Advocating for the downplayed, epistemologically outcast sense of touch in her essay “Textiles, Text and Techne,” collected in Hemmings’ The Textile Reader, Victoria Mitchell writes: “It is clear that textiles are not words and the differences between them benefit the conceptual apparatus of thought at the expense of its sensory equivalent. Thus when an activity is labelled as textiles it ceases to be a substance and becomes instead a ‘material of thought,’ and as such enters into the internal logic of a system which tends to privilege the autonomy of the mind.”
I would like to complexify Mitchell’s claim by extending two of her subjects: words and the senses.
Victoria Mitchell’s essay begins by recounting Charlotte’s Web and that clever spider weaving words into her web in order to warn her friend the pig. Mitchell articulates that of course the story is a fiction, and a spider’s ability to make webs “is understood in terms of the mechanics of the nervous system; it therefore falls short of the kind of language experience typically associated with the written word.”
Given the amount of activity Toronto poet, editor, critic and professional triathalete Suzanne Zelazo has been involved with over the past decade, one can understand why we haven’t seen much in the way of new poetry from her since the publication of her remarkable first trade collection, Parlance (Coach House Books, 2003). Editor-in-Chief of the late, lamented literary journal Queen Street Quarterly (1997 – 2005), she held a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Ryerson University under Irene Gammel, exploring experimental writers and poets including Mina Loy, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Florine Stettheimer.
There is a fearlessness I’ve always admired about the work of Ottawa poet, editor and publisher Amanda Earl, unafraid to follow her curiosity into unusual corners, whether exploring the sexuality and textures of 1920’s Montparnasse in her first trade collection, Kiki (Chaudiere Books, 2014), to “Saint Ursula’s Commonplace Book.” As she writes to describe her current work-in-progress:
Ursula lived in the fourth or fifth century. Variations on her story exist. In one version, she is travelling by ship with eleven thousand virgins to meet her groom, a Pagan. The ship is attacked and the women, including Ursula, are beheaded. In another version, an arrow pierces her heart.
A church was built over the tomb where Ursula was buried. The arrow which pierced her is kept there. Young girls pray to Ursula for protection and miracles. She is their patron saint.