IN CONVERSATION WITH KAREN CONNELLY – With Canadian Poetries

Take a look at this fantastic interview by Canadian Poetries, with Karen Connelly,  Check out the link to the full interview at the bottom!

“SL: How difficult is it to continue to give voice to those who are unable to tell what they’ve been through, especially when people go on asking, “Haven’t we all heard these stories before?” In what ways have you felt silenced?

KC: The only time I have been silenced in my life was when I was a small child, or, occasionally, when I was a young woman living abroad—that naturally happened while I was learning different languages. It also happened because I was female. And that silencing helped me to identify with all people, children and adults, who struggle against various mechanisms of oppression. Shutting people up is one way of oppressing them, obviously. But I love how people always keep talking.

As to those who say, as they said of Come Cold River, ‘Haven’t we all heard these stories before?” I can respond with the obvious answer, Well, yes, we have heard these stories before, but clearly we did notlisten to them. If we had listened to them, perhaps there would not be dozens, hundreds of missing Aboriginal women in Canada. Or perhaps we might have arrested and imprisoned the sick men who are murdering them with shocking impunity. If we listened well to the stories of abused children, perhaps we, the adults of the world, would not allow other adults to abuse more children sexually in order to make pornography. Did you read about that last ring, broken by the Toronto police? An international porn ring, with teachers and doctors and nurses and community leaders in on the fun.

To hear depressing true stories on the news is one thing; listening to a living individual is another. That is one of the great works of poetry: it can listen in a devout and human way. It attends. Sometimes it can witness, and poetry that witnesses has always moved me because of the circumstances of my own life, both here and abroad. But beyond witnessing, poetry provides a room, a chamber for listening. Poetry can respond to what is going on in this world, in this country, in this city, in your city, on my street. The poet can bring the world into this room; she can bring any human voice into our range. God forbid that it is always our own voice, the poet’s voice; we can speak in tongues; we can let the voices of others into our work.

It’s not that street sex-workers and homeless people don’t have a voice. They do. I know because I sometimes read their blogs and web pages and chat with them in person. Sex-workers, especially, of all stripes, have become organized and articulate in the last twenty years. See the Supreme Court’s recent decision around the uselessness, and danger, of prostitution laws in Canada, the striking down of those laws that endanger sex workers and make it hard for them to protect themselves. It was brave, articulate, smart sex workers who challenged those outdated and discriminatory laws.

Still, there are many people who do not write things down, who do not or cannot speak out loud. Many stories are lost or hidden or denigrated—unlistened to—by the wider culture. We shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking there are no longer taboos, no longer subjects we are not supposed to write about.

It just occurred to me that my years spent learning other languages meant constant listening to other people’s voices. Learning from them, allowing them equal space in my cluttered brain. Loving those voices. I have spent half my life speaking imperfectly in other languages. When it comes to communicating, perfection is not the point. In Turkey, carpet-weavers are instructed to weave a flaw into their designs, so as not to insult God by trying to be perfect. What great instruction for any artist.It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it cannot be perfect because perfection is inhuman. So. What does that mean, especially with this new book? It means I might say it wrong, but I will dare to say it.”

Check out the full interview HERE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.