An interview with Alice Abracen

Alice Abracen, Montreal playwright, actress and student at the National Theatre School of Canada has been featured in a number of festivals including Montreal Fringe and the Calgary Region One Act Play Festival. Her play Omission will be produced by the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto in January, and will be touring in 2018. Our media editor, Megan Hunt, sat down with Alice to talk about her work and experiences as a playwright.

Megan Hunt: Were you always drawn to writing for the stage?

Alice Abracen: I’ve always been very drawn to storytelling. It started as a kid in the back seat of the car,  with action figures or whatever I could get my hands on. I would concoct epic, elaborate fantasy tales. Then one day my mother told me, hey, you could write these down. It hadn’t really occurred to me at the time, and that was just transforming.

I actually first came into it as a lot of playwrights [do], which is as an actor. My mother started a children’s theatre company, and in grade six my mother let me start to write plays for it. I loved it. I wrote a Shakespearean musical, which was just an epic piece of fan fiction. I was mostly writing more poetry and novels for high school, then I came back to playwriting through the Dawson Theatre Club. I put on a play with my friends and peers, I got to write my own jokes and I’ve been a little addicted to that ever since. By university, I knew that was how I wanted to explore what I wanted to explore, and ask the questions I wanted to ask.

Hunt: Do you think that playwriting is a craft where theatrical experience is necessary or at least important?  Do you think that playwrights without experience in acting or the technical aspects of theatre are at a disadvantage?

Abracen: A lot of people find their way to playwriting in different ways. Some people find it through acting and directing, but some start by writing poetry or novels. For myself, starting as an actor has helped. When I’m starting to lose the thread of a character, I try to look at it as an actor would see it, and that’ll [tell] me, “oh yeah, this is what I need to fix”. But everyone has their different approach. I think a very key part of playwriting is listening. A lot of exercises in playwriting classes started with just going out and sitting on a park bench and listening. And once you get an ear for dialogue, you can go and find your own voice.

Hunt: Many of your plays, including The Guest and Omission explore the relationship between violence and religion. Could you tell me a little bit more about the experience of writing about such explosive topics for a live audience?

Abracen: The question of religion and its ties to tyranny and violence in its more extreme forms is something that’s always interested me. It’s been the framework for a lot of my plays and university essays, as well as some tipsy conversations with friends. When you’re sitting in the audience and you’re waiting for a particular moment or line that you know is a little controversial or an idea that people will recoil from, there’s a bit of squirming, but there’s nothing as thrilling as hearing an audience gasp, and hearing the ripples of conversation afterwards. I think ultimately people want to feel challenged when they come to the theatre.

Hunt: How involved are you in the productions of your work? Do you think this is a normal level of involvement for a playwright?

Abracen: It totally depends on the playwright. Some playwrights work very intensely with another collaborator. Some playwrights will finish typing it, hand it off, and never look at it again. One of the dreams, I guess, is that one day you have so many productions across the country that you couldn’t possibly be involved in all of them. I’ve been involved in different ways with different shows. I’ve never actually acted in Omission, but I’ve acted in other shows. Finding great people to work with is really important. A really good friend of mine is directing a tour of Omission, and it’s great. We’ve collaborated before; she’s brilliant, I trust her, so I’m really excited to see it passed off.

 

An Apology

Soliloquies works incredibly hard when collaborating with writers to share innovative and polished new words, both in our journal and online. We are run entirely by passionate people who volunteer their time and expertise to build its repertoire and community. There is always the possibility of error, despite the meticulous effort put into the journal. Unfortunately, in issue 22.1, such an error occurred on Jeff Burd’s story “Hardware”. During the production process, sentences that were not a part of this engaging story were accidentally added onto the ending paragraph. We apologize for making such a regrettable error. Please find Jeff Burd’s bio, and the correct version of “Hardware”, below. You can also look forward to seeing the complete version in print, in our upcoming issue Soliloquies Anthology 22.2.

Jeff Burd is a graduate of the Northwestern University writing program, and was recently announced as a winner of the George Dila Memorial Flash Fiction Contest. His writing has appeared in Third Wednesday, Dislocate, Imitation Fruit, Mount Hope, The Baseball Research Journal, and Flash: The International Short-short Story Magazine. He works as a Reading Specialist at Zion-Benton Township High School in Zion, IL.

Read more..

Soliloquies Anthology 22.1 Launch Reviews

Our online editors, Megan Hunt and Tyson Burger, on scene for our Soliloquies Anthology 22.1 launch!

***

Megan Hunt: 

That’s a wrap!

Following a semester-long publication process, Soliloquies Anthology celebrated the launch of issue 22.1 on December 5th. Hosted at Divan Orange in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood, Soliloquies’ contributors and fans spent the evening enjoying drinks and live readings. The night kicked off with a speech from our Editor-in-Chief Meredith Marty-Dugas, and was followed by readings from a talented set of authors, many of whom read work published in Soliloquies 22.1.

The first reader of the night was simon t.j.h-banderob, who read three pieces, two of which were published in Soliloquies. A passionate and enthusiastic poet, simon’s work explored everything from apples and garlic bulbs to bartending at funeral homes. His performance was followed by poet and Concordia Creative Writing student Bronwyn Haney. Bronwyn performed a number of poems, including “i am thinking about the colours”, which can be found in 22.1. Despite their very different writing and performance styles, both poets started the night off on an energetic note.

“It’ll be fun/ We’ll drink lemonade/ Out of plastic cups/ And we won’t touch”, read Tessa R. from her piece “untitled 2”. The poem was one of four untitled pieces published in 22.1, all of which she read at the launch. Tessa’s style was resonant, powerful, and without much audience banter, instead letting her work speak for itself.

Our prose author of the evening was Alejandra Melian-Morse, who read her stand-out short story “Fifth Sense”. From the opening line, “my mother smelled like summer — an earthy smell, full of life”, Alejandra had us taken on a visceral, heartbreaking journey.

“Is the moon waxing or waning tonight?/I thought that was a silly question to ask/about an object in free fall,” guest reader Fawn Parker read from D. Christie’s poem “hands cradling porcelain bowl”. While D. Christie was unable to make it to the launch, Fawn was still able to convey his powerful work to the audience before wrapping up the evening with a piece of her own. Fawn’s debut book, Looking Good and Having a Good Time, was published in 2015 by Metatron Press.

The evening was a lovely way to celebrate Soliloquies’ writers, editorial team, and readership. If you were unable to grab a copy of 22.1, you can pick one up for $5 at the CASE Concordia office (LB 656 at Concordia’s downtown campus).

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Tyson Burger:

On December 5th, Soliloquies Anthology 22.1 launched at Divan Orange. The venue was filled with people gathered to listen to and support its contributors and readers, to socialize, and escape the pouring rain outside. The low lighting in Divan Orange created a calm and relaxed atmosphere. After the doors opened, the sounds of people engaged in conversation and catching up with one another filled the room. At a little past 9 p.m., the readings began.  

The first reader of the evening was poet simon t.j.h-banderob, a previous editor for Soliloquies Anthology. He read three poems, two of which were published in Soliloquies 22.1. Simon’s poetry was visual and envelopingparticularly his last poem, which described a funeral reception from the perspective of a bartender.

Next was Bronwyn Haney, a Creative Writing student at Concordia. Hearing Bronwyn’s poetry read aloud was quite different from reading her poetry in the journal, where she made use of creative formatting that had a jarring effect. Her reading added a new dimension to the poem that complemented it. Her imagery is cohesive, colourful, and adds depth to the words, both spoken and written.

Tessa R., also a Concordia University student, read her poetry. It juxtaposed moody imagery with humor and brevity. One example is in her poem “untitled 1”: “Popping zits and eating lasagna/ not at the same time, but it makes you/ feel gross thinking about it”. Her reading was creative and didn’t take itself too seriously, which lightened the atmosphere at the venue and had the audience laughing.

Alejandra Melian-Morse read a gripping short story called “Fifth Sense” about the death of the character’s mother. Alejandra is a Masters student at Concordia in Social and Cultural Anthropology, and she uses “what she learns from people in the [Anthropology] field and in her own life” to inform her prose, according to her bio. The story made brilliant use of memory, and engages the senses, adding richness to the anecdotes and contrast to the state of the dying mother.

Fawn Parker, author of Looking Good and Having a Good Time (Metatron Press) was the last reader of the evening. Her fast-paced, stream of consciousness poem was delivered with excellent fluidity and visually descriptive diction. Her reading was an excellent conclusion to the event.

Each reader of the evening was met with an enthusiastic applause thanks to their delightful poetry and prose and our supportive attendees. The Soliloquies Anthology masthead would like to thank the readers, contributors, and attendees for joining us at the launch. We would also like to thank the Divan Orange, Caius du livres, CASE, and ASFA for their steadfast support. We are extremely proud of Soliloquies Anthology 22.1 and everything that went into making it. If you haven’t yet bought a copy you really shouldwe know you won’t regret it.

Playing with Fire- Interview with Louise Arsenault

Interview by Alexander Luiz Cruz

 

Louise Arsenault, a Concordia alumna, graduate of The National Theatre School (Playwriting), and English literature professor at Dawson College, is an award-winning Montreal playwright and visual artist. Her productions include Bivouac (Imago Theatre) Innerspeak (Queen Street Theatre), Dating Jesus (Unwashed Grape), and “Strange Fire” which won 2nd place in the Write-on-Q! Competition in November.

Soliloquies: Louise, your bio is really quite extensive. How did you get into playwriting?

Louise Arsenault: I started writing plays when I was pretty young. I started off in acting, but I found the roles for women were really limited, and I thought I could do something about that. I also write poetry and paint, which I find, in a lot of ways, easier than playwriting, since it’s from a different place in yourself. Now I mostly correct essays, which is not as fun!

Let’s talk about “Strange Fire”. What was your inspiration for it? When did you start working on it?

I started working on this about 4 years ago, and it’s actually based on a real event; a friend of mine that actually self-immolated on Mount Royal almost 40 years ago. And it’s always troubled me; I’ve always thought, you know, what would’ve made somebody do something like this?

And there was this girl that I was teaching, a young woman from Pakistan, who came to talk to me about her arranged marriage. She was being pressured to go back to Pakistan and marry a man that she’d never met, that her parents were Skyping, and she wasn’t even allowed to look at his face. These two events eventually ended up in the play.

And how does the food addiction play into that?

I’m essentially looking at women’s issues, and how still, even today in the 21st century, issues like bulimia and anorexia nervosa still affect quite a bit of women. I’m also looking at addiction, and the idea that nobody can really save you from addiction— you have to be willing to save yourself. I feel like it’s something that’s not explored very much, so I wanted to address that, since it’s been very problematic in my life, especially when I was at university.

You said you’ve worked with Playwright’s Workshop on this. How was that experience?

Playwright’s Workshop worked with me for quite a few years on this, and it was great. I started this off, as I usually do, with a monologue, and then I moved on to writing. There were initially quite a few characters in the play, and we did about five workshops (which is quite a lot!). The dramaturg really challenged me to get at the core of what I was trying to say… so we actually killed off a few characters. I owe a lot of the play to them. I’ve worked with them for about 30 years; my first play in Montreal was through them.

How many re-writes of this play have you done?

It’s hard to tell… I think I’m on my 33rd re-write, but it’s not a lot, just another file.

Aside from PWW, what other resources are available to aspiring playwrights who want to get their work out there?

There’s the French version of Playwright’s Workshop – the CEAD. There’s Infinithéâtre, obviously, for developing scripts. I also think it’s great to apply to the Canada Council of the Arts, and apply to competitions like Write-On-Q! You can also put on a production yourself, which I’ve done at Theatre St Catherine, and it went really well, so sometimes that’s the best way to start out.

Any final words for our emerging Montreal playwrights?

Move to Toronto (laughs). My advice would be to get a job that’s related to writing, like teaching, so you can still be involved in that world. I’d suggest not to give up, see a lot of plays, and keep writing, as often as you can.

Submissions are open for Write-On-Q! 2018 and can be submitted to the Infinithéâtre offices from now until Tues., Sept. 4 2018 at 5413, boul. St-Laurent, Suite 302, Montreal QC H2T 1S5.

Every year Infinithéâtre proudly presents Québec’s newest discoveries in THE PIPELINE, an annual series of free and public play readings where the audience takes centre stage, offering valuable feedback that furthers script development and helps with future season selections. Louise’s reading of her play “Strange Fire” is on Friday, December 8th at 7PM at Espace Knox.

For tickets and more info visit:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-pipeline-tickets-37854751581

Flash: Revival Contest Winner

Congratulations, Emily Gaudet!

Mutation

Round outgrowth blooms,
Bulbous, a divoted
Dimply moon that
Bumps, trips you up.
Festerflesh, flippering
Finds a new form—
Mutable. The soft signs swim
Through the tides; they melt,
Freeze, mutating a mari ad mare, and
Merry we wax lunatic.

An Interview with Heather O’Neill

I recently sat down with author Heather O’Neill to talk about her latest novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel.  Just as she does in her novel, she brings a unique and fascinating perspective to our conversation. The Lonely Hearts Hotel follows the story of two disenfranchised Montreal orphans, Rose and Pierrot. They are both destined for greatness but are plagued by countless disadvantages along the way. The Lonely Hearts Hotel has a magical and fairy-tale feel that delights and surprises the reader as the story unfolds.

Tyson Burger: What were your relationships with your characters like while you were writing this novel?

Heather O’Neill: I never really think of characters as existing only in books, I always relate to them as though they’re real people. I’ll often learn from them as I write, and there is always something that the characters are able to teach me.

Especially Rose. Rose ended up being much more forceful and angry and psychotic than I’d imagined. She had all of these perspectives on being a woman, and this feminist strand started dictating her character, which was surprising for me to see. When I was done with Rose I felt that I was a stronger person, and since writing the book, I’ve felt that my perspective on who I am in the world has really changed. Rose said, “No more moral passivity with women, Heather.” She’s not there to observe, she’s just going to take over. I feel more confident after spending all that time with her.

Burger: One of my favourite things about reading your novels is your use of creative and unique metaphors, and I’m curious about what your process is like when coming up with them. Do they come to you as you write, or do you save them up beforehand and then apply them to the context of the novel as you write it?

O’Neill: It all depends, sometimes they come as I’m writing, and sometimes they come later. Then I’ll think of where I want to put them, or it’ll come to me as I’m rewriting. Sometimes it takes a really long time– they come from a strange part of my brain. I don’t know if one day maybe they’ll just stop coming to me. I have to be all alone for it to happen, and trick my mind into doing some irrational thing. Like, I’ll see a cat on the street and try to imagine what it’s thinking, and what kind of perspective it would have. I like the images that the metaphors create, and I often like to end sections or chapters on an image that reflects on the events of the text to give the power to the images.

Burger: The book challenges a lot of the established roles and stereotypes that exist in society. Do you ever worry about readers being offended by your challenging of the legitimacy of those roles?

O’Neill: No, because I come from the bottom. One of the reasons I’ve tried to be so open about my own background is because I’ve always read and interpreted texts through the writers’ biographies. I know that some people are the opposite and think that works should speak for themselves, but I’ve always read works that way. My texts are written from the voice of someone that was in those positions, and I think that it legitimizes a lot of what I’m saying. I was able to write in that voice because I survived that, and can present my characters in that light. If someone who did not consider themselves a survivor was writing about this, I would have a bit of a problem with that. The only way my characters can think the way they do is because I think that way.

Burger: Warning: the following question contains spoilers. Rose and Sister Eloise are two characters that have an interesting connection because they are the only two women in the novel that have any kind of power. They each attain that power in completely different ways. Rose earns her power, and it builds her way up from the bottom, honestly. Sister Eloise attacks vulnerable children behind closed doors. Does this ideological inconsistency play a role in Rose’s eventual decision to kill Sister Eloise at the end of the novel?

O’Neill: No, I would say she was motivated by revenge. Sister Eloise’s power was an abusive power within the domestic sphere, which was the space where women were relegated to at the time. Rose’s power was from moving into the outside world – she was determined to get out of the domestic sphere, whatever it took. She did try to do it in a legitimate way, but there were no ways for her to do that, which is actually the same conclusion that criminals—especially young men—at the time, came to. They were all incredible, ambitious and clever young men who couldn’t make it in the world in a regular way so they went into crime. Rose followed the same logical conclusion; the only illogical thing was that she’s a woman. I’d say the end is motivated by her promise to Pierrot; that she would kill Sister Eloise for him. It’s also a reminder that all of the wonderful things that she has at the end of the novel were achieved through violence. I was trying to write it in a way that different interpretations were possible, which is one of the reason I love imagistic writing.

Speaking with Heather O’Neill was as delightful as reading The Lonely Hearts Hotel. She was insightful, thoughtful and often funny. Next Heather O’Neill is judging the fiction section of the Thomas Morton Memorial Prize for Literary Excellence at The Puritan. You can find the long list for the fiction prize, here.  The Lonely Hearts Hotel is now available for purchase at most local book stores.

 

Flash Contest- REVIVAL

 

As we veer closer to the end of 2017, we begin to reflect on our progress and process; our growth, and our changes, and the forces that prevailed to carry us through.

We are in the midst of reanimation, regeneration, rejuvenation, resurgence; resuscitation, revitalization, recharging, rekindling, and awakening. The year was marked with profound injustices, and yet, we are seeing a resurgence of our strength, a changing of the tides.

Our year-end questions focus on what is to come. What is the outcome of our growth? What will be done with the old, to harbor in the new? And what will we see in this period of renewed force?

Forget New Year’s Resolutions, we want to know about revival.

Submit your prose, poetry, or visual art that explores revival, the return to strength or action.
Play with these in imagery, theme, plot, or something else.

Submit your flash poetry, prose and visual art to Soliloquies by Monday, November 20th at 11:59pm to have it featured on our website and social media.

Submission Guidelines:

You can submit to all 3 categories or just one.

Poetry: 10 lines or less.
Prose: 500 words or less.
Visual art: 8.5’ x 11’ or less @ 300dpi

Please submit written documents as a .doc or .docx file (no other word processor formats will be accepted). For visual arts, please send as a .jpg or .pdf file (no other media file formats will be accepted).

Submit to soliloquiesmgmt@gmail.com by Monday November 20th at 11:59pm.

Winners may be featured in issues 22.2!

Coach House Books launch party– a night of readings and more!

On Wednesday October 7th, Coach House Books hosted a launch party and readings at La Vitrola for three newly-released books of poetry by Jay Ritchie, Jeramy Dodds, and Sina Queyras. Jay Ritchie began the event with readings from his new book, Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie. Before commencing, he informed the crowd: “I’ll be reading some poems I don’t usually read tonight, because a lot of you have heard the other ones a million times, which will be fun…and by fun I mean terrifying!” Jay’s poems painted the relationship between disengagement and everyday anxieties, and shows that the two aren’t actually all that different. He humorously examined the absurdity of the everyday problems that often plague our minds and presented another way of existing: in the beauty and wonder of the moment. An example of this from his poem “Upcycle” that resonated particularly well with the crowd was, “I remind myself to exist in the everlasting present, drafting an email to a potential employer in my head, subject line: ‘every brand has a story, here’s mine.’” His funny and relatable approach was present throughout his reading, and the audience was receptive toward it.

Jeramy Dodds read from Drakkar Noir with a flow that fluttered. His pace quickened and slowed with his poems’ content, creating a rhythm that engulfed the audience. He slowed over the humorous or profound punchline-like lines like: “my dog and I were like two peas in an escape pod” or “a river is always too curious of its end.” The language of his poetry was playful and witty, and he often juxtaposed images or scenes using alliteration and rhyme in clever ways. This had the effect of heightening the audience’s curiosity about what would come next in each poem, which was often something both unexpected and delightful.

The last reader of the evening was Sina Queyras, senior lecturer in the Department of English at Concordia University (MxT, or ‘Memory x Time, (Coach House Books, 2014),  who read from her book, My Ariel. In this book she revises the poems of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. A line in the first poem that Sina read, “What is missing in me?” established an honestly introspective theme for the reading. Sina examines the gaps and unconscious driving forces in both her life and in Plath’s, which resulted in a poetry reading that was unafraid of being vulnerable.

You can also buy their books and read their poems for yourself on Coach House’s website: chbooks.com.

An interview with Clementine Morrigan

Clementine Morrigan – writer, filmmaker and professional tarot reader– is about to release her second collection of poetry The Size of a Bird. Soliloquies Anthology web content editor, Megan Hunt, recently sat down with them to chat about its upcoming release.

Megan Hunt: How has your writing evolved since the release of Rupture in 2012?

Clementine Morrigan: I wrote Rupture in active addiction and early sobriety. It’s a work that comes straight from [a] place of struggling to survive. The Size of a Bird grapples with some of the same themes as Rupture: trauma, violence, addiction, desire, but it does so from a different place. Writing for me is deeply tied up with my own process of recovery, healing, and growth, so as I change, so does my writing. 

Hunt: Your poem Anyway, which was published in Soliloquies 21.2, discusses the dirt of Toronto’s Don Valley river.” I know our poetry editors were especially drawn to the last line “but I love the water/ like I love myself:/ anyway”. How does The Size of a Bird continue to tackle these questions of what is good and lovable versus what is ugly and therefore unlovable?

Morrigan: My work is deeply invested in loving and staying with what is, even as we work towards healing and justice. Anyway looks at the relationship between loving my traumatized mind and loving this polluted, deeply harmed world, and then using that love as a starting point for the work of justice, healing, and change. The Size of a Bird explores the intersections of trauma, sexuality, and desire. Despite dealing with heavy themes including violence, addiction, and suicide, The Size of a Bird is a book about survival and hope and the power of staying alive. I am really interested in demonstrating that as survivors of violence we are literally fucking magic.

Hunt: “You have described The Size of a Bird as “refusing to shy away from difficult topics.” How have you worked to maintain this honesty within your writing? Has the way you approach this honesty and rawness changed?

Morrigan: I write about a lot of things which are considered to be taboo to talk about. I write about sex and desire, trauma and surviving violence, and especially the places where these converge. My writing is often described as raw because of the way I engage with these themes directly. My relationship to these themes has changed, and deepened as I have grown in my own recovery. But my commitment to writing about the things I have always felt silenced and shamed about remains strong. My writing is a magic spell, an attempt to carve out space for our secrets, to name the things we are not allowed to talk about.

Hunt: You’ve also released a zine series, Fucking Magic and it mentions your position and privilege as a white person and colonial settler in Canada. How do you think white writers can work to acknowledge privilege in their works and literary communities, and why do you feel it’s important for you to do so in your own writing?

Morrigan: As I explore themes of violence in my work it is important for me to name and to recognize the violence that grants me access to the land I am living, and writing, on. Within literary communities an important part of this is promoting and supporting the work of Indigenous writers, Black writers, and writers of colour.

If you are interesting in reading  The Size of a Bird, it will be available to purchase after its Montreal launch on October 12th, 2017. The event is being held at L’Euguelionne, 1426 Rue Beaudry, and starts at 6pm.

 

Writers Read Welcomes Fred Moten

 

On Friday, September 29th, Concordia University’s Writers Read program kicked off its 2017-2018 season with a special reading from Fred Moten, a poet, essayist and professor at the Tisch School of Arts. The ninety minute event featured an introduction from Concordia alumni and MFA candidate David Radford, a question and answers session, and poetry from all five of Moten’s published collections, which he described as being “echoes” of each other.

Prior to the reading, Moten presented the 2017 Lahey Lecture. Over one hundred guests shuffled into the tiny Hall building conference room the event was hosted in, with those unable to find seats huddling near the back or leaning against the walls. While his lecture had been a poignant, stirring response to a 2014 Boston Review article that criticized Moten and a number of other contemporary poets, his reading was an event focused on celebrating Moten’s own work.

“Maybe poetry is what happens on the bus between thinking and wanting/I used to think that it was what happened on the bus between Oakland and Berkley,” Moten read during It’s Not What I Want To Say, the first poem of the night. A self-aware exploration of his own approaches to poetry, it’s one of many pieces from The Service Porch that was inspired by his time on public transit while living in California. Other poems he read included The Showing, Regroundings, Resistances and Laura’s Alone Time.

“The next poem is called Nataoika- it’s a word I made up, it’s Greek!” Moten said as he introduced one of his poems. It was one of countless hilarious moments during the reading. Moten shifted between reading and audience banter so quickly and effortlessly, sometimes comments like these were the only way to tell where his poems began and ended.

Throughout the night, Moten shared a number of personal anecdotes and reflections that did more than just make the night all the more enjoyable- they helped make his complex work easier to process. Right after his quip about making up Greek words, he explained that he actually derived the title from the ancient Greek word for ‘slave’. He also told a funny story about feeling like Don Cheadle’s character in the 1995 film The Devil in a Blue Dress when describing his experience writing about Middle Eastern violence and America’s role in it. His humour, in some ways, helped soften the blow of the intense, emotional poetry that followed.

After about an hour of reading, Moten took a few questions from audience members. When asked about his experience travelling between Oakland and Berkley frequently, and the influence it had on The Service Porch, Moten explained that his travels shaped the way he viewed language.

“In a way, the bus was kind of like a language… there was Texas English, Arkansas, Louisiana English. It was a great way of understanding and being able to hear how rich and open that the language is,” Moten said.