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Dominik Parisien's Reading Recommendation

In November 2018 I read alongside Roxanna Bennett and several other wonderful poets at the AbleHamilton Festival of Disability Poetics at Type Books in Toronto. It was my first encounter with Roxanna’s work.

Roxanna read from unseen garden (knife | fork | book), and as soon as the readings were done I purchased the chapbook. Once I got back home, I immediately started reading it in bed. And then I read it again. And then I read it a third time. Insomnia can be useful, sometimes.

In the morning I rushed to Twitter to gush about the book: 

Words repeat throughout the chapbook, but they shift or are used in a different fashion, to evoke connected but alternate responses. To me it illustrates the mutability of chronic pain: something that creates echoes of itself, but is constantly shifting in small ways.

Bennett perfectly captures one important truth: pain is a changeling. She explores this in the poems themselves, but also in the chapbook's structure.

She cleverly has poems interrupt the established structure, which emulates pain's mutability; it isn't perfectly structured or consistent, which makes adaptation much more difficult than people tend to think. It's fantastic seeing the way she balances this.

The individual poems are gorgeous, but as a whole this is an utterly magnificent book. My heartfelt thanks to Bennett & @knifeforkbook for putting this in the world. I'll be rereading it many times over, and I'm eagerly awaiting Bennett’s next full collection with @gordonhillpress.

Disability poetics is a field that is underrepresented in Canada, though it is slowly getting more attention. I love anthologies like Beauty is a Verb, Stairs and Whispers, and the work of Jim Ferris and other disabled poets, but it meant so much to me to find something similar close to home. As someone who lives with chronic pain, unseen garden is the sort of work I wish I could give to my younger self. I’m so happy it exists, and I keep recommending it to people around me.

If Roxanna’s work sounds appealing, I can’t recommend enough some recent-ish disability poetics books by other Canadians: Ally Fleming’s The Worst Season (Anstruther Press), Shane Neilson’s affect trilogy from The Porcupine’s Quill Press, Elee Kraljii Gardiner’s Trauma Head (Anvil Press), and the Dis/Ability series from Frog Hollow Press (disclaimer, they published my chapbook).

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Dominik Parisien's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Fiddlehead's CNF issue, Quill & Quire, Arc Poetry Magazine, Plenitude, and other journals. His chapbook We, Old Young Ones was published by Frog Hollow Press. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual French Canadian. He lives in Toronto.

**Editor's Note: Look for poems by Roxanna Bennett in The Fiddlehead No.281, our upcoming Autumn 2019 issue! Her next book, Unmeaningable, is forthcoming from Gordon Hill Press in fall 2019.**

 

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