POETS RESIST: NPM ON ALL LIT UP, WEEK 2

This content has been provided by All Lit Up, an online bookstore and blog run by the Literary Press Group for readers of emerging, quirky, and unabashedly Canadian literature by some of Canada’s finest independent publishers.

Here we are, already halfway through National Poetry Month! Over on the All Lit Up blog, poets continue to resist colonialism, violence, transphobia, and homophobia — here’s a short look at All Lit Up’s second week of NPM (and the tail end of week one):

Day five of #poetsresist gives us something to get loud about: Peter Midgley’s Unquiet Bones (Wolsak & Wynn) features visceral, physical poems that explore struggles for democracy around the globe, speak to efforts to uproot colonialism while working in a variety of languages and even referencing traditional African poem forms.

ALU: What does poetry as resistance mean to you? 

I don’t know that I necessarily see poetry as resistance (anymore). As the German director, Heiner Muller once said, “I am neither a hope nor a dope dealer.” Resistance can promise both. It attempts to place you outside; in opposition to something. That is one-dimensional, which poetry is not. Besides, I am neither outside nor am I wholly inside. As a poet, I am in the middle of things, looking outward in all directions. Looking in from all angles. I write about and from within, looking in and out. I do not write against or in opposition. Poetry tears apart and poetry rebuilds. It questions and interrogates. If that is “resistance,” then that is what it means to me.

Read the full interview with Peter Midgley, as well as an excerpt from Unquiet Bones, on the All Lit Up blog.

As a screenwriter, essayist, biographer, and poet, Christopher Gudgeon writes poetry that pulls at you. Today’s poem, “Future Tops of America” (from his latest collection  Assdeep in Wonder from Anvil Press), paints a near-wholesome picture of a future where those in the LGBTQ+ community are embraced in America like baseball and fireworks are, defiant to present-day homophobia. March on with “Future Tops” and our interview with Christopher, below.

ALU: Why “Future Tops of America”?

CG: “Future Tops” is probably the most overtly political piece I’ve ever written. It’s both a tribute to men and women – and children – who have been killed in homophobic attacks in America AND a cautionary song for those of us still marching and all those LGBTQ soldiers yet to come. We’ve won a lot of ground in the last thirty years, but don’t kid yourselves; there are organized and sustained efforts out there waiting to undermine these advances. Homophobia, like racism, is stitched into the fabric of America; it doesn’t go away just because Ellen has a talk show. The fact that we are accepted by mainstream culture is in itself a defeat – or at least, a battle yet to be won. Acceptance is a kind of tolerance, and not only is tolerance a manifestation of power imbalance, it’s also nothing more than intolerance dressed up in its Sunday best. The day we are completely ignored – that’s when we’ll have arrived. Till then: march on, brothers and sisters, but be very, very careful.

Read the full interview with Christopher Gudgeon, as well as an excerpt from Assdeep in Wonder, on the All Lit Up blog.

A collection of observations and confessions, Zoe Whittall’s The Emily Valentine Poems (Invisible Publishing) ranges from haikus on porn to fan mail addressed to Molly Ringwald. The poems are unpredictable in form, and daring in content, challenging notions of femininity. Read a sample poem below, and an interview with Zoe Whittall.

ALU: If you were protesting homophobia and/or transphobia, what would your protest sign read?

ZW: Gosh, I’ve been doing this, formally and informally, for 22 years since I came out in 1995. I don’t really have a pithy slogan for a sign. Right now I’m very upset by how newly vocal and emboldened alt-right Nazis have really taken up anti-trans rhetoric and violence, and how that is influencing the cultural conversations that mainstream liberal folks—who wouldn’t think of being homophobic in this day and age—and confusing people who wouldn’t otherwise be your average hatemonger. They are fooled into thinking that recognizing the humanity of trans people is a free speech issue. I remember when it was becoming more socially acceptable to be gay, and lots of people used the same straw-man argument about free speech that they’re using now against trans people. I don’t think there’s a wave of new transphobia; it’s always been there. But since trans people have been gaining visibility and some (very basic) rights, it isn’t really transphobia we’re seeing; it’s people who understand who trans people are and react with hatred.

Read the full interview with Zoe Whittall, as well as an excerpt from The Emily Valentine Poems, on the All Lit Up blog.

Two-spirit Anishinaabe and Métis poet Gwen Benaway alternately stuns and heals in her latest collection of poetry, Passage (Kegedonce Press). Gwen shares her strength-giving poem “Ceremony” in today’s #poetsresist interview, and how poetry “is the space I make myself whole.”

ALU: Why did you write this collection?

GB: I’m interested in the relationship between Indigenous women, our ancestral lands, and our sovereignty over our bodies. I write to reconnect myself to my body and my race. I travel to my ancestors in my poetry and I view every poem as prayer. I return to what I’ve lost. I make the discarded pieces whole. I mythologize my gender and sexuality.

I try to break a path for other Indigenous people, women, men, and 2 Spirit. I want to show us as vibrant and embodied, as desirable and powerful, as complete and rooted in our worldviews. I guess I’m responding to genocide with a celebration of what still sings in us. I have a line at the end of Passage, the last line I think in the book, which is “the land goes on, even if I can’t.” That’s what I’m doing: connecting generations of my people through my writing to our land and passing that connection onward to the next generation.

Read the full interview with Gwen Benaway, as well as an excerpt from Passage, on the All Lit Up blog.

Jane Byers’ Acquired Community (Caitlin Press) is a poetic history of lesbian and gay movements in North America along with first-person poems about coming out, and a truly powerful example of the political being personal. Below we share the poem “Gay Bashing” from the collection, and get Jane’s thoughts on poetry as resistance.

ALU: If you were protesting homophobia and/or transphobia, what would your protest sign read?

JB:I would go back to an old classic LOVE>HATE.

ALU:Why did you write this collection?

JB:I wrote this collection because I was consumed by shame and coming out in the early ‘90s that I didn’t contribute much to the gay community. This is a way of giving back, of telling stories that need to be told, that none of us learned in the history books in school.

Read the full interview with Jane Byers, as well as an excerpt from Acquired Community, on the All Lit Up blog.