Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019) showcases the literary talent of almost five dozen self-identified current or former sex workers (an umbrella that includes stripping, phone sex, full-service, etc.). The autobiographical thrust of Hustling Verse renders slut-shaming absurd and delivers a kind of reality check that only sex workers can.
Sedgemore’s poem, “A John’s Funeral,” for example, is a fond tribute to a client who “paid fucking well / and tipped too, also a great fuck” —one hundred and eighty degrees from the “violent john” bogeyman used to infantalize or concern-troll consenting adult sex workers. Hysterika’s “Going to Hell” revels in hedonism and not only eschews judgement but mocks the judgemental for their lack of imagination: “Twerking for Jesus / And his hair is metaphorically tied back in a gorgeous yoga man bun.” Continue reading
Annick MacAskill’s debut poetry collection No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018) strikes me as off limits—as fenced-in under high security. Perhaps MacAskill’s personal vignettes and anecdotes—conveyed through the work and labour of figures such as Aristophanes, Hildegard von Bingen, and Ovid—will resonate with the guiding metaphors of other readers’ life and loves. But I am straining, from the other side of a barrier, to hear conversation that may not want to be heard.
Most poetry book launches, in my experience, are serious, courtly, murmuring affairs: kind words of introduction, soft applause, hums of contemplation and approval. Solitary reactions occurring simultaneously; subtle, even-tempered responses to subtle, even-tempered books.
Enter Arielle Twist. Enter her ecstatic, surprising, jubilant family, friends, and fans.
Twist launched her debut collection of poetry, Disintegrate/Dissociate (Arsenal Pulp, 2019), on a wintry Saturday night at the Khyber Arts Centre in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), unceded Mi’kmaq territory where Twist currently lives. The small community venue was packed to the rafters and vibrating with anticipation—for a poet! For poetry!
A Shepard-Risset Glissando is a set of three musical scales, separated by octaves, played simultaneously to produce the auditory illusion of notes forever ascending (or descending). The effect isn’t ethereal so much as it is unnerving, because the layered scales never resolve. Songs and symphonies teach us to expect resolution. Melodies are boomerangs and hungry dogs: they always return. An ascending Shepard-Risset Glissando, instead, builds tension and anxiety to the breaking point—but without ever breaking.
Composer Hans Zimmer loves Shepard tones. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that Dani Couture does as well. Listen Before Transmit (Wolsak and Wynn, 2018) her fourth book of poetry, never resolves—not even close. It only ascends. By the time you’ve reached the third and final untitled section of Listen, you’ve somehow made it to the outer atmosphere in a weather balloon: all the Earth you know reduced to miniatures, and space incomprehensibly massive above you. Continue reading
Each September, I wend my way through the back roads of the Annapolis Valley to attend Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW): a volunteer-organized retreat and workshop series aimed at women interested in hunting, fishing, and other outdoorsy pursuits. This year, I brought my copy of Kate Braid’s Elemental (Caitlin Press, 2018), which I snuck away to read in my bunk between starchy meals, awkward attempts at skills acquisition, and quality time daydreaming into the campfire.
As a companion to a woman in the forest, Elemental is patient and instructive: a friend whose gaze you follow to a camouflaged rustle of bird-on-branch or “a wilderness of pattern” (10), or whose fingers find “a small red tattoo of arbutus bark” (15) on your skin. Elemental explores water, fire, wood, sky, and earth, and again, like the wise companion that it is, teaches you to see each of these materials erupting from the others: water from sky, earth from fire, fire from wood. Continue reading