Monthly Archives: April 2022

Brockton Writers Series 11.05.22: Gavin Barrett

Gavin Barrett is the author of Understan (Mawenzi House, 2020), a CBC Books recommendation. His work appears in Ranjit Hoskoté’s anthology of 14 Indian poets Reasons for Belonging (Viking Penguin, 2001) and in many other reputed publications. He curates the Tartan Turban Secret Readings for IBPOC writers.

This twenty-fifth is a twenty-sixth

On the 25th of April, 1996, my daughter April was born in Tsan Yuk Hospital, Hong Kong. After she had finally made her entrance — she took her time shall we say — the applauding nurses and doctor left. Leah, my wife, slept. April was quiet. 

In that pure, still moment, I wrote a poem on a blank page in a hospital post-natal handbook. Sadly, the poem was lost as we crossed oceans and continents on our move to Canada. 

More poems were written for April to make up for it. And poems were even written about that one short lost poem, like this one, which appears in my collection Understan (Mawenzi House, 2020).

Fifteen Aprils

You turned,

swimming.

Broke from the water

with your hair wet

your feet together

entered light and day, 

you arrived

well timed

near midnight

a judge gave

your perfect dive

a ten.

You began loud

sang on the scale,

conducted me with your toes

caused an aspiration

of tired joy 

and woke a poem

spoken

written on a sheet

of hospital paper

and finally lost into

air.

This was yesterday, fifteen Aprils ago.

Though Understan is a collection of poems by an émigré poet, dealing with landscapes both global and internal, a great deal of the poetry in the book is domestic. What is life or poetry without those you love? Love infuriates and inspires. 

The longest poem in the book — 10 pages — is an unfinished poem called 10,000 Thoughts on Love. The book also contains several poems about my mother, a professor of literature and a force of nature — a one-woman warrior for justice. My grandmother appears in her last days. The very last poem in the book is titled My father, the sailor in his 80s. My brothers are there, and many friends float in and out of many poems. My girls Faith and April appear often, and my wife, of course — in a sense, the entire book is an epithalamion in a way, a poem on marriage. 

But that poem for April isn’t in the book. It’s not uncommon for a poet to think in terms of “chasing a poem”. In my case, it was no metaphor. I hunted that poem I wrote for April in that hospital room of her birth “down the nights and down the days and down the arches of the years”. The poem was my equal as a wanderer and my superior as a recluse. It kept itself hidden from me. 

Then, a couple of years ago, my wife discovered the escapee, hidden in a box of baby memorabilia.

And so, today, I choose to share with the Brockton Writers Series an image of my daughter’s original birth day poem.

Gavin Barrett visits Brockton Writers Series via our YouTube channel on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 starting at 6:30pm alongside Khashayar “Kess” Mohammdi, H. Nigel Thomas, and Victoria Mbabazi. Our guest speaker Caroline from ECW Press will help us with “Social Media 101 for Authors.

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Brockton Writers Series 11.05.22: Khashayar “Kess” Mohammadi

Khashayar “Kess” Mohammadi (He/They) is a queer, Iranian born, Toronto-based Poet, Writer and Translator.

I like to pair books with albums based on the feelings they give me, I let the synaesthesia carry me towards the album I’ll settle on. For this list I’ve picked nine of the books that have been the most pivotal to my personal exploration of poetry and how I write-these are books that I’ve read over and over and through different readings, have extracted something special. Because of my extended time spent with them, I’ve become quite attached to the albums I’ve paired with them as well, and now I’ll take you through them one by one, with some explanation for each.

Letters in a Bruised Cosmos by Liz Howard and Weyes Blood’s “Titanic Rising”

I’ve always admired Liz Howard’s work, and their intricate interweaving of the granular with the titanic and divine. The soft aching in their poetry always evokes the image of an animal, bleeding upon a bed of snow. Their writing feels like a holy sacrifice, that in due process, they ache so perhaps the reader doesn’t have to. Their poetry is selfless and there’s nothing more selfless than the cosmos itself, with its little terrestrial microcosm: Nature. their explorations of nature in all its violent glory, the explorations of the universe and all its cultural insignia: the choice is quick and simple! Just put on the second track “Andromeda” to experience its lush sonic wall of lavish, extravagant, and cosmically colorful instrumentals. Pick Up Liz Howard’s Book and start the album at the same time, you won’t be disappointed.

Mihyar the Damascene and Ahmed Malek & Flako’s “Electronic Tapes”

I don’t think anyone will ever replace Adonis in my heart. I was never the same after being acquainted with Mihyar. My poetry made such a huge leap forward after realizing what self-possessed West-Asian poetry can contribute to contemporary poetry. I’ve paired his book with The phenomenal restoration that Habibi Funk put together from Ahmed Malek’s Electronic tapes, further edited by Flako. I love how each track has its own moodscapes, the same way that Mihyar enters and exits entire worlds each page.

ekke by Klara Du Plessis and Esperanza Spalding’s “12 little Spells”

I’ve always been fascinated by poetry that moves comfortably across languages. This pairing is more based on the coherence and the parallel compartmentalizations. The album and the book mirror each other so beautifully in style and even in their organization.

Washes Prays by Noor Naga and Lianne La Havas’s “Blood”

Washes Prays is my favorite book written on Islamic desire. I love how Noor Naga explores so much traditional Islam, while as a devout Muslim, being incredibly incisive and critical of its oppressive qualities. When I read “Washes Prays” I feel like I wanna hear some nice mellifluous singing. Lianne La Havas it is.

Book of Frank by CA Conrad and Limp Wrist’s “Facades”

When I think CA Conrad, I think queer, I think Punk, I think anti establishment. I can’t think of anyone more unapologetically punk than CA Conrad, and I can’t think of a better, more queer punk album than Facades, with little hints of electronic music mixed in here and there.

Paul Celan’s “Breathturn to Timestead” and Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony no.3 performed by Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Orchestra

Celan’s poetry made me unlock secrets to the cosmos. I find every single word he puts on the page to be lachrymose and tear inducing, so I’ve picked the single strongest tear-jerking record I know: Beth Gibbons. She lends her heavenly voice to the single most heart wrenching rendition of Gorecki’s symphony no. 3 you will ever hear.

Trish Salah’s “Lyric Sexology Vol. 1” and Anthony And the Johnsons’ “I am a bird now”

Perhaps the most literal of the pairings, my all time favorite writing on trans identity and its vicissitudes, paired with my all time fave album by a trans musician. Trish Salah is a true gem and I’ve loved all their writing, but this book is something else, and with Anohni’s voice weeping in your ears, Salah’s poetry takes on a heavenly hue.

Larissa Lai’s “Iron Goddess of Mercy” and Oneohthrix Point Never’s “R Plus Seven”

Iron Goddess of Mercy is brimming with landscapes-it’s urban, it’s urgent, it’s immediate and pleading. A single page in and I already know it needs to be paired with something electronic. I need something that is simultaneously so vast that it fits a universe inside, and so small that its consumable. R Plus Seven is the single most intriguing pairing I can find with Larissa lai’s Breakneck speed of moving through earth. It’s mantling and dismantling, it’s parking lots, it’s streetlights tracers.

Canisia Lubrin’s The Dyzgraphxst and Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic”

This is perhaps a bit too literal. I’ve paired the most “Epic” and “All Encompassing” book of poetry I know, and have paired it with the most epic album. I cannot get enough of either, the book and the album both give you as much as you give them. The more effort you put into exploring them, the more rewarding the experience. They don’t pander, they don’t mess around, they are opaque, but brimming with clarity (let’s not conflate clarity with transparency- Lubrin is clear, but not transparent).

Khashayar “Kess” Mohammdi visits Brockton Writers Series via our YouTube channel on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Barrett, H. Nigel Thomas, and Victoria Mbabazi. Our guest speaker Caroline from ECW Press will help us with “Social Media 101 for Authors.

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Brockton Writers Series 11.05.22 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Khashayar “Kess” Mohammadi

Gavin Barrett

H. Nigel Thomas

Victoria Mbabazi

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted on the Brockton Writers Series YouTube channel! Please log in at 6:30.

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

 If you’d like to donate, please do so here.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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GUEST SPEAKER

“Social Media 101 for Authors

Caroline from ECW Press is a marketing manager, graphic designer, and photographer. She currently works at ECW Press in Toronto.

READERS

Khashayar “Kess” Mohammadi (He/They) is a queer, Iranian born, Toronto-based Poet, Writer and Translator.

Gavin Barrett is the author of Understan (Mawenzi House, 2020), a CBC Books recommendation. His work appears in Ranjit Hoskoté’s anthology of 14 Indian poets Reasons for Belonging (Viking Penguin, 2001) and in many other reputed publications. He curates the Tartan Turban Secret Readings for IBPOC writers.

H. Nigel Thomas is a retired professor of  USA literature and an award-winning author of thirteen books: six novels, three collections of short fiction, two collections of poems, and two academic books. His latest books are the novel Easily Fooled (Guernica Editions, 2021) and a collection of poems, The Voyage (Mawenzi House, 2021).

Victoria Mbabazi’s work can be found in several literary magazines including Rejection Letters, Minola Review and No Contact Mag. Their chapbook “chapbook” is available with Anstruther Press and their chapbook “FLIP” is forthcoming this spring with Knife Fork Books. They’re currently living in Brooklyn, New York.

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