Monthly Archives: October 2019

BWS 13.11.19: Deepa Rajagopalan

Deepa R

Deepa Rajagopalan writes creative non-fiction and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Dionne Brand anthologyThe Unpublished City II. She’s currently working towards her Creative Writing certificate at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She was a finalist of the Penguin Random House Award for Fiction in 2018.

Sometimes the hardest letters you will write are to the ones who will never read them. Deepa tried her best, her very best, not to write this. She scrolled through Instagram, watched baby goat videos and reorganized her bookshelf several times (alphabetical by author’s name, ombre-colour-coded, increasing degree of seriousness) instead of writing this. But it eventually came out of her, like a river swelling during a flood.

 

Beginnings and Ends

The first time we bring you home, you’re two-weeks-old and I’m fourteen. You can’t sit still in the rickshaw ride home. I hold you tight to keep you safe. The Indian sun burns through the soft-top roof, leaving the insides of the rickshaw parched and muggy. I wipe the incessant beads of sweat on my forehead with my sleeve to keep them from falling on you.

Our home is tucked into a cul-de-sac, backing into an abandoned property. I bring you into my room and you nap and eat and pee there for a whole day. I show you off. I bathe and feed you. I love seeing you grow. You love running up the stairs and into people. You’re fast as light. You seem to be in two places at the same time. Your spirits are always high. Life is a song.

A few months later, on a Sunday afternoon, Mom bakes a chocolate cake that leaves the house smelling like sunshine. She lets it cool on the counter. Later, we find the cake on the floor, half eaten, and you beside it with a guilty face. I suddenly remember that chocolate is toxic for you and start screaming. Mom calls the vet who tells us to give you lots of water and keep an eye on you.

My little sister, Shilpa, asks Mom if she could eat the rest of the cake. I glare at her. Her timing is always flawed. I hold you tight, your beautiful black fur glistening under the sun. Shilpa and Mom fuss over you, too. You love the extra attention. You sleep through the night. We dont. The next morning you are as fresh as a mango in May.

You’re six months old and fully grown. The property behind our home is seething with green after the endless monsoons. Coconut trees, creepers, weeds, moss and more. One sweltering afternoon, Mom hangs damp clothes on the clothesline. I see through the window, a quick slithering flash. I find Mom locked in a gaze with a silver cobra, standing up four feet high. It flares out its hood, in position to release venom. Before I can gather my thoughts, I hear you race to the backyard. With no fanfare, with no racket, you attack. A quick bite on its neck. As it wiggles for its last few breaths, your barks are deafening. You can’t believe the audacity of the creature. I hug Mom and don’t let her go. I wonder what we did to deserve you.

***

At sixteen, I am groped and attacked by a stranger in an alley. My body heals faster than my soul. I am a different person. I stop loving myself overnight and start looking for people to love me. I spend all my energy trying to cope. I ignore you for boys and exams and insecurities. You just want to play, but I am too busy for you. Mom bathes you and feeds you. I resist your love.

On a monsoon day after I turn eighteen, I forget my umbrella. I come home drenched and cold and realize I forgot my keys, too. I don’t have a cell phone to call Mom. The plants weigh down with the deluge. Where our garden once thrived, the mud water has formed an array of intricate streams, gushing out in search for a lower ground, leaving my legs muddy and cold. I take off my mud-soaked shoes and sit on the porch. I hug my knees into my chest and tears start gushing. I can’t pinpoint one reason for this downpour. You run towards me. You sit on my lap and take in all the cold and make me warm. You keep your paw over my hand and look at me with eyes that tell me, clear like fresh water, “I am here for you. Always.”

One opportunity leads to another, and we move to Toronto. My uncle and aunt agree to care for you back in India. I call my uncle and he says you lay on Dad’s shoes, crying silently, his sock in your mouth for months until all of his smell was gone.

The Canadian winter makes me resentful. All the things I do, I do incorrectly. The way I layer for winter, the way I order a double-double at Timmes, the way I go on the northbound train when I have to go southbound. I don’t get one thing right.

Years pass and I actively avoid thinking of you. On Sundays, I clean a lot. The floors, countertops, stairs, inside drawers and cabinets. One morning, I polish the hardwood floors with floor gloss. Against Dad’s recommendation, I polish the stairs too. In a short few minutes, I fall down the slippery stairs. Dad doesn’t say I told you so and gets me a pain balm.

That evening, I call Uncle and Aunty and they say you got a stomach bug. I have a client presentation, and I am too busy preparing. I don’t think of you. I spend the whole week not thinking of you. That Friday, we receive a call from Uncle.

“She had a surgery yesterday, and it went well.

He pauses, the silence hanging like tiny shards of glass.

“She ate well and seemed okay.” He sighs. But she passed away in her sleep.

I feel like I’m choking. I wail. Years of not thinking bursts out of my consciousness, all at once. I cry so loudly, the neighbours can hear me. Guilt. It runs deep through my veins, the kind that is here to stay.

I can’t believe I left you. I can’t believe I went for months without thinking of you. I can’t believe I did nothing to protect you. I can’t believe I never told you I loved you. I can’t believe that you are gone. I know I hurt you. But I also know that you forgave me and that hurts the most.

***

Deepa Rajagopalan visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Andrea Thompson, Mary Rykov, a special surprise guest, and guest speaker Catalina Fellay-Dunbar who will guide us through, “ A Beginners Guide to Toronto Arts Literary Grants.” 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

BWS 13.11.19: Andrea Thompson

In White from FB_Aug19 Black and White

Photo credit: Terri Quinn

Andrea Thompson is the recipient of the League’s 2019 Golden Beret Award, was the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word’s 2009 Poet of Honour, and in 2005 was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award. She’s the author of the novel Over Our Heads and the spoken word CDsSoulorations and One. See her website and IG (andreathompsonpoet) for more info.

 

I first combined poetry and photography back in the 90s. I went to see a Barbara Kruger exhibit in New York and was super inspired. So I took a corrector ribbon (like the love-child of typewriter ribbon and correction tape) typed out my poem, reversed it, cut it up and pasted it with some graphics around a photograph I took of Trout Lake in Vancouver.

1 Bird Watching

Fast forward to this past summer, when my teenage niece, took pity on me and offered to help me figure out how Instagram works. When I told her I wanted to post images, she said I needed to change the settings on my phone to give Instagram access to my camera. I was all like – hey, hold up!I told her how I had a bad habit of taking pictures of ridiculous (and sometimes embarrassing) things by accident – the visual equivalent of a pocket call. We found a way around my concern, and then had a brief but enlightening conversation about the concept of “privacy”. Now, let me say – this girl is unusually bright and well read, yet I could tell from her response that my understanding of “privacy” was pretty much foreign to her. I was a little horrified to find that, as Orwell foresaw and wrote about with such chilling elegance in Nineteen Eighty-Four, some words don’t mean what they used to anymore. 

2_GilScott_Collage

 So anyway…. after that chat, my brilliant niece taught me how to create collages using an app. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the process, and it’s opened me up creatively in unanticipated ways – I’m writing shorter poems and thinking more about how the world looks. I’m hoping I can also inspire my nephew to start posting some of his stuff too. He’s a wonderful young poet. He kinda blew my mind the first time I read his work. I’m sure he’d be mortified I’m telling you this, so I won’t mention his name here – but I really hope he starts sharing his work with the world…

3 Leaves_Collage

In the meantime… here’s a sample of what I’ve cooked-up. You can check out more on my Instagram page if you’re into it. I’m at @andreathompsonpoet

4 PigeonWoman_Collage

5_Intersectionality_Collage

6_CantoUnchained_Collage

 

Andrea Thompson visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Deepa Rajagopalan, Mary Rykov, a special surprise guest, and guest speaker Catalina Fellay-Dunbar who will guide us through, “ A Beginners Guide to Toronto Arts Literary Grants.” 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Brockton Writers Series 13.11.19

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Andrea Thompson

Deepa Rajagopalan

Mary Rykov

Special Guest Reader TBA!

with special guest speaker

Catalina Fellay-Dunbar

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.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

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

 

GUEST SPEAKER

“A Beginners Guide to Toronto Arts Council Literary Grants”

 

Catalina Fellay-Dunbar

Catalina Fellay-Dunbar joined the Toronto Arts council after many years as a dancer, writer, educator and arts advocate. Her professional dance experience, although varied, has long focused on a personal lineage in Flamenco and Classical Spanish dance.  Translating the experience of movement into words launched a parallel writing career as a contributor to journals, magazines and anthologies on the topics of dance, identity, and cultural policy. She loves her present role in the arts community as Dance and Literary Grants Manager for the TAC.

READERS

In White from FB_Aug19 Black and WhiteAndrea Thompson is the recipient of the League’s 2019 Golden Beret Award, was the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word’s 2009 Poet of Honour, and in 2005 was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award. She’s the author of the novel Over Our Heads and the spoken word CDs, Soulorations and One. See her website and IG (andreathompsonpoet) for more info.

 

 

 

Deepa RDeepa Rajagopalan writes creative non-fiction and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Dionne Brand anthology, The Unpublished City II. She’s currently working towards her Creative Writing certificate at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She was a finalist of the Penguin Random House Award for Fiction in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

MRykov-photobyDahliaKatz-cropPuerto Rican-Canadian María (Mary) Helena Auerbach Rykov is a writer, editor, educator, and recovering music therapist. She freelances as a writing mentor in multiple genres and proofreads for Pulp Literature Press. Her poetry collection, some conditions apply, hatches May 2020 with Inanna Publications. More at maryrykov.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized