Local poetry flourishes with three new publications

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Three Edmonton poets, three new books in less than as many weeks, and Glass Buffalo each helped get things started.

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Jason Purcellwhich uses the pronouns they/them, explores their experiences with illness and homosexuality, and the intersection of the two in Swollening, published March 22 by Arsenal Pulp Press.

“There is so much to be said for how we hold so much in our bodies. It can be trauma, it can be stress, it can be anxiety,” Purcell explains. “I don’t think we live in a culture that allows us to properly deal with those kinds of feelings. We carry them with us; we have them in our tight shoulders, in our guts.

Teeth issues also play a major role in swelling, including some very visceral issues involving both dental work and mouth issues.

“The tooth sinks so deep into the skull like a story,” Purcell writes in a poem called Cavity.

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“I think there’s something about the teeth, the mouth, the dentistry; it evokes such strong emotions in people,” they say.

It’s not just the fear of dentists or drills that causes anxiety; access to dental care can be limited by privilege and wealth. Without money, dental problems can persist for years without treatment.

Purcell had his first poetry published in Glass Buffalo, a literary magazine started by Matthew Stepanic. The couple worked together to open Glass Bookshop, the store they now co-own.

Purcell’s foray into retail did not mean the end of their literary styles. They are working on a novel about the power dynamics between a student and a professor, as well as a memoir about internalized homophobia and the queer community.

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Glass Buffalo feeds another

Purcell isn’t the only newly published poet to debut with Glass Buffalo. Gavin Bradley had his first poem published by the magazine and he is now celebrating his debut collection, Separation Anxiety, which was published March 18 by University of Alberta Press.

Gavin Bradley's first collection of poetry, Separation Anxiety, was published March 18 by University of Alberta Press.
Gavin Bradley’s first collection of poetry, Separation Anxiety, was published March 18 by University of Alberta Press. Provided

Bradley came to Edmonton from Ireland in 2012 to pursue his lifelong love for paleontology while studying at the U of A. His book interweaves a longing for home and his grief over the disbanding of a significant relationship; part homesickness and part grief.

“Something a lot of people will find approachable is the slow deterioration of a relationship,” says Bradley. “What I noticed when I was writing for a collection, I thought half of those poems were poems about relationships, the other half about Ireland and leaving home. I don’t remember a light bulb moment, but at some point it was all happening at once, so why isn’t it the same book? »

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Like Purcell, Bradley deals with difficult emotions that he reveals to a wider audience, a level of vulnerability and exposure that can be difficult. But it can also lead to something constructive, a release valve. As Bradley explains, “therapy is the best therapy,” but writing can come next.

“When I started writing these poems, it was very cathartic to move past that relationship,” Bradley says. “You can’t hyperbole, you can’t over dramatize things when you’re in that moment and feeling raw. We need to look at things more objectively. »

While his day job is teaching paleontology to first and second year university students, he continues to work on his writing. Bradley works on a collection of short stories, fantasy and sci-fi, trying new things to stay committed to the craft.

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The kids are fine

Nisha Patel’s latest album, NOT A DISORDER, isn’t her first release, but it’s still an important collection of poetry for the former City of Edmonton Poet Laureate, due out on March 28 at Gap Riot Press.

Nisha Patel's latest playbook, NOT A DISORDER, will be available March 28.
Nisha Patel’s latest playbook, NOT A DISORDER, will be available March 28. Provided

The collection is written in response to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a guide used by medical professionals to diagnose mental illnesses using common language. The book became a critique of what Patel saw as a system that breaks patients down into a set of symptoms rather than seeing a patient as a whole person.

“For me, I was trying to contrast that there are lived realities of being sick and then there are these clinical definitions,” Patel says. “I’m kind of going through this process right now and it’s been two years since I’ve requested and been granted access to many of my medical records, being someone who’s been in hospital a lot. .”

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Although it can be intimidating for some people to speak so openly about mental health, Patel says she has always been comfortable with public speaking and that performing poetry on stage helps her to overcome this discomfort.

Patel got her start with Glass Buffalo while she was attending the U of A. They even published two of her textbooks. Her first book, Coconut, was published last year by NeWest Press.

Now Patel plans to complete an MFA in creative writing. She also works in different artistic disciplines, recreating famous album covers but with people with disabilities.

“I did the cover of Katy Perry Teenage Dream. It’s mostly me naked with clouds,” she laughs.

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