marginalia
Faith Paré

marginalia

an experiment in critical fabulation

by Faith Paré

“[Sister Vision] has already created a past, a certain history.”

— Makeda Silvera

“The story is told from inside the circle.”

— Saidiya Hartman

24:33

When I saw that women could actually publish and hold a press1 of their own,2

that really got me going.3

1 stanza means “room”            but writing isn’t somewhere easy

to put your feet up      in a room         someone needs to do the dusting

in a room                     time to dwell               is afforded to few

in a room         someone can be locked away             you lived with text

differently

2 breathing pages         fresh from the printer              walked those words

by trekking bookstore to bookstore                stuffing flyers in mailboxes

boxes of uncracked paperbacks          surrounding your bed

dreaming                     a press could belong to all of us

3 but the store clerks & grant officers & sales representatives           dared

to tell you        women of colour do not read              no                    we don’t

at least not like them               no passive absorption             no voyeurism

we encounter the lack             & write anew

 

20:07; 24:44

My first part-time job was with Contrast,4 of course, as a typesetter and proofreader.

This wasn’t good at all because I got a lot of cussing because I couldn’t really proofread…

What I learned was the long hours and the dedication,5 even though it was a male-dominance environment6 and there were no rules and— There were no rules.7                                             .8

And sometimes it was uncomfortable as a woman.9

4 were your first companions like mine?        Share & Pride & Caribbean Camera

between pig feet & tamarind              in shopping bags from the Chinese market

excess ink       clinging to your fingertips      was the craft choosing you

5 for the hours I pored over articles                you must have spent twice as many

at the age I am now                 absorbing the pace of print                 I imagine

the office’s trilling phones      & chain-smoked cigarettes     ashed onto story drafts

you were small            nearly disappeared                   (except when a cussword

was pelted at you                    with whatever was on the editor’s desk

for crossing i’s & dotting t’s               on final proofs)

you learned in snatches           that smallness made the job easier

6 till you had to walk by men              their lurking  pupils                like full-stops

7 who never bided by flinches             or sneers                      their hands

circulated                    wide & freely              as their words

8 I recognize this silence too intimately          even 40 years later      the memory

of what they can do    a rage              that swells blank         from the gullet

but you would not be              small enough               to chew

9 not small enough      to catch typos              or measure the right spoonful

of sugar           for men’s coffees        you had another kind of vision

 

27:27; 28:38; 30:55

Nobody would touch the manuscript.10 I first took it to feminist presses, they wouldn’t touch it.11 I took it to alternative presses, they wouldn’t touch it…12 They were talking patois… They were mostly talking in their own language13 and that’s how I began the whole history of oral English. Nobody really wanted to print a book about sexual harassment of domestic workers, the long hours14 they had to serve, their kids calling them the N-word…

 exposing having to work over-time in a little hovel in the basement.15

10 you knew the manuscript was hot               but they treated it as radioactive

11 the white girls          who cried sisterhood               claimed no relation

12 the bohemians         lounging in the fringes            drew a line in the sand

13 between their waxing poetic           & our broken island language

what was broken about it?      maids & laundresses               unlatched

their most silent parts                         & you understood perfectly

14 we understand         a care that is akin        those thankless hours

fingers achingly curled           from clanging on keys            trying to lift

voice into letter           the furnace in your gut            after the editor ignores

your weekly calls                    delivering interviewees foil-wrapped dinners

rousing for a shift       in yesterday’s clothes             trading sleep for transcribing

doing the work                        because no one else                wanted to

15 making room           for testimony               & you didn’t even have a room

of your own                but beneath a house on Dewson         you would learn to do more

than make do

 

30:31

I had to beg16 and ask others to beg for her to publish it.

 

16 why is so much of our history         a Black woman           begging?

 

47:08; 48:40; 49:31; 51:06

So, it was this old house.17 Lovely old house near the Ontario Art Gallery… We housed Fireweed

for a while and then [Sister Vision] moved into the house in the basement of where we lived.

 What can I say? Back then, Dewson House was crazy… So, there were children.

There were five children18 in there. There were their mothers living life,19 there were loves,20 there was sex—lots of sex!21 There was mentorship.22 And then there were writers,

then there were people dropping into the place.23 You’d walk in and you don’t know what to expect. You’d wake up in the morning, I’m telling you, and you’d meet somebody in the kitchen that you don’t know. It was crazy, but it was also exciting… There was always food on the stove. There was music, there was always debates that was going on, and there were fights, and there were movie nights24 where we showed political films and we also showed porn!

17 a place like this                    in a city like ours                    is impossible now

perhaps                        it was the impossible              then                 & yet

18 sneakers dashed                   up & down the staircase         the rumbling heartbeat

19 of a house re-made              each morning              by women re-made as often

20 how could you not fall        for someone new                    across the kitchen table?

visitors who bring fresh produce        or can plan a protest while doing their eyeliner

21 wanting to live         in the gentleness         of hands                      again

& again                                   & again                       (& again, & some more)

22 the work as much daydreaming      as it was writing          it was gossiping

while doing the dishes            the work was fucking             arguments       grocery lists

& the work never stopped      a Xerox’s whir                        lullabying into the night

23 over the snores        & shifting bodies        sprawled on whatever couch is free

24 soulmates & strangers         huddled together         on quilt-covered hardwood    

popcorn-tossing          whispers & shushes                breaking into whoops

over on-screen raunchiness                cackle                          as much as you want

cuss                 as much as you want               cry                   belt                  holler

as much as you want               here

 

01:08:21; 01:08:36

Often, we are just replicating and replicating generation after generation25wait a second,

do you not know Sister Vision Press? Do you not know Fuse? Do you not know Press Gang?26

Do you not know27 that these things have existed?28

25 I must have inherited           something more                      than silence.

I’m suspicious of invention                this nation’s thirst

to be first                     & only first                 the flagpole piercing

instead of braids                      of genealogy

26 the decades              you & comrades          mentees           colleagues

lovers              allies               friends             Black               lesbian             feminist

gave                making the margins a place                worthy to lay our heads

27 can a poem be         a citation?                   a time capsule?           your overdue

bouquet?         an award for the alternatives              who tread the highwire

above the belly            of forgetting?              how can I honour you

in this nation                           that covers us over                              in white?

when you did everything right?          documented as you lived

gathered women         to invent histories       they said we’d never have

28 & still they levelled             your broken ground                will any block

of this city                   remember us                           when we are gone?

how can I forget history          when I’m just starting             to remember?

 

52:17

It was totally exciting. At points, maddening, but at least you had your room to go to.1

1 a Black woman writing         on these lands             is writing in the house

you built          & I need not ask          to be invited

in

acknowledgements (citations and thinking alongside)—

  • Kelann Currie-Williams, “Interlude: An Infinite Web,” in Prolonging the Afterimage: Looking at and Talking about Photographs of Black Montreal. Master’s thesis, Concordia University, 2021, 67-82.
  • “Editorial: We Were Never Lost.” Fireweed: A Feminist Quarterly, no. 16: Women of Colour, ed. Himani Bannerji, Dionne Brand, Nila Gupta, Prabha Khosla, and Makeda Silvera (Spring 1983), 5-7.
  • Alexis Pauline Gumbs, M Archive: After the End of the World (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018).
  • Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (New York: W.W. Norton, 2019).
  • Pamila Matharu, One of These Things is Not Like the Other (Toronto: A Space Gallery, 15 March – 20 April 2019).
  • Makeda Silvera, Another Kind of Vision: Women of Colour in Publishing—Resistance, Transgression, and Transformation. Master’s thesis, York University, 2004.
  • —. “Sister Vision: Black Women and Women of Colour Press,” in Black Writers Matter, ed. Whitney French (Regina: University of Regina Press, 2019).
  • —. “The Vision of Sister Vision Press,” interview by Andrea Fatona, Kinesis (March 1990) 15.
  • “Setting a Tone: Pamila Matharu, Makeda Silvera, Andrea Fatona, with respondent Faith Paré,” interview by Felicity Tayler, 26 March 2021. Transcript. Toronto: Art Gallery of York University.
  • Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi, BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom (Winnipeg: ARP Books, 2019).

 

Faith Paré is a poet and performer of Afro-Guyanese and Québécois ancestries. Her writing has previously appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, GUTS, and Shameless Magazine, and is forthcoming in Carnation. She is a proud alum of Our Bodies, Our Stories, a mentorship for emerging artists who are queer and trans BIPOC led by Kama La Mackerel, and was the recipient of the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s 2020 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship under the guidance of Dr. Gillian Sze. She is a co-founder of VOLTA Collective with Meredith Marty-Dugas and Paige Keleher, addressing anti-carceral action and transformative justice through creative intervention. Find her @paretriarchy and faithpare.com.

 

 

 

 

See also

Making a Network of Relations Visible

Making a Network of Relations Visible

Conversation
6 Aug 2021
Question: Joy Xiang

Question: Joy Xiang

Access to Print response
30 Apr 2021
Access to Print

Access to Print

Conversation
30 Apr 2021
Setting a Tone

Setting a Tone

Conversation
26 Mar 2021
in desire lines: Britta B.

in desire lines: Britta B.

Riddim an' Resistance
26 Feb 2021
A Lit Fuse: Klive Walker

A Lit Fuse: Klive Walker

Riddim an' Resistance
26 Feb 2021
Riddim an’ Resistance

Riddim an’ Resistance

Conversation
26 Feb 2021
Desire Lines

Desire Lines

Oral history project
Feb - Aug 2021

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