Print Edition: March 4, 2015
Students, faculty, poets, and literature fans gathered at AfterMath on February 25, where the English department held a launch party for writer in residence Emily Pohl-Weary’s new collection of poetry, Ghost Sick. Much of the poetry in this volume was inspired by the reality of poverty and violence in downtown Toronto, where Pohl-Weary was raised.
“A lot of these poems are a response to something that happened [in my life],” explained Pohl-Weary. “My brother’s best friend was killed and my brother was shot.”
The evening was hosted by English professor Andrea MacPherson, and featured readings from several UFV students, as well as Pohl-Weary herself, who read selections of poetry from Ghost Sick. Throughout the reading a slideshow was projected onto a screen beside the stage, depicting images from Pohl-Weary’s childhood neighbourhood in Toronto.
Jasmin Chahal was the first of several UFV students reading poetry. Chahal prefaced her reading by asking the crowd to reflect on UFV’s presence on unceded Stó:l? territory. As she later said, “It’s important to acknowledge [people] who are pushed to the side of society.”
Chahal read poetry to a crowd of 20 to 30 people, including Pohl-Weary’s “Crab-Apple Girl,” which deals with the in-prison suicide of 19-year-old Ashley Smith, who was incarcerated for throwing crab-apples at a postman when she was 15. Chahal explained that her interest in such poems stem from their intense and human subject matter.
Chahal also read a poem of her own, “On Resisting Silence,” which told the story of a woman subjected to torture in Punjab as retaliation for her husband’s involvement in a resistance movement. The sombre reading was full of vivid, powerful descriptions of a violent interrogation, punctuated by a resounding chorus: “Where is your brother?” / “I don’t know.”
Katie Stobbart followed Chahal, reading Pohl-Weary’s “Hungry Ghosts.” Stobbart also read a selection of her own original poems, among them “Fall Diviner” and “On Repeat.”
Pohl-Weary was then introduced to the stage by MacPherson, who gave the crowd a short history of Pohl-Weary’s literature: she has published seven books, and is a long-time advocate for community learning. Pohl-Weary further explained she had organized writing workshops for people suffering from mental health issues, which she postulated is where some of her inspiration for the poems of Ghost Sick was generated.
Pohl-Weary read several poems, the first of which was titled “Ghost Days,” a take on street violence in Toronto. Pohl-Weary explained that Ghost Sick is written in two sections.
“I see the second section as being about the neighbourhood [in which something like violence and poverty] happens,” she said. Pohl-Weary then read several more poems to the enthusiastic AfterMath patrons, all from Ghost Sick.
Katie Stobbart is the Editor-in-Chief of The Cascade.