Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Adebe DeRango-Adem

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Adebe DeRango-Adem is a writer and doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in various North American sources, including Descant, CV2, Canadian Woman Studies and the Toronto Star. She won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate. Her debut poetry collection, Ex Nihilo, was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She is also the co-editor, alongside Andrea Thompson, of Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out. She was recommended by current Poet Laureate of Canada George Elliott Clarke as a young black "writer to watch".


You can write to Adebe throughout March at writer@openbooktoronto.com

The Lucky Seven Interview, with Adebe DeRango-Adem

The metaphor of striking out to explore unknown land is a particularly apt one for the act of writing, so the title Terra Incognita (Inanna Publications) fits Adebe DeRango-Adem's new collection of poetry perfectly.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Gearing Up for National Poetry Month

It has been such a pleasure and honour to be the Writer in Residence for OBT this past month, and especially in light of the fact that next month is also one that I take pleasure and honour in: April, aka National Poetry Month!

Like most month-long celebrations (say, "Black History Month," or "Women's History Month"), the time is never really enough as most would agree that such things should be/need to be celebrated every day of the year.

Some of my favourite ways to celebrate the upcoming month include:

- making a commitment to reading one poem per day, preferably aloud, and either in the morning or before sleep

On Making Connections

In my last post I talked a bit about the importance of connection to others, giving thanks towards and for others, and would like to continue with this theme by focusing on the "how" of connection. No writer is an island, and no book was ever written in total isolation. The writer is arguably the median of their medium--they arrive from having grown up reading a plethora of other writers and write largely for the purpose of reaching a plethora of other readers in time. The book is the conduit of making connections, and not just literary ones, but "human being" ones as well.

On Writing and Gratitude

Inspired by Ocean Vuong's piece in the "Writers Recommend" section of the Poets & Writers website, where the poet discusses what it means to be "stuck" with words, unable to write with ease, and offers ways of possibly navigating through such difficulties, I was struck by one particular suggestion: not to force the writing out of oneself and hope to snap out of it, but to slow down and give solemn thanks to others.

How the Light Gets Through

When the going gets tough sometimes it’s just tough to get going, and maybe when life throws you lemons, you don’t feel like making lemonade. So when things get tough and the world looks like it’s tearing apart it becomes hard to fathom the possibility or even meaning of taking pen to page.

The Art of Resurrection

The Spring must be the cause that my writing has suddenly become obsessed with questions of the body and soul, the spirit we carry with us. The way I see poetry has been through a kind of defrosted lens these days as well: as an antidote to apathy, way of reading silently loud, so that you can feel the pages turn inside you, be a religion without being religious.

Through My Window

It's hard for me to believe that one of my favourite children's books in the world, one that I grew up on and read practically everyday, is turning 30: Through My Window, one of the first books (if not the first) featuring an interracial family living in a multicultural urban community, and even a stay at home dad.

Writing Tips (Tips Also Appreciated)

1. It’s now or never or you’ll have to wait for the sublime to hit you, which might take centuries, or seconds, so might as well start now.

2. Write for no other place than heart—and not only out of the heart's pain or confusion or anger or reaction or fantasy, but its capacity for tenderness and happiness.

3. See life's “situations” as launching pads towards new ways of seeing and good places to start writing from.

4. Vision over vocation—to focus on what you can do now with what you have been given and work towards what you’d like to see.

Should I Write a Novel?

I can’t even count the times when folks have asked me what I'm writing about—or more precisely, what novel I'm writing. And when I indicate that I am putting together a poetry collection, suddenly things become awkward. Fiction is simply more lucrative, some will say, it opens many doors and can be read by many people, whereas poetry, perhaps, is meant to be read by some sophisticated individuals who have already been schooled in the art of poesis. Poetry isn't for everybody, but does that mean it should be for only a select few? I find it hard to believe that with the privileges of being able to dub oneself as one likes into a variety of poetic traditions, read or spoken aloud, that poetry is a term that in itself doesn't sound "lucrative."

Accepting Rejection

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” ― Ray Bradbury

A Note on the Imagination

To thrive off the imagination, even if it affords only a dull light at the end of the day, is worth it; or not to thrive, even, but to loosely depend upon, keep the fires of imagining alive, in order that the creative will can live. Imagination keeps me feeling "eternal" even in the face of a possibly not-so-eternal future, because it never demands finality. To keep dreaming, take on a fancy, maintain a vision of sorts--this is the stuff of writing books, or poems, or plays, or anything, perhaps.

Writing "Well"

Illness spoils any story that desires a certain romanticism of adventure or self-discovery, the solitary act of Manifest Destiny. Many of history's beloved novels have entertained (and sometimes genuinely explored) what it means to have lost a sense of wellness, or be on a path towards self-destruction--in the sense of an existential, Sartrean nausea. But it becomes much more difficult to discuss the topic of physical destruction or decay. To be unwell and desire a sense of physical/psychological stability and balance above all makes the desire to champion a countercultural lifestyle seem petty. Authors might seek to change the shape of literature, but how can the literature shape the way people live, or can live?

A Day in the Life

Rise, water and fruit, spend about twenty minutes adjusting my spiritual frequency to the world. Think about the day and what it will entail. Recalibrate against the chaos if I've had strange dreams. Dream up what I'd like the rest of the day to look like. Sometimes I choose to read positive affirmations and meditations to begin my day, but it's most likely poetry (though arguably such kinds of writings are very much the same). Reading something that's not the daily news or social media helps refresh the mind and act as a reminder of the importance of seizing the day. Otherwise I think it would be mighty difficult to get one's creative gears flowing.

Happy Birthday, Jack

I would be beside myself if I didn't take a moment to write a birthday note to the late Jack Kerouac, who was born on this day (March 12, 1922–October 21, 1969) and to whom I owe much praise.

Yes of course his infamous On the Road affected the hearts and minds of many generations of young Western kids (including my own). I loved that he was the curious balance of enlightened and derailed, quiet and loud. I wrote about him in my first full-length poetry collection (Ex Nihilo, 2010) or more precisely, about meeting his taxi driving old friend who I was shocked to meet and who kindly drove me to his grave in the rain in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Writing as a Way "In"

I think many writers would agree that, in the beginning stages when we first pick up the pen, writing is a "way out" for us. It offers something therapeutic, or in more dramatic cases, the promise of salvation. Of course the reasons writers write are all so infinite, though it's hard to deny that the act itself is cathartic.

Nuance vs. Notoriety

For the longest time, I’ve been of the strong belief of the writerly life as associated with an either/or mentality: concision and painstaking precision, or, as writer Jack Kerouac would put it in his "Rules for Spontaneous Prose", "Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy."

Rethinking a Room of One’s Own

A room of one’s own, Virginia Woolf once famously wrote, is a necessary part of being able to write successfully for women, who could often not find such a thing, being loyal to a certain level of constant domesticity for others, a constant state of being-for-others. As I write this post, as not only a woman but a woman of colour, in this room of my own, a kaleidoscope of privileges take shape in my mind—I have a place/space to stay, forms of support, inhabit a “safe” part of town, do not endure many disturbances apart from regular duties of tending to the quotidian things; I can even play music (softly or loud) if it suits or fuels the writing; or I can take leisure in silence. It is a privilege to name any of these things.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.