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Massy Interviews / Steffi Tad-y

On Friday, May 13 at 6pm, join Massy Books, Massy Arts, and poet Steffi Tad-y for the online launch of her debut poetry collection From The Shoreline (2022, Gordon Hill Press).

At the event, Tad-y will be joined by host Elizabeth Armerding for a poetry reading session with guests from SFU’s The Writer’s Studio: Catherine Lewis, Justyna Krol, and Michael Edwards. Singer/songwriter and interdisciplinary artist Zofia Musiej will also perform a musical number to accompany the selected poems for this intimate literary gathering.

The event will be hosted on Massy Arts’ Zoom room.

The book launch is free + open to all of our community, and registration is mandatory.

Click here to register for the event

Click here to purchase From The Shoreline at Massy Books

Click here to know more about the book

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To address Tad-y’s debut and poetic inspirations, Rafael Zen interviews the writer for Massy Arts, discussing literature that confronts what is difficult and that finds what might offer reprieve.

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Steffi Tad-y / Poetry To Preserve What Is Valuable Before It Slips Away

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Rafael Zen – I would like to address your book’s title: From The Shoreline. Why do you think it encapsulates the core spirit of your debut?

Steffi Tad-y – Being by the shoreline reminds me of the vastness that can hold and bear witness to our lives, however tumultuous it may be.

Many of the concerns in this book are also introduced in the poem which contains the phrase. Set under the night sky and with her loved-ones by the water, the poem is the speaker’s attempt to confront what is difficult and to find what might offer reprieve. Here, she grapples with the truth of mental illness in her family.

While writing this book, I often turned to Audre Lorde’s poem “Litany for Survival” which begins with the lines “ For those of us who live at the shoreline / standing upon the constant edges of decision / crucial and alone.”

I found company and solace in the predicament the speaker maps out in this poem and reading it always feels like a blessing. It also reminds me of the power of using one’s voice to affirm their reality despite one’s fears.

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RZ – Your book’s synopsis says that your collection of poems intersects diasporic experiences with mental illness. Could you tell me more about this intersectional experience? As a writer, where do you think your poems come from?

ST – I moved to Vancouver from Manila when I was twenty-two and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
when I was twenty-six. Much of how I view my condition is shaped by my life here – my cycles of hospitalization, treatment, recovery, and recurring episodes.

In this way, my experience of being ill (and well) as detailed in the book is braided with my experience of being away from home and of being a first-generation Filipina immigrant.

As for where the poems come from, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my writing often comes from what I find challenging to metabolize as of the moment. At the same time, I think it comes from an impulse to praise, give thanks, or let friends and family know (or even just myself) what is moving me at a particular time.

This short poem by Aracelis Girmay is also a form of ars poetica for me.

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.
Everywhere I go,
Every inch: a quiet record
Of the foot’s silver prayer.
I lived once.
Thank you.
It was here.

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RZ – Why do people need poetry? And also, with who are you trying to establish dialogue with From The Shoreline?
ST –
One of the gifts of poetry is that you can bear witness to someone’s singular voice and their interior life and what an incredible honour that is. Once you encounter them, their unique print becomes a part of yours too. Toni Morrison said, “It is sheer fortune to miss someone long before they leave.” As human beings, it is in our cards that we will miss each other when we’re gone and even while we are still here.

So I think poetry is a way for us to preserve what is valuable to us before it slips away.

With “From the Shoreline”, I hope it finds its way to those who have also struggled, which I think is all of us. Having had the experience of psychosis and the mind fracturing into ways I cannot understand, I had also hoped the pain I felt could be turned into something useful.

I can no longer recall what his exact words were, but I’ve heard one of my teachers, Oliver de la Paz, say that we give shape to our wounds so that others do not have to go through what we have. “From the Shoreline” is written with this in mind as well.

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RZ – Can you choose one poem to present to our readers – one that could set the tone for all other poems to come? Why this one?

ST – This one:

After Ross Gay
The start
of the move
was slow
& furious
the ball
of the foot
against 4.5 billion
years of earth
before the body
like a flock of doves
rose towards
a windmill dunk
which misses
by the way,
but how
many times
have we
been launched
into the air
& upon landing
say to each other
what made
a handful
of gerberas blush —
this try
& try again
we believe in —
our sheepish grins
gassed up

Thank you for this question! Upon reading and re-reading “Flight”, I realized that the book contains a series of interrelated struggles and a recurring attempt to hold space for it.

There is also a repetitive impulse to record what is precious for the speaker. That said, I think this poem, or the attempt to perform a windmill dunk as detailed in this short piece, can be a metaphor for the drive to keep trying to engage with life fully.

There is this try and try again that I too, believe in, my sheepish grin gassed up.

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