Swoon Finale Spring 2017

Thank you to our amazing writers/performers and our devoted audience for making the Swoon Finale event so completely wonderful! The evening was sexy, funny, serious, thought-provoking, and absolutely overflowing with love.

Look how happy it made me and Sierra!


Swooners forever: hosts Ruth Daniell (left) and Sierra Skye Gemma (right)

Our first performer of the evening was D. S. Stymeist, who treated us with an erotically-charged set of poems from his collection, The Bone Weir. 


D. S. Stymeist, who came all the way from Ottawa to appear at Swoon. Our thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets for the funding that made his appearance possible.



Words cannot express how much I appreciate that Chelsea gave me a goofy smile when she noticed me taking this shameless I’m-in-the-audience-too selfie. So much affection for that woman!

Chelsea Rooney, always the storyteller, shared a tale of true (non-fiction!) love–the lead-up to her first kiss with her now-partner.


The story went from sad to surprising to very happy!

Now we just have to share some great photos of our enthusiastic Swoon audience. Along with our authors, the audience members collaborated with our love game. Sierra and I handed out pieces of paper and invited everyone to write down specific things, people, or places that they love, and then we shared them after the intermission and at the end of the show. We got so many fantastic declarations of love we couldn’t recite them all, so we compiled them all (into this great list right here).


The Swoon audience: truly the loveliest.



I asked these Swoon audience members to demonstrate how they felt about being at a Swoon event, and this is how they posed for the camera. (I must admit that the handsome man in the light blue collared shirt is my husband, otherwise you might think I paid some guy to pump his fist in the air. Nope. He’s not paid. He’s just a very devoted partner. He has this same reaction when I tell him we’re having macaroni and cheese for dinner.)

Before the second half of the show, Sierra and I read some of the amazing declarations of love, and I convinced Sierra to read a little bit of her own writing with the audience. She read some brand-spanking-new comedy for us and it was hilarious and smart and super great, just like Sierra.


Also, will you look at that dress! So many tiny animals on such a flouncy skirt. A++

Up next was Rob Taylor, who read us many wonderful poems, including some from his newest collection, The News, which is a series of poems for each week of his wife’s pregnancy with their son. It is such a great book and so so fitting for Swoon.


Thank you, Rob. You are so great. I’m sorry Sierra told everyone the unfortunate yogurt story.

Christina Myers, nonfiction writer extraordinaire, read some new fiction (!) and was (of course) marvelous.


All of Christina’s face is beautiful; I’m sorry I failed to capture a photo that didn’t have the mic blocking it.


Curtis LeBlanc was our final reader of the evening–of the series!–and he was fantastic. He read some lovely poems from his chapbook and also some from his forthcoming full-length collection. A couple of them were love poems for his dad. We all liked them very much.


Curtis read his poems and charmed us all.

After Curtis had elegantly finished our performances for the evening, Sierra and I took over the mic again to ruminate about the end of Swoon and on the endlessness of love. It was pretty poignant.

Thanks to Trees Coffee for hosting us for the past three years, for Cocoa Nymph for being our first home, and for everyone who ever performed or attended our events.

We really are super grateful for the years (years!) we’ve been able to do what we do and spread a little CanLit love. Stay in touch, okay? We still love you.


Don’t forget to read more about these fine folks over on our Meet the Authors page and follow links to buy their books!

The Spring 2017 Swooners (from left to right and top to bottom): Rob Taylor, D. S. Stymeist, Curtis LeBlanc, Chelsea Rooney, and Christina Myers.

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Declarations of Love by the Spring 2017 Swooners

At the Swoon Finale (on May 13, 2017), Sierra and I gave our audience members and authors the chance to participate in a love game. We handed out pieces of paper and invited everyone to write down specific things, people, or places that they love. We got a diverse range of replies. What follows is my faithful transcription of those declarations of love.

Swooners love game

Smell of felt markers, whirlpools, high-concept science fiction

The scents of a damp forest ♥
and my wife

Early morning cuddles

Feeling of a cat’s tongue on my feet … but NOT in a sexual way

I love kinky sex that is preceded by lengthy discussion about consent! (Seriously.)

Brown paper packages tied up w/ strings

non-reciprocated tickling

card games involving inappropriate humor
rainbows, lucid dreams


Hearing birds chirping outside in the bright morning light, knowing there is absolutely no rush to get out of bed.

lilacs & snapdragons

Fat Cats on Bay Windows

melted brie on chewy sourdough

I love the lily-of-the-valley hat have just come into bloom in my garden. (Editor’s note: This entry also included an excellent doodle of a lily-of-the-valley.)

the crisp freshness of tomato-stem smell

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

Ruth Daniell

genuine laughter

I love the smell of sun-bleached forearm hairs and skin as I lie on the warm granite rocks by the water at my grandmother’s cottage in Georgian Bay, Ontario.

You know when it is torrentially raining and windy as f#ck & your umbrella breaks and you are soaking wet? I love the opposite of that.

I love Snapchat. (It has changed my life & made me the woman I am today.)

A large, earthy mocha topped with whipped cream drizzled with chocolate syrup.

Curtis LeBlanc

Merp! (Editor’s note: This was widely interpreted to mean Mallory, Curtis’s partner.)

I love imbibing the universe. ✿
and because I dislike suffering anywhere in it…
I love to generate and repair flows to crystallize harmony.

Bloodroot in bloom in my backyard.

I love cancelling on plans when I realize I’m a grown-ass woman and don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. (Related: I love my jammies.)

Sharing a vibrator

I love the way music sneaks through my conscious defences, grabs me by the collar and shakes me into blissful states of pure joy pushed to the point of pain.

the pulse of an engorged penis

I love a good comedy duo… Like having a bestie roommate as your straight man  ♥♥ SSG + CB ♥

Puppy Ears.

Dry ice, Harry Potter, & nipple teasing.

Baby animals causing trouble

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Swoon: A Final Reading

Dearest Swooners,

Ruth and Sierra have decided that this Swoon—on Saturday, May 13th, at 7 pm at Trees Organic Coffee on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver—will be our last. We have had a wonderful time sharing our love of literature, romance, relationships, and chocolate with our audience and readers, but it is time to say goodbye. Ruth has already moved out of the lower mainland, and Sierra is set to sail to Victoria in the near future.

We hope that you will join us on May 13th for our final farewell.


Ruth and Sierra


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Swoon Spring 2017 – Meet the Authors

Swoon Spring 2017 is forthcoming on May 13, 2017. Check out the swoony details on the authors you’ll be meeting! To RSVP to the evening, check out the event page on Facebook. And for a full history and all bios of past Swoon authors, check out our Readers page.

Myers2Christina Myers is a former newspaper journalist turned freelancer, and a narrative non-fiction writer who occasionally veers off into the wilds of fiction. Her work has appeared in the anthology Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts (Caitlin Press, 2016), as well as Skirt Quarterly online, Voices of Motherhood, CBC Radio, Emerge 15, Word on the Lake, and elsewhere. She is a recent graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU Vancouver and returned to the Studio as an apprentice mentor in 2016. Christina lives with her husband and children in the lower mainland of BC.


Curtis 3 webres (1) (1)Curtis LeBlanc’s poetry has won the Reader’s Choice Award in Arc’s Poem of the Year Competition and been shortlisted for The Walrus Poetry Prize as well as CV2’s Young Buck Poetry Prize. Good for Nothing (Anstruther Press, 2017) is his first chapbook. His first book-length collection, Little Wild, is forthcoming from Nightwood Editions (2018).




Chelsea_10281299Chelsea Rooney is the author of Pedal, a debut novel nominated for the 2015 Amazon First Novel Award and the 2016 ReLit award. She is one of four hosts of The Storytelling Show on Vancouver Co-op Radio.



Bone Weir DS1D.S. Stymeist’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including The Antigonish Review, Prairie Fire, Dalhousie Review, and The Fiddlehead. His work was featured as the Parliamentary Poet Laureate’s Poem of the Month (February 2015) and was short-listed for Vallum’s 2015 poetry prize. He teaches poetics, Renaissance drama, and aboriginal literature at Carleton University. He grew up as a resident of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, is the editor and founder of the micro-press, Textualis, and is the current vice-president of VERSeFest.

Rob Taylor HeadshotRob Taylor is the author of the poetry collections The Other Side of Ourselves (Cormorant Books, 2011) and The News (Gaspereau Press, 2016), which was a finalist for the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Prize. In 2014 he was named one of the inaugural writers-in-residence at the Al Purdy A-frame, and in 2015 he received the City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for the Literary Arts, as an emerging artist. He lives in Vancouver with his family, where he teaches Creative Writing at the University of the Fraser Valley and coordinates the Dead Poets Reading Series.

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Swoon Spring 2017 forthcoming on May 13!

Swoon_poster_lineup_may17_FINALRSVP to the event on Facebook.

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Registering Changes in Desire and the Breath: An Interview with Poet Adrienne Gruber

Swoon founder Ruth Daniell caught up with poet Adrienne Gruber (Fall 2016 Swooner) via email to talk about the challenges of balancing family life with a creative life, the importance of breath, and the allure of desire. And, of course, to celebrate Adrienne’s second full-length collection of poetry, Buoyancy Control, with Book Thug.

Adrienne Gruber at Swoon Fall 2016

Adrienne Gruber performing from Buoyancy Control at Swoon Fall 2016

Ruth Daniell: Thank you so much for performing such wonderful poems at Swoon Fall 2016, and for catching up with us again here! I want to start by asking about Buoyancy Control. This is your second book. Did you find that the process of creating the collection was different than your first? In the back of the book, you refer to the book as being “born”; was its gestation period, so to speak, easier or harder than the first?

Adrienne Gruber: Buoyancy Control’s gestation period was much longer than my first book. It went through multiple drafts and, in many ways, felt more like a true first book experience. This is the Nightmare was written in my early twenties, when I was still developing my voice. It feels like a young book to me, representative of a younger me. I have a lot of affection for my first book but the process of writing Buoyancy Control, particularly the revision process, transformed me as a writer. It was a long labour, arduous at times, but through grueling work and collaborative conversations about the book with other writers I learned how to really revise my own work.

RD: What did you love most about writing this book (or writing in general)?

AG: I think what I loved the most about writing Buoyancy Control was the exploration I was doing at the time. Though this is in retrospect as I was depressed during the period when many of the poems were first written. I was exploring unique environments that were new to me (the ocean, lakes, landscapes, cultures) but I was also excavating myself, therefore the poems felt adventurous and exhilarating to write. I didn’t know where they were headed and I didn’t want to know. It was a really exciting time.


Click for publisher’s info!

I’ve just finished the first draft of a new collection right now, and the experience of working on it was radically different than when I worked on Buoyancy Control. I knew how I wanted the book to be very early on in its development. It had a natural progression and order and that became clear after I’d written the first few poems. Towards the end of working on the first draft I was simply fleshing out sections and I knew exactly which poems I needed to write. I felt much more in control of the process than I ever have before.

RD: The entire book—not only the section titled “Intertidal Zones” with all its sexy sea creatures—is invested in desire. In an early poem in the book, “Only He Knows the Story of his Precious and Particular Life” you speak of desire and “the strain of [this] balancing act.” How conscious is your engagement with desire in your work? And do you ever work against desire?

AG: Pretty conscious. I am fascinated by desire in all of its forms; how and from where it manifests, how it shapes us as humans. I wonder how much of our desires, whether sexual or other, are shaped by our peers and friends, by social media, by trends, etc., and how much comes from within. Can we experience desire that is impartial? Do we have some choice as to who and what we desire? Do we have control over our desires or is that simply shutting ourselves down?

I’m curious what you mean by working ‘against desire’. I might be going too literal here, but are you asking if I ever purposefully shut down desire or try to avoid it in my work?

img_5687RD: I suppose when I asked about working against desire I was curious if you ever consciously choose something you don’t desire. I don’t mean choosing vegetables when you really want chocolate cake… Although, actually, maybe that is exactly what I mean. Do you ever feel a responsibility to attend to themes, subjects, forms that you are not naturally attracted to? Do you ever intentionally resist the temptation to write about something you long to write? I think this idea is probably largely a ridiculous idea for a writer to do—don’t ignore the work that calls to you!—but on the other hand I think it’s common for writers to sometimes feel a little embarrassed of their own pre-occupations. In my own writing, sometimes I feel a little self-conscious when I finish something and I think, “Oh, bother, another poem about birds.” And there’s a tiny part of me that thinks I should maybe try to write about something completely atypical and unexplored for me.

Do you think that working against desire has artistic merit? If we allow ourselves to wallow in our own longing, do we risk redundancy?

AG: These are fantastic questions to contemplate. I have definitely had those moments of ‘not ANOTHER poem about the ocean/sea creatures/break-ups/sadness/loneliness/sex/lack of sex/heartache/longing…’ etc. It’s funny, but since moving into a new writing obsession (pregnancy/birth/motherhood) I’ve concluded that I want to own these obsessions. Not to say I want to unleash a barrage of poetry on these topics with no thought to what’s already been written, but, for example, there have always been criticisms of poetry written by women about motherhood and parenting, about relationships and the domestic sphere. As a mother and a partner and a full-time domestic goddess (note my sponge cake akin to an erupted volcano), I am currently immersed in writing that would be considered the quintessential ‘female experience’. In the past I may have felt shy about my work and wondered if it deserved an audience, if I should ‘tone down’ the exploration of motherhood or birth in the hopes of appealing to a wider readership. The fact that I was anxious about that at all is proof that the patriarchy is still thriving. I want to own the content and the voice of my latest work as legitimate and necessary.

I don’t resist the temptation to write about the things I long to write about, simply because if I did that I’d likely never get to the good work. I need to write through my desire, so to speak, in order to get to anything of substance. But yes, I do feel a responsibility when I write poetry, to not simply follow my own whimsy, but to contribute something of value to the community, a voice that is hopefully fresh and unique and that speaks to a diverse audience of readers.

I absolutely think working against desire has artistic merit if that’s something one wants to do.  I think I’m moving into that territory these days. Having recently completed the first draft I mentioned earlier, I am, for the first time in a long time, possibly ever, staring out into an abyss of possibility in terms of poetic content. My plan is just to wade into that unknown for a while and see what poems come out of this time when there is no specific desire I’m working through. Of course, that’s not entirely true. There are always desires, it’s just that some are so prominent that they obstruct and erase others.

Also, I live for chocolate cake.


RD: To steal another of your lines, the book is “unabashedly human.” Part of this humanness seems to me to be a willingness to be present in the body. I’m struck by the way that you speak about the body and, in particular, the breath. I know you enjoy scuba diving. Did that in part inspire this awareness of breath? I imagine that, underwater, you might become hyper-aware of the importance of breath.

AG: Scuba diving definitely inspires an awareness of breath. I was heavily influenced by my diving experiences while working on this book and the entire collection is rooted in breath; how we stay present in our bodies and in the moment, how we use breathing to stabilize ourselves in our experiences. I chose the title, Buoyancy Control, for the collection because it speaks to how breath impacts our bodies, how it influences our reactions, how it destabilizes or calms us.

Controlling one’s buoyancy in the water is all about controlling breath. It is probably the most essential skill you can learn and perfect as a diver. Diving can be anxiety inducing and one manifestation of nervousness is the tendency to hold your breath. You can’t do this when you dive, it can be fatal. The ability to stabilize and maintain consistent gradual breathing applies to surviving life as well as diving. This has caused me to reflect on what makes a person float or sink in relation to loss. How do we survive our experiences of pain? How do we physically bear (and bare) the weight of loss, the pressure it puts on our bodies and our hearts?

RD: I find your thoughts on the breath so fascinating. As a speech arts teacher, I think about the breath a lot and its relationship to the spoken voice, and how to make the breath most effective; and I think about it a lot as a writer, too, when I’m working with the poetic line. Your comment about loss reminds me of one of my favourite passages from an old speech arts theory stand-by, the book The Right to Speak  by Patsy Rodenburg. She points out that “breathing is the first and last thing we do.” She explains that every feeling—emotional and sensory—that we experience is manifested in our breath. She writes: “Our most traumatic life experiences—grief, rage, joy and sexual contact—are held in breath patterns.” To hear you speak about the awareness of breath as a diver, and to “hear” that breath come through your poems (those about diving, and those not) on the printed page, is wonderful.

AG: Thank you! I love those two quotes by Patsy Rodenburg, especially that last one. Understanding and nurturing the limbic system seems to be the secret of life.


All underwater photos provided by Adrienne Gruber

RD: I love all your sexy sea creatures. When and why did you start loving sea creatures?

AG: Sea creatures are pretty easy to love. They range from angelic to bewitching to grotesquely alien. Diving in the ocean is a sci-fi experience, finning around coral that resembles a giant brain and anemones with dozens of tendrils. There are sea stars that regenerate limbs and eels that look like the love child of a snake and a large Amazonian fish. There are underwater forests of slimy, bulging kelp. And my personal favourite, the Leafy Sea Dragon, with the dwarfed head of a horse and a body akin to foliage.

I can’t remember exactly when I started this heteromorphic love affair. What I do remember is laying in the chair in Dr. Janzen’s office when I was fifteen, waiting to get my teeth cleaned, and admiring the two framed 16×20 photos of tropical fish. Those Blue Damsels and Emperor Angels and one fish the colour of a lemon tart with a long trumpet nose I later learned is called a Forceps Butterfly. I was transfixed by those fish and when I found out that Dr. Janzen had taken the photos herself on a dive in Cozumel, I made a mental note to see these creatures as soon as possible.

RD: What about other balancing acts: how do you fuel your creative practice alongside your other commitments?

AG: Writing is what I do in every possible spare second I have these days. Being a writer while parenting full time means my spare seconds are few and far between. Much of what I do with respect to fueling my creative practice involves longing. This is something I haven’t been able to reconcile yet and I may never be able to. Though I’m happier with my work and my progress as a writer than I was before having kids, I carry around a weight of desperation, a desire to duck out of my familial obligations and work on poetry. I’m living the ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ writer’s life – I spend an awful lot of time fantasizing about writing. I visualize my writing projects more than I ever have before, the result being when I do get a bit of time I can be incredibly productive. Though I long for large chunks of time to write and I dream of attending residencies, I actually think I’m more productive in the life I have now. Before kids I was never able to write full time. It was too much pressure.

RD: What are you working on now? Can we expect more sexy poems from you?

AG: Yes, in the sense that my next book is all about the pregnancy and birth of my first daughter, and there’s nothing sexier than creating and birthing a human. It’s been an interesting transition, moving from writing sexy lusty poems about sea creatures to writing about birth, which is full of the rawest type of lust: moans, grunts, screams, multiple positions, sweat, bodily fluids, intense pain, hallucinations, the etherealness of labour followed by the wild oxytocin high once the baby is born. While many of the poems I’m working on these days are radically different in style, voice and form, they share a bodily connection with the poems in Buoyancy Control. I’d say my new work goes deeper into the body, into what bodies are capable of, how they rupture and heal.

RD: The new collection sounds dynamic and exciting; I can’t wait to read it! It definitely sounds like Swoony material.img_2211

At Swoon, our mandate is about creating a love-filled community for writers. We are delighted to have you part of our community! How does community play a role in your life as a writer?

AG: Community has always been very important to me, but since becoming a parent I struggle with access. There are multiple communities that battle for space in my life. Communities on social media, the writing community in Vancouver and the larger Canadian community (of which also has a large and overwhelming social media presence), various communities of friends and family spread out over the continent, and my own micro community that consists of my partner and our two children (and my wonderful in-laws who live two floors below us). As a writer, all of these communities are crucial because they fuel and inspire my work. Having said that, I stay at home with my two young daughters and I often feel trapped in a bubble of domesticity and child care, some of the most challenging work I’ve ever done and some of the most isolating. Community is more important to me than ever but these days it is not so easily obtained. As much as I struggle with the negative affects of social media, I rely on it to meet my needs socially and communally, to reduce feelings of isolation and to keep my motivation high.

RD: At the risk of making myself seem out-of-touch—perhaps it’s common knowledge that you are an octopus masquerading as the accomplished poet Adrienne Gruber—I’ll ask this: If you had the powers of the mimic octopus for a day, what or who would you mimic and what would you do?

AG: This question is blowing my mind! How have I never thought about this before??

After contemplating this question for some time (and going over the running tally of celebrities-I’d-die-to-meet) I realized that I’d like to mimic my past self. In the advice column Dear Sugar (#71: The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us), Cheryl Strayed writes the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are. She talks about the sister lives we have, ghost ships that pass us by, lives we would have had if we’d made different choices. I sometimes wonder where I’d be had I chosen other paths. I’ll always be curious as to how I would feel on my ghost ships.

As for what I would do? I would try on those sister lives and see how well they fit. I would mimic myself traveling to all the places I’ve always wanted to go, meeting tantalizing new partners and exploring different careers. And then, even if those ghost ship lives were transformative and delicious and beautiful and freeing, I’d stop mimicking and get back to my girls as quickly as possible and kiss their smooth, flushed cheeks while they dream and climb into bed next to my loving and loyal partner (in some kind of ideal world where we sleep next to each other and not with our children) and thank every possible god out there that I chose this life.

Pick up your own copy of Adrienne Gruber’s fantastic book, Buoyancy Control, from your local independent bookstore or order directly online through the publisher, BookThug.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

img_2474-adrienne-diver-poetAdrienne Gruber is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Buoyancy Control (BookThug) and This is the Nightmare (Thistledown Press), and three chapbooks, Mimic (Leaf Press), Everything Water (Cactus Press) and Intertidal Zones(Jack Pine Press). She has been a finalist for the CBC Literary Awards in poetry, Descant’s Winston Collins Best Canadian Poem Contest and twice for ARC’s Poem of the Year Contest. Her poem “Gestational Trail” was awarded first prize in The Antigonish Review’s Great Blue Heron Poetry Contest in 2015 and she won the bpNichol Chapbook Award for Mimic in 2012. Originally from Saskatoon, Adrienne lives in Vancouver with her partner Dennis and their daughters Quintana and Tamsin.

ruth-daniell-2Ruth Daniell is a writer, the founder of Swoon, and the editor of Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts (Caitlin Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in ArcCV2Event, and Grain. Most recently, she was awarded first prize in the 2016 Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest with The New Quarterly. She is currently at work on a collection of poems with the support of a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

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Swoon Fall 2016

Thank you to our amazing writers/performers for a sexy, funny, serious, thought-provoking, love-filled evening. This was perhaps the swooniest Swoon yet (and yes, we always say that. But it’s always true!).


The Fall 2016 Swooners (from left to right): Laura Yan, Adrienne Gruber, Claire Matthews, Kamile Kapel, and Chelene Knight.

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Swoon Fall 2016 – Meet the Authors

Swoon Fall 2016 is forthcoming on November 5, 2016. Check out the swoony details on the authors you’ll be meeting! To RSVP to the evening, check out the event page on Facebook. And for a full history and all bios of past Swoon authors, check out our Readers page.

adrienne-gruber-author-photo-colourAdrienne Gruber is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Buoyancy Control (BookThug) and This is the Nightmare (Thistledown Press), and three chapbooks, Mimic (Leaf Press), Everything Water (Cactus Press) and Intertidal Zones (Jack Pine Press). She has been a finalist for the CBC Literary Awards in poetry, Descant’s Winston Collins Best Canadian Poem Contest and twice for ARC’s Poem of the Year Contest. Her poem “Gestational Trail” was awarded first prize in The Antigonish Review’s Great Blue Heron Poetry Contest in 2015 and she won the bpNichol Chapbook Award for Mimic in 2012. Originally from Saskatoon, Adrienne lives in Vancouver with her partner Dennis and their daughters Quintana and Tamsin.

running-in-forestKamile Kapel is a writer, improvising diva and filmmaker. She has released a CD of original music called Kiss the Ground, written a one woman show, Give me that Map and she’s currently working on her first book at the SFU Writer’s Studio. Her writing is erotic, funny and conversation-starting. She often finds her audiences challenged to get through her stories without telling a few of their own.



Chelene Knight Author PhotoChelene Knight was born in Vancouver and is the Managing Editor at Room Magazine. Chelene is a 2013 graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU, and was the 2016 Poetry Section Editor for their emerge Anthology. She has been published in various Canadian and American literary magazines. Braided Skin, her first book (Mother Tongue Publishing, March 2015), has given birth to numerous writing projects. Chelene’s second book, Dear Current Occupant, is a cross-genre, memoir-ish sonnet-esque story built in the form of letters (forthcoming with BookThug 2018). Chelene is now working on a novel that takes place in the Black community of Vancouver’s Strathcona in the 1950’s, with fiction mentor, Jen Sookfong Lee.

claireClaire Matthews is working on her Masters of Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in Loose Lips MagazineJoylandRoomArc Poetry, and Plenitude Magazine. Her poetry was long-listed for the 2013 CBC Canada Writes Poetry Prize and has recently appeared in The Maynard. In her spare time, she makes soap and drinks whisky.




laura-yanLaura Yan is a writer, wanderer, and New Yorker. Her essays  and journalism have appeared (or is upcoming) in GQ, Pacific Standard, Victory Journal, GOOD, Penthouse, Longreads, Jezebel, Thrillist, Hopes & Fears, The Hairpin, and elsewhere. Her fiction and poetry have appeared (/is upcoming) in Foundling Review, Elastic Magazine, The Rusty Toque, Newer York, and Lonewolf Magazine. She’s a MFA candidate at the University of British Columbia and at work on a novel. 

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Swoon Fall 2016 forthcoming on November 5!


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Darkness, brightness, and being in the body: Talking creative practice with poet Elise Marcella Godfrey

Twinkling Elise

Poet Elise Marcella Godfrey knows the importance of the balance of dark and light and twinkling

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Swoon founder Ruth Daniell caught up with poet Elise Marcella Godfrey (Swoon fall 2015 alumni) to chat about the creative process and how to balance light and dark.

Ruth Daniell: Thank you so much for performing such wonderful poems at Swoon Fall 2015, and for catching up with us again here! I want to start by asking about your MFA work. Your thesis work at the University of Saskatchewan was very well recognized. Will you tell us a little about that project?

Elise Marcella Godfrey: I wrote an experimental poetry manuscript exploring the history and future of uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan. I wanted to write about this province that never really felt like home and I knew I would need to find a very particular angle if I was going to gain any traction. I am fascinated by human relationships with the non-human world. Sometimes we approach the non-human world tenderly and cautiously, but more often, we approach it with an agenda and a great deal of aggression or coercion. I find this disturbing. So I wanted to explore this. I zeroed in on transcripts from public hearings that were held throughout Saskatchewan when the uranium industry was expanding in the early to mid-nineties and this helped give the work a more humanistic and less scientific lens. I got really overwhelmed by the workload I took on and have since shelved the manuscript but the topic continues to fascinate me and I suspect I may return to writing about human relationships with minerals at some point in the future.

RD: Your work—that uranium manuscript, for example—seems very brave to me. Your writing shows a generosity to darkness, which is fascinating to me as I also know what a bright soul you are. Part of our Swoon mission is to provide “space for great writing, for love, and the darkness that so often accompanies both of those things, but we also want to remind ourselves of the legitimacy of happiness, and of being lighthearted.” How important is the balance of light/dark to you as you work? How conscious are you of the way that you gravitate towards certain subject matters in your writing?

EMG: I would say that that balance is very important to me, because I find it hard to sustain any kind of consistent work if I am not able to find points of aperture into some larger sense of possibility, which is akin to hopefulness, I suppose. When I was working on my uranium manuscript, I tried to envision possibilities for the future (as well as gentler, more peaceful histories — imagining what could have been done differently) and this helped me navigate what was otherwise a very heavy and dense subject. I think I am becoming more and more conscious of the way that I gravitate towards certain subject matter in my writing because I have become more aware of how writing can both disrupt and perpetuate patterns in our own lives as well as in the wider world. Choosing one’s subject matter (which narratives to interrogate or interrupt and which to build or propel forward) is thus not an off-hand process; it can affect both culture and community.

RD: Yes, and I think that almost all good writing originates in desire. What do you want your writing to do? Where do you want it to go?

EMG: I want my writing to provide with me a way to express myself, first and foremost, and in so doing to find ways to connect to others and perhaps even contribute to that source of sustenance that we refer to as “culture.” Self-expression is an aspect of self-care, in my opinion. We all need it. So long as we express ourselves mindfully, with an awareness of how our expressions affect others, I think that’s an inherently positive thing. Beyond this, I would like my writing to do all kinds of things: offer glimpses into alternative ways of seeing and feeling; ask questions and provoke others to do the same; provide insight into certain personal and cultural quirks. I would also like my writing to entertain, at least to some extent; I would like to make others laugh, as well as draw attention to issues that are really more terrifying than they are hilarious.

RD: It’s an interesting thing, that balance between the terrifying and the hilarious. Do you think that it is more difficult to write about joy or sorrow?

EMG: I think it depends. Which is scarier? In some ways joy can be scary, because it can stimulate us into states that are just as precarious as those triggered by grief.

RD: You recently won SubTerrain’s Lush Triumphant Literary Award for Poetry. Congratulations! How does your winning poem, “Influenza,” fit into your current writing projects?

EMG: I’m not sure that it does! I had tried writing about influenza for several years. I had wanted to approach it from a more historical perspective: my great-grandmother was a nurse and died during the pandemic in 1919. My grandfather was just six years old at the time and accompanied her body back to Canada by train (she had been living and working in North Dakota). I tried to write about this but it just wasn’t working; it was an anecdote. Then I got the flu twice in 2014 (two different strains) after not having had it for about 20 years (seriously). And out came the poem. And my great-grandmother wasn’t in it. But somehow that desire to write about this virus, about its metamorphosis and re-emergence through generations, gave rise to that poem.

RD: It’s fascinating to know what gives rise to poems! I know that you are also interested in other creative pursuits, including visual art, especially collage. How do your other art practices influence your poetry?

EMG: I think visual art allows the linguistic part of my brain to take a break and gives other parts of my brain a chance to get some exercise. These other parts of my brain are inherently less critical and judgmental. So this is always a relief. Honestly, I need to give the linguistic part of my brain a break much more often. Although there is crossover: I think of music as a language, and I find I am equally drawn to images as well as to the sounds of language when I write. I also practice yoga and meditation and these are ways of accessing other states of being as well (states other than our default discursive non-stop chatterbox talktalktalk oh my gosh make it stop!). The body is wise and the more time I spend simply being in my body, without an agenda, the more connected I feel not only to myself but to the world around me. I think this is a very good way to be, especially because it does, in turn, feed my writing practice.

RD: Speaking of other things that feed the writing practice—what are you reading right now that you absolutely love?

EMG: A very thoughtful and generous friend bought me a copy of Miranda July’s No one belongs here more than you several months ago and I didn’t get to it right away, but I am reading it now and really enjoying it. It’s totally weird and there is this effortlessness to many of her narratives, like maybe she writes with her eyes closed, or when she’s half awake/half asleep. What I absolutely love, however, if I am completely honest, are the posts in a Facebook group I recently joined: it’s a private group facilitated by my obstetrician just for twin mums (I am expecting two boys in July). There are non-stop posts about breastfeeding and nap schedules and behavioural issues and I find it all totally fascinating and hilarious and terrifying. It’s the best.

RD: We’re so excited for you—two boys!—your life is going to be even more full of love (just what we Swooners are such fans of)! Okay, one more question, just for fun: if you were a chocolate truffle (or another dessert), what would you be and why?

EMG: If I were a dessert I just might be a chocolate truffle, and if I were a chocolate truffle, I would be a dark chocolate hazelnut truffle! Actually, I would be a slice of chocolate hazelnut torte from the Wildfire Bakery in Victoria, because it is layered and nutty and not too sweet.

Read some of Elise’s wonderful work online in the current issue of Ryga: A Journal of Provocations: Ryga 8.

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Elise Marcella Godfrey’s poetry can be found in Room, Ryga, Filling Station, Grain, PRISM, CV2 and forthcoming in OK Magpie. Her suite of poems entitled “Influenza” won subTerrain‘s 13th Annual Lush Triumphant Literary Awards. She holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan, where her work was funded by SSHRC and received a thesis award.

Ruth Daniell is an award-winning writer, the founder of Swoon, and the editor of Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts (Caitlin Press, 2016). Her poems and stories have appeared  in various journals, including Arc Poetry Magazine, Grain, Room Magazine, Qwerty, Canthius, The Antigonish Review, and Contemporary Verse 2.

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