Sunday, February 5, 2023

Rayanne Haines : The Convincing Impulse to Write





It is February 1st, 2023, and I am now one-month out of my one-year role as Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries. I served libraries in Fort Saskatchewan, Sherwood Park, and St. Albert, though in truth worked with writers from across Alberta and even one person in Texas, who’d previously lived in Edmonton for many years. I could offer stats — approximately one hundred and twenty one-on-one consultations, 13 writing workshops, 12 writers interviewed for both the library and my podcast, and 7 new poems / essays accepted for publication in journals. Further, many unexpected teaching and performance gigs came my way because of, I assume, a direct result of my position. I went into the role intending to complete a fun dystopian novel-in-progress and then my mom’s cancer became an undertow, and I could only write about grief. And then my mother died, and I could only write about grief. Some experts say to write from the scab not the wound, yet, the wound it became, and still is. So, the dystopian novel is on the shelf for now, as I write through this moment.

Being writer in residence was a gift. My JOB was to write. And this allowed me a place to go within the grieving process. I am thankful. And I’m thankful to for other writers, folks like rob mclennan who offered patience and understanding as deadlines passed and promised material from me did not surface. And now, I’m here, one-month out of my gig, reflecting on everything it meant to me. Being a Writer in Residence is, in some ways, an exercise in celebrating tenacity. It takes stamina to consider writing a book. Most of the people I spoke with had no MFA or network to support their goal. I became the support person. The responsibility of that is powerful. Both in terms of the personal, and emotional investment in another writer’s work. This is not a job we clock off from. Even with half my time being over Zoom, I took their stories with me to dinner, to the gym. I dreamt about ways I could offer the right support needed for each person. I became invested in their life and career. My experience was deeply satisfying, even as it was deeply challenging. Finding ways to offer critique or suggesting a story may not be as ready as some writers hoped was demanding. Certain new writers simply needed someone to hear them. I was happy to listen, though it became clear to me early on that I had to set boundaries. As WIR, I created a series of standardized replies to help get conversations started after initial emails. Occasionally people hoped for full manuscript evaluations or long-term one-on-one mentorships. To protect myself from my desire to help everyone in all ways, it was imperative I learned how to say no.

I began most appointments with a conversation around critiquing and how a suggestion was never personal — only an examination of the work. This seemed to put most people at ease. In workshops I explained at the outset that we were only reaching into things rather than having expectations of perfection. I walk away from this WIR gig rooted in community. I remain hopeful that a few of the writers I spoke with found those roots as well. I hope, equally, that a few found merit in the gift of patience. The WIR gig did not get old — I worked with people from age 6 to 90 and the stories shared were fascinating, enlightening, heartbreaking and silly. Some people were looking for a nudge, others for someone to tell them their voice was worth listening to. Some had intricate and complex needs around character and story scaffolding. I’m terribly excited for those writers who are well on their way to finding publication.

As I work through writing this new collection, I keep thinking about the advice I so often offered — to sit with patience and interruption. The interruption of perfection is a wonderful tool in a writer’s toolbox and perhaps this became another unexpected gift. As I continue my grieving and writing, I understand that writing the wound is imperfect. For me that is what makes the impulse to continue so convincing.




Rayanne Haines (she/her) is an author, educator, and cultural producer. She was the 2022 Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries, and is the author of three poetry collections, and a four-part commercial market urban fantasy series. She hosts the literary podcast Crow Reads, is the VP for the League of Canadian Poets, and teaches with MacEwan University. Her collection Tell the Birds Your Body Is Not A Gun won the 2022 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the ReLit Award and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Award.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

David Phillips : from HERE / HERE



For Barrie



just now, barrie asking personally

speak to me.

goodbye, hello


to H with it

(the wise say let go)


streets walked 22 years ago, same place, always.

won’t pretend



who among us will make of this space

anything more wonderful


god willing.

                     all day the cold lovely November winds blow

down the Coast, cold & bright

the whistling ducks lift in the waves of a real ocean.


come home dear heart.

no need to hurry: the drift & currents move us

sweet they swirl.


the soft embrace of these words— their touch secures


                         you are here & here.


you are it

& it is






keeping your promise to the last word


there is one

a last word


a last


laugh.       gazing out & dreaming a passage.


no end


the pen in your hand,

the pending sentence

the long line, life to the end of              it


life lines.    read me your reason.







David Phillips [pictured with bpNichol] lives on the Sunshine Coast BC. His poetry books include: The Dream Outside (Coach House Press, 1967), Wave (Talon Books, 1970), The Coherence (Talon Books, 1971-1972), The Book of Snow Poems (54 40 Press, 1972), Wild Roses (Preston John, 1976) and The kiss : poems 1972-1977 (Coach House Press, 1979). With Hope Anderson, he edited the anthology The Body (Tatlow House, 1979). His poems have appeared in Capilano Review, Iron, Ant’s Fore Foot as well as the chapbooks, Wake Me When the Dancing Starts (Caledonia Writing Series, 1978), Wild Roses (Preston John, 1977) and David Phillips Poems (edited by Maggie Guzzi; Tatlow House, 2022). A chapbook is forthcoming with above/ground press.

Process Note #10 : Colin Partch : Sharp Said

The 'process notes' pieces were originally solicited by Maw Shein Win as addendum to her teaching particular poems and poetry collections for various workshops and classes. These poems and process note by Colin Partch is part of her curriculum for her Poetry Workshop at University of San Francisco in their MFA Program for Spring semester of 2023.





I’ll do my best to describe the process for writing Sharp Said, the manuscript I’m drawing from here. Truthfully, think I went half-mad writing these poems. There was something I wanted so desperately to say, but couldn’t; something that, whenever said straight, would dissolve like tissue paper. I started looking for forms that might support what I felt. Maybe I was casting a spell. And it cost something, not time or money but energy. I had to learn how to get out of my own way. Writing meant abandoning memory, politics, identity, sentiment—giving way to every word from my mouth silently.




our father is a bronze casting, an eagle

a lovely canvas


I am held together by wire,

I imagine my son watching



I look into a mirror and see the shadow of an animal

Sometimes I do not speak for weeks

I rove the country

They will not find me here





A torch is waiting

in our breach of history


Don’t shut the door on my skin


I keep a movie version of myself

drunk in the backseat


Brother our presence is



We etch each other on



As a window betrays the

steam of horses


An arm

of seawater runs

through my mouth



I listened to my stutter, something I usually tried to hide. The stutter—an embarrassment, a curiosity, a ghost. I always felt mastered by it. How do you defeat a reflex, a shadow, an echo? Some people laugh at it, others are fascinated by it, most don’t care or don’t notice. There’s an edge to the stutter. We still have shibboleths: words that distinguish insiders from outsiders. That hesitation before giving my name, age, or origin is enough to give the game away. Ironically, even when I pass the shibboleth by pronouncing the word “correctly”, I don’t do it the way I’m supposed to. The stutter opens up a gap between voice and the word, and calls into question the seamlessness of speech. Easier to write it off as an aberration, or even a deception than to ruminate on the disconnect between body and voice. I leaned into this, tearing back the curtains of what I should say onto what I can’t say. I remembered a trick speech pathologists taught me: think of one word while saying another. I discovered a way to listen to words.




to say I

say Ice


to say an


say hand


not clouds


red fall—


said rust

said rupture


red groves


under the deck


said I’m

an angel of

space, hands





dust—said creases



to crease


sharp said


I’m what’s

in your




I embraced the fragment form. I read Sappho, Oppen, Keats, Char, Pound. When I pressed on the words, they rearranged themselves into something new, stability in randomness, into a moment of maximal possibility, where the next word could go anywhere or nowhere. I read a lot of poems and fell in love with their sounds and images. I wanted to live inside of them. I cut up pieces of poems and pressed them together, broke their rhythm and stitched them back together. I imagined I was making something that shouldn’t exist. Something impossible refracted through my ear, leaving an afterimage on my retina. They became an homage to people and places I love that don’t entirely exist, brought into being through chance combinations.


14th St.


The voiceless man who lived in my house loved the keys, loved

His lightblue wall on which floating shells were painted.

When he died the knives began to sing.         

Images, too, are things.

So my father was a bucket of bright sand.



Do I glow

I’ve been



in a corner.

Agitated birds


press their bodies

next to mine—


maybe they

could beat


the stutter out

of me.


I am an affront

to the order


of noises.



I say, I am





Importantly, these poems weren’t what I “meant” to write. Whenever I thought I knew what I was doing it came out stale. Could I say these poems found me? I know that sounds way too cute. They told me who I needed to be to write what wanted to be said. Language, like a grid, can be an indispensable tool and a prison. I let the grid bend and warp in ways I hadn’t considered before.


Anything shut in with you can sing


we were alone         we were not

silence formed a grid


the night

inside the gate

broke off flowers

like evening faces


if only I could hear the grid

I could inhale every voice

in this room

open my mouth

against their names


I found voices, people looking back at me from my hiding place in the eaves of the dream. These poems, like stuttering, weren’t something that I did—they happened to me. I was obsessed with writing something I didn’t have any control over. I was being written by the poem. I could feel the shape of what was to come but couldn’t even describe what that meant. No one knew what I was talking about. I mined my nightmares for inspiration, things that truly scared me. I brought them into the light of day. It turns out day has its own nightmares, too.


The body is the twin—

in a dream my arms

are thin and curved

they cover my eyes

son is formed

to say space

say haste

let sky make





I read a lot of books at the same time, very different books and loved something different about each one. And I could hear the poem calling to me from inside the other poems. I read Stevens’ Harmonium, Guest’s Fair Realism, Williams’ Spring and All, Wright’s The Branch Will Not Break, Hejinian’s My Life, Stanford’s The Singing Knives, Oppen’s Of Being Numerous, Dickinson’s Collected Poems. I wrote for hours, wrote as fast as I could. I bought huge notepads and fine-tipped Sharpies. Wrote big, messy lines. I wrote while walking, on the bus, with friends and enemies in mind, in anger and in love. I picked up cadences from everything, especially automated voices, let my ear and throat do the writing for me. I never “thought” about what any of it sounded like because I couldn’t get any of it out of my head. I completely lost myself in the poems. They were much longer than they are now. They were crazy spells, journal entries, letters, confessions, essays on aesthetics, condolences, obituaries. I sent them out and most of them got rejected. I carved away the words like marble until the poems looked me in the eye.


And another thing


If there is red there must be green


If there is blue there must be carcasses

of brass washed by sand


If there are cranes there must be pages

smeared with charcoal


If there is ash there must be almond

the secret flavor of freebase


and cyanide. If there are clouds they must

be the allergen of shadow, a rash


of sparks singeing the few bones

that are trees. If there is a beach


it must be the width of my body so that I

am the twin of the tide


If there is a house

there must be a darker house


If there is dope my veins must be

tiny birds


There must be palms, there must be ash

distance cut with yellow dashes


If there are lips there must be coral

against a wall of dead coral


If my life is a codex holding questions

outside the boundaries of speech


If there are crowns there must be gulls

eating rain-colored trash


If there are shades they must be sprung

from a circle fixed by the fugue of mammals


If there is time there are questions

a sea dividing them, a page floating on my lungs


sun daggers through this dilating room

If there are lemontrees.







Colin Partch is a poet, teacher, and researcher living in Los Angeles with his wife and four cats. He received an MFA in Writing and MA in Visual & Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. He edits the literary journal Second Stutter with Solomon Rino. His research focuses on the intersections of speech dysfluency, psychoanalysis, and ontology.






Maw Shein Win's recent poetry book is Storage Unit for the Spirit House (Omnidawn), which was nominated for the Northern California Book Award in Poetry, longlisted for the PEN America Open Book Award, and shortlisted for the California Independent Booksellers Alliance's Golden Poppy Award for Poetry. D.A. Powell wrote of it, "Poetry has long been a vessel, a container of history, emotion, perceptions, keepsakes. This piercing, gorgeous collection stands both inside and outside of containment: the porcelain vase of stargazer lilies is considered alongside the galley convicts, the children sleeping on the cement floors of detention cells, the nats inside their spirit houses; the spirit houses inside their storage units.…These poems are portals to other worlds and to our own, a space in which one sees and one is seen. A marvelous, timely, and resilient book." Win's previous collections include Invisible Gifts (Manic D Press); her chapbooks include Ruins of a glittering palace (SPA) and Score and Bone (Nomadic Press). Win’s Process Note Series on periodicities : a journal of poetry and poetics features poets and their process. She is the inaugural poet laureate of El Cerrito and often collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and other writers.

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