Swoon Fall 2016 forthcoming on November 5!

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Darkness, brightness, and being in the body: Talking creative practice with poet Elise Marcella Godfrey

Twinkling Elise

Poet Elise Marcella Godfrey knows the importance of the balance of dark and light and twinkling

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Swoon founder Ruth Daniell caught up with poet Elise Marcella Godfrey (Swoon fall 2015 alumni) to chat about the creative process and how to balance light and dark.

Ruth Daniell: Thank you so much for performing such wonderful poems at Swoon Fall 2015, and for catching up with us again here! I want to start by asking about your MFA work. Your thesis work at the University of Saskatchewan was very well recognized. Will you tell us a little about that project?

Elise Marcella Godfrey: I wrote an experimental poetry manuscript exploring the history and future of uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan. I wanted to write about this province that never really felt like home and I knew I would need to find a very particular angle if I was going to gain any traction. I am fascinated by human relationships with the non-human world. Sometimes we approach the non-human world tenderly and cautiously, but more often, we approach it with an agenda and a great deal of aggression or coercion. I find this disturbing. So I wanted to explore this. I zeroed in on transcripts from public hearings that were held throughout Saskatchewan when the uranium industry was expanding in the early to mid-nineties and this helped give the work a more humanistic and less scientific lens. I got really overwhelmed by the workload I took on and have since shelved the manuscript but the topic continues to fascinate me and I suspect I may return to writing about human relationships with minerals at some point in the future.

RD: Your work—that uranium manuscript, for example—seems very brave to me. Your writing shows a generosity to darkness, which is fascinating to me as I also know what a bright soul you are. Part of our Swoon mission is to provide “space for great writing, for love, and the darkness that so often accompanies both of those things, but we also want to remind ourselves of the legitimacy of happiness, and of being lighthearted.” How important is the balance of light/dark to you as you work? How conscious are you of the way that you gravitate towards certain subject matters in your writing?

EMG: I would say that that balance is very important to me, because I find it hard to sustain any kind of consistent work if I am not able to find points of aperture into some larger sense of possibility, which is akin to hopefulness, I suppose. When I was working on my uranium manuscript, I tried to envision possibilities for the future (as well as gentler, more peaceful histories — imagining what could have been done differently) and this helped me navigate what was otherwise a very heavy and dense subject. I think I am becoming more and more conscious of the way that I gravitate towards certain subject matter in my writing because I have become more aware of how writing can both disrupt and perpetuate patterns in our own lives as well as in the wider world. Choosing one’s subject matter (which narratives to interrogate or interrupt and which to build or propel forward) is thus not an off-hand process; it can affect both culture and community.

RD: Yes, and I think that almost all good writing originates in desire. What do you want your writing to do? Where do you want it to go?

EMG: I want my writing to provide with me a way to express myself, first and foremost, and in so doing to find ways to connect to others and perhaps even contribute to that source of sustenance that we refer to as “culture.” Self-expression is an aspect of self-care, in my opinion. We all need it. So long as we express ourselves mindfully, with an awareness of how our expressions affect others, I think that’s an inherently positive thing. Beyond this, I would like my writing to do all kinds of things: offer glimpses into alternative ways of seeing and feeling; ask questions and provoke others to do the same; provide insight into certain personal and cultural quirks. I would also like my writing to entertain, at least to some extent; I would like to make others laugh, as well as draw attention to issues that are really more terrifying than they are hilarious.

RD: It’s an interesting thing, that balance between the terrifying and the hilarious. Do you think that it is more difficult to write about joy or sorrow?

EMG: I think it depends. Which is scarier? In some ways joy can be scary, because it can stimulate us into states that are just as precarious as those triggered by grief.

RD: You recently won SubTerrain’s Lush Triumphant Literary Award for Poetry. Congratulations! How does your winning poem, “Influenza,” fit into your current writing projects?

EMG: I’m not sure that it does! I had tried writing about influenza for several years. I had wanted to approach it from a more historical perspective: my great-grandmother was a nurse and died during the pandemic in 1919. My grandfather was just six years old at the time and accompanied her body back to Canada by train (she had been living and working in North Dakota). I tried to write about this but it just wasn’t working; it was an anecdote. Then I got the flu twice in 2014 (two different strains) after not having had it for about 20 years (seriously). And out came the poem. And my great-grandmother wasn’t in it. But somehow that desire to write about this virus, about its metamorphosis and re-emergence through generations, gave rise to that poem.

RD: It’s fascinating to know what gives rise to poems! I know that you are also interested in other creative pursuits, including visual art, especially collage. How do your other art practices influence your poetry?

EMG: I think visual art allows the linguistic part of my brain to take a break and gives other parts of my brain a chance to get some exercise. These other parts of my brain are inherently less critical and judgmental. So this is always a relief. Honestly, I need to give the linguistic part of my brain a break much more often. Although there is crossover: I think of music as a language, and I find I am equally drawn to images as well as to the sounds of language when I write. I also practice yoga and meditation and these are ways of accessing other states of being as well (states other than our default discursive non-stop chatterbox talktalktalk oh my gosh make it stop!). The body is wise and the more time I spend simply being in my body, without an agenda, the more connected I feel not only to myself but to the world around me. I think this is a very good way to be, especially because it does, in turn, feed my writing practice.

RD: Speaking of other things that feed the writing practice—what are you reading right now that you absolutely love?

EMG: A very thoughtful and generous friend bought me a copy of Miranda July’s No one belongs here more than you several months ago and I didn’t get to it right away, but I am reading it now and really enjoying it. It’s totally weird and there is this effortlessness to many of her narratives, like maybe she writes with her eyes closed, or when she’s half awake/half asleep. What I absolutely love, however, if I am completely honest, are the posts in a Facebook group I recently joined: it’s a private group facilitated by my obstetrician just for twin mums (I am expecting two boys in July). There are non-stop posts about breastfeeding and nap schedules and behavioural issues and I find it all totally fascinating and hilarious and terrifying. It’s the best.

RD: We’re so excited for you—two boys!—your life is going to be even more full of love (just what we Swooners are such fans of)! Okay, one more question, just for fun: if you were a chocolate truffle (or another dessert), what would you be and why?

EMG: If I were a dessert I just might be a chocolate truffle, and if I were a chocolate truffle, I would be a dark chocolate hazelnut truffle! Actually, I would be a slice of chocolate hazelnut torte from the Wildfire Bakery in Victoria, because it is layered and nutty and not too sweet.

Read some of Elise’s wonderful work online in the current issue of Ryga: A Journal of Provocations: Ryga 8.

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Elise Marcella Godfrey’s poetry can be found in Room, Ryga, Filling Station, Grain, PRISM, CV2 and forthcoming in OK Magpie. Her suite of poems entitled “Influenza” won subTerrain‘s 13th Annual Lush Triumphant Literary Awards. She holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan, where her work was funded by SSHRC and received a thesis award.

Ruth Daniell is an award-winning writer, the founder of Swoon, and the editor of Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts (Caitlin Press, 2016). Her poems and stories have appeared  in various journals, including Arc Poetry Magazine, Grain, Room Magazine, Qwerty, Canthius, The Antigonish Review, and Contemporary Verse 2.

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Swoon Spring 2016 – The Photos

Last night’s Swoon event was one of our best events ever, thanks to an amazing turnout (thanks, audience!) and amazing performances (thanks, authors!).

Swoon Spring 2016 featured performances by Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli, Christopher Evans, Jim Johnstone, Laura Trethewey, and Daniel Scott Tysdal. For more about our authors, be sure to check out our Meet the Authors post.

Below are some of the highlights of Swoon Spring 2016, captured on our iPhones and in our hearts.

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Early in the evening, Trees Coffee House is already filling up.

There is so much Swoon love in this first picture. Swoon alumni Ellie Sawatzky (one of the cuties in the far back) is busy spreading love wherever she goes. Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli are making plans and warming up their voices for their outrageous performance. Toronto poet Jim Johnstone is in conversation with Vancouver poet Adrienne Gruber. Swoon alumni Jane Campbell is in conversation with Laura Tretheway. And there’s Christopher Evans bottom right corner of the frame.

Before the event had even started, Sierra and I were full of warm and fuzzy feelings of love.

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Co-hosts Sierra Skye Gemma & Ruth Daniell already in love with the evening

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Sierra’s pink petticoat and pink pony skirt is on point. Photo credit: AlphaSiren.

Sierra and I started off the event by reminding everyone why Swoon exists (because we want to have fun, basically). Big thank yous to the Trees staff who were so good to us, as always. We’re so lucky to be able to do what we do.

Our first performer of the evening was poet Jim Johnstone.

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Jim came all the way from Toronto to share his love with our amazing Vancouver crowd.

Jim read from his most recent collection, Dog Ear (Véhicule Press, 2014), and one of the Early Birney poems he selected in The Essential Earle Birney (Porcupine Quill, 2014).

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Poet Jim Johnstone. Photo credit: AlphaSiren

Of the fine poems Jim read for us one of them was “Epoch” (from Dog Ear), which meditates around a statue of Edward VII on a horse with its scrotum painted gold by vandals. A well-chosen poem for Swoon.

Up next was the talented Laura Tretheway, who read a fiercely intelligent and empathetic piece of creative non-fiction about intimacy before and after the digital age.

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Laura Tretheway’s piece was tender, nostalgic, smart and really wonderful.

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The piece Laura read is called “That Time We Made a Sex Tape Before the Internet” and it was gently funny and thought-provoking and did we mention really, really wonderful? Perfect Swoon material. Photo credit: AlphaSiren

Finishing off our first act was the formidable Canlit (Can’t Lit) duo, Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli, reading from their co-authored book of poems, Rom Com.

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Everything about Dina and Daniel’s Rom Com is collaborative.

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Rom Com dance moves. Photo credit: AlphaSiren

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Dina dances for the Swoon crowd, is magnificent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a copy of Rom Com (Talonbooks, 2015) yet? You need a copy of this book if you a.) like romantic comedies and pop culture, b.) like Dina and/or Daniel, or c.) if you are sad sometimes. Let’s be real: all three reasons apply to you.

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Ruth & Sierra starting off the second act with enthusiasm and bright colours. Photo credit: AlphaSiren.

I convinced Sierra to share a little snippet of her own excellent writing with the Swoon audience. She read a powerful and moving excerpt from her memoir “So Big Men Can’t Help Themselves,” which is forthcoming in Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts (Caitlin Press, 2016).

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The imcomparable Sierra Skye Gemma. Photo credit: AlphaSiren.

After Sierra’s powerful non-fiction, Christopher Evans treated us to some hilarious and well-crafted fiction. He ended with a short story called “Unsung,” which came out recently in The Ottawa Arts Review. He had the entire audience laughing out loud. He’s a great writer but also a great performer. If you’re not following Chris’s work in literary journals yet—do!

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Christopher Evans. Photo credit: AlphaSiren

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Christopher was absolutely hilarious. He had all us Swooners in stitches.

After Christopher’s brilliant performance of fiction, Daniel Scott Tysdal finished the evening off with some decidedly lively (and frequently moving) poetry.

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Daniel Scott Tysdal, our final featured author of the evening. Photo credit: AlphaSiren

Daniel read from his most recent collection of passionate poems for speculative occasions. You can get your own copy of Fauxccasional Poems (icehouse 2015) by Daniel Scott Tysdal! Do it! Not only are the poems sharp, funny, and smart, but the book itself is beautifully designed. When I hold the book in my hands I am happy.

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Daniel, poet, possessor of expressive eyebrows. A+

Sierra and I are so excited to get to run Swoon.  The community that’s grown up around us remains warm and welcoming—a vibe we’re really proud of. Thanks to everyone who helps build our fun-loving, love-loving community.

Thanks to Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli, Christopher Evans, Jim Johnstone, Laura Trethewey, and Daniel Scott Tysdal for making this the best Swoon event yet, and our amazing audience members for braving the uncertain weather to help us fill the coffeeshop up, just brimming over with love.

We’ve got some swoony things planned for our blog soon (so watch this space!) and of course we’ve already got our hearts set on our next event. Keep up to date with us on Twitter and Facebook!

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Swoon Spring 2016 – Meet the Authors!

Swoon Spring 2016 is forthcoming on March 12, 2016. Check out the swoony details on the authors you’ll be meeting! To RSVP to the evening, check out the event page on Facebook. And for a full history and all bios of past Swoon authors, check out our Readers page.

Dina and Daniel

Dina Del Bucchia is the author of Coping with Emotions and Otters and Blind Items. Daniel Zomparelli is the Editor-In-Chief of Poetry Is Dead magazine and author of Davie Street Translations. Together, they make up the duo behind the podcast Can’t Lit, and the poetry collection Rom Com (Talonbooks), out now.

Evans Bio Photo bus

Christopher Evans is a writer and student, originally from Victoria, BC. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in magazines and anthologies in Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, the UK, and the USA. His play Drifting was produced for the 2014 Brave New Play Rites Festival, and his text-based art installation project Places of Refuge is currently installed at UBC’s Point Grey campus. He currently lives in Vancouver, where he is the Prose Editor at PRISM international magazine.

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 presetJim Johnstone is a Canadian poet, editor, and critic. He’s the author of four books of poetry: Dog Ear (Véhicule Press, 2014), Sunday, the locusts (Tightrope Books, 2011), Patternicity (Nightwood Editions, 2010) and The Velocity of Escape (Guernica Editions, 2008), and the subject of the critical monograph Proofs & Equational Love: The Poetry of Jim Johnstone by Shane Neilson and Jason Guriel. He’s the winner of several awards including a CBC Literary Award,The Fiddlehead’s Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize, Matrix Magazine’s LitPop Award and This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt. Johnstone is the poetry editor at Palimpsest Press, and an associate editor at Representative Poetry Online. He lives in Toronto.

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Laura Trethewey lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where she’s writing a collection of non-fiction essays about why people are on the ocean. Her writing has been published in The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, and The Globe & Mail and been nominated for a National Magazine Award. Find her online at lauratrethewey.tumblr.com and on Twitter @ltrethew.

Daniel Scott Tysdal

Daniel Scott Tysdal is the author of three books of poetry, Fauxccasional Poems (icehouse 2015), The Mourner’s Book of Albums (Tightrope 2010), and Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method (Coteau 2006), and the poetry textbook The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems (Oxford University Press 2014). His work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope 2011) and Best Canadian Essays (Tightrope 2014), and has earned him the ReLit Award for Poetry (2007), the Matrix Lit Pop Award (2010), and honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards (2003). He is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, in the Department of English at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

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Swoon Spring 2016 forthcoming on March 12!

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Happy Holidays 2015

Happy Holidays from Swoon!

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Swoon hosts Ruth Daniell & Sierra Skye Gemma at Swoon Fall 2015

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Swoon Fall 2015 was a loverly success

Swoon Fall 2015’s event happened on November 14, 2015 and featured performances by (from left to right) Francine Cunningham, Elise Marcella Godfrey, Laura Ritland, Josh Massey, and Maureen Medved. We may be biased, but that’s one lovely, good-looking bunch of authors right there.

Thanks to all our authors for sharing such lovely work with us, and to our audience members, who showed so much love for what we do.

Swoon Authors Fall 2015

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