, surface text and under layers of desire. I am planning on reading a work of autobiography, a confession of desire, at Brockton, here are seven anecdotes about confession to prime the pump—think of it as proto confession. Think of it like when you pass along a story so others don’t get the juice first.

Anecdote One:

Heterosexuality is compulsory (thank you Adrienne Rich.) Everyone will assume you are straight, unless you tell them otherwise. They will often assume that you are gay, if you tell them you are not straight. Even in this age of the pan, the post, the non, the other—where the liquidity of gender and sex seem constantly reified, the binary continually reasserts itself. The self and the body are policed into a concordance that is profoundly discordant.  My body reads masc, myself refuses my body. Having sex with men does not preclude having sex with anyone else.

Anecdote Two:

Self identity is wily. Who we are is made by construction, I wonder if there is any permeance in it, I am not sure that it is something that we are born into. I think that we have this recency bias, and so that we assume that the stories we tell about our own sex, are stories of our time and place–but we assume that time and place is universal, but it is deeply and heavily localised, a concretion of tiny choices and small geographies–as for me, it is growing up out west a decade after the plague years, or going to high school the same year as Matthew Shepard, or growing up Mormon, or those weeks I spent in Vancouver in my late teens, or moving to Toronto in my mid 20s—this might suggest an atomized, personalized sexuality, but think of it as a set of nodes–sometimes repelling, sometimes attracting, floating into the ether. Maybe not enough to build a movement on, but we try.

Anecdote Three

This atomized, confessional mode, means that identity is constructed by how we tell stories. It is about the crafting stories–queerness is defined by a few explicit narratives. The coming out story. The first time one had sex story. The stories of discovering what turns you on, and how that turn on is different than what might turn others. The stories about the farce of cruising. The more tragic stories–we still have this internalized homophobia, the stories of rejection, of loathing, of the spit word from a passing car, from the violence of a culture. The secret of these tales is not that they exist, but that they are traded. Each time they are told, they are edited, polished to a fine sheen. When Didion tells us that we tell each other stories to live, it is not the stories that save us, it is the telling.

Anecdote Four:

These are my stories. I tell them to you. These are your stories. You tell them to me. There is this idea that the act of storytelling will bring us together. That the individual stories will magically create empathy, and that it will be an act of delightful bridge building. Here are other reasons why people tell stories: To seduce, to humiliate, to belittle, to claim space, to enact violence, to show empathy, to explain complicated truths, to entertain, to shock, to turn on, to disgust, to cause division. When a story is anthologized as an act of identity creation, one must be careful of motives.

Anecdote Five:

Each of those reasons to tell a story, each of those reasons to confess is an example of craft. This idea that I will tell my truth, denies the idea of craft. Craft can be done poorly, or be completed with technical skill, crafting a confession does not mean that one is lying. Think about the first story that one tells of one’s queerness (my queerness, your queerness.) Queerness requires finesse. The initial coming out, is practiced–first in front of a mirror, alone; then in front of a community. The story is told again and again.  Queer confessional is an act of deliberate self fashioning. When I read at Brockton–the piece that I will write has been edited by professionals, but even before I wrote it down on paper–I told the stories of it everywhere that people might confess: in doctor’s offices, on the therapist’s couch, at church, in bar rooms. The informal networks, online and off, the gossip that allows the self to emerge, is all on the page. Every queer act of writing centers on good dish.

Anecdote Six:

I hope the writing is refined. The corners knocked off, the drafts well constructed. Everything smoothed out, and then afterwards, a bit of roughness abraded, as a kind of decorative prettiness. Roughness is as much of an aesthetic strategy as smoothness.

Anecdote Seven:

In this question of what we tell, in the crafting, remind yourself that this is not the whole store. That the confession, the crafted story, so much is cut off. Sometimes it is self censoring, sometimes it does not fit the culture, sometimes the tangent distracts from the central narrative. There is so much discussion of fraud, of the confessional not being real, of people faking what could be considered real. Part of me wants to ask, do you want something real, or do you want something good; part of me wants to remind someone that the memory is fallible; sometimes one wants to remind an audience that editing is removing as much telling. The tell all’s power rests on the hint, or the ellipse.

Maybe these aren’t anecdotes as much as thoughts about how to craft a queer identity now, maybe they are ways of indicating what I am presenting will be ambivalent.

I have always done a bad job at sales.

Anthony Easton visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Glynis Guevara, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

 

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BWS 14.11.18: Priya Ramsingh

Priya

Priya Ramsingh has been making up stories since she learned the art of cursive writing. She began to frequent libraries, immersing herself in literature and decided she wanted to write for a living. Her career took her into the corporate world to craft copy and she freelanced during her off time at a local newspaper. She finally finished Brown Girl in the Room in 2016 (Tightrope Books) after the nagging in her head became too overbearing. So far, the story has hit home with readers from across the continent who call it, ‘all too relatable.’

Her second novel is complete and she currently awaits a publisher’s interest. In the meantime, Priya writes the occasional op-ed for the Toronto Star and is the author of a monthly diversity column for Metroland Media.

 

The Journey

Stories. I was a child lost in tales. Immersing myself in pages, standing beside the characters, reeling at their losses, feeling their love, their smiles contagious, speaking their words out loud.

I began my own. Writing, for hours, in my room, alone. My imagination unfolding into words.

My grade 5 teacher was the first to call me out. You’re good, he acknowledged. Keep going.

But how?

I watched, unlike others. I saw, what others didn’t see. I asked why, over and over. Who cares? People would say. Why do you worry?

Fascination made me question. So obvious, such hatred. Fear. Giddy love. Freedom, attention seeking, pain. Where did it all come from?

Suddenly my own emotions surfaced. Overbearing. Overtaking. The words were stuck. I stopped.

I discarded the pen. I looked elsewhere.

Years passed and suddenly it was back. In front of me with a command. Write, it urged. The pen was gone, replaced by keys. I complied.

The criticisms were sharp. It needs work. It needs to be changed. They didn’t see what I saw.

I fell and stayed on the ground. But suddenly an outstretched hand. Get up. Write. Over and over. Scraped knees, bruised ego, deflation and then back up again, grasping hands that appeared out of nowhere. Thankful.

When I was down, it appeared in physical form. Write, they said.

I learned. I wrote. Acknowledgement replaced criticisms, and then praise.

Suddenly, roadblocks. And then pain. Sharp and hard, pushing me over. I held it inside until I heard the voice – write.

The words came out. A flurry, that turned into pages. Agony. Finish, it said. Don’t stop.

I finished. The anxiety was gone. Peace. Brown Girl in the Room was ready. Relief.

 

Priya Ramsingh visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Anthony Easton, Glynis Guevara, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

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BWS 14.11.18: Rocco de Giacomo

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Toronto writer Rocco de Giacomo is a widely-published poet whose work has appeared in literary journals in Canada, Australia, England, Hong Kong and the US. His collections include Ten Thousand Miles Between Us (Quattro Books) and Every Night of Our Lives (Guernica Editions). The author of numerous poetry chapbooks and full-length collections, his latest, Brace Yourselves – on the representation of the individual as it relates to the Zeitgeist – was published in January 2018, through Quattro Books. Rocco lives in Toronto with his wife, Lisa Keophila, a fabric artist, and his daughters, Ava and Matilda.  

 

To the readers, let me just say that I am happy to be reading at the Brockton Writers Series and honoured to be reading with Priya Ramsingh, Anthony Easton, Glynis Guevara, and Anne Laurel Carter. It is really looking to be a fantastic night. I can hardly wait.

After reviewing the BWS website, it looks like a lot of people are giving advice about writing and getting published. I’ll do the same in regard to poetry, and I will try to keep it short, as there is something I would like to share with you afterwards.

  1. Write poetry every day.
  2. Read poetry every day.
  3. Remember that, no matter what you write, there’s a good chance a thousand other people have written the same thing.
  4. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit.
  5. If you are submitting to literary journals, keep a record of where you’ve submitted and to whom (I use an Excel worksheet) and never let a poem sit a home for more than one submission cycle.
  6. Start grant-writing, if you haven’t already (TAC, OAC, CAC). Not only can the funding help create a space for yourself, but the process of grant-writing forces you to hone and sharpen the themes and ideas you’re using in your manuscript.
  7. Join a writer’s group, attend a writer’s workshop (if you can afford it), enroll in a creative writing program (if you can afford it). All of these will expose you to new ideas, feedback for your own work, and the opportunity to network.
  8. If you have a manuscript ready and are seeking a publisher, for the love of god, schmooze. The world of Canadian poetry is just like any other industry: it’s not what you know or where you have been published, it’s WHO you know. Please use any of the places mentioned in step 7 to network. In addition, attend book launches, literary journal launches and poetry readings.

I hope my advice is useful.

Now, as for that something I would like to share. In 1999, when I was living in Vancouver, I borrowed a CD anthology of poetry from a friend. I listened to it numerous times, and then gave it back. One poem, however, stayed with me over the years, its lines pulsing in the back of my head. I would forget, however, the name of the poet and the anthology. From time to time I would scour the internet, and various search engines, using variations of the poem’s title, to no avail. I reached out to my Vancouver friend, who remembered the name of the anthology (My Tongue is a Red Carpet I Only Roll Out for You), but not the specific poet. Even with the new information, nothing turned up on the internet. Until, that is, my last search, about two weeks ago.

The poet’s name is Kenneth Caroll, and the poem is “So What?“. It is still as riveting and relevant today as it was twenty years ago.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Rocco de Giacomo, visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Anthony Easton, Glynis Guevara, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on“Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

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Brockton Writers Series 09.01.19

Wednesday, November 9, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Jim Nason
Anubha Mehta
Judy Rebick
Vicky Moufawad-Paul

with special guest speaker

Dorothy Ellen Palmer

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church Street, Toronto

The reading is PWYC (suggested $3-$5) and features a Q&A with the writers afterward. Books and refreshments are available for sale.

ACCESSIBILITY INFO
The venue is accessible. Please refrain from wearing scents.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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And to the Canada Council for the Arts for travel funding!

 

GUEST SPEAKER

“How Can We Work Together Towards the Respectful Representation of Marginalized Identities?”

 

Palmer-Dorothy-768x768

Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, accessibility consultant, and retired high school Drama teacher and union activist. Her disability memoir, Falling For Myself, will appear with Wolsak and Wynn in Fall 2019. She can always be found tweeting @depalm.

She will the share stories of her experiences as a disability sensitivity reader, exploring the do’s and don’ts, the reach and limitations, the boundaries and ethics, of working collaboratively with abled writers. She will also talk about how disability sensitivity reading has helped her to understand the need for sensitivity readings.

 

READERS

jim nason (1)

Jim Nason is an author, teacher, publisher, and activist. His sixth poetry collection, Rooster, Dog, Crow was recently released with Frontenac House.  He has also published a short story collection The Girl on the Escalator and his third novel, Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals, was recently published by Signature Editions. Jim is a Finalist for the 2018 ReLit Poetry Award.

 

 

1. Anubha Mehta

Anubha Mehta is a Canadian writer, educator, and artist who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha has been awarded for innovative program planning and working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service
with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet.
Anubha’s publication, The Politics of Nation Building and Art Patronage (2012), was a culmination of years of her research in the late 1990s.

Anubha’s debut novel Peacock in the Snow, was launched by Inanna Publications on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. It was selected for sponsorship by City of Toronto Arts Council- IFOA’s Toronto Lit Up. On October 20, 2018, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, showcased and spotlighted Anubha in a ‘Launch of Launches’ in a packed event to a community of readers, patrons, writers and authors. Peacock in the Snow was declared as one of the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf. Visit her website for more information.

 

JudyRebick

Judy Rebick is a life-long feminist activist, journalist and writer.  She is the founder of rabble.ca, a former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, a leader of the pro-choice movement and author of six books, most recently a memoir. Heroes in My Head. Follow her on twitter, @judyrebick, for her latest updates.

 

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Vicky Moufawad-Paul is a Toronto-based curator and writer. She is the Director / Curator at A Space Gallery. She has curated exhibitions at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston), Carlton University Art Gallery (Ottawa), Gallery 101 (Ottawa), MAI: Montréal arts interculturels (Montreal), Latitude 53 (Edmonton), Contact Photography Festival (Toronto), InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre (Toronto), Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art (Toronto), A Space Gallery (Toronto), and 16 Beaver (New York City). She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario and an MFA in Film and Video from York University. Vicky has published texts on several artists including Harun Farocki, James Luna, Emily Jacir, Wafaa Bilal, Mohammed Mohsen, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, Juan Ortiz-Apuy, Erica Lord, John Halak, Rehab Nazzal, Adam Broomberg, Oliver Chanarin, Akram Zaatari, and Yto Barrada.

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