Eaton Hamilton

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

Category: writing

Mid-June and it’s lovely here

art by Hamilton

This week, I did some preliminary work toward registering my legal name change to Eaton Hamilton. The lovely folks at Rise Marketing changed the name of this blog for me (thank you, thank you). I changed my driver’s license and BC Medical, along with my Services BC card and a credit card. I ordered a birth certificate because some places need two pieces of ID (I thought my license would be one of them). It’s obviously going to be an expensive, drawn-out process with many complications along the way, but in any case, I’m happy it’s underway.

Hopefully, my many publishers will take note and in any instances where possible, change over my short work or books (when new eds come out, say). That would be appreciated.

Some of you may know I’m writing a book of poetry these days, alongside a memoir-in-essays. I’m one of the strange creatures who has to work on multiple projects at a time (I direct sustained focus as needed). I’ve been trying to write an essay this week, but I’m running into creative roadblocks. By that I mean stylistic problems I haven’t been able to resolve. I’m not sure if they stem from content concerns or something else, but my voice has abandoned me. Does that happen to you, that you lose your voice? When I sit down with an intention toward a work, and yet it doesn’t come, I swear it feels like my mouth is falling open and closed without sound, like every time I’ve ever been silenced by another person.

Wish me luck. I still need to write it!

How are you doing these days? Me, I’m bloody nervous about BC opening when people only have their first dose of vaccine and the Delta variant is taking root. I’m a fan of zero covid and I hate the government taking such risks with our lives. Me, I’m staying home as much as is possible; not the summer of seeing friends and family. Not for me, anyhow.

Vaccine fall-out

Image: Eaton Hamilton, cherry blossom

I’m one of the hopefully-few unlucky people who got severe side effects from the Moderna first dose vaccine, so May has passed in a painful blur, mostly up and down from bed, as the weird side effects bounced around my body. Meantime, without me, the garden has catapulted itself into an unruly mess and I have no hope of ever catching it. Still, I love it. I love it unreservedly. Every day it’s nice enough, I pour myself into a plastic chair, feet up on the rock wall of the perennial beds, and spend a few moments in heaven. It took me years and years to learn to enjoy such beauty without having someone beside me, but I’m so glad I’m finally there. One of the beautiful things to admire after all, is me.

I have so many talents and a good number of skills, built over decades. I know I parented my children in a much kinder way than I was parented. I know I’ll leave the world better for having been there, without a sliver of doubt. I’ll leave fine literature and good painting behind me too and superlative memories in my grandchildren’s heads.

Right now I’m writing both a poetry book and a memoir-in-essays (along with painting. Follow along at IG: hamiltonart1000). Though there are still mysteries of memory for me, for the most part all the vast number of pieces for the puzzle of me are in place, and I’m inspired to write about them. An ideal place to be.

Today I finished a complicated poem about time I spent in the covid ward last year.

I’ve been reading Gina Frangello’s “Blow Your House Down” this week, for me at a rocket pace. It’s about a mother who explodes her home life by having an affair. It’s a wonderful book and I recommend it. More here, I hope, when I’ve finished it.

A couple of weeks ago, following her death, I read Shanna Mahin’s “Oh! You Pretty Things,” which I’ll probably find in my TBR piles at some point, too. Shanna’s book would have been a slice of heaven had she managed to crowbar in a plot to hang it on.

That’s all from here on this spectacular day. While I’m not okay today physically, I’m better than I’ve been since I got the vaccine. That’s something to celebrate as I was in bad shape earlier this week. I hope your lives are going okay for you. I watch all the opening up with suspicion, I admit, wishing as always that my country had gone for zero covid. We still could, but we are stubborn as hell and won’t. We won’t even have a referendum about it.

Will I get my second vaccine? You bet your bippy. To protect other people and with the hope the side effects won’t last forever.


Image: Eaton Hamilton, hyacinth

I think I half-hate NaPoWriMo, where we write a poem a day for the month of April, because it makes me wish the month over. Where I live, April became a love song to gardens, with sunshine and summery temps all month, just vacating now. I’ve gone easier on myself this month, just tried to keep up, which isn’t so much of a demand. Remarkably I’ve only had one bad day that needed 14 bloody hours to get a crude draft out.

I paint every day, too, and you can follow a bit of that on IG. IG is not a very talkative media space, however. I have many things I’d say all through every day if I could just jot a quick note. Am I asking for twitter? Nah, *not* twitter. Twitter for politics, and halt. FB for politics, friends, writing and venting. IG for art. That’s how it shakes down for me.

For painting and writing, you can also join me on Patreon, where I exist as Hamilton Art.

I’ve just– Well, I was going to say I’ve just finished an essay, but the truth is I haven’t gotten to the end of the first draft yet. I’ve been writing essays back many weeks now, but this is the first one that’s close to the finish line, which is relieving. You can sometimes feel you just don’t know how to make it happen any longer. This is all for the lovely and fraught project of a memoir-in-essays. Stay tuned.

What’s happening in your life?

I’m waiting for my first vaccine shot a week from now and my g-baby’s 5th birthday. I’m a political animal, so I also keep up with the news and wonder how much anguish one heart can sustain. All our hearts are battered after this last year, weary and saddened and heavy with grief and survivors’ guilt.

With all my heart, I wish you and your loved ones well. I wish you safety.

Patreon secrets

A few gifts for my patrons on Patreon

I’m telling all my secrets on Patreon. Do you remember LiveJournal? Like that. Come join me there at Hamilton Art, or see my art on IG under hamilton1000.

I’ll save this space for writing.

The novel DEAD BIRDS is done what I think might have been draft 8134, and needless to say, this pleases me. I started this book in 2012. It really is a cool story.

I’m starting to pull apart my memoir-in-essays and this is thrilling, scary, unnerving. Somehow I have to turn my essays into a cohesive, linear whole without any of the essays losing their strengths. I can’t tell something in one essay that happens again in another. Or can I? Much to puzzle over, but meantime I’m writing new essays as I feel able. The book may end up being two books.

I’m also dong NaPoWriMo this month to go along with a series of poems I’ve been working on lately mostly about contemporary life. I suspect a lot of persona poems to come.

What about you? What are you doing as our hemisphere turns its yellow and pink head toward spring?

Happy IWD

Happy International Womxn’s Day, folks! It’s good to have a day (a month) to keep womxn’s struggles for equality and equity uppermost in mind.

Did you know that when I was young, women couldn’t get credit in their own name? I had two kids before I could get my first credit card, and that was only a Canadian Tire card. Next oil and gas companies took a chance on us. We are talking mid-80s before womxn started reliably obtaining credit. In the late 80s, when I went to have my long hair cut off (I think only to shoulder length) the female stylist tried to send me home for a note from my husband.

Don’t take things for granted.

Covid snags and other tidbits

Most of you know I’ve changed my name to align with my gender identity. (More about that here.) For several years, I concluded that it would simply be too hard to change my writing name to the name I now go by, which is Hamilton, but during lockdown the idea of not being genuine enough, and having to still deal with a girl’s name, to see it associated with me, really began to weigh on me, and I proceeded with a legal name change to Eaton Hamilton.

So welcome to the new, old me. The whole name thing bugged me from the earliest dates I can remember. You wouldn’t think “Jane” was a name people with which people would tease you, but you’d be wrong. I hated my last name too. When I was a kid, there was a TV show called Mr McGoo, with an addled senior in the main role, so having the name “McKee” was fair game on the playground. Now of course I understand it wasn’t really the names they were picking on, but the person they saw as different and flawed, but it still humiliated me, so I hated it too, and changed my surname to my mother’s natal name when she reverted after divorce.

I’d rather chase a female lineage anyhow, even if it does peter out mere generations back.

Happy almost spring! We got through this blighted winter. I wonder what the covid world holds in store for us in the next season. I only leave the house about once every six weeks, and unless something is emergent, I don’t partake. I hope to hell it’s more positive.


ID: Candy hearts with romantic sayings on them like “My Hero” or “Only You”

Valentine’s Day week is a good week to post a story with the title Hearts, isn’t it? It was published by the fine The Sun Magazine in 1993, almost thirty years ago. When they published me a second time, I didn’t actually recall having been published there the first time because, at the time, I was in a new relationship and I’d just quit smoking. I was slammed alternately between limerance and a sucking depression. I probably didn’t even notice a new publication.

Here’s that old story, Hearts. My newer piece with The Sun is Skinning the Rabbit.

I wish you all the best for this week of love. I hope there’s a person or animal who brings a sparkle to your heart. Luckily, a friend sent me a handmade card and a box of chocolates; things like that make it easier to get up in the morning.

If you’re like me, you don’t have a special someone. I’m locked down alone and have been all along. There are benefits to having a loving relationship with yourself, of course, and I find those mostly in the creation of art. Where I live, despite a current cold snap, there are buds on the daffodils, so I know I can soon have an affair on art and fool around with spring.

(If you’d like to keep up with my visual art life, please see Hamilton Art on FB or hamilton1000 on Instagram.)

The Malahat Review Open Season Awards

I only found out yesterday that I had been a finalist in the cnf division of the Malahat’s Open Season Awards, judged by Lishai Peel. The marvelous author Tanis MacDonald took first prize and I’m sure her essay will be glorious. My happy news came with a lovely note from the Malahat:

“You’ve likely seen the Open Season Awards announcement about the winners Matthew Hollett (poetry), Zilla Jones (fiction), and Tanis MacDonald (cnf). Judge Lishai Peel wanted me to pass on some words to you about your piece “Splinter,” and to let you know that she had a hard time deciding on a winner.

“This piece of writing was exquisite, heart wrenching and masterfully crafted. While reading, I felt the proximity of both grief and beauty. It made me cry, it made me feel deeply, it made me want to take up gardening, it made me want to deliver dead flowers to my ex, it made me want to hold my child the way I did when he was small, it made me remember the prayer of new beginnings. This writing was a real privilege to read and a story that will most likely live in my body for a long time to come.”

Congrats to all the winners, to all the finalists, and to the Malahat Review for being an excellent litmag for Canadian authors year after year, decade following decade. I believe they published my first poems way back when. Connie Rooke found them in her slush pile, published some, and passed them along to Leon Rooke, who published some of my writing in the Second Macmillan Anthology.

So, onward we go until we don’t.

Connie Rooke died in 2008, but happily both Leon and John go on, and there’s a Malahat Review award named in Connie’s honour now.

If your bird needs to fly, do this:

For a break in the prevailing mood, read this lovely Lit Hub essay “What It’s Like to Teach a Magpie How to Fly.” by Charlie Gilmour. Anyone who knows me knows I am bird-besotted. Even as I read about this bird tucking tidbits of food into the USB port of the author’s computer, I fell a little more in love. Charlie’s book is called Featherhood: A Memoir of Two Fathers and a Magpie.

Best American Experimental Writing (BAX)

It’s such a surreal year, isn’t it? There’s not one human alive I would want to suffer through this. (And yes, I despise the usual number of dictators, right-wing politicians and generally cruel people. Still, still. Covid is a horrible disease I wish even they could avoid.)

It’s obvious now that BC, where I live, among most N American jurisdictions, has mishandled the pandemic. Masks have only just been mandated. Our schools are open with large classes, no distancing and no masking. Transmission by the asymptomatic, including kids, is not accepted. Airborne transmission is waved away. We’re in a semi-lockdown (not one that makes much sense. Inconsistencies abound), but, clearly, we are in big big trouble, our hospital capacity already sagging under the weight.

And we have unethical triaging here as policy. If you are older or you have disabilities, your hospital staff may recommend not treating you to their ethics panel, who will likely agree. It hasn’t occurred to these people that disabled and elderly lives are not burdensome, but are of equal value to any others. The disabled love just as bigly. The disabled laugh just as loudly. The disabled and seniors have the right to the same treatment as everyone else. When hospitals surge, a lottery system needs to go into place.

The pain of this year is not equally distributed, and this plagues me. Few care about the disabled. When Canada was handing out CERB, the amount the gov’t decided was absolutely necessary for survival in this country, it was pretty much double what they provide to seniors and the disabled. They care shockingly little for people who struggle more–which is goddamned well backwards.

I hurt to think of the folks unable to breathe and dying (whether at home or in hospitals), I quiver for the losses of their beautiful futures. What could they have done if they had lived? What child would they have made giggle, what book might they have written, what right might they have fought for, what painting might they have painted? When we lose a person, we’re losing their potential along with their corporeality, all they might have been.

The what-ifs. What if these people had survived, what would they have brought us? I don’t mean they needed to contribute or accomplish things to be valuable to us–they would have been valuable to us without lifting a finger. But what have they lost? What have we lost in losing them?

We have enough answers to hurt ourselves with: we lose more of them because they are Black or Latinx, because they are poor or unhoused, or because they were already suffering with age or comorbidities/disabilities. Or because they come from countries with fewer resources.

We lost them because of racism. Because of homophobia. Because of transphobia. Because of fat phobia. Because of ableism. Those are measurable causes of hospital deaths in every jurisdiction every damned day–I can only imagine how much worse this has become when workers are too taxed to want to try and do better.

I was texting a friend today that I imagined every human’s mental health around the globe has now been affected by covid. What are we planning to do about that, as a species? I’m positive there will never be covered therapy-for-all.

Will the children infected now (will the adults?) whether symptomatic or not, have organ damage that will affect their lives going forward, and will the medical industry be swamped by people’s needs long-term? We aren’t even exploring kids’ vaccines yet.

I think of the care workers putting in too long shifts and going through too much trauma, waging a war every day while trying to stay, themselves, uninfected and not to infect their loved ones. Trying to treat everyone so they don’t have to triage people out.

Me, I barely go outside any longer. It’s not easy for me to walk, so that’s not really available except under controlled circumstances (for me, a treadmill). I only go to our centre of commerce about every three weeks to shop. I live alone. I’m disabled with complex and difficult overlapping medical needs. When something happens, either in my life or in the world, I absorb it alone. How many people will be stricken with illnesses they wouldn’t otherwise have contracted that simply flow from being alone and/or unloved/untended?

I’m happy about vaccines. I’m curious to see if there are side-effects, more curious still to know how long their immunity lasts? What if people can be infected again in just a few months?

I’m somewhat preoccupied with thoughts of doom. As I create work this year, I wonder if it matters. Did it ever matter? Does it matter now, really? What piddly thing could I create that would matter a good goddamn if I hadn’t created it?

But, but. It is the season of celebrations to welcome the return of the light. In 2020, I’ve had my small successes in amongst my many quite severe difficulties. I’ve sold a lot of paintings, and this is probably my best news. Thank you indeed to all my lovely collectors. I won a writing contest and placed in some others, which is gratifying. I worked on a novel I’ve been working on since 2011. I had work in several anthos along the way. That’s me. In 2021, if I don’t sicken further, I hope to paint and paint and paint. I’ll be working on an essay collection most of the year. That’ll be hard and frustrating and satisfying.

I wish you all health, and love and safety over this holiday. I know it can be a difficult time for many, but the good thing is that in a week it will be over, and solstice will be over, and in January where I live our gardens stir. Once January arrives, I can usually make it through just with the promise of spring and I hope that’s the same for you.

Here’s BAX, which just arrived at my place. I took a selfie in front of a different wall this time:

Hamilton, with BAX 2020, some of my art and some of my family members.

Third prize! Los Angeles Review!

It’s lovely when something you put out into the world is noticed. I’m thankful to the Los Angeles Review and judge Kristen Millares Young for admiring “The Gravity of Rocks” enough to award it third prize in your fiction contest. “The Gravity of Rocks” is a story about IPV in a heterosexual family.

Wicked, Wicked Wales

the announcement poster

There’s a wonderful organization in Vancouver called Reel Youth:

“Reel Youth is a media empowerment project that delivers community development programming to youth and adults across Canada and internationally. Film production and distribution programs are designed to create positive change in young people’s lives through technical skill building, leadership training, creative collaboration with peers and mentors, and increased connection to community resources.”

One of the projects Reel Youth gets up to once a year (excluding covid) is collaborations between young filmmakers and seniors in the LGBTQIA2+ community called Troublemakers. This is such an important project. One thing that the LGBTQIA2+ community doesn’t have a lot of is evidence of its own past, and projects like Troublemakers gives this back–to our present, but also to our futures. I was lucky enough to participate last year, paired with the astonishing Ezra Bell, whose film with me is called “Endurance.”

Reel Youth submitted several films from my year, including Troublemakers Gregory Karlen, !Kona, and Marg Yeo to a film fest in Wales called Wicked Wales International Film Festival.

So happy for Ezra Bell to announce that his film, “Endurance,” won third prize! Congrats to Reel Youth, Troublemakers and especially to Ezra Bell. It was such a sincere pleasure and honour to work with him making this.


Best Canadian Poetry!

Hamilton in painting smock with Best Canadian Poetry 2020

I’m thrilled to announce that I have a poem in Best Canadian Poetry, 2020, edited by Marilyn Dumont. Thanks to Marilyn and to Series Editor Anita Lahey and advisory editor Amanda Jernigan! My poem is Game Show from Puritan Magazine. Congrats to the other fine poets! Honoured to be with you and looking forward to reading your work! #canlit

The launch of the anthology will happen Oct 25 and you’re invited! Here’s the link to sign up for the sampler of online readings by ten contributing poets!

Launch poster, Best Canadian Poetry 2020

Best American Essays Notable!

I’m thrilled to be able to announce that one of the essays Roxane Gay chose as “Best of 2019” from Gay Magazine has now garnered a Notable in Best American Essays 2020! I believe it’s my fourth Notable for Best American Essays, and I had one for Best American Short Stories, too, once. Congrats to the other Notables, with whom I’m honoured to be mentioned and to the essayists. Thanks to the series editor, Robert Atwan! #canlit

A Night of Art and Anti-Art, a reading

Pianos on the Street, Vancouver, the polka-dot piano from the piece

(suspended for covid)


I was asked by Event Magazine in Vancouver to do a virtual reading for them. I read a piece about wandering around False Creek with a friend, thinking about environmental degradation and art.

Jane Eaton Hamilton reading for Event Magazine

Would You Like a Little Gramma On Those?

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2020

above/ground press in Ottawa has begun a series of prose chapbooks and I’m happy to say that publisher/editor Rob Mclennan chose one of my stories, ‘Would You Like a Little Gramma On Those,” to join several other wonderful stories by the following authors in his initial run. Despite all my books, this is only my second chapbook ever (the first being ‘Going Santa Fe’ from League of Cdn Poets)! I’m very excited!

Here is the press release and following that a link to above/ground’s blog:

Leaning up to the press’ twenty-eighth year of production, Ottawa’s above/ground press launches a prose imprint, “prose/naut,” and announces its first four chapbook titles, which will each become available over the next few weeks: 

Amanda Earl, Sessions from the DreamHouse Aria (September 2020) 

Jane Eaton Hamilton, Would You Like a Little Gramma On Those? (September 2020) 

rob mclennan, Twenty-one stories, (September 2020) 

Keith Waldrop, from THE LOSS FOR WORDS (October 2020) 

Why a prose imprint? With more than one thousand poetry-specific publications produced over the past nearly thirty years, why branch out into prose? I suppose the straightforward answer is that there appear to be fewer possibilities for publication for lyric prose than even there were five ago, despite the wealth of materials being produced. There is some incredible work being done, and my own frustrations as a reader has brought us, one might say, to this.

The series hopes to include single-author chapbooks of prose, from fiction to other forms, all of which will be included as part of the regular above/ground press annual subscription package. Review/media copies will also be available upon request (while supplies last).

If you wish to pre-order all four titles, I would be open to that: $20 for all four (add $3 postage for American orders; add $10 for international). 

If you would rather, you could simply subscribe to above/ground press RIGHT NOW and all four would be included: 2021 annual subscriptions (and resubscriptions) to above/ground press are available: $75 (CAN; American subscribers, $75 US; $100 international) for everything above/ground press makes from the moment you subscribe through to the end of 2021, including chapbooks, broadsheets, The Peter F. Yacht Club and G U E S T [a journal of guest editors] and quarterly poetry journal Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal].

Just what else might happen? Currently and forthcoming items also include new poetry chapbooks by Julia Drescher (two this year!), Billy Mavreas, ryan fitzpatrick, Sarah Burgoyne and Susan Burgoyne, Paul Perry, Jérôme Melançon, Ava Hofmann, Alexander Joseph, David Miller, Sa’eed Tavana’ee Marvi (trans. Khashayar Mohammadi), katie o’brien, Nathanael O’Reilly, Amelia Does, Andrew Brenza, Genevieve Kaplan, Geoffrey Olsen, Franco Cortese (four over the next few months), Zane Koss, Dennis Cooley, Barry McKinnon and Cecilia Tamburri Stuart as well as a whole slew of publications that haven’t even been decided on yet.

Why wait? You can either send a cheque (payable to rob mclennan) to 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 7M9, or send money via PayPal or e-transfer to rob_mclennan (at) (or through the PayPal button at 

For further information, email publisher/editor rob mclennan at rob_mclennan (at), or follow the myriad of links at  

Stay safe! Stay home! Wear a mask! Wash your damned hands! 


above/ground press

Hard Days

Getty Images

Thank you, my friends, for supporting Black Lives Matter. Every day, there are new reports of police brutality coming from the US, while citizens around the world watch appalled, enraged, then marching their fury and demanding substantive change. How hard it is for Black mothers, fathers, children. How terrifying to have to educate your children about the dangers they face, yet let them leave your side.

In Canada, where I live, similar murders or beatings often occur, as well–our police forces are increasingly militarized, just like in the US, and their attacks are often against the racialized, poor and disabled (particularly Indigenous peoples). Lately there have been a series of attacks during so-called “wellness checks,” sometimes when police weren’t even requested but paramedics were. Imagine needing a hug and medical care and instead being degraded, dragged, beaten, murdered.

We’re watching you, police, and we are not happy with what we see.

Do I need to state that these atrocities just don’t happen proportionally to cis, het, white, non-disabled people? No, I don’t. The facts are inescapable, inarguable, the need for overhaul acute.

COVID-19 surges. I’m lucky to live in an area that’s had few cases, but we understand, here, that re-opening poses a significant threat. I wish good fortune to everyone, and extend a hope that the vile and inhumane triage protocols that target older, more ill and disabled people with sidelining will never be enacted where you live. (Please, please, let’s not add the inhumanity and Nazi-legacy of eugenics to this mess.)

Of course, this is a writing blog, but for me writing, now, seems unimportant and beside the point. If you’re able to lift your pen during these crises, I wish you courage and strength.


72 Canadian short stories available online!

image: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2016 acrylic on paper

Kevin Hardcastle put together a list of Canadian short fiction available online; I look forward to dipping in. So many great authors! Something to take our mind off COVID-19.

Something to Read While You Isolate, by Kevin Hardcastle

My short fiction “Smiley” won the 2014 CBC Literary Awards in fiction:

Smiley by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Here is a reading of “Smiley:”

Smiley by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“The Lost Boy” won the CBC Literary Awards in fiction in 2003. It’s about the uneasy relationship between a child and her mom during the internment and is based on a family story:

The Lost Boy by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Territory” was the first prize winner in This Magazine’s short fiction contest.  It’s about a woman leaving her husband for another woman:

Territory by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Hunger” won the Paragraph Erotic Fiction Prize and was reprinted in my book “Hunger.”  It’s about a lesbian street kid who falls in love with an older woman:

Hunger by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Sperm King” won the Prism International Short Fiction Award:

Sperm King by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Easter” is short fiction, quite short.  Truth:  An old woman lit her wheelchair-bound husband on fire for eating her chocolate Easter bunny.  The rest is made up:

Easter by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“The Arrival of Horses,” a short fiction that first appeared in Seventeen Magazine, and later reprinted in my collection “July Nights,” concerns a family caught up in the on-going battle between ranchers and the BLM over wild horses:

The Arrival of Horses by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Social Discourse: 1944” was loosely based on a real fire connected with Royal Oak Dairy in Hamilton, ON, and the injuries and loss of life sustained therein. I made the arsonist the secret homosexual lover of my gay uncle Gordon, which in real life he was not (although Gordon was gay, and the first gay person I knew).

Social Discourse: 1944 by Jane Eaton Hamilton


Jane Eaton Hamilton writes across genres, and is the author, among other books, of two collections of short fiction, “JULY NIGHTS,” shortlisted for the BC Book Prize and the VanCity Book Prize, and “HUNGER,” shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley and longlisted for the Lambda.


About Hamilton’s short fiction:



BiblioWomenAuthors, Hunger

Review of Hunger by Richard Labonte

Event review of Hunger

Painting the Baby’s Room Green

Hunger, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Oberon, 2002

The woman on the cover of this book is painted in vibrant tones of orange and red. Only one eye is visible, and it stares with an intensity that you feel might never quit. The other eye is obscured by her hands, clasped together in a vulnerable and disconcerting pose. And there, captured in the proverbial nutshell, are the stories contained in this excellent little collection. From the honesty, painfully contained and restrained, in “Accusation,” the opening story, where a woman tests the boundaires of her marriage when she draws her husband into her flirtation (read connection) with a younger man at work, to the closing story, from which the collection takes it title, where a manipulative lesbian lover physically and verbally intimidates her partner into staying with her, Jane Eaton Hamilton confronts the lies we may or may not choose to live with on a day-to-day basis.

Hunger is Hamilton’s fifth book, and the most assured foray to date into the genre by this multi-talented writer (she is a noted gardener and writer of poetry also). Her short stories have been nominated for numerous awards; they are included in anthologies; they have appeared in Best Canadian Stories and The Journey Prize Anthology, and in many literary journals, including The Fiddlehead. Hamilton has also been short-listed for the Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Hunger was a finalist in the Publishing Triangle Awards NYC 2003.

The stories in Hunger are superbly character driven; the characters we encounter are not always lovable. At times demanding and selfish, they are searching for something more than what they have, and for that we find them interesting, perhaps even admirable. Hamilton’s wry observations on the human condition are poignant, and can be quite witty when they deal with those unfortunate lovers who are about to be dumped. In the darkly tragic, therefore slightly comedic (seemingly inseparable states), take “Goombay Smash,” one half of a lesbian partnership is desperately trying to keep the relationship together, and she takes both herself and her partner off to a gay resort. On the first morning, at breakfast, she is watching the other—apparently happy and contented—couples around her and tries to identify a common element in their seemingly successful relationships. She comes up with the wild notion that matching hairdos may be the answer to true coupledom bliss:

Maybe this is how American lesbians celebrate their anniversaries, you think. Never mind paper, silver, gold: American lesbians have hair anniversaries. If they make it two years, they part on the same side, five years and they spike, ten and they bob. Twenty and they both wear buns in snoods.

“Psst,” you say. “Marg, look over there.”
Marg says, “What, Joyce?”
You point out the women with the waterfall hair and try and explain about hair anniversaries, and how the two of you should get matching buzz cuts, but Marg just frowns and goes back to scraping out her grapefruit with a stumpy-handled spoon.

One of the most original stories is “Lifeboat” which, with complete clarity, catalogues the less than comforting reactions of a husband whose wife has lost a breast to cancer. She refuses to do anything cosmetic to disguise this fact, a situation he finds alternately selfish and frustrating, or gutsy and admirable. His life is significantly altered by his wife’s experience with the disease and the cancer machine of support groups, alternative therapies and the ubiquitous cancer convention. The author pulls no punches in her exploration of the husband’s character, yet we can feel sympathy for this man who cries What about me? The end holds a moment of redemption; anyone who has been there, cancer wise—done that, worn the t-shirt—with any member of her family, will certainly recognize it, and anyone lucky enough not to have been there will surely recognize and appreciate the sense of loss—acutely juxtaposed with the feeling of hope—for what might yet be salvaged.

My particular favourite in this bunch of marvellous incursions into the depths and occasional heights of human experience is “Kiss Me or Something,” the story of a gay woman who falls for a straight woman, or, as I prefer to think of it, the story of a woman trying on different identities to see which one best fits her. Unfortunately, when people experiment with people, someone usually gets hurt along the way, and this story reveals just how deep that hurt can be. The betrayal of one woman is presented to the other as a gift, as something that will bring them both closer together. As the relationship heads toward disaster, it is painful to keep reading, yet read on we must, just as the two women must keep up the charade between them until the bitter end. We may wonder at the cruelty of one human being who willfully dupes another, and we further wonder at the capacity of human beings to dupe themselves:

How could I resist her? She kissed my cheek and my chin, small adorable kisses, and I folded my arms around her, pressed myself against her still taut stomach, groaned.

“Please,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

Now I knew who it was, I wanted Dorianna in a territorial way. I wanted to mark her, claim her, leave my scent on her. Drunk and confused and overcome by instinct, I felt like an animal. I pushed Dorianna down on her bed and made love to her like a beast, without taking off my clothes, lost in a haze of insane, itchy carnality.

An instinctive response to loss and betrayal, drawn with the kind of honesty that Hamilton is able to wield, her stories chronicle lives we may find uncomfortably familiar.

–Paula Thomas, Fiddlehead autumn 2003 No 217

Absinthe Review, Hunger

Emma Donoghue, judge of the Ferro-Grumley Award: “Highly original, gripping, sharp and deepy moving”

“Most of the characters in “Hunger” – women and men, gay and straight – inhabit a world roiled by emotional turbulence. Love evades them; their relationships are disintegrating; partners betray them; their lives are defined mostly by loss, longing, confusion, uncertainty. In “Goombay Smash,” a Key West vacation meant to breathe new life into the dispirited domesticity of a lesbian couple instead disintegrates into days of wrong turns, crossed signals, long silences, and denied sex. In “Kiss Me or Something,” a lifelong lesbian disdains the cautionary fretting of friends, so sure is she that the once-straight woman who now proclaims a Sapphic love eternal will never leave her for a man. In this uniquely voiced collection, nothing about matters of the heart is easy, or obvious, or even settled. The magic of these 10 short stories, though, and of Canadian writer Jane Eaton Hamilton’s insightful, fluid – and often disarmingly witty – prose is that, in elegant, edgy fiction as in messy real life, sorrows of the soul are redeemed by a resilience of spirit.” —Richard Labonte

“Jane Eaton Hamilton is a superb writer. Those who know her deem her to be among the brightest lights on the Canadian literary landscape. Those who do not know this ought to read and judge for themselves. I wholeheartedly recommend her work.” –Joy Kogawa

“These stories will grab you by the throat and not let you go. Highly original, gripping, sharp and deeply moving, they deserve the prizes they have won, and those to come.” –Emma Donoghue

“Jane Eaton Hamilton is a fine and accomplished writer.” –Carol Shields

“Hamilton explores themes of longing and loss in the lives of lesbians, heterosexual men and women. …marvelously quirky. Hamilton successfully weaves humour with pathos in the lean, accomplished style reminiscent of short stories in the New Yorker.” —Nairne Holtz, University of Western Ontario



“These works ride the perilous ride the perilous border between prose and poetry–a place of timeless, breathless beauty.  These are stories to be read again and again.”–Vancouver Sun

“A fine new collection, one that I highly recommend.”–Monday Magazine

“Hamilton makes captivity to her word-spirits seem, at times, preferable to mere liberty.  To favour one story says more about oneself than about the writer.”–Prairie Fire

“This is a strong first collection that will leave readers eager to see Hamilton’s next.”–Quill and Quire

“A disturbing pleasure to read.”–Toronto Star

“Crisp and clean, tender and dangerous.”–Paragraph




Best Canadian Poetry

Happy to say that a poem of mine, “Game Show,” which was published at The Puritan has been chosen for Best Canadian Poetry 2020, edited by Marilyn Dumont and published by Biblioasis. Thank you and congrats to everyone!

Here are some reviews for the series:

“The wide range of writers, forms and themes represented here make it a great jumping-off point for readers who might be interested in Canadian poetry but are unsure about where to start.”—Globe and Mail  

“Buy it, or borrow it, but do read it.”—Arc Poetry Magazine

“A magnet, I think, for the many people who would like to know contemporary poetry.”—A.F. Moritz, Griffin Poetry Prize winner

“The Best Canadian Poetry series offers an annual sampling of voices and experiences—a little slice of Canadiana that may be appreciated beyond borders as well.”—

“An eclectic and diverse collection of Canadian poetry . . . a wonderful addition to anyone’s bookshelf.”—Toronto Quarterly

“Bits of eternity, arranged alphabetically.”—Merilyn Simonds

“Canada’s most eloquent, profound, humorous and meditative writers, ranging from the seasoned and well known to the new and upcoming.”—Broken Pencil


The Mogford Food and Drink short story contest


It’s such an honour to be long-listed for the Mogford Food and Drink short story contest. My story is “Abbad, the Duck,” about a duck who ends up on a fois gras factory farm in Quebec. Congrats to the other long-listers!

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