Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Confessions of a sexist reader

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For some reason I tend to read mainly women. I can name 15 Canadian Susan poets off the top of my head but I would stall out if you asked me to name, say, 3 Bobs. It’s awful. I don’t know why I’m so slanted in my reading habits but somehow or another I always find myself with a book by a female author in my hands. So today I’d like to highlight some great guys. You know they must be good because they’re practically the only guys I read.

The first is Dave Hickey, who is not only a fantastic, jealousy-inducing writer, but also a good guy, one who is likely not a sexist reader at all (or even sexist for that matter). The author of In The Lights of The Midnight Plow and Open Air Bindery, his work is lyrical and unsentimental. I had him open my book launch in Kingston and he was awesome. So much so, that at the end of one of his poems, Steven Heighton stood up and applauded him for well over a minute. Everyone else hung back thinking this was a beautiful moment between Steven and Dave but later on Steven asked me what the hell was wrong with everyone else that they didn’t applaud with him. So, just so you know dear reader, if Steven Heighton applauds, it’s not for a beautiful moment between him and another writer -- he actually wants you to join in.

That said, I’m going to share the poem with you (which Dave has allowed me to reprint here)


So this is where I’ve hidden
my ghost, shadow of all

my firsts, essential self
shuttered down to its most

basic pajamas:
I’ve been looking for you,

ornithological bouquet
blooming in the dark

room of my days,
I’ve been walking around

in negative,
I’ve been wondering

how I fit, moony
white, in the wetsuit of my body --

so it’s good
to greet you at least,

and to see there’s nothing wrong

with me, nothing
broken, nothing missing

but the wings
of a book

in my hand, nothing
but a little

left on inside me

Now applaud damnit! Don’t you want to? It’s okay, even if you’re just in your living room alone. You can see why the poem might move people to spontaneous outbursts of appreciation. This is how I always feel when I read Dave’s work, as though I have finally discovered the little lamplight left on inside me.

Alright, and now for my second guy. Jason Heroux, the author of Emergency Hallelujah, Memoirs of an Alias, and Goodnight Central Laundromat. Jason, as you know dear readers, is someone I often steal from. Only steal from the finest is what I say. I actually didn’t realize how much I steal from Jason until I heard him re-read his poem “A Strange Time” (which you can find here, with some of his other works: last night.

I stole that poem completely in order to write my new picture book, The Stone Hatchlings (coming out fall 2012), so there’s concrete evidence that I’m not all talk when I advise you to steal something creative. Jason’s work has always been a particular inspiration to me because it is so original and yet relatable. Who hasn’t imagined a spoon drowning in soup? He takes the subconscious out for a stroll in the daylight and it’s startling to see something face on that we normally only get glimpses of.

His latest book, a novella (Goodnight Central Laundromat) is magic realism at its best. It’s one of those of pieces of fiction that keeps coming back to haunt me, and it has all the hallmarks of Jason’s incredible originality (unlike me, who just keeps trying to steal Jason’s ideas).

So, dear readers, even if you don’t read guys, read these guys because they’re totally worth it.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sarah Tsiang

Sarah Tsiang is the author of A Flock of Shoes (Annick Press, 2010), Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Books, 2011), Dogs Don’t Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know (Annick Press, 2011) and Warriors and Wailers: 100 Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled (Annick Press, 2012). Her latest picture book, Stone Hatchlings, will be released in fall, 2012.

Go to Sarah Tsiang’s Author Page