Friday, September 29: An Evening With Fred Moten

Lahey Lecture 2017 Poster

Join Writers Read and the Concordia University Department of English for our 2017 Lahey Lecture, featuring Fred Moten, Professor of English at University of California, Riverside. Moten’s work explores black studies, performance studies, poetry and critical theory. He is the author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003), The Little Edges (2015), A Poetics of the Undercommons (2016), amongst many others. In 2016, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Stephen E. Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the African American Literature and Culture Society. The title of his lecture is “And: A Reply to Daniel Tiffany’s ‘Cheap Signaling.'” The original essay can be found here:

The Lahey Lecture 2017 will take place on Friday, September 29, from 4-6pm, in Hall 763, and will be followed by a poetry reading from 7-8.30pm at the same location.


Featured Image: Fred Moten | Image by Kari Orvik


unspeakable, unresolvable questions — form and function in Rankine’s Citizen

In anticipation of Claudia Rankine’s visit to Concordia University we are featuring writing that responds to Rankine’s works Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. This piece is by Concordia MA student, Chalsley Taylor. Rankine will be giving a public reading at 7pm, March 10, 2017 in the DeSeve Cinema in Concordia’s Library building on de Maisonneuve.

unspeakable, unresolvable questions — form and function in Rankine’s Citizen

By Chalsley Taylor

A body in the world drowns in it—

Hey you—

All our fevered history won’t install insight
won’t turn a body conscious,
won’t make that look
in the eyes say yes, though there is nothing

to solve

even as each moment is an answer

(Citizen, 142)

Citizen bears witness to the lack of resolution in the saga of black oppression & resistance by staging the uninterrupted violence to which black folks are subject (in America, though this violence surely exceeds borders), drawing together past and present iterations of anti-black state violence in a nonlinear fashion. Popularly compartmentalized historical violence is not simply layered upon its contemporary counterparts (whether spectacular or, as is more often the case, quotidian); rather, the two meld together and, at times, even align. This movement occurs between pronouns as well in the lyric—while Rankine most often employs the “You” to signify the speaker, there are moments in which the “You” shifts to another subject.

In these moments there is a distinct slippage between the “you” and the “I” and neither subjectivity can be located beyond doubt. From this we may begin a list of slippages: between past and present, but also between Rankine, Serena Williams, and the “I’s” and the “You’s”.

Oh my God, I didn’t see you.

You must be in a hurry, you offer.

No, no, no, I really didn’t see you. (62)

The speaker alerts us to a  temporal melding, asking, “What else to liken yourself to but an animal, the ruminant kind?” is exemplary (Rankine 60).

ruminant (OSX


1. an even-toed ungulate mammal that chews the cud regurgitated from its rumen. The ruminants comprise the cattle, sheep, antelopes, deer, giraffes, and their relatives.

2. a contemplative person; a person given to meditation.

“The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called rumination.” (Wikipedia)

Characterizing the speaking subject as categorically “ruminant” conjures the transatlantic slave trade but also delineates the monotony of anti-black oppression, its banal iterations inscribed and re-inscribed upon the self. Yet still, its double meaning permits the “ruminant” their subjectivity. Moreover, if we consider the Wikipedia definition it seems to imply a coping strategy while also indicting this state by affirming the obligation to digest (process), again and again, what you have already swallowed. It would not be going too far to say rumination (as in rechewing) becomes a dominant modality of the text, one which “doesn’t include acting like…the before isn’t part of the now” (10). This connects to another slippage, one between text and image. Here the lyric form is stretched and pieces of visual art are included. Very early on, we are met with a benign-looking photograph of a suburban street, “JIM CROW RD” (Rankine 6).

Melding, however, is not always made so clear. 

Words work as release–well-oiled doors opening and closing between intention, gesture. A pulse in a neck, the shiftiness of the hands, an unconscious blink, the conversations you have with your eyes translate everything and nothing. What will be needed, what goes unfelt, unsaid–what has been duplicated, redacted here, redacted there, altered to hide or disguise–words encoding the bodies they cover. And despite everything the body remains. (69)

This passage holds an ambiguous, undefined object. Upon my first reading, what initially sprung to my mind was the routine appropriation of black culture (accusations of which are so often invalidated by an insistence that black culture is but a self-serving fiction); upon my second turn, I read therein the prison-industrial complex. As amorphous as the references are here–what goes unfelt, unsaid–it well demonstrates a major accomplishment of the text as a whole; here, as elsewhere in the lyric, the mechanics of oppression are distilled to reveal their pervasiveness, their persistence, their infinite applicability. This ambiguity side-steps the potential for didacticism.

The temporal slippage also manifests a rejection of, as previously mentioned, any claims of resolution inserted into narratives of what is known as Black History. In large part, materials on the subject which are promoted/widely circulated during Black History Month (i.e., through corporate media, educational institutions and state apparatuses) present accounts whose narrative rarely lacks a resolute conclusion, “as if then and now were not the same moment” (Rankine 86). Even some current efforts which push back, in part, against sanctioned BHM rituals seem to imply some form of resolution, if only cursorily. (See Jamal Joseph, activist and director of the film Chapter & Verse, talks to Desus and Mero about his early days in the Black Panthers) In this way Citizen refuses state commemoration as described by Achille Mbembe:

… states have sought to ‘civilise’ the ways in which the archive might be consumed, not by attempting to destroy its material substance but through the bias of commemoration. In this framework, the ultimate objective of commemoration is less to remember than to forget. For a memory to exist, there first has to be the temptation to repeat an original act. Commemoration, in contrast, is part of the ritual of forgetting: one bids farewell to the desire or the willingness to repeat something. ‘Learning’ to forget is all the easier if, on the one hand, whatever is to be forgotten passes into folklore (when it is handed over to the people at large), and if, on the other hand, it becomes part of the universe of commodification.

(“The Power of the Archive and Its Limits”, Refiguring the Archive)

This practice of civilizing the archive is evidenced at Arthur Ashe’s appearance in the text, the tennis legend who is (now) remembered as “‘dignified’ and ‘courageous’ in his ability to confront injustice without making a scene,” beloved in his field postmortem (Rankine 35, 31). (And here we may also think of the sanitized nostalgia proliferated following the 2016 death of Muhammad Ali.) Perhaps Citizen rejects its own entombing via this irresolution, if not preventing it. While this rejection does not only manifest in this strategy (the slippery pronouns also work to this end), irresolution appears, to me, the guiding principle: “We never reached out to anyone to tell our story, because there’s no ending to our story” (Rankine 84).

The Things We Tell Each Other: A Response to Claudia Rankine’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”

In anticipation of Claudia Rankine’s visit to Concordia University this week we will feature writing that responds to Rankine’s works Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Rankine will be giving a public reading at 7pm, March 10, 2017 in the DeSeve Cinema in Concordia’s Library building on de Maisonneuve. Books will be for sale by the Co-op bookstore and Rankine will be available for signing after the reading.

The Things We Tell Each Other: A Response to Claudia Rankine’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”

By Eli Lynch

DontLetMeBeLonelyMy therapist tells me it’s important to understand that something can be more than one thing at a time; multiple truths can exist at the same time.  This is a hard fact I need to learn, and as I reread Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf 2004), I feel Claudia Rankine’s speaker reiterating this to me, “I could choose that […] or rather I could be all that I am – fictional,” (104) and the complexity of being, the choices and the differences, all become part of this fiction. The things we tell each other to feel better or worse.

Z texts me “truths are multipleand sends me a juggling emoji. This reiteration grounds me, reminds me that I’m here, with this book, existing in multiplicities. I start looking for more grounding truths. I start carrying Rankine’s book around, rereading passages whenever I feel sad or lonely or lost, in the metro, at work, during parties.

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely feels relevant every time I read it, which speaks to the strength and multiplicity of Rankine’s poems, of her words, of her perspective. In times when the inherent racism and misogyny of the world is becoming more obvious even to people not directly affected, the subtleties of Rankine’s criticisms of class, race, and privilege are  particularly important. When the speaker says, “In third world countries, I have felt overwhelmingly American, calcium-rich, privileged, and white,” Rankine is addressing the privilege money and class afford her. While the idea that a black woman feels white initially confuses, given the historical and ongoing mistreatment of black people around the world, the comparison of the nursing home and the third world country works particularly well. While I could paraphrase Rankine’s words, it is important to share the exact quote. I read these words  to my friend while they bake at a café, on the phone to my best friend, I copy them down for you: 

Here I feel young, lucky, and sad. Sad is one of those words that has given up its life for our country, it’s been a martyr for the American dream, it’s been neutralized, co-opted by our cultures to suggest a tinge of discomfort that lasts the time it takes for this and then for that to happen, the time it takes to change a channel. But sadness is real because once it meant something real. It meant dignified, grave; it meant trustworthy, it meant exceptionally bad, deplorable, shameful, it meant massive, weighty, forming a compact body; it meant falling heavily, and it meant of a colour; dark. It meant dark in colour, to darken. It meant me. I felt sad. (108)

The first time I read Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, I had just made the choice not to  fly to the Middle East (I later rebooked my flight due to convincing on my sister’s part). I had grounded myself here in Montreal, in the appearance of safety. In what appeared to be living. Having meant to fly to Lebanon that day, with a layover in Turkey, I sat staring at my phone in my new and empty apartment, wondering how I might have just missed death.  A couple of hours before I was supposed to fly into Turkey, a bomb went off in the Istanbul Atatürk airport, killing forty-five people. At the time, I didn’t feel much. But later, questioning my continued mourning, my survivor’s guilt started to sink in. This phenomenon happened a lot during 9/11; a documentary was made about people who weren’t on the plane that day, who were supposed to be, who missed their flight, and also missed their death. They felt immense guilt. While initially you may read this and wonder how someone willfeel bad when they have been afforded the chance to live, but imagine the weight of death hanging over you the way it hung over them. The weight of death hung over me, hung over the 9/11 survivors, hangs over Rankine’s speaker throughout Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Rankine’s speaker, addressing the loss around them, seems to feel survivor’s guilt. Maybe this is the speaker’s sadness. And loneliness. However, despite the death permeating through Rankine’s book, the poems are alive, and the feeling one gets when reading them is a moment of alive.


But isn’t being alive just holding on to something that will keep you going and spark some feeling in you, whether you understand it or not? Another way of thinking about being alive is being grounded. When your partner holds your hand while you’re having a panic attack, when you drink water after crying, when your best friend tells you “I am here for you,” when you make a decision that feels right for you. Rankine’s book uses these same grounding methods, the end of the lyric articulating this sentiment. The speakers says, “Here. I am here,” grounding their body in the immediate, an image of a billboard stuck into the ground with the word HERE on it accompanying the text. The speaker continues, “This conflation of the solidity of presence with the offering of this same presence perhaps has everything to do with being alive” (130). The lyric is ends saying, despite all of this, despite the fatigue and the loneliness, the hope, the family, despite capitalism and racism, I am here. You are here. “Why are we here if not for each other” (62).

Link Round Up: Citizen

Citizen book cover. In the Hood (1993) by David Hammons

Claudia Rankine will be reading at Concordia University on March 10th, 2017. Recipient of the 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. David Hammons is the creator is In the Hood (1993), the artwork featured on the cover of Rankine’s Citizen and pictured above.

We have gathered some links to (re-)visit in anticipation. Visit Writers Read often for more writing on and links to work about our visiting authors.

Black Bodies In White Words, Or: Why We Need Claudia Rankine  from NPR’s CodeSwitch blog.

An interview with Claudia Rankine from NPR’s weekend edition: In ‘Citizen,’ Poet Strips Bare The Realities Of Everyday Racism



Damian Rogers is a Social Menace

Off the Page Festival welcomes Damian Rogers Thursday, November 3rd, in Concordia’s Grey Nuns Building (1175 Rue St Mathieu), room M100, starting at 7:30pm.

Damian Rogers is a social person. “I will talk to someone for hours, no problem. I’m good to talk, as they say,” Rogers recently told Trevor Corkum of The same is true of her page. To read her books, Dear Leader (Coach House Books, 2015) and Paper Radio (ECW Press, 2009), is not at all like small talk. A testament to the absorptive power of her work is that hours of enjoyment will occur before one realizes the time. To finish her books poses the problem: what now? The solution is to re-read her work as if for the first time. As Rogers asks in “The Trouble with Wormholes” (Rogers, 23):

How many times must I learn the lesson of compression?
Let go of everything you know and start from scratch.


Damian Rogers’ work is menacing. Where her voice is accessible, her style, inviting, and her subjects, familiar, her themes challenge the reader’s sense of safety. Familiar objects – roller skates, pantsuits, soap dishes, and sweaters – lay alongside sensory descriptions of dreams, homes, and childhoods. Desires are addressed in association to these objects and sensations, such as the man and spider in “Poem for Love” who respectively “dreams of a red telephone that will only ring for him” or wishes for a “frame upon which to hitch his home” (Rogers, 48). Neither character will realize their desire. A common theme in Rogers’ work is, then, to remind us that life is a series of struggles wherein we often fail to reach our own desires. Life is gritty, we are imperfect, and we lack control to change course. To read Rogers’ work is to feel threatened by the reminder of what we don’t always see ourselves: That there is no escape from our imperfections but through catharsis. In this respect, Rogers’ work is as refreshing in its honesty and menacing in theme as it is creative in its composition. As she writes in “Storm” (Rogers, 18).

We live in
the arteries
of a large
ugly animal
and I saw
it move.


Damian Rogers is the editor of The Walrus and Anansi Press, creative director of “Poetry in Voice,” and the literary curator and co-host of The Basement Review performance series.

Damian Rogers is a hell of a poet.

From Dear Leader:


‘Politicians, in my eyes, ruin our best chances
of making this work,’ said the man running for mayor.

Once they wondered, ‘Where do we go from here?’
And here is as far as they got.

‘If I start freaking out over this spill, I’ll never stop,’
said the oil can. ‘I want to get back to my wife.’

‘You’re a prisoner,’ said the snow leopard to the bank teller.
‘You’ll be the last of our kind to be free.’

‘Let the world turn,’ said the witch,
‘as if it would do so without you.’

‘That feels amazing,’ said the rock ‘n’ roll victim,
as he bled from his head. ‘Do it again.’

What can I say? I can’t wait to meet the future beasts that keep
on knocking from the other side of that big red door.

Don’t miss Damian Rogers with Suzanne Buffam and Sarah Burgoyne.
7:30, November 3rd, Grey Nuns Building M100, 1175 Rue St Mathieu

Rogers, Damian. Dear Leader. Toronto: Coach House, 2015. Print.

– Johnathan F. Clark


How Poems Work: “Enough” by Suzanne Buffam

From The Irrationalist.


I am wearing dark glasses inside the house
To match my dark mood.


I have left all the sugar out of the pie.
My rage is a kind of domestic rage.


I learned it from my mother
Who learned it from her mother before her


And so on.
Surely the Greeks had a word for this.


Now surely the Germans do.
The more words a person knows


To describe her private sufferings
The more distantly she can perceive them.


I repeat the names of all the cities I’ve known
And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home.


What does it mean to love the life we’ve been given?
To act well the part that’s been cast for us?


Wind. Light. Fire. Time.
A train whistles through the far hills.


One day I plan to be riding it.


*** TONIGHT *** Join Suzanne Buffam, Damian Rogers, & Sarah Burgoyne
Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 PM, Grey Nuns Building M100, 1175 Rue St. Mathieu


“Enough” is a commentary on gender roles and tradition. In the poem, the narrator folds the sheets, pulls taught the blankets, leaves the milk out to curdle, forgets to smile. “Enough” is a portrait of domestic discontentment, an exercise in disillusionment. The narrator is bitter. She does not put sugar in the pie. She is not allowing her pain to become sweetened, more palatable for you—though her “rage is a kind of domestic rage.” Her rage is quiet, calculated. It cannot be consuming or destructive. This is how she communicates the apathy she endures. The way of life she speaks to is one of tradition, one of femininity, the kind that the narrator explains: “I learned… from my mother / Who learned it from her mother / And so on.” It is natural, like subconscious action, but as insidious as subconscious action, too.


In the eighth and ninth lines, Buffam brings Greek and German language into the poem. She does not know the word for what she is feeling, but she dreams of learning that it exists in another language. Perhaps it is too painful to know a word for it in English. How freeing it must feel to know that there is so much to discover, but how stifling it must feel to be trapped in inaccessibility, in inexperience. “The more words a person knows / To describe her private sufferings / The more distantly she can perceive them.” The more that one learns, the smaller the world becomes, and one can observe things with a certain degree of detachment, including their own woes of internal toil. The narrator struggles with this. She busies herself with small things, like recounting what she knows and where she has been. Does her life have value when she is fulfilling a role “that’s been cast for [her],” rather than a role of her own choosing? Is it enough?


“Enough” challenges the ideology that existence enough should be satisfying. That the values that are projected upon people based on their circumstances should decide their life for them. That domestic life should be enough. By the concluding line, it is revealed that perhaps the poem is not asking for this empty lifestyle to be enough. Rather, the title suggests that the narrator has had enough of it. She is ready to make her own choices. Buffam knows the narrator is watching herself as if she is in a surreal situation that has somehow happened, that perhaps the narrator did not agree to, that the narrator feels trapped and subdued in. The poem comes to an end as the narrator comes to terms with the action that she must take in order to fulfill herself. Bitter from beginning to end, it emerges as an aimless complaint and concludes as a personal call to action. Buffam breaks the pattern of couplets. She leaves the final, rebellious line alone on the landscape of the poem.


How Poems Work courtesy of Ally Turner.

In with the New Shockley

Off the Page event:
November 4th, 7pm, York Amphitheatre, EV 1.605, 1515 Rue St. Catherine

Those who know Evie Shockley from her 2006 publication, a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2006), will know how her lyrical style contains themes of ancestry and racial identity which flow through contexts of modern existential threats. Shockley’s words are just as markedly sharp in her latest release, the new black (Wesleyan Poetry Series, 2011), as she navigates through modern threats facing the lives of racial American-minority and feminist identities. Of the four suites of poems in the new black, it is striking to note how Shockley titles her suites – “out with the old,” “the cold,” and “out with the new” – to underline a treatment of black lives as casual commodities by a modern world, objectified and vilified by a modern American culture seeking to simultaneously appropriate and reprobate. Shockley’s strength in the written word parallels her strength in line presentation, whether it is the experiment of commixing and segregating connotative alliteration in “x marks the spot,” the barren feet tracking page to page in “the cold,” or the words that literally break off from their page and settle on the opposite side of the spine in “explosives.”

Take a listen as Shockley reads and discusses Ed Roberson’s “City Eclogue, Words for It,” and her own poem, “You Must Want This Lonesome.”

Off the Page 2016 welcomes Evie Shockley and Trish Salah to Concordia on November 4th.

– Johnathan F. Clark


How Poems Work: A Selection from Suzanne Buffam’s “A Pillow Book”

From A Pillow Book, pages 41-43.


Some nights I visit Inés Fernández, the forlorn school teacher from southwestern Spain, who yawned once in the sun at a passing religious procession, felt a brief, searing pain through the back of her skull, and never slept another wink all her life. For the next thirty years she sat up through the night in an armchair in the corner of her bedroom, watching her husband dissolve into dreams in their bed. In the silence and emptiness, she told Rose Grady of Weekly World News, I feel as though I am the only person alive in the world. First published on the 23rd of February, 1989, under the headline “Woman Hasn’t Slept in Thirty Years!” her grainy portrait still haunts some twilit corner of the internet today. Slumped in a bathrobe in the shadows, her spouse long departed, her thin hair wrenched into an angry topknot on her head, she clutches at the dull, black beads of her rosary and eyes the empty future in grim reprise of the Byzantine Lady of Perpetual Succor framed in dark wood on the wall above her chair. In the foreground, blindly reaching for the viewer from its perch atop a narrow pillow, sits a porcelain infant with its chubby arms outstretched.



Feminists on a list-serv.
Office potlucks.
Endogamy taboos in ancient Greece.
Betty Davis’s eyebrows.
Boys at a bris.
Backstage at a folkfest.
Dickinson’s dash.


A man is chasing me through a dark house. I do not recognize the furniture, but the staircase in the moonlight, as I hurtle down the banister, looks familiar. The front door, I discover, is bolted shut from the outside. I try the back door, which opens, to my horror, onto a series of inner doors, each smaller than the last, each one shaped like a girl’s diminishing silhouette. The final passage is a toddler-sized hatch I must squeeze through as through a swinging doggy door. I hesitate on the threshold, afraid of getting stuck. I am rescued before dawn by Her Majesty climbing beside me into bed, wedging her head next to mine on the pillow and announcing that my nostril breath smells like spaghetti.



Crows on a fence post.
Ex-lovers on Facebook.
Facing-page translations.
Fellow commuters.
Last season’s computers.



The Andromeda Galaxy.
Pen pals.
Laughter on the far side of the bay.


Suzanne Buffam’s A Pillow Book is a collection of short poems that exists in response to Sei Shonagon’s own Pillow Book from the year 1002, as well as various other pillow books since then. Though the poems can be read individually, they stack upon their neighbouring poems and borrow from one another in such a way that reading only a single poem would lose one of the book’s most fascinating dimensions. These poems flit between the cusp of sleep, light nightly “napping,” and REM sleep, while also offering late night research and reading as well as a wide range of late night lists that one might come up with as a modern-day version of “counting sheep.”

“Some nights I visit” becomes a call out to all late night attendees of the internet who similarly find themselves in the company of the outrageous information that is spread there. Whether true or not, there is a correlation between the speaker and this distant sleepless woman on the internet. The sleeping husband is occupying the space of sleep while both wives “haunt some twilit corner of the internet,” and the porcelain doll, a figure of nightmares, is both the holy infant of the “Byzantine Lady of Perpetual Succor” as well as a reflection of “Her Majesty,” Buffam’s chosen title for her daughter throughout these poems. “Her Majesty” then serves an interesting purpose, as both a nightmare and saviour for the speaker, rescuing them “before dawn” from a night terror, while still providing a brutally honest, childish complaint about “nostril breath smell[ing] like spaghetti.”

The juxtaposition of contrasting images becomes the port by which the reader looks into the moments that exist between sleeping and being awake. The detached lists that appear to have little narrative, and exist instead as semi-logical progressions that frame daily life as instances of vastly varying moments, are countered by a rather clear narrative that appears in the midst of dreams and in moments searching on the internet or in books, things that typically appear dissociated from what is called “waking life.” These lists and prose poems together become an amalgamation of what can be correlated between being asleep and awake, and allow the reader to question what belongs to the day-lit world and what belongs to the pillow.


Join Suzanne Buffam, along with Damian Rogers and Sarah Burgoyne,
Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 PM
Grey Nuns Building M100, 1175 Rue St. Mathieu


“How Poems Work” courtesy of Ben Neelin.

Damian Rogers reads Suzanne Buffam


Here she’s talking about the Irrationalist. Read the entire piece over on LemonHound.

The wonderful is on full display throughout The Irrationalist. The language is fresh, precise, and natural; the form and structure, both micro and macro, support the voice without overshadowing it. Throughout the book, Buffam references some of the best minds of the Western tradition: Paul Eluard, Nicolaus Copernicus, William James, Henry Beecher, Luis Bunel, Galileo, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Rauschenberg, Wallace Stevens, Leonardo Da Vinci, Flaubert, Schopenhauer, Jean Cocteau (plus a passing invocation of Tom Cruise). This may sound like namedropping, but Buffam introduces their ideas only to expand on them from a particular point of view. Again and again this underlines the fact that though each of us lives in an echo chamber, one can only connect to the precepts of others through the framework of her own perspective.

And though these poems find their beauty and strength in their alignment with the irrational, Buffam resists the temptation to simply disappear into a house of mirrors. “Don’t tell me there’s another, / Better place. Don’t tell me // There’s a sea / Above our dreaming sea,” she writes in the poem “Ruined Interior.” These are poems that keep reaching for new imaginative possibilities and yet they are equally concerned with constant reorientation, with a determination to avoid the dangerous cul-de-sac of self-delusion.

In “The New Experience,” she wryly states that “Experience taught me / That nothing worth doing is worth doing / For the sake of the experience alone.” To that I would add that the poem worth reading is not worth reading only for the message it might carry in its lines. After thousands of years of intellectual inquiry, the basic questions remain unanswered. Buffam reveals by example that to look outward — to the philosophers, scientists, and artists that have come before — will always lead you back to yourself.

Which leads me back to the way these poems make me feel as if my awareness of my own surroundings — including my own mind — is enlarged when I read them. I like what Buffam says in these poems, but more than that, I get off on how they operate on my consciousness. All over the world, chemists strive to perfect pharmaceutical formulas so that they can pack into a pill the kind of clear, elevated sensation that Buffam produces with words on paper.

Join Suzanne Buffam, Damian Rogers and Sarah Burgoyne
Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 PM
Grey Nuns Building M100, 1175 Rue St Mathieu

From the Archive: Tanya Tagaq

Writers Read looks back at hosting Tanya Tagaq in October, 2013. That evening, a first-come-first-serve audience crammed into a conference room in Concordia’s Henry F. Hall to witness the unique line-up of throat singer, Tanya Tagaq, experimental poet, Christian Bök, and composer/performance artist, Jaap Blonk. Seating became a competitive event as many people were turned away for a small seating capacity, which created a sense of relief for those who arrived early and, for those turned away, became a howl not unlike the haunting sounds of Tagaq. Following spirited performances by both Blonk and Bök, Tagaq took to the floor and, accompanied by a violinist, displayed the vocal style and range for which she is famous.

Tagaq is about to release her next album, Retribution. To learn more and hear the driving rhythms her single, “Centre,” visit .

Enjoy a moment captured by an attendee:


– Johnathan F. Clark