Corinne Gilroy is an academic library manager, writer, film photographer, and graduate student who lives with her partner and a jungle of houseplants in North End Halifax. Her website is corinnegilroy.ca. Photo by @welcometomymoments
Did you attend the 2019 Atlantic International Film Festival? Are you planning to submit a film to the 2020 festival? We are now about half way between the ’19 and ’20 festivals so what better time to post a review? Last September, we sent our intrepid reviewer Corinne Gilroy to FIN. (Yes, the Atlantic International Film Festival is known as FIN. No, FIN is not an acronym; it’s just a name.) In the diary entries below, Corinne relates her experience at FIN, focusing on select films directed by or about women. Enjoy—and maybe we will see you next year!
Although 2019 was my first FIN, it wasn’t my first kick at the film canister. I was but a young whippersnapper, newly away at school, when the Tidal Wave (now Silver Wave) Film Festival launched in Fredericton in the early aughts. My friends and I made a November ritual of shuttling our bundled-up bodies between the rigid bear-trap seats of an old UNB auditorium and the drafty uptown multiplex. We wrung every last ounce of movie magic out of our student passes and cut our teeth on quirky world cinema in the process. Continue reading →
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 →
Blood is a deeply weird word. Its strange proto-Germanic double-O ends in a palpitation—a thud—a footfall on dark earth, while its spectral onomatopoeia hums of haemorrhage, not haemostasis.
In her new poetry collection All This Blood (Piquant Press, 2017), Susie Petersiel Berg uses the process of haemostasis—how the body stops bleeding—to conjure wounds that have closed over but still sting in the shower, against the sheets or out in the cold. Berg’s poems are reminders that blood is always with us, even when we don’t taste its iron or call it by its deeply weird name.
All This Blood is organized according to the three phases of haemostasis: vascular, platelet and coagulation. Her title and guiding metaphors signal, in tandem, the potential for blood in every poem; as the “process” unfolds, this language becomes a kind of forensic, empathic dare to the reader. Continue reading →
It took me four days to read Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell: Poems for a Girlhood (Pedlar Press, 2015). By day three, I wasn’t sure I could follow through, so acute was my fear and respect for the tide of pain and loss on nearly every page.
Tell honours Reena Virk, assaulted and murdered by her peers in 1997; she was 14 years old. I was 14 in 1997, as well; our birthdays are only weeks apart. Perhaps “I’d have been her friend” (“Trials,” 10). In Grade Nine, I didn’t know any girls from South Asian families, but I had girlfriends who loved clog boots, who wore pleather jackets; girls who shouldered rumours, reputations, and threats too heavy for their age, their hearts and bodies—girls, in many ways, like Reena. Continue reading →
Mum was up smoking at the window. Tapping ashes into the sink. Nini’s dead, I told her. I put her last bottle of blueberry jam on the table.
Mum took straight off past me with her cigarette. Cross the gravel in bare feet like God said it, not me. So I set about making toast on the stove and took mum’s spot at the window, watched her circle ’round to Aunt Nini’s porch door. Bout twelve when I found her. Nancy was her right name.
Mum was only in there and outta sight for a second. Showed up again like a movie reversing and she backed into a spruce. Never seen her so dazzled. Bounced right off the tree and headed home. Walking normal enough, but a cigarette hanging from her lip and her face all knotted up. Never seen her not hold her cigarette before.
She stomped back in, hit the door into the porch wall. Told me to get the hell out cause she had calls to make, and make sure Kitty and Fran stay the hell out with you. Kept on stomping.
Mum brought her little black handbag to the kitchen table. The side by the phone. Nini didn’t have her own, just used the big skin-colour one on our wall. Used to let mum dump all her ashes in the sink, too. Asked after dad, her brother, but it was all guessing, never any news from the ship.
Kitty was long gone already, out shooting in the clearing since sun-up. Fran was hiding in the front room as usual til she heard mum growling. Tore out fore I could even go get her.
Had to stop for my toast on my own way out. Perfect brown right then. Stacked it up and cut down for these nice little triangles. Was going for the jam when I seen mum’s head come up out the side of my eye.
Gave me a good glare with a new cigarette hanging off her face and glasses on. Cat eyes just like Nini’s. So out I went with dry toast.
Hooked Rug by Deanne Fitzpatrick.
Didn’t occur til I was out on the step what mum dug out of her bag. An old address book I never seen in years. We never called nothing we didn’t know by heart, never wrote letters or went visiting.
Mum on the phone then. Her voice was some low hum through the windows. Nini’s cats everywhere in the yard, like they was lost. Franny sitting up on the well, hunched so far over her tits skimmed her legs. Facing Nini’s, half away from me.
I heard mum stop, nothing for a bit, then the phone jingled at her. Heard her again, then quiet, then ringing again.
I was picking all the little bits of toast off my overalls and Franny was playing with her hair when Kitty showed up. Marching down the hill with the .22 over her shoulder. Swinging a couple of dead squirrels by their long dead tails.
Me and Fran just sitting around musta tipped her off something wasn’t right. She stopped cold half-way down and called at us.
Cupped my hands around my mouth to say Nini’s dead and make sure she heard. Just like mum then, Kitty didn’t say a thing, just changed direction straight over to Nini’s porch.
Felt the sound of that first shot ‘fore I really heard it, in my neck, through those bones right behind your ears. Then crack. Bunch of birds flitted up off Nini’s roof. Her cats took crying again and Franny yelped.
Kitty came outta Nini’s with blood on her shirt and her gun tight in both hands. Might have been from the squirrels, the blood, but who knew.
She planted her feet. Put the butt of her rifle up to her cheek and took aim right there in the yard. Squinted, then another crack. A cat skitted across the gravel in front of me and blood flew the other way.
Fran wailed Kitty, Kitty, Kitty! Damned if I knew which one she meant.
Door hit the porch wall again behind me and there was mum looming. Mum’s eyes on Kitty’s made a sharp line through the air that cut her wide open.
Kitty wailed they were trying to eat her.
Fran whipped around to look at mum, then back to Kitty, trying to figure what was going on.
Kit burst again, that Nini’s cats were eating her.
Mum got this sneer, like the whole thing was rotted out, like she was gonna be sick. Put her hands up on her hips and looked down the drive away from all of us. Foolishness, she said.
I got up off the step and cut a wide path up by the well to get to Nini’s and stay outta Kitty’s way. Still looked like she was gonna shoot us all. Told Franny to stay right where she was and don’t follow me for no reason.
Nini looked pretty much same as when I found her. Flat on her back on the porch floor. Her mouth hanging open, glasses crooked half off her face. Rumply stockings, dress scooted up in a puff from tipping over. Still had hold of her can opener. One of those nice ones, red rubber handles, right up over her head in one hand like a prize. Curlers in.
Pretty much same cept for Kitty’s squirrels limp over her leg. Then I seen her fingers. First two on the hand without the can opener. The one down by her side. Top parts looked all wrong. Like chewed up spit out sandwich ham. But I just seen her a minute ago.
Nini couldn’t feel nothing so it didn’t really matter what was going on, but Kitty’s rage made a kinda sense to me, then. Til I caught sight a where that first shot went. A little orange longhair, not full grown. With a big red hole in its side, trailing down to Nini’s floor. Into the wood.
Went back out and yelled over to mum that cats musta ate up Nini’s fingers. It fell outta me, saying it. Not saying Kitty was being sensible for shooting cats or scaring the hell outta Franny, but that’s just how it was.
The dead cat in the yard, the one she shot right out in front of me, was a big old tabby we had forever. She hit it more back by its ass so it was still suffering.
I said so.
Kitty screamed at us: good!
Mum bellowed git in and I tried to grab Kitty’s eye one more time, get her to end it for the suffering tabby taking big breaths like a fish, its jaw up and down, eyes looking nowhere, but so was she, looking nowhere.
Fran went in past mum, then I did, and mum bolted the door.
Kitty showed up at the kitchen window and screamed through it with no words, just a bunch a awful, sick sounds. Eyes right round. Figured she was gonna take the butt of the .22 to the glass but she only stood there looking in, screaming.
Fran got upset again, so mum put her at the table and lit a cigarette for both of em. I asked if she called a doctor, the Mounties, and mum didn’t say, just held Fran’s hand and smoked.
Kitty gave up after a bit. Stopped staring in and screaming and wandered way from the window. Heard one more shot.
Then a while later an engine up the hill, rocks crunching. I unlatched the door, got it open just a sliver for my eye. Seen a long blue car with fins pulling up far as the well.
The shot tabby, there was new blood around its head. Car didn’t go nowhere near it, the mess. I couldn’t see Kitty.
A lady got out the driver’s side. Had black eyebrows like dad and Nini. But she couldn’t a been much older than Franny. Some fella with her. He had black slacks on, nothing on top his white undershirt. Marlon Brando, I thought of.
I spotted Kitty in the trees with her gleaming .22 pointed at em. But they were already headed to Nini’s and didn’t even see her. Holding hands.
The man came out first, with Nini folded up in his big arms. Her dress was smoothed out nice.
The woman came after but went faster. Got ahead and clicked open the big blue back door. He slid Nini in. Feet first, held her curlers careful. The woman clicked it shut, the back door. And then she slid, just let go and crumbled right down to the dirt. Wailed with her head in her hands.
She started talking. Sick hillbillies, she said to the fella. Leaving her in filth and hiding. Bleeding dead animals, cat food all over her. The words choked their way out of her, just barely.
He pulled her up and led her slow back to the driver’s seat.
Disgusting, heard her say.
When they were both in she swung the car back in a big curve toward the trees, lighting up Kitty and her gun red. Then down the lane.