A pinhole projects
the moon topping the sun
onto Portia’s palm
A pinhole projects
Simple pleasure: diving inside a night tank while bubbles ascend and whales from the Saint Lawrence materialize and vaporize, pin eyes black in white lumpy heads.
The radiant poet Adèle Barclay is here to discuss furry armpits, fuzzy legs, pretty pubes, and why having hair makes her feel feral and alive! Adèle is all about the pursuit of joy, and shaving just doesn't factor into that joy. We also chat queerness, the politics of hair care, and why grooming in service of a partner can be soul-crushing, totally fun, or somewhere in between. If you love discussions that overcomplicate issues of beauty and womanhood, then oh boy oh girl you're in for a treat.
A maternal figure in my life recently wrote me to say she struggles with poetry precisely because it exists as a place between thinking and feeling—a place we’re out of the habit of visiting, let alone dwelling. But then there are some poems that shake you and bring you back to the space that flickers between pathos and logos. Kai Cheng Thom’s a place called No Homeland is the hearth of such a real yet imagined place. These are poems that live with paradox, straddling both myth and reality. In a place called No Homeland, Thom transposes the energy of queer punk spoken word onto the page. The result is a vulnerable, shimmering debut.
Throughout the collection, Thom commits to bringing queer, trans, and racialized bodies to the forefront. The inaugural poem, “diaspora babies,” tells us there are “stories that are never told / but known / nonetheless we bake them into bread / fill buns with secrets.” For Thom, these repressed histories endure despite their marginalization. They exist materially and spiritually in unexamined corners and baked into daily bread, nourishing the poet. Later in the poem she writes “some poems / cannot be written / just felt,” inviting us into her poetic (no) home—that space between thinking and feeling. These invocations initiate us into the world of the collection where tales of the oppressed emerge from their “invisible ink” and “ghost children drawing maps in the margins” sing themselves into vibrant existence.
What unfolds in the following poems are new geographies, both difficult and sublime. Thom transforms Vancouver into a “concrete rainforest / sequestered in silence / sea-hungry cavernous” in “downtown beastside,” blending mysticism and grittiness in a way that resonates sincerely with the fraught cityscape. Similarly, “the river” begins with a covert lesson in oral history and geography:
someone told me once
that a secret river flows
under every street
in every chinatown in every city
The poem sprawls beautifully, proceeding gently, at first, with the soothing alliteration:
this river speaks
in a secret language that sounds like
And then the poem rushes into the rapids of brutal revolution: “darling, when your revolution comes, i will not be here, / when the towers start to burn, i will be the first to die.” Many of Thom’s poems deploy this bold, storytelling voice, foregrounding the wisdom of what is said, experienced, lived, rumoured, and gossiped in lieu of traditional history with its myopia of normativity. a place called No Homeland consistently examines the collisions that marginalized identities encounter. And through this, Thom finds, “there is a poem waiting deep below.”
Adèle Barclay’s poems and criticism have appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Puritan, PRISM international, The Literary Review of Canada, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection is If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You (Nightwood, 2016). She is the 2017 Critic-in-Residence for CWILA. She lives in Vancouver.
Jessica Johns spoke with Arielle Spence, a queer, nonbinary aspiring writer and arts administrator originally from Coldstream, BC (unceded Okanagan Territory). They were the festival director of Growing Room 2017, Room’s inaugural feminist literary festival, one of the assistant editors of the forthcoming queer issue, and are currently editing Room's Magic issue. Here’s a sneak peak of the RoomMate interview.
Whether you’re building a New Year’s resolution reading list or hoping to renew your faith in #CanLit, we at Room are here to help. This list of some of our most beloved fiction, poetry, and non-fiction books by queer Canadian writers, compiled by fourteen members of the Room collective, is a great place to start.
Welcome to Room's coverage of the 2016 Vancouver Queer Film Festival! We will be updating this space regularly as we add new reviews of festival films.
Currently on Newsstands
Room 41.3, Queer
Edited by Leah Golob
In this issue:
Adèle Barclay, Joelle Barron, Nicole Breit, Mary Chen, Lucas Crawford, Jen Currin, Pamela Dodds, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Jess Goldman, hannah harris-sutro, Leah Horlick, Sam Jowett, Ness Lee, Annick MacAskill, Alessandra Naccarato, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Marika Prokosh, Amal Rana, Siobhan Roca Payne, Leah Sandals, Hana Shafi, Arielle Spence, Samantha Sternberg, Sanchari Sur, K.B. Thors, Corey Turner, Jackie Wykes.