Friday, 29 January 2021

The Occasional Backroom: Rayanne Haines

These are gothic times of course. When I was in Edinburgh last year it had a ghostly aspect but in the middle of lockdown it must be even more atmospheric. Bad, sad times but a once in a lifetime opportunity to trawl the deserted wynds, closes and stanks free of tourists and even many of the locals. For a poet it is an enviable prospect, especially if it's your first time. 'Edinburgh is a mad god's dream' said Hugh MacDiarmid. 'When I looked out in the morning it is as if I had waked in Utopia' said George Eliot. We should all be pretty jealous therefore of the Canadian poet Rayanne Haines who arrived in Edinburgh recently to pursue her studies and who, having served her quarantine, is now able to poke about and fuel her imagination in this most wonderful. dark and complex of cities.

Rayanne Haines’s writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from, 'Fiddlehead, Impact: The Lives of Women After Concussion' Anthology, 'Voicing Suicide' Anthology, 'The Selkie Resiliency' Anthology, 'Funicular', 'Lida Lit Mag', and many others. She is the host of the literary podcast, 'An Eloquent Bitch' and is the Alberta NWT rep for the League of Canadian Poets. Rayanne is a 2019 Edmonton Artist Trust Fund Award recipient. Past Executive Director of the Edmonton Poetry Festival, Rayanne is a current Masters student focusing on Arts Management and Cultural Policy Research. Her poetry and prose have been shortlisted for the Canadian Authors Association Exporting Alberta Award and the John Whyte Memorial Essay Alberta Literary Award. Her current work focuses on mental health and intergenerational female trauma. 'Tell the Birds your Body is Not a Gun' is forthcoming in 2021 with Frontenac House.

Here she is reading  'Don’t Fall for Imitation Pearls with Exotic Names', a reverie on time, heritage and remembrance. 'All my memories are wrapped in whirlwinds of adventure....most purchased on the side of a road. i wonder if my sons will hold them dear.' 

Don’t Fall for Imitation Pearls with Exotic Names

in the room where my father
hid his most important memories,

a box sat in the corner filled with my
great grandmother’s pearls and silver.

the items wrapped in white tissue paper
and flat cotton. packed away before her death.

these false mementos of stature. the silver
chipped, pearls flaked, still, more precious than gold.

treasures gifted by a husband she married
while still a girl in braids. her skin darkened

by the sun, hands already callused from working
the land. in the room under the stairs where 

my father hid these things, dust coated
the walls, and the boxes mother forbade us to touch.

in the same room, my mother stored laundry
detergent, cat litter, the good holiday ornaments.

mother would say knowing an object is safe
is more important than having it on display. objects

hold memories you see, and father only had a few.
my sister and i would wrap our necks in these

remembrances when left unsupervised. or hide under
the stairs, dreaming of husbands gifting us with rubies.

the jewellery i own is spread haphazardly across
my dresser. items found on travels to countries

my great-grandmother never visited. but maybe
wanted to. who knows, i never met her to ask.

all my memories are wrapped in whirlwinds
of adventure. all of them worth far more than

the cost of a plane ride. most purchased on the side
of a road. i wonder if my sons will hold them dear.

i often dream of a house overlooking a valley,
built by my great-grandparent’s hands. i dream

they’d sit on the porch sharing whiskey
and cigars. both covered in dust. great-grandmother

reserving her cleanliness for sunday
morning when god and parish paid attention.

This refuge hewn by hard work, before the city
moved in, when the midnight moon was a cotton

ball and coyotes outnumbered people. and the world
was small and we knew how to love each other.

behind their house now, there is an esso
station. in front, a five-story brick apartment.

peoples’ memories stacked upon each other
like cardboard boxes. my great-grandmother, only

ever a ghost to me, is buried in the graveyard half
a mile away. her baubles still hidden under the stairs.

my mother still protecting them.

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1 comment:

  1. Tremendous words, images, tribute, flow, commemoration. A life lived & still remembered. It's what great poetry can do.