REVIEW: THIS WOUND IS A WORLD | BY BILLY-RAY BELCOURT

Frontenac House | 2017 | 64 Page | $19.95 | Purchase online

Reviewed by Hannah Karpinski on Lemonhound 3.0:

Belcourt’s body, which has been subject to marginalizing inscriptions against both queerness and Indigeneity, tethers him to a world in which “native means lonely and lonely feels a lot like dying.” He escapes this associative “death” by overflowing the body, exceeding its limits, and remaining unfixed. What solution does he offer? Love: “love is the clumsy name we give to a body spilling outside itself.” Spilling resists fixity, and Belcourt acknowledges the ephemerality of acts of intimacy, whether platonic and familial, such as the moments with his kookum, or sexual- and lust-driven desire; “to be native and queer / …is to bandage the wounds with strangers / you met an hour ago.” These polarities of love, and all of the points in between, are generative. Eventually, the “wounds start to work like bandages,” and loneliness becomes “an affective common of sorts.” “Everyone is lonely / but no one knows / what to do about it.” Belcourt takes this existential loneliness and, within it, envisions a heaven in which “everyone / [is] at least a little gay.”

The title of the book implicates the body and colonial trauma that exceeds the body as thematically relevant. Belcourt finds in “woundedness” a potential for transforming what leaks out into a sort of world-building ectoplasm. If “the body is an assemblage…of everyone who’s ever moved us, for better or for worse” (59), Belcourt builds a world from this love, from these relations. The alternative world is one in which the body is not central. The body does not delimit queer Indigenous potentiality or the “utopian pulse of sad stories.” While Whitehead acknowledges that “CanLit is burning…[and he’s] waiting to relish in its ashes,” Belcourt writes Indigenous literature in which “native boys / find each other’s bodies / … each kiss [is] an act of defiance / a kind of [radically different] nation-building effort.” As he gestures at the importance of staying connected to others, poetry is what leaks onto the page, leaving “the abandoned house of [the poet].”

 

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