So, last summer, I was pretty sure that that would be the last time I would be managing editor for this website. I was absolutely sure. But then again, I was also sure that COVID-19 would never make it to Canada, never mind Fredericton, New Brunswick. So, what we've learned during this whole venture is that I am often wrong and you should never listen to me.
No but really, thank you so much for having me for the last two years. This really has been a transformative work experience and I value every opportunity I've been given here. As I sign-off for the last time here, I'd like to acknowledge everyone whose work helped build this website while I was here.
First of all, thank you to my predecessors Kathleen Pond and Katlin Copeland, former managing editors of the Atlantic Canadian Poets' Archive and Poetic Places Fredericton, respectively. They both made it as painless as possible for me to take over their roles and further develop their projects.
Thank you to all of the poets who've donated their work to us over the last two years: Tadhg Saxa Cooper, Jacob McArthur Mooney, Margo Wheaton, Grace Butler Difalco, and Cyril Welch on behalf of Liliane Welch. I would personally like to give special thanks to Agnes Walsh, Jenna Lyn Albert, and Ross Leckie for granting permissions to poems for entries and analyses that I wrote and co-wrote. But also, thank you to all the essayists who contributed their analyses. Since we don't have a page dedicated to the contributing writers, I'll be linking all their names to the pieces they wrote: Dana P. MacDonald, Sara Nason, Kathleen Pond, Erica Marrison, Neomi Iancu Haliva, Gillian Little, Caelin Sullivan, Claude Chartier, and Charlotte Simmons.
Thank you to all the student poets who agreed to interviews and to donate some of their work: Sara Nason, Lexi McCormack, Heather Clark, Charlotte Simmons, Eddie Dust, and Tyler Haché. If you'd like to read those interviews and their poetry, or any of the other blog entries since I've been here, all of my blog posts can be found between the June 2018 and August 2020 tabs on the blog archives to the right of this post.
Finally, thank you to my boss, Kathleen McConnell, and to you, who've read the pieces we've published here.
Be seeing you,
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (translated by William Weaver)
Jane, Unlimited by Kristine Cashore
First recommended and loaned to me by my boss Kathy when I started working for her in 2018, I then picked up my own copies of these books.
Going Around with Bachelors by Agnes Walsh
I co-wrote an analysis with Dana P. MacDonald based on a poem in this book.
You Can't Stay Here by Jasmina Odor
One Year Later by RM Vaughan
These two launched their books together at the Fredericton Public Library in 2018.
Rising by Al Cusack
Goodbye Horses by Nathaniel G. Moore
Little Wild by Curtis LeBlanc
This Will Be Good by Mallory Tater
Four texts on sale from performers at a book launch I went to at The Abbey in Fredericton, 2018.
Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
Eye Level by Jenny Xie
Recommended to me by Heather Clark in our interview, as part of a series of interviews in 2019.
Recommended to me by Charlotte Simmons in our interview.
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara
Recommended to me by Eddie Dust in our interview.
Earthly Pages by Don Domanski (edited by Brian Bartlett)
Recommended to me by Tyler Haché in our interview.
Bec & Call by Jenna Lyn Albert
I wrote an analysis based on a poem in this book.
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo
Attack of the Copula Spiders by Douglas Glover
A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins
Write Moves: A Creative Writing Guide and Anthology by Nancy Pagh
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut
I picked up all these books as part of Kathy's Wording Around with Prose webinars.
Drumbeats by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart
A gift from my boss Kathy. I'm a huge Rush fan!
Gravity's Plumb Line by Ross Leckie
I co-wrote an analysis with Claude Chartier and Charlotte Simmons based on a poem in this book.
As part of ACPA creator Kathy Mac's "Wording Around with Prose" webinars, ACPA managing editor Jamie Kitts responds to their chosen text for lesson 2.1: Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. This blogpost covers Chapter 10: "Writing the Wounded Body," and the Epilogue, "From Silence to Testimony."
Well, we're at the end. I have mixed feelings about this book. While I found the first few chapters to be really useful in a skill-building sense, everything past that point felt either unhelpful or needlessly complex. Which is too bad because I think there are some very strong points to this book.
I think if it could have kept pushing readers to develop skills in one area it would have felt more helpful. But as it stands I felt like I was getting a whole semester of a great creative writing course squished into 10 chapters in a really uneven way. Chapters 1-4 feel like they could be classes 1-4, and as such feel like they're building in an appropriate way. The writing exercises in those chapters all fit neatly into the 20-minute journaling exercise and really made that standard exercise feel unique and guided. But then everything after that feels like either a set of classes cut short or several classes condensed into one chapter. The last section in particular, Chapters 9-10, feel like the whole final month of a semester squished into 50 pages. They're not particularly satisfying to read, even though the ideas are very compelling. If nothing else, nearly every chapter gave me something to think about and sent me in a direction I was happy to think in.
But as you can tell, since there's no mention of it so far, Chapter 10 is the only one I couldn't connect to. It asks questions of the body that I can't relate to right now. Chapters 9 and 10 are about the same length and focus on the mind and body, respectively, and I have so much more to think about about thinking than I do my body (which is probably its own interesting consideration but for now I'm drawing a big blank).
Honestly, my biggest complaint is DeSalvo's writing. Not that I'm one to talk, but the quality of the prose is not that high. DeSalvo often summarizes and quotes other writers, including some of her former students, and never fail every time I think, Could I just read that book instead? I only bring it up because of all the books on writing I've read, this is easily the least engaging as a reading experience. But as a thinking experience, as a practical experience, I got more than a few neat ideas and some good writing practice to keep up with.
Overall I do recommend the book, but I especially recommend the Epilogue to any writers currently in a workshop or workshop-style class. I spoke with a friend a while back about how critique works and how much we dislike the lack of empathy a workshop group may engender. And I don't say that as though I haven't played a part in that. When I was doing my Concentration in Creative Writing, I earned a reputation for being a very harsh critic, but paradoxically also a very close and personal confidant for more than a few people as a deeply caring empath. I am nothing if not relentlessly passionate for my friends and their work but I also do not hold back on my thoughts about their work. I've spoken with a few people about this and I've never gotten a consensus about whether I need an attitude adjustment, but I've felt for the last little while that I absolutely do. So, I recommend the Epilogue to Writing as a Way of Healing because it touches on how to be an effective and helpful reader/listener, because God could I have used that a while ago and I'm sure someone else could use it now.
As part of ACPA creator Kathy Mac's "Wording Around with Prose" webinars, ACPA managing editor Jamie Kitts responds to their chosen text for lesson 2.1: Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. This blogpost covers Chapter 9: "Writing the Wounded Psyche."
So, I know I said at the end of the last blogpost that, due to the heavy nature of that chapter's content and the direction it took me in, that I would keep those thoughts private. I still don't intend to tell you what those thoughts were. But today's chapter also takes readers into some heavy places and I can't just keep saying "Come back tomorrow when the content won't be heavy." Instead I'll try to hold to that (flawed and ultimately hurtful) writing maxim to make the personal impersonal.
Early in chapter 9, DeSalvo speaks about Alice Walker and Walker's reasons for writing. Walker's work is all in service of avoiding self-destruction and passing those coping skills to readers through her fiction. This rings true very particularly with myself and many writers in my circle; so many of us write in order to make sense of trauma in some form or another.
Several of us are managing a lot of anger right now. I live in the Canadian Province of New Brunswick (as opposed to New Brunswick, New Jersey, which I just learned is a real place). I know more people angry at our Premier than I do otherwise. I myself have been very vocal about my feelings. I scared someone pretty badly with some of the things I've had on my mind because I in turn am terrified by the direction things are going in. But also, I know my views and fears are not only matched, but some friends have even stronger views. So, if you think I'm scary, you should meet the rest of the heathens.
But even with all that righteous energy it can be easy to lose sight of another goal: to break this perfect circle and stop perpetuating the same hurt that got us here in the first place. I lost sight of this today and last week. That person I scared was someone I care about very much. We've made up and made good on what happened. But what I thought I was hearing was not actually what they were saying. I thought I was hearing someone turn on me; they thought I was in a crisis and a danger to myself, to say the least. Turns out we were both very wrong about what we were saying to each other.
However, there is some truth here that I wasn't totally ready to cede earlier. DeSalvo brings up the poet Jane Redmont and her life-lessons following psychiatric treatment: "the way oppression breeds depression... go beyond the biochemical and the intrapsychic, even beyond the family system, to the larger structure and events that shape our lives" (qtd. in DeSalvo). I'm normally very aware of my mental illness and health challenges. Actually, I requested my boss to let me start this work term in late June because I'd just started a new medication near the end of May and I knew it would affect my performance. But I always underestimate the environmental factors. Because it's true, my mental health is not well, and I suspect the same of several friends, especially those invested in seeing Clinic 554 stay open in Fredericton. Just like the weather climate affects our bodies, the political climate affects our minds.
As part of ACPA creator Kathy Mac's "Wording Around with Prose" webinars, ACPA managing editor Jamie Kitts responds to their chosen text for lesson 2.1: Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. This blogpost covers Chapter 8: "Stages of the Process, Stages of Growth II."
While I was reading this chapter I realized that I'm basically reading the book version of a show called The Midnight Gospel. It's only eight episodes long, but each episode is a conversation with a person about how they learned to embrace the traumas that rocked their lives and turn them into the points from which they begin to heal. It's also a completely mind-bending animated series so, if cartoons and weird images aren't your thing or you don't want to pay for Netflix, the source material for that show is a podcast called The Duncan Trussell Family Hour. Give either of these a shot if, like me, you're trying to get to a spot where you can let go of some stuff that's weighing you down.
Also there's a recipe for biscotti in this chapter and here's how that turned out.
That's it, that's the post. Sorry. This was an emotionally heavy chapter and I think that material needs to stay with me for now. See you next time.
As part of ACPA creator Kathy Mac's "Wording Around with Prose" webinars, ACPA managing editor Jamie Kitts responds to their chosen text for lesson 2.1: Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. This blogpost covers Chapter 7: "Stages of the Process, Stages of Growth I."
I'm drawn to a particular passage in DeSalvo's book today about how we spend our time, and about what the day means as an example of the life. Thoreau speaks of this, and as DeSalvo points out, so does May Sarton. So, here's a little bit about how I spend my day and what I like to think about.
I love video games. I often like to acclimate to new games by thinking about how it feels to move, because games are ultimately about negotiating a space. I like to think about how it feels to move. The physical controller in your hand does not change often, so we take for granted how different it feels to move in each game, even though the physical device is a static object. But you know intuitively that there's a difference. Even if you can't explain it, you can feel it.
I ask myself, How does it feel to move? How does it feel to extend your will in this new world? Is the lightning in your hand unwieldy? Are those legs taking you where you think you should be? How does it feel to be? What is stillness? Is it agitation? Is it padding? Is it tense? What do you want? Does an arrow or a waypoint trace your trajectory, or does the world beckon you without objective? Are you confined in this body, in its world?
How does it feel to breathe in this body?
I think, probably, everyone who reads this has no idea what I'm talking about because this is a poetry website and I doubt the crossover audience between poetry and video games is high (although, hey, here I am). But I hope you can appreciate what I'm trying to get across: each game feels unique, and we map ourselves unto our avatars imperfectly. Maybe this would explain it: think about the little stick you push to move your character around as a metaphor. You push up to move them up, but you aren't mimicking walking. You have to take the mental leap to understand that pushing the stick up means moving forward. Like writing, whether we enjoy a game comes down to how well we can abandon ourselves.
We project into media, even if aware of the medium. At some point that boundary loses its immediacy as a mediator and instead becomes you. How you move through a world is also how that world moves you. We feel these things intuitively, manifesting as physical, emotional, or intellectual sensations, and we can train ourselves to better understand movement as we feel it. We feel these things because we can make those jumps without consciously trying to. We feel these things because on some level we know they should be.
But to move someone else somewhere else, to see something not really in front of you but to feel the emotional turmoil of someone's demise and success, to move and be moved without leaving physical safety: that's more than desire, more than a "wound of reality."
These are not ghosts in our hands. As much as they are someone else's dreams, they are not the sole architects of this connection. The audience is no mere spectator when their actions are the player's. We become in this channel, if only for a moment, the realization of another possibility. If cinema is a haunting from our idealized alternatives, if film can only inflict and not receive, then games are a communion.
I've been thinking a lot lately about whether video games are a spiritual experience, in as much as any text can be transformative.
Anyway, that's what I do with my days, what I think about.
As part of ACPA creator Kathy Mac's "Wording Around with Prose" webinars, ACPA managing editor Jamie Kitts responds to their chosen text for lesson 2.1: Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. This blogpost covers Chapter 6: "Caring for Ourselves as We Write."
So, DeSalvo briefly touches on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up as an intro to talking about self-reflection. I think I may need to find a copy for myself. What I read of it in DeSalvo's book and on the Crack-Up Wikipedia page makes it sound very relevant to some of the things I've been trying to work through.
I have a bad habit of being a people-pleaser. I change the way I speak or express myself to suit the people I'm speaking with. I think most people who know me might read this and be shocked, because I'm very, very vocal about what's most important to me. But it's true. It's not that I'm lying, but rather than appreciate the multitude inside me, I highlight one aspect and let that speak for me.
Maybe this is something other people do, I don't know. If it is, actually, if this is something you do and you're thinking "Everyone does this," well let me ask you: How are you not completely exhausted by it? I don't mean merely that this is tiring in the figurative sense, so let me ask a follow-up: When you do this, when you choose to represent only a part of yourself and make the rest of you quiet, do you require several hours to lie down and do nothing just to achieve equilibrium? Do you spend that time hating yourself so much that said equilibrium is not really a pristine mind palace so much as a garbage heap? Do you (figuratively) feel like launching yourself off a bridge just so you never have to speak to anyone again? I sincerely hope you've answered "No" to each question.
I don't have Fitzgerald's alcoholism but I do have as many bad habits of reducing the person I am just to make other people happy and I'm finally starting to push back on that. Like him, I've also realized that I've let other people dictate the kinds of relationships I should have instead of figuring out the ones I actually want. For example, did you know that aromanticism and asexuality are a thing? They even have their own spectrums. Gotta be honest, I find their ideas pretty compelling, to say the least.
My brain often says one thing, but my heart says another. I know logically that I need to forgive, but my heart demands "Never." According to Fitzgerald and DeSalvo, that's exactly where I need to start working from.
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