Monthly Archives: December 2019

BWS 08.01.20: Terese Mason Pierre

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Terese Mason Pierre is a writer and poet whose work has appeared in CanthiusThe Temz Review, the Longleaf Review, and elsewhere online and in print. She is the poetry editor of Augur Magazine and volunteers with Shab-e She’r reading series. Her chapbook, “Surface Area,” was recently published with Anstruther Press. Terese lives in Toronto.

 

Like a lot of people, I gravely dislike the sound of my own voice. But I don’t count this reading among the detested. Not because of my actual voice, but because of where I’m reading it. Here, I’m reading an excerpt from my short story, “Leapt,” which was published in the preview issue of Augur magazine. The piece is an urban fantasy story about a pair of shapeshifters, a young girl and her mother, who try to build a new life in Toronto.

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Click here to see Terese’s reading of “Leapt”

I was excited that my work was chosen for publication. I knew two of the three founding editors back in university, and was still a bit insecure about my writing. When the reading was over, they approached me and told me they loved my work, that they felt so much for the characters. I looked up to them, and their validation was meaningful. If you want to read the whole story, click here. It’s also been published in podcast form, at this link.

Currently, I’m the poetry editor of Augur magazine, which means I help select and mainly edit the poems that we publish. Although I edit speculative poetry, I have only recently begun writing speculative poetry, and I find it exciting and freeing in many ways. My work at Augur has been some of the most rewarding volunteer work that I have done. I often get very excited to introduce people to Augur magazine, and to hear about the speculative work they’ve published, especially poets. I feel honored to be a part of a community that believes in creating space not only for marginalized and underrepresented writers, but Canadian writers in general, and more diversity and inclusion within the speculative literature genre. Augur’s issue 2.3 was published in early December, and we reopen for submissions in the spring.

 

Terese Mason Pierre visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Leanne Toshiko Simpson, Manahil Bandukwala, Nikki Sheppy, and guest speaker Ranjini George, who will guide us through “Meditation and Writing.”

 

 

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BWS 08.01.20: Manahil Bandukwala

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Manahil Bandukwala is a Pakistani writer and artist currently living in Ottawa. She is the author of two chapbooks, Paper Doll (Anstruther Press, 2019) and Pipe Rose (battleaxe press, 2018). She was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize, and was the 2019 winner of Room magazine’s Emerging Writer Award.

 

Context, context, context. Where to give it and where to let others do the work to find out?

In the last couple of years, I’ve seen a rising movement on Twitter to steer away from explaining references to content that falls out of western “common knowledge.” This includes not giving translations of non-English words, and not stating each allusion. It gives way to rhythm and flow without the bulky footnotes that accompany each translation or definition.

But recent projects I’ve been involved with have forced me to think about when and why context is necessary. Sure, people could do the work on their own time, but will they? And if they don’t do the work, what broader message is lost? What context does the reader need to know? What can they figure out on their own?

I wanted to talk about the space of giving context versus content, with examples of two culturally and politically heavy projects I’ve been working on in the past few months.

1. Reth aur Reghistan

Reth aur Reghistan is a literary and sculptural interpretation of folklore from the city of Karachi and the province of Sindh in Pakistan. It’s a collaborative project between my sister, Nimra Bandukwala, and myself. We started this project out of our interest in exploring the stories from the city we grew up in, and our path has led us to thinking about how stories are passed down and how they evolve in cultural memory.

As part of our research, Nimra and I conducted interviews with cultural and creative workers. Through our interviews, we learned a lot about the archaeological evidence that traces a story’s origin, what these stories mean to communities, and the contemporary modes in which they continue to grow. Most of the content I gathered was things that I had little to no prior knowledge of. If I learned about these stories through grant-funded research, how could a prospective audience easily know or find this folklore?

Although the final product we envision for Reth aur Reghistan is a book of poetry and sculpture that interprets themes and specific scenes of folklore, we also want to share the interesting and sometimes hilarious stories we draw inspiration from. The way the manuscript is currently evolving includes both tellings of the folklore as well as poetic interpretation. The credit for this layout fully goes to Nimra. It’s been interesting working with someone who isn’t steeped in the literary world, because she brings a different perspective into this tension of context versus not.

By working in this way, I’ve felt like I have a lot more creative freedom to sprawl into abstract territory without worrying about a reader getting lost. I can focus my poem on how Sasui journeyed across the desert twice instead of telling the reader why she did that. A reader will have the context they need right there (told in an artistic way of course).

2. “Border”, forthcoming in Briarpatch

“Border” is a collaborative long poem between myself and Toronto-based poet Sanna Wani. We started “Border” in July 2019, after finding out that we would be in close physical proximity to each other but on different sides of a militarized border. Sanna was in Srinagar, in Indian Occupied Kashmir, and I was going to be visiting Gilgit Baltistan, which borders Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

On August 5th, the Indian government scrapped Article 370 that gave Kashmir autonomous status, and the exchange between Sanna and I turned into a real-time reaction to an international crisis. We didn’t start “Border” with this intention, but this is what happens when your existence is inherently political. We’re both incredibly proud of what we’ve produced, but this poem of crisis was not a choice but circumstance. This context is something we want readers to know.

“Border” is now forthcoming in Briarpatch, a magazine committed to anticolonial perspectives on politics. When we were working with editor Saima Desai, we had conversations about what context to provide to readers. Many readers likely didn’t know what happened on August 5th, nor do they know that Kashmir is still under curfew. They probably don’t know what the line of control is, or why India and Pakistan have been fighting over Kashmir since 1947.

I made the artwork that accompanies the poem, and had a long conversation with Saima as we figured out how to visually represent the piece. One of the things we talked about was showing a map of borders: the borders between Pakistan and India; the division of Kashmir along the line of control, and the places Sanna and I were writing from. How could I represent this accurately while also making clear the borders are a result of colonial legacy? How could I show the military presence of the region without reducing Kashmir to a warzone, or on the other end, romanticizing the mountain landscape?

There’s a lot of questions here. And I reached answers to them through conversations with creative collaborators and editors who shared the knowledge I had on the topic. In “Border,” for example, something that helped bridge the space between context and content was working with an editor from the same cultural context as us. We knew we could trust Saima with editing our work, and that her suggestions to provide context came from a perspective of making the piece as impactful as possible.

To some extent, an overarching backgrounder of a piece frees up space within the piece to just write. Just to talk about why context matters sometimes in this blog post, I had to give a summary of the projects and what they aimed to do. A lot of my recent writing draws on politics, history, religion, and culture – the work I’m going to read at Brockton Writer’s Series attests to that – and I want an audience to know the deeper political and cultural implications that run through my poetics.

 

Manahil Bandukwala visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Leanne Toshiko Simpson, Terese Mason Pierre, Nikki Sheppy, and guest speaker Ranjini George, who will guide us through “Meditation and Writing.”

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BWS 08.01.20: Leanne Toshiko Simpson

Leanne Toshiko Simpson headshot

Photo credit: Soko Negash

Leanne Toshiko Simpson is a Yonsei writer living with bipolar disorder. She was named Scarborough’s Emerging Writer of 2016 and recently finished her MFA at the University of Guelph. You can find her work in The 2019 Journey Prize StoriesRoom MagazineContemporary Verse 2, and Unpublished City II.

 

I had coffee with a friend I made many years ago, in a Scarborough psychiatric ward, and we got to talking about how difficult the holiday season is for people with mood disorders (and other chronic illnesses, for that matter). We jokingly came up with the idea for this carol – The Twelve Manic Days of Christmas – and I’ve written it in his honour. I think a common theme of our survival has been laughing through the impossible, and I hope that this piece resonates with some folks who are in the same boat this holiday season.

The Twelve Manic Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

A manic shopping spree

[Always start with things you need: socks, holiday pajamas for your sister, greeting cards for everyone who touched your life this year. Get overwhelmed by the amount of people you’d like to thank and slide to the floor, contemplate your good fortune. Get up and overcompensate with novelty mugs and fuzzy throws. Buy a dress you can’t afford for your family dinner, because it’s not just about presents but presenting, and you wouldn’t want anyone to think you were less than perfect. Look at your watch and wonder where five hours have flown. Feel guilty for your absence, buy chocolate-dipped strawberries as a “surprise” for your partner and let them melt on your dashboard on your way home]

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Two sleepless nights and

A manic shopping spree

 

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights – please, no more pills – and

A manic shopping spree

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Four grand ideas (a brief summary: a YA novel, Christmas cookies for the entire street – or perhaps, a winter carnival for the neighbourhood, with trussed up ponies and sleigh bells – breaking a three-month silence with my father, becoming a cyclist)

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights and

A manic shopping spree (this time, a bike!)

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my partner gave to me:

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

After four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, we tried to go to a holiday party but Mariah Carey’s voice was like a dog whistle, alerting me to a danger I couldn’t see but felt reverberating inside the cage of my lungs. I couldn’t hold conversations, couldn’t look people in the eye. I was afraid to eat. Everything was cardboard – the food, the people, the thoughts in my head. We left early, and I counted the seconds between sentences on the drive home. One, two, three, four, five–

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my therapist gave to me:

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

And the Goldberg Mania Inventory!

For my four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

[After he goes to bed, count out your medication into your palm, over and over and over again, until chalky dust settles in your lifelines]

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Eight missed pills

Seven (untouched) CBT charts

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my mom told me to try yoga, so I had:

Nine downward dogs (plus seething resentment)

Eight missed pills

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my eyes were changing colours in their sockets and I told everyone it was great, but if I’m being honest here, I was getting a little worried about my:

Ten unverified sick days

Nine downward dogs

Eight missed pills

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

Fuck the Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my partner called my psychiatrist, but she was on

ELEVEN DAYS OF VACATION

Which left me with:

Ten unverified sick days

Nine downward dogs

Eight missed pills

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, they asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. I gave it some thought, reader – really, I did. I thought about all the other folks who might be there on Christmas, who could maybe use a little caroling, maybe a touch of comradery. I thought about titrating my meds for the hundredth time. I had so many little orange canisters in my bathroom cabinet that I could have invented psychiatric Jenga. Again, they asked me what I wanted, and I stared into the galaxies of my ceiling before telling them I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, who lived in this kaleidoscope with me. They all looked at each other and one of them nodded and then the glass shifted, again, to that incandescent heat before the end of the world.

 

Leanne Toshiko Simpson visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Manahil Bandukwala, Terese Mason Pierre, Nikki Sheppy, and guest speaker Ranjini George, who will guide us through “Meditation and Writing.”

 

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Brockton Writers Series 08.01.20

Wednesday, January 8, 2020 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Leanne Toshiko Simpson

Manahil Bandukwala

Terese Mason Pierre

Nikki Sheppy

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

“Meditation and Writing”

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Ranjini George holds a PhD and MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. As an Associate Professor of English at Zayed University, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, she ran the Teaching with the Mind of Mindfulness series. A Mindfulness Meditation Instructor, she currently teaches courses such as Meditation & Writing, Food, Breath & Words, Stoicism and the Good Life and Pilgrimage to the Sacred Feminine at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. She received the 2019 Excellence in Teaching Award. Her book, Through My Mother’s Window was published in Dubai in December 2016. She can be contacted at ranjinigeorge@yahoo.com; or, through her Facebook page.

READERS

Leanne Toshiko Simpson headshot

Photo credit: Soko Negash

Leanne Toshiko Simpson is a Yonsei writer living with bipolar disorder. She was named Scarborough’s Emerging Writer of 2016 and recently finished her MFA at the University of Guelph. You can find her work in The 2019 Journey Prize Stories, Room Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, and Unpublished City II.

 

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Manahil Bandukwala is a Pakistani writer and artist currently living in Ottawa. She is the author of two chapbooks, Paper Doll (Anstruther Press, 2019) and Pipe Rose (battleaxe press, 2018). She was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize, and was the 2019 winner of Room magazine’s Emerging Writer Award.

 

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Terese Mason Pierre is a writer and poet whose work has appeared in Canthius, The Temz Review, the Longleaf Review, and elsewhere online and in print. She is the poetry editor of Augur Magazine and volunteers with Shab-e She’r reading series. Her chapbook, “Surface Area,” was recently published with Anstruther Press. Terese lives in Toronto.

 

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Nikki Sheppy is a poet, editor, and educator with a background in literary scholarship. She is also past managing editor of filling Station magazine, and an organizer for the new East Loft Reading Series, a Leslieville literary salon launched in November. Her book, Fail Safe (University of Calgary Press), won the 2018 Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry Book of the Year, and her chapbook, Grrrrlhood: a ludic suite (Kalamalka Press), won the 2013 John Lent Poetry-Prose Award. She loves dogs. Also puppies. And more dogs. And she volunteers at the Toronto Humane Society.

 

 

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