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Massy Interviews / Discovery Poetry 2: Fanny Kearse

On Wednesday, September 21 at 6pm, join Massy Arts, Massy Books, and Surrey-based poet/spoken word artist D Fretter for “Discovery Poetry 2: Cultivating Compassion”, a hybrid between open mic and workshop intended for BIPOC LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.

Host D Fretter says: “These days compassion seems like to be lacking. Art can be key in cultivating compassion for the artist and those experiencing their work. At the last Discovery Poetry night, we explored authenticity. This time, we will take things further and get vulnerable with ourselves in order to plant the seeds of compassion.”.

This in-person event will present readings from poets Fanny Kearse, Nadia Alikashani, and Alisha Davidson. Investigating two steps to compassion (to inhale pain, and to exhale joy), artists and attendees will explore the artform of poetry, particularly spoken word, as a tool for dialoguing about this process/practice.

Registration is free, open to all and mandatory for entrance.

Purchase Joy & Misery by D Fretter at Massy Books.

In anticipation of the energetically packed performances at Discovery Poetry 2: Cultivating Compassion, Romila Barryman interviews poet Fanny Kearse for Massy Arts. In this intimate conversation the two discuss compassion as an antidote to our compartmentalized selves and dating our dreams.

This edition of Discovery Poetry hopes to “get vulnerable” by showing what it means to plant seeds of compassion. Who modelled this vulnerability for you? 

I’ve had many beautiful models of vulnerability, and folks⁠—poets, musicians, writers, films, plays⁠—that have left me witnessing a type of vulnerability I hope to share. Two of my greatest models of vulnerability were the folks I went through the Mental Health Outpatient Day Program with and my students during my employment with Shania Kids Can. The humanity that I witnessed in both of these settings; the vulnerability that opened us up to difficult conversations, that allowed us to meet each other with raw honesty and created a playground for healing changed my life. It changed what I think is possible for how we build and nourish communities. It changed how I view connection, compassion and the capacity we each hold. 

We often develop a lack of compassion—especially in a colonial capitalist society—as a defense mechanism. How would you describe the benefit of compassion in a culture that rewards self-sufficiency and hyper-independence?

The benefit of compassion is that it is a renewable resource. The more compassion you give out, the more compassion that returns to you. An absolute certainty of this life is that difficult things will happen. You will feel pain. You will struggle. You will need help. No matter how self-sufficient or hyper independent you are, you cannot do it all alone. Offering compassion ensures you get some when you need it most. 

As a justice seeking human, many connections are drawn from your former life as a social worker to your activism and writing. I’m interested, however, in how boxing does the same.

Yes! I started boxing as I began my mental health recovery journey. Boxing provides me a type of therapy that nothing else can. For me boxing is about healing. For me social work and activism is about healing. My art is about healing, and so these things often really inform my work. One of the most therapeutic things I found in boxing was the connection it gave me to my race. In the boxing gym I attended the majority of the participants were BIPOC which created an intrinsic safety. 

Many folks have compared boxing to chess or a dance. I believe that boxing is a form of poetry. I believe all movement is a form of poetry. The boxing ring is as much a stage I would perform poetry on. Stepping into the ring is like opening my notebook to a fresh page. Different tools. A quote I love that I have always thought describes the intersections of my art: 

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts”

-William Shakespeare 

Can we disrupt systems through compassion? How do you dream of this taking place and how does your invitation at Discovery Poetry act as a catalyst to do so?

I think compassion (and empathy) are some of the most radical ways that we can disrupt systems. I dream of creating a system that meets people where they are. By meeting people where they are, we actually get their needs met⁠—enabling the ability to stop cyclical interactions with the system and institution. You cannot compartmentalize a human being. Why aren’t we offering wholistic support which empowers the wholeness of the human? 

My invitation to Discovery Poetry is an invitation and a catalyst to engage more folks from more communities in conversations around how we build community, how we support community, and how we heal in community. 

Tell us more about what it means to “inhale pain and exhale joy.”

This is my mantra to get through the hard things. It is my mantra that reminds me of the duality of life. It is my mantra that reminds me to feel it all, always in all ways. It reminds me to come back to myself. It reminds me that healing is my birthright and joy is the only antidote- after the pain, after joy, the healing comes. 

How did you meet D Fretter and what do you find magnetizes you to Discovery Poetry?

D and I met through facilitating poetry workshops for the Word Play program by Vancouver Poetry House. D and I had an instant sibling bond. We found ourselves sharing many common experiences, views of children and the education system. Our different viewpoints encourage expansive conversations, reflections & creativity. I am very grateful to have found a brother in D!

For those who are interested in showing up, what’s a glimpse into how they’ll feel after this poetry night?

I guess maybe I’d like to mention that I am a relentless, insanely big dreamer. I still have a ways to go when it comes to building the bridge to get there, but I am well on my way. So, I just want to say, folks will DREAM BIG! I genuinely believe someone reading this listens to the quiet, persistence whispers of their dream. Invite it for coffee. Let the whispers become the voices that get you up out of bed every morning- because the only thing better than resting your head to dream is rising to live it. We deserve our dreams. I still have to remind myself often. Let’s remind each other as much as we can. We deserve our dreams.