Author Notes: Annik Adey-Babinski

Four Questions with Annik Adey-Babinski // Annik Adey-Babinski

Annik Adey-Babinski
Annik Adey-Babinski, snowbird laureate

Annik Adey-Babinski contributed her poem, “On MC Hammer’s Birthday” to The Puritan Issue 28The Town Crier asked Adey-Babinski several questions about her poem, and she answers them here.

Town Crier: Does your poem or story have an interesting origin story/compositional history you’d like to share?

Annik Adey-Babinski: At the time I wrote the poem, I was living in Miami Beach and having a very wild time being single with my friend, Kelsie. We would spend our weekends romping around the beach and sharing stories of near-loves as we recovered on the beach the next day. Miami Beach is a transient place, so it can be difficult to meet people who are there to stay. Our greatest romance that summer was with each other. Soon after that summer she moved to Hawaii, and Miami hasn’t been the same since she left. Continue reading


Repainted Memories on the Hope-Princeton Highway // Michael Prior

The author’s grandfather. Tashme, 1945

“The government prohibited Japanese Canadians from possessing and making maps.”
—Kirsten Emiko McAllister, Terrain of Memory

Like the layers of colour in an apartment repainted before each new tenant, places accumulate one atop the other, suggesting the mental strata on to which we map our personal, social, and historical claims. Sometimes the layers themselves become impossible to discern. Then and now, here and there. These categories are easily confused.

In an essay titled “Notes from a Native Daughter,” Joan Didion describes California as a place where

The mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things had better work here, because here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.

Continue reading

Writing Detroit: The Past is not Pretty

Brother of Leaving, Son of Departure // Cal Freeman

Brother of Leaving
Cal Freeman’s childhood home in Detroit

There are perils involved in writing about a place like Warrendale, my childhood neighborhood in West Detroit and the topic of my first book of poems, Brother of Leaving.  Nostalgia is a temptation.  I’m sure I also open myself up to the charge of engaging in “ruin porn,”a banal and malleable term seemingly applicable to anyone who chooses to write about, or photograph, Detroit in a way that doesn’t praise the creative class and suggest that small start-up capitalism will save us.

The cover of Brother of Leaving features a shot of the abandoned Tipperary Pub taken by a friend.  The building is tagged over with shambolic graffiti art, and the front is shagged in milkweed and trees of heaven that grow between the pavement cracks.

I sometimes pick up my copy of the book, look at this picture, and think that maybe my biggest problem with time is this: I can see and feel it passing, but I can only occasionally understand how it works.  The most glaring evidence is its ceaseless ablations and attrition, the cratered-in porch, chipping paint, and empty windows of my childhood home, which I drive by far more often than any healthy person would. Continue reading

A Walk Through the City

Orhan Pamuk, Psychogeography, and Urban Canadian Places // André Forget

Orhan Pamuk
Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, pictured walking

After Kemal Basmacı, the protagonist of Orhan Pamuk’s 2009 novel The Museum of Innocence, has his heart broken, he starts to compulsively wander the streets of Istanbul. At first, he is searching for Füsun, the lover who has abandoned him, but as he strays farther and farther from the comfortable neighbourhoods of his youth and early adulthood, the bourgeois hilltops of Şişli and Nişantaşı, he discovers another world, the down-and-out backstreets of the old city of Fatih, the twisting alleys of Beyoğlu. The act of exploring the city becomes a kind of balm as Kemal comes to associate the deep melancholy of the ancient post-imperial city with his own intractable feeling that the happiest moment of his life has already passed. While the novel is ostensibly about Kemal and Füsun’s tragic love affair, it is really about the city itself at a certain point in the twentieth century. Continue reading

Rebecca Mead and Abstract Place

Reading Middlemarch in Winnipeg // Julienne Isaacs

Rebecca Mead
While she has escaped her bucolic upbringing, Rebecca Mead continues to read Middlemarch

Middlemarch is not a real place. It’s the town at the heart of George Eliot’s breathtakingly long novel, a study of a “web” of characters living in the English Midlands between the years 1830 and 1832, the tail end of the Georgian era and the beginning of the Victorian. The plot of Middlemarch is complex, highlighting, to a greater or lesser degree, the interconnected dramas of a dozen individuals from a range of social strata, all living in or near the town.

I’ve read Middlemarch once, in one two-week stint while on vacation. This is possibly the best way to read a Victorian doorstop, when there’s time to labour through the unfamiliar vernacular until it becomes invisible, time to let the plot build up and surround one like an elaborate house. I read it on a sunny deck under a cloudless sky.

Rebecca Mead has been reading Middlemarch her entire life—every five years or so, according to her bestselling 2014 bibliomemoir, My Life in Middlemarch.

In her favourable review of Mead’s work, Joyce Carol Oates usefully defines bibliomemoir as “a subspecies of literature combining criticism and biography with the intimate, confessional tone of autobiography.” Continue reading

Interview: Sue Goyette

Playing in the Ocean // André Forget

Sue Goyette
Sue Goyette mostly tries to swim

Sue Goyette is a Halifax-based poet. Her most recent collection, Ocean, was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry prize in 2014.

André Forget: You grew up in Montreal, but currently live in Nova Scotia and are quite involved in the literature scene there. How have those two very different places shaped your sensibilities as a writer?

Sue Goyette: I grew up on the South Shore of Montreal when there was still a fair-sized English community. Many people, including my parents, didn’t have the cultural wherewithal, insight, or adaptability to understand the language politics in Quebec, and I grew up Anglophone at a time when many English families were moving out of the province. Consequently, I remember feeling on the outside of the very rich and vital French culture, one that I still feel a deep connection to, that is an essential part of my home, but that wasn’t part of growing up. I think being on the outskirts, or the outside, is one way I still orientate myself when I write. Continue reading

Canadian Literature After Nationalism

20 Years of Writing Thru Race // André Forget

Writing Thru Race
20 Years of Writing Thru Race

It was with some trepidation that, just over a week ago, I wandered into the AGO’s Jackman Theatre to attend 20 Years of Writing Thru Race: Then and Now. This trepidation was caused by several factors: not only am I a white, straight, middle-class man whose ancestors were quite busily involved in the colonization of this country and several others, but I was attending in my capacity as editor of a magazine almost laughably monochromatic in terms of its editorial board and published writers. Moreover, the colloquium itself had been organized to mark the 20th anniversary of the famous Writing Thru Race conference of 1994, which, being open only to self-identified writers of colour, inspired a vicious backlash from mainstream media outlets and in the House of Commons. While the 20th anniversary event was open to anyone interested, I felt a lingering sense of unease. What was my motivation for wanting to attend? Was I secretly trying to establish good-white-person bona fides? Was I trying to find new literary talent to hire and exploit? Was this really just a kind of voyeurism? Continue reading

“Imagining Impractical Ideas About Bodies”

Questions for Lucas Crawford, CWILA’s 2015 Critic-In-Residence // Phoebe Wang

Lucas Crawford
Lucas Crawford

As part of the Town Crier’s ongoing exploration of place in Canadian Writing, Phoebe Wang conducted an email interview with Lucas Crawford, the 2015 Critic-In-Residence for the Canadian Women in the Literary Arts. Lucas Crawford is a poet, performer and scholar who has written on transgender and literature, fat studies, and queer identity politics. His book, Transgendered Architectonics, will appear in 2015 with Ashgate Press.

Phoebe Wang: How do you see the role of Critic-In-Residence as a continuation of the many projects that you are working on, from writing about architecture to critiquing gender and sexual identity?

Lucas Crawford: Academia, poetry, teaching, and organizing are all different genres of activity, each with drawbacks and strengths. One of the special things about the Critic-In-Residence role is that it combines these things in a way that lets me combine love of literature with desire for change. So, the role is a continuation, but I expect I might find new challenges to love in this genre of writing and thinking. Continue reading

Interview: John K. Samson

Writing From Winnipeg // Adam Klassen Bartel

John K. Samson
It rankles John K. Samson when people call him a Canadian writer

The defiantly Winnipeg-based poet and songwriter John K. Samson is known best for his work as singer for The Weakerthans. He also serves as the managing editor for Arbeiter Ring Press.

Adam Klassen Bartel: In listening to your music I noticed, especially in your last album, Provincial, you tend to name specific places. Driving down Portage Avenue, standing on Memorial Boulevard. Is this conscious, or does it creep in around the edges?

John K. Samson: I think in the case of Provincial, my last record, it was a very conscious decision. I had the idea before I started the project of this plan: I would make a record and if someone had two or three days I would be able to take them to the actual location of each song. I felt like that would be interesting for me, because it sounded like a fun thing to do. To anchor my ideas and my kind of obsession with place in a very specific way. So yeah, that was my plan. I chose three roads in Winnipeg plus Highway 1, which I think of as this band going right across the continent, and tried to write something about each place that would be anchored there. It was the most obvious, and I think of it as the culmination of a long obsession with place. Continue reading

CanLit: From Calcified to Cape Town

Deconstructing the Self-Aggrandizing Category of CanLit // André Forget

Almost as important as Marathon

If you look up Canadian literature on Wikipedia, you get what at first seems to be a sardonic little truism: “Canadian literature is literature originating from Canada.” Of course it is, you think—what else would it be? Scratch the surface even a little, though, and this truism turns up a whole mess of questions. Let’s bracket out the obvious (and obviously pedantic) ones like, “what is literature” (fashion magazines? Diaries? Recipe books?), “what does originating mean” (written by nationals? Composed within Canadian borders? About Canada?Published by Canadian houses?) and “what is Canada” (does pre-Confederation literature count? What of Mohawk, Cree, Anishinaabe, Blackfoot, Stó:lō, Mi’kmaq, and other Indigenous literatures?), and focus instead on a more blog-friendly one: what is the relationship between Canadian literature, so simply defined, and its moody, neurotic, historically-fixated favoured child, CanLit? Continue reading