Excited About Everything: Arielle Twist

Interview by 
Isabella Wang
Arielle Twist

A series in which Isabella is excited about everything that is happening at Growing Room 2019, so she sat down with some festival authors to hear about their work, and what events they are most excited to take part in. Learn more about the 2019 Growing Room festival by visiting our website, festival.roommagazine.com.

Arielle Twist is an author and community educator from George Gordons First Nation, Saskatchewan. Disintegrate/Dissociate is her first collection of poetry with Arsenal Pulp Press.

ROOM: Hello, Arielle, how are you? Your book, Disintegrate/Dissociate, just came out with Arsenal Pulp Press. HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! These poems form a bridge between the present and the past, through your identity as Indigenous trans woman and those lines that I love, “I will sing with no voice, no language, no song, can you hear it?” This is your debut collection, too! Take us as far back to the writing process of writing this book, when it began. How does it feel now that it’s out there?

AT: Hey Isabellaaaa! I’m good, excited to be flying for a billion hours to visit you and all the amazing people at Room & Indigenous Brilliance!

YES! My book’s pub date is March 1st and that is so close and so exciting.

It’s definitely unnerving to have people reading my work period. As someone who’s second anniversary of even trying to write a poem is coming this march as well, I feel like I’ve had a ton of growth since the beginning of this book. I hope that when people look at this collection, they see the wobbly first steps of a writer in their first year of exploring this craft of weaving words and what they take from it is the emotionality and rawness of a new voice in the world—I never thought I could ever be a writer and I’m grateful to be so held in this moment and have the momentum I have in a field I have no training and/or experience in before jumping headfirst into it in March 2017!

ROOM: I was so swept by your piece, “Soakers,” in the first creative nonfiction issue of The Fiddlehead that was edited by Alicia Elliot. This essay, much like the structure of your book, is a non-linear weave of the past. During that time, we see grief and pain and how that ‘hardens’, but this absolutely beautiful poem before your opening lines also looks towards healing:

I can feel the birch tree
peeling like it’s my own skin
It’s painful to watch, I know
But I promise I will be soft
again.

AT: This piece was written in the midst of a weird writer’s block —I had just come back from Banff a month before and I felt burnt out and, in a place, where I felt I couldn’t create anything worthwhile. While writing this it was all sad shit, and as you can tell by the structure of it, I left most of the sadness in the piece. I wanted to write something that was honest and compelling but also wanted to veer away from only sharing ndn suffering so I left the piece alone for a few weeks and focused on thing IRL, and that’s when I met Benjamin—who at the time was the push I needed to create something that was fuelled by hope. learning to love him was how this weird too sad too honest CNF writing blob took the shape it did about regaining a softness I found in the roof of another person’s mouth and weaving these histories with some kind of love that was new and unpredictable was the only hope I had in the Spring. it’s painful coming into my life as I’m in the midst of becoming, but he let me peel and become and ultimately made me softer than I’ve ever been—and I’m grateful to him for that.

ROOM: This isn’t the first time that you’ve integrated poetry with other disciplines. You are also a multi-media artist. Your recent exhibition at The Khyber Centre for the Arts, Vacant Faces, featured your poetry in part with sculptures by Haudenoshaunee and Onyota'a:ka artist Brandon Hoax. Would you like to tell us more to this piece, how this collaboration came to be, or about some of your other multi-media pieces that’s been displayed?

AT: This collaboration was complicated, as I think most collaborations are!

Brandon is a dear friend of mine and we combined some of our past works together to create something new with the un-use of space and the playing with shadows and masks in this new space the Khyber created to highlight artists in an accessible, free, way. I also am working on a photo series titles ASTAM which will be exhibited at Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, ON and at The Centre for Art Tapes in Halifax, NS later this spring alongside my poetry.

ROOM: You are coming from out of town, is that right? Besides the festival, is there some other aspect of Vancouver that you are planning/would like to see?

AT: Yes! I’m flying in from Halifax. Uhm, I don’t really know much about Vancouver as a city, what there is too see and what’s really worth my time! Room has a bitch busy and I have an event everyday I’m in the city and will want to just hangout and eat, cry and laugh with my indigenous kin and (hopefully) new friends since I’ll be moving and travelling for the next month.

ROOM: We have you featuring in several panels and readings, including “Indigenous Brilliance,” “Kinship Bonds: The Love that Holds,” “Invisible Womxn,” and “Cut to the Feeling: A Night of Queerotica.”  But tell me, what are some other events that you are most keen on attending?

AT: I’m. So. Excited. For. Indigenous. Brilliance—it's consuming meee! I can’t wait to meet amazing authors and creators but honestly what I am the keenest on is meeting and taking up space with neechies and celebrating each other and all the incredible work we do!

ROOM: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me, Arielle. I’m so excited to have you for Growing Room 2019!

Isabella Wang’s debut poetry chapbook is forthcoming with Baseline press in 2019. At 18, she is the youngest two-time finalist and writer shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Essay Contest. Her poetry and prose have appeared in over a dozen literary journals, and she holds a pushcart prize nomination in poetry. She studying English and World Literature at SFU, interning at Room Magazine, serving as the Youth Advocate for the BC Federation of Writers, and co-ordinating the bi-weekly Dead Poets Reading Series.

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