In anticipation of Chasing The Poem – Third Edition, an online poetry workshop marathon for emerging writers, featuring three courses created by Indigenous poets Jónína Kirton, annie ross, and Justene Dion-Glowa, Massy Arts interviewed the creators and conductors of the courses.
Although the event registration is almost full, we felt compelled to share the generosity of the workshop hosts.
Massy Arts: Thank you again, Jónína, annie, and Justene, for considering these questions.
annie ross: Love and thanks to each of you, I love that we are working together, and to Massy, and Rafael Zen who invited me here.
(When Jónína Kirton realized she would be unable to respond, she generously shared prior interviews, including Jónína Kirton on Standing in a River of Time (The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers on CBC) and My Body Knows More Than I Do: An Interview with Jónína Kirton (Read Local BC), as well as her poem “Reconciliation” (Poetry Unbound with Pádraig Ó Tuama)
MA: I love the titles and descriptions of the workshops. Could you speak a little about your process in relation to them?
Justene Dion-Glowa: Cleaning the Body: A Poetry Workshop on Grief, Loss, and Trauma as Cathartic Muse
I cope with grief and loss through writing and art. Much of my work examines lost loved ones and the impact those loses had on me. For me, one incredibly intimate part of mourning and healing is caring for our loved ones even in death, and across many cultures this is accomplished by cleaning the body.
ar: in between the lands of the living and the dead (soul loss)
i don’t know how we manage, the sorrows we live with, in, for. i see clear cuts, open-pit mines; in shock and sorrow, my soul flies out of my body from every bit. it wanders, learning, lamenting.
Still, i have to contribute to the daily this and that. Do i want a coffee, can i teach a class, Where are my recently deceased?
i am taught this place is not here and not there, but in-between the Land of the Living and that of the Dead.
MA: What draws you to the practices of mentorship and teaching workshops? What experiences ushered you towards this work?
ar: Our feelings, thoughts and our individual and collective journey matters very much; for all to live and thrive. We can come together and make, create, out of our capitalist doom and into a better world.
i believe in the work we call teaching and mentorship; it is so many things, where every one involved expresses their vulnerability, interest, needs; we come away from our work somehow even slightly changed, making our way in our lives, empowered to invite and bring in others to our service.
JD-G: I believe sharing skills and talents is imperative. I have gained so much insight and deepened my skills through the mentorship of other poets, and I want to pay that forward.
MA: What is one thing participants might expect from your workshop style specifically?
JD-G: I am a storyteller! So while we will be writing I prefer to present in a way that flows the way storytelling does.
ar: Participants may learn, share, grow with we three; i think it’s an amazing opportunity for anyone to work with Jónína and Justene (wow!), and to be with the great community work of Massy Arts.
(My only wish is that my workshop could have been in-person, as i have group work that could be better shared in-person. But, i do love zoom also)
MA: Please share a little about your approaches to mentorship and workshops?
JD-G: I don’t believe in gatekeeping. I believe everyone should be able to have access to learning and developing their skills. I also believe poetry is art, and hybrid styles of poetry and art are depressingly underrated – stay weird!! Make weird stuff and your weirdos will find you.
MA: If willing, please share a short excerpt of a poem of yours that you feel connects with the theme of the workshop you’re offering.
JD-G: from the poem “Invitation,” Trailer Park Shakes (Brick Books, 2022)
They invited me to go see his dead body
In that sterilized room with that
Smell of CaviCide
Those white coats and
Them black bags
Zipper like a Y-incision
The one that desecrates his chest…
ar: From the long poem, “reconciliation i – xi”, in some people fall in the lodge and then eat berries all winter (Talon Books, 2022)
xi. victim v. victor
survivors, overWintered Seed, eventual revelation
Ghosts of Responsibility/Rights, our relentless
whispers shouts inside your skull, sails arteries, enters in outbreath
when? now who? me
tell your story
paint your Dreams
poem your sadness
JK from “Rooted,” in Standing in a River of TIme, as shared in her Read Local BC interview (linked above):
turning towards the invisible
I can see the limits of knowledge
the places where formulas dissolve
into knowing that can only come
when quiet and walking in a forest
where the standing ones watch and wait
for us to return to ourselves
to the new stories that are waiting to unfold