Was it a coincidence that Jason Purcell’s debut poetry collection Swollening arrived in the mail two hours before I tested positive for COVID19? I’d like to think that this was their way of easing me into a week of fever/hacking cough/burning throat and making things just a little bit better. I’m not a person who isolates easily. I thrive in constant companionship and surrounding myself with people who have to put up with my inane ramblings about writing. That’s where Swollening became my friend. Both of us wondering what sickness is and our own places in the structure of a landscape that can breath beauty but also illness.
I read their poem ‘Berta Boys as a ‘Berta Boy forced to question my own comfort with prairie gender norms. I read a poem about magpies and laugh because every poet from Edmonton has to write a poem about magpies. I read poems about married men in climate disaster and feel the heat of unnatural summers that destroy a healthy landscape. But most of all I read comfort in the words of Jason Purcell as they remind me over and over again what it means to be tender and full of feeling in a world that often isn’t.
Conor Kerr is a Métis/Ukrainian writer and educator. He is the author of two forthcoming books, a poetry collection Old Gods and a novel Prairie Edge both scheduled for publication in 2023. He is the 2019 recipient of The Fiddlehead’s Ralph Gustafson poetry prize and The Malahat Review’s 2021 Long Poem Prize.