Emmanuelle Andrews & Katrina Sellinger

Our guest editors introduce Issue 3.34

It is uncommon on this unceded Coast Salish land called “Vancouver” to see the radiant faces of so many black people in one room; more familiar are we with those rare, unexpected moments when we see another solitary “i” in this city, as Ian William so aptly notes in “Our eyes meet across yet another room,” that the on-stage dialogue in June between Dionne Brand, Christina Sharpe, and David Chariandy felt like a long-awaited gift. We left invigorated. What was the work of words for us as students, activists, creators? How do we do the work of words in the climates that we find ourselves in? David Chariandy—our professor for only three months that summer but someone we now envision as a lifelong mentor—encouraged us to follow this thread. He connected us with The Capilano Review’s former editor, Andrea Actis, another new mentor, and thus this special issue of TCR on “the work of words” was born.

When we began to curate this issue, we were unsure of how the submissions might come together, as might be the case with any collaborative venture. We’d invited contributors with the prompt What is “the work of words” for black creators now? and excitedly awaited their interpretations of the question. Despite our uncertainty, we were awestruck by the conversation that we saw between the pieces. This issue is not just held together by blackness, nor does it attempt to provide a definition of blackness. These pieces capture a multiplicity of black joy, fear, desire, communion, sorrow, and life.

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Emmanuelle Andrews is a British black feminist, filmmaker, dancer, and lover of words. She is currently studying for her MA in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice at the Social Justice Institute, University of British Columbia. She first met Katrina Sellinger in 2017, in a class led by Dr. Denise Ferreira da Silva. Katrina then starred in Emmanuelle's short experimental documentary film, Coming to Love, co-filmed and edited with Pedro Daher (images of which are in this issue). They have been friends ever since, making working together - academically speaking and otherwise - particularly wonderful.

Katrina Sellinger is a biracial Black femme from the Cayman Islands. She is currently pursuing her MA in English at the University of British Columbia. After working with Emmanuelle on Coming to Love, Katrina was lucky enough to take two more seminars with her, led by Dr. David Chariandy and Dr. Phanuel Antwi, the former of whom suggested we make the dream of this project on “the Work of Words” a reality. Thinking and creating collaboratively with Emmanuelle has been one of the most nourishing parts of Katrina’s time in Vancouver, and this special issue of TCR has been no exception.

Read our Winter 2018 Issue 3.34, guest edited by Emmanuelle and Katrina.

Dionne Brand, Christina Sharpe, & David Chariandy

from The Work of Words

On June 9, 2017, Dionne Brand and Christina Sharpe delivered the 2017 Shadbolt Lecture, sponsored by the Writer in Residence Program of the English Department at Simon Fraser University. The lecturers were invited to read from recent writings and then use this as a means to discuss “the work of words” more broadly, with special attention to their own celebrated books but also to the broader climate of language today. Christina Sharpe read from In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke UP, 2016) and Dionne Brand read from The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos (forthcoming from McClelland & Stewart and Duke UP, 2018). David Chariandy, author most recently of the novel Brother (McClelland & Stewart, 2017) moderated their onstage dialogue.


David Chariandy: Earlier, Christina was generous enough to visit my class. Some of my students are here right now. And there was a moment in which you invited us—in this powerful way—to contemplate what is the weather like here, how do particular ecologies of anti-Blackness work out in specific sites of the African diaspora?

Christina Sharpe: Right. How do you have microclimates where you can actually get something else done, so that there are lateral moves where you have a kind of microclimate. You’re working toward liberation, but you have these micromoments—like in Bail Out Black Mamas in the US. You’re working toward prison abolition, and you’re working toward the end of cash bail. But you have these moments where, in the midst of working toward that, you also do this other thing. I think of those as microclimates within a larger climate of violence in which you try to create a sustainable life. In which you don’t accede to everything that would try to suffocate you, to all of the forces that are intent on that kind of suffocation.

David Chariandy: Which is why, I must say, I find work written by both of you so profoundly important in that you allow us to chart those connections between those microclimates, those different spaces, landscapes, and geographies. Your projects have never been confined to specific national or regional spaces. They prove themselves global in orientation while demonstrating close attention to specific places.

Dionne Brand: I also think that just writing, itself, is that. It creates those microclimates, if you will. Because to make a poem, for me, is to create that space where not only the vulgar and brutal exists but language opens places where someone might actually recognize themselves outside of the short instrumental stereotypic location that in public they occupy—or in the public they occupy. So, I think writing is itself a space where that happens or can happen.

Read the full excerpted dialogue in our Winter 2018 Issue 3.34.

Marika Yeo

My work is often created from the premise of search, the act of seeking out traces of things left behind while both recreating and celebrating a tension in fluidity and movement. The surfaces are patterned with designs that reference West African and Caribbean prints along with floral patterns from the British Arts and Crafts movement. These patterned forms represent a desire to understand the layers and pieces of history and culture that have had an influence on my background.

As I seek to understand the coming-together of these materials, I also intend to emphasize the ambiguity that is generated by the spaces and cracks left in between. My love of working with clay and layered patterns has allowed me to reflect on the symbolic uses of these materials and to recognize the catharsis that can emerge through the practice of reinscription. As I go through the steps of bringing individual pieces together to form a new whole, I draw upon a different form of language to communicate that which is continually in a process of becoming.

  In Conversation , 2012 Glaze, underglaze, cold finish, and gold leaf on ceramics, 8.3 x 7 inches, 8.3 x 7 inches, and 12 x 8.5 inches

In Conversation, 2012
Glaze, underglaze, cold finish, and gold leaf on ceramics, 8.3 x 7 inches, 8.3 x 7 inches, and 12 x 8.5 inches

See more of Marika Yeo's work in our Winter 2018 Issue 3.34.

Joy Russell

From the archives

Born in Belize, Joy Russell is a poet, playwright and writer.  Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Best of Canadian Poetry in English, Tenth Anniversary Edition, Canadian LiteratureCrab Orchard Review and The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry.  She currently lives in North Vancouver.



Here, the body,
as sentence, conducts
a treading, never touching
the bottom, yet all
things submerge here.
The mouth of the city
speaks you in, its gesture
mapped on a grid of sorrow,
the old brick crumbling its own
fable day by day. You see, I came
to the city briefed in its ways, my
childhood resurrected by Lime Cordial
Earl Grey and Salad Cream; the BBC;
a million coronations; a cacophony
of British marching bands; how
de say Queenie ate rat when
she come to Belize. Yes, I

came to know the tiny shifts

spoken by the eyes, the minute
violences of lips souring as milk.
I re-studied the thing that killed
the autumn trace of light
in my parents' generation
I made weapons of my words,
watched the Thames,

daily, nightly, for clues.


What Comes Between


Been forgetting names, entries
to the city, incapacitated recollections

of streets born to
ask where are you from?

this heart of amnesia
takes broken journeys to windows

marks faces as appearances
in momentary sun

makes map dissolve words primoridal

what lingers is not fact
only detail of buildings, things said


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"Vigil" and "What Comes Between" appear in Issue 3.3 (Fall 2007).

Michelle Sylliboy

The Art of Reconciliation

Having worked in various capacities related to art, activism and education, Michelle Sylliboy considers poetry and photography to be her first love. Born in Boston, Sylliboy is a Mi'kmaq artist who was raised in her traditional Mi'kmaq territory We'koqmaq First Nation, Cape Breton. With a BFA from Emily Carr and a Masters in Education from SFU, Sylliboy is currently pursuing her PhD in Curriculum and Implementation at SFU. Her educational pursuits are aimed at creating language revitalization dialogues and creating a change in people.

Text and images from "The Art of Reconciliation" appear in our Fall 2017 Issue 3.33.

Christine Leviczky Riek

From "Red Ink Letters"

Christine Leviczky Riek is a poet and photographer from Surrey, BC. She is a graduate of SFU’s Southbank Writer’s Program and a 2017 student in SFU’s The Writer’s Studio, where she is working on a docu-poetry manuscript about the lives of her ancestors in the Carpathian Mountains of Central Europe. In 2017 she published her first poetry chapbook, Inventory for a Voyage [da Capo sin’ al Fine] (Light Factory Publications).

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Read more from "Red Ink Letters" in our Fall 2017 Issue 3.33.

Jordan Abel

Native Hosts

In 2017, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery launched a new series of investigations considering the public realm of the UBC campus. To help understand and enrich the changing collection, they commissioned several video responses to selected works under the direction of lmmaker Ian Barbour, including Nisga’a writer and scholar Jordan Abel’s response to Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds’ Native Hosts (1991 / 2007), a series of text-based works situated in multiple locations on campus. Resembling way- finding signage, Native Hosts reverses the words “British Columbia” and inserts the names of twelve BC First Nations as hosts of provincial occupation. Excerpts from Heap of Bird’s work are reproduced here, with permission of the Belkin Art Gallery, along with Abel’s text response. 

 Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds, Native Hosts, 1991/2007, commercially prepared aluminum street signs. Collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia, gift of the artist, 2007. Photo: Howard Ursuliak

Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds, Native Hosts, 1991/2007, commercially prepared aluminum street signs. Collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia, gift of the artist, 2007.
Photo: Howard Ursuliak

Excerpt from TCR fall issue 3.33

For Edgar Heap of Birds

Today your hosts are the high and countless summits. Today your hosts are
the people. Today your hosts are the inclines and the hills and the approaching morning. Today your hosts are the miles of water and the shores of the lakes and the water beyond the water. Today your hosts are the great distances. Today your hosts are the headlands and the dotted islands and the light and the wooded forests and the beaten pathways and the stretches of shores and the cheerful voices and the black rocks and the open heavens and the narrow passageways and the steep, rugged ascent. Today your hosts are the people. Today your host
is the air. Today your host is the community. Today your host is the wilderness. Today your host is the scent of roses. Today your hosts are the glimpses of mountain ranges that disappear just as suddenly as they appear. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the clear sheets of water and the forests and the islets and the rocks and the driftwood and the crevices and the ssures and the deep parts of the river. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the sounds. Today your hosts are the rocks. Today your hosts are the rocks and logs and mounds of earth. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the moments. Today your hosts are the adjacent lakes. Today your hosts are the bottom land and little ponds and drifts of sounds. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the people. Today your hosts are the people.


Read more from Jordan Abel in our Fall 2017 Issue 3.33.

Jeneen Frei Njootli

From Thunderstruck

A member of the Vuntut Gwitchin Nation in northern Yukon, Jeneen Frei Njootli holds a BFA from Emily Carr University and an MFA from the University of British Columbia. She is a core member of the ReMatriate collective and currently sits on the Board of Directors of grunt gallery in Vancouver. Her work is now in the permanent collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. She is currently a grateful, uninvited guest on unceded Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Skwxwu7mesh territories. 
  From Those Mountains to These,  2013 ‒ present Silkscreen print on chipboard, 44 x 36 inches Photograph courtesy of Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver, BC

From Those Mountains to These, 2013 ‒ present
Silkscreen print on chipboard, 44 x 36 inches
Photograph courtesy of Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver, BC

This image is part of a larger project, Thunderstruck, two images of which are featured in TCR 3.32.

Rachelle Sawatzky & Tiziana La Melia

Bodies in a Yolk Loop

from "What worries you anytime that you are worried curls time" 

Tiziana La Melia

She said, “the way that worry settles in itself is more sculptural.” I am reminded of the knotted back of the grotesque figures we filmed with our iPhones around the Fountain of Shape. Blobs sprinkled with faces, birthdays, angels, dust, divorce, numbers, prayers, donkeys, curses, loves and waning, toothy moons — sinking flatter, faster, faster. 

 Rachelle Sawatsky.  Tower of Meaning , 2015 oil on canvas, 18 x 22 inches

Rachelle Sawatsky. Tower of Meaning, 2015
oil on canvas, 18 x 22 inches

from "The view with no railings"

Rachelle Sawatsky

In ten minutes I have ten thoughts. I am small paintings, one with a sun sinking in the ocean as if having a bath. I am relaxing, shuffling feet without rhythm. 

I am imagining soda pop overflowing in a glass so fast it feels as if it is evaporating into the air. I poured it. Now it’s completely out of my control. The other day I was driving in the car and I was in the passenger seat in the front and I said “Look at that it’s Quatro Vientes,” gesturing at the Mexican restaurant we passed on the street and my hand hit the glass, my jade ring making a sound. They both started laughing. You are like a bird flying into the glass. My glasses were dirty I said in my defense. I discovered a term once for the condition of not being able to perceive the edges of your body. I use it to defend my tendency to walk into things. To outmaneuver this, I spend a lot of time reading, as if a book could cure the edges of my body and harden them. On my left hand I have a fantasy of having stronger, protective edges. On my right hand I have a fantasy of dancing and getting hit on. I am at the Plaza on a Friday night with older Latina lesbians or remember going to raves in the 90s. In this fantasy I imagine my soul as an egg yolk that can be poked with a pin without any of the form going to waste, it being a beautiful tone of yellow. It is being without the fear of dissipation. 

I made these drawings and the small paintings to describe the egg yolk experience. I wasn’t thinking about anything to do with art. As a child, I thought that cooking, for instance making peanut butter and banana sandwiches in preschool, was “art” just as much as finger-painting or plasticine.

This collaboration between Tiziana La Melia and Rachelle Sawatsky was commissioned by TCR for the Polymorphous Translation issue. Get your copy today to read the rest of their conversation.