Eaton Hamilton

the problem with being trans is cis people. The problem with being queer is straight people. The problem with being disabled is abled people. The problem with being Black is white people. In other words, prejudice.

Tag: Sonnet L’Abbe

Many Gendered Mothers

I edit for many gendered mothers, a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear.

This project is directly inspired by the American website Literary Mothers, created by editor Nadxieli Nieto and managing editor Nina Puro. While we hope that Literary Mothers might eventually return to posting new pieces, our site was created as an extension and furthering of their project (in homage, if you will), and not meant as any kind of replacement.

Even though we’re new, a lot of terrific pieces have already appeared. Catch up with the essays we’ve published so far:


A Happy Announcement and a Submission Opportunity

I’m delighted to be one of the editors of the new Many Gendered Mothers!


Shirley Jackson by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2016

From the site description:

“many gendered mothers is a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear.

This project is directly inspired by the American website Literary Mothers (, created by editor Nadxieli Nieto and managing editor Nina Puro. While we hope that Literary Mothers might eventually return to posting new pieces, this site was created as an extension and furthering of their project (in homage, if you will), and not meant as any kind of replacement.

Basically: which female ,femme, trans or non-binary writer(s) made you feel like there was room in the world for you and your artistic temperament, or opened up your understanding of what was possible, either as a writer or a human or both? Perhaps you were closely mentored by a particular writer or editor, or perhaps their work was highly influential, even if not in the most obvious ways.”

The other editors are: Adèle Barclay, Natalee Caple, Klara du Plessis, Sonnet L’Abbé, rob mclennan, Hazel MillAr, Jacqueline Valencia + Erin Wunker. Please submit your short essays to me, to them, or directly to

Many Gendered Mothers

Puritan Magazine publishes “rubber soul”

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Dear Friends, Editors, Writers, and Readers,

We are pleased to announce the launch of Issue 34: Issue 2016. This stellar edition features fiction and poetry chosen by our special guest summer editors for 2016: novelist and short-story writer Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and poet Dr. Sonnet L’Abbé. As always, the issue boasts lit-centric non-fiction (essays, reviews, and interviews) that set the bar for long-form writing about books and book culture in Canada.

Guest fiction editor Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer brings us seven prose writers who are all, according to the editor, unafraid to be weird—and refreshingly, bravely so. Read Kuitenbrouwer’s introduction, “Weird!,” where she reveals all the “odd, hidden nooks and crannies” of her taste in short fiction. Both The Puritan and Kuitenbrouwer are pleased to present writers Heather Birrell, Ellen van Neerven, Trish Salah, Sarah Maria Medina, Nehal El-Hadi, M.W. Johnston, and Khalida Venus Hassan.

Our guest poetry editor Dr. Sonnet L’Abbé has selected a fine collection of poems from writers both established and still new to publishing. Start with her introduction—“A Space for the Aggro”—in which she commends the way these poets “are plumbing, in the personal way only poetry can, the angry and aggro energies that seem to dominate this global cultural moment.” Those poets are: George Murray, Stevie Howell, John Wall Barger, Barry Dempster, Tanis MacDonald, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Kyle Kinaschuk, Maria Matuscak, Nicole Chin, Steven Artelle, Jake Byrne, Lauren Marshall, Natalie Wee, Lorin Medley, and Jill Talbot.

The issue continues with non-fiction, starting with two essays. In “Punching Like a Girl,” Krista Foss writes a gripping, hair-raising reflection on violence, propriety, gender, and rage, and in “Comparative Zoology,” Sunny Chan brings us a funny, searching tour of infograpic history, animal encyclopedias, and libraries, seen through the distorting and sweetening lens of nostalgia.

Then we’re on to interviews. The first is a three-part, nineteen-inning investigation of Andrew Forbes’ *The Utility of Boredom* (Invisible Publishing, 2016)—and of baseball, its boring lows and knuckle-whitening highs altogether—by Myra Bloom, Ted Nolan, and Joseph Thomas. The next is Meghan Harrison’s double interview with Dave D D Miller (“The Derby Nerd”) and Monica “Monichrome” Mitchell-Taylor—two major personalites in the world of flat track roller derby in Canada—on derby’s evolution and its pointed parallels to literature and other forms of pop culture. Third, we bring you “An Elegiac Conversation” between the mysterious artists ‘Grant Stonehouse’ and ‘Len Carey,’ as curated by writer Michael Trussler: a fascinating exchange that, we can promise, is not what it seems.

We end this issue, as always, with smart and engaged reviews of recent literary titles. Explore “LOLing with Claws,” Brecken Hancock’s take on Liz Howard’s *Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent* (McClelland & Stewart Poetry, 2015), “War without a Name,” Amanda Sarasien’s review of Mercè Rodoreda’s *War, So Much War* (Open Letter Books, 2015), “Solo Protests Against Solitude,” Myra Bloom’s thoughts on Steven Heighton’s *The Waking Comes Late* (House of Anansi Press, 2016), and, last but not least, “Pragmatic Complications of Perfections,” Aaron Boothby’s look at Klara Du Plessis’s chapbook *Wax Lyrical* (Anstruther Press, 2015).

We’re still reading submissions to Issue 35: Fall 2016 of The Puritan, and to our writing contest, the Fifth Annual Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence, judged by Rawi Hage and Jan Zwicky. It’s the writing competition that awards publication, celebration at Black Friday, $1,000 cash, and approximately $1,700 worth of books, donated from 35 Canadian presses, to each of our two winners. There’s still a whole month to enter, so please don’t be shy about those submissions! Visit our submissions page for more details.

That’s all for now. Enjoy the new issue, and share widely!

A Night of Art and Anti-Art

A woman with a perpetual smile said, “What is your name?”

“Tiara,” said a second woman. She had red hair and a large jaw.

“So you’re a princess?”

“Yes,” said the second woman. “I wear myself out.”

Later, under the Cambie Street bridge at Spyglass Place, there was an old piano sitting on the seawall with blue and orange polka-dots, and a piano bench, and a man with a flat cap and three friends was playing, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. ‘The Keys to the Street’ was a project between the city and post-secondary institutions; there were more polka-dotted pianos elsewhere in Vancouver, and the public was welcome to play them. There was no moon. It was dark with broody grey clouds sweeping over a sky lit almost blue, and a breeze was coming off the water, cooling things down. There weren’t stars, but sometimes a plane flew noisily overhead.  It was 1:30 in the morning. The view from the seawall was sweeping downtown, the highrises speckled with lights, the casino bathed in pink, the Monk’s sign reflecting red on the furrowed water of False Creek, but the four people around the piano, just here, under the murky glow of the streetlamp and the heavy cement buttresses of the bridge, and the small rainbow ferry-slip, and their laughter, and the tunes the one man was playing, was somehow enough. I wanted to take Liz’s hand; I wanted to stop time right there.

I had been walking with Liz with my mother’s red blanket over my arm, and though it had been washed many times, I liked to remember when it smelled of a blend of my mother’s perfume and her cigarettes. Liz smelled of cigarettes, so when I was with her and my mother’s red blanket, it was simple to think about my mother sleeping under that blanket, how she had shape, then, and substance, before she died, how she had shoulders and breasts and elbows and a tummy and knees. She had bunions. I thought about how much fun I had with my mother when I was little, how great she was to play with, and how she let us put clown makeup on her, and how she loved to limbo to Harry Belafonte, and then about swimming every afternoon in my grandparents’ swimming pool and how she would only haul us out when our lips turned blue and chattered together. I thought about my mother’s love for animals. I thought about how she let me sleep with pet raccoons, three of them, in my bed, and how I had a lot of snakes and preying mantises in jars. I’d punch holes in blue Miracle Whip lids, and put in twigs and bits of grass. Once I watched the mantises have sex, and while his green penis was up inside her, she ate his head off, and then she ate the rest of him.  There are theories about this sexual cannabalism: The adaptive foraging,aggressive spilloverand mistaken identity hypotheses, but who knows? I certainly took notice as I shook the mantis back out to freedom come morning (the household rule).  I had mice in a shoebox. I had a robin’s egg incubating under a hot light. I had a pet owl, Spooky, and a pet hawk, Hawkeye.  We had a cat Mom named Pardon Me.

As we walked towards the piano, I draped myself in my mother’s blanket, and I walked on the lip of the seawall, and I pretended it was very thin, two inches across, something to balance on, and I told Liz about how we kids would do that across the top rails of our paddock, and how one set of rails was removable, set loosely into brackets so farm vehicles could pass, and how it was hard, almost impossibly wobbly, to get across, and then I acted it out, swaying, almost falling, my mother’s red blanket a cape whipping in the night wind.

My heart was very arrhythmic. I wanted to press myself against another human to settle it. I thought about Jules in California and how for a while after I spent time with her, my heartbeat was nearly normal.

Liz and I had been lying beside the pond where I often, at dusk, saw blue herons fishing, Charleson Park.  The clouds looked like scumbling. I liked the sound of Liz’s voice. I let it spill over me in washes, like a glaze I’d put on a painting. It was low and made me think of Scotch, and sometimes she laughed and sounded exactly like an ex-lover, a smoky jazz-club rumbly laugh. I touched the grass; I ran my hands over it as if it was someone’s green brush cut. I told Liz that scientists were discovering that the smell of cut grass was actually the smell of trauma; my friend Sonnet L’Abbé, a good poet and teacher, was exploring plant communication. I was feeling the grass and remembering how I used to see as a child, intently, each blade, how when I looked closely enough I’d see each blade creased in its middle like a tiny folded book. I was thinking about lilacs, and rhubarb, those fat red/green stalks, the sap that leaked from them, and climbing, and jumping out of our hayloft, that airborne feeling where I wiggled my toes and felt it in my stomach. I turned on my right side to see Liz’s profile and I saw the city lights through  sweeping curtains of willows, and I thought about Annie Dillard’s tree with the lights in it, and really how excellent Annie Dillard’s writing is, especially that book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which might be the book I’d take to a desert island, really, if I had to choose just one. I wished I had the skills as a painter to capture what it looked like right then, that willow, as Annie had the skills to capture it with writing, and I felt the sting of my limitations.

I listened to Liz talk about the Tar Sands, and how the 14 kilometre Healing Walk she’d undertaken the previous days had made her cry about how much we had destroyed. Environmentalists weren’t sure there was the possibility of reclamation, and the current plans for Syncrude were to triple, not miniaturize. Liz and her compadres walked past Syncrude’s open pit mines, and Liz said it reminded her most like a desert. “A desert with sluey ponds.” She said it stunk of sulphur. At the tailings ponds, there were huge sculptural scarecrows meant to warn away actual birds, mechanical hawks that flashed and rotated.  While she was talking, I looked out at the pond in front of us, upon which a little catchment of light was shimmering. I couldn’t see much of it, or hear birds, but I believed it to be healthy and replete with ducks and red-winged blackbirds in the reeds, bugs and water snakes on the water, and herons at dusk fishing frogs.

I turned over onto my back and I watched Liz smoke, her toque, the shape of her nose and lips which I had already wanted to paint, the red ember of the cigarette. Because I am a nasty ex-smoker, I told her she was doing in micro to her lungs what corporations were doing to Alberta. I didn’t tell her I would have given the world to have never wrecked my heart with cigarettes, but it probably went without saying that I worried for her future since once you’ve done the damage, it’s too late.

I could smell flowers, milky with lust. Above us, the leaves were rustling in the breeze, and they made a sound that filled me with delight and childhood. I tried to imagine what it was like for Van Gogh with his paintbox out in the fields at night, how what he saw in the skies translated to what he drew on his canvases. I wondered what he would paint if he were standing beside us now with his butchered ear, and whether his ear would have been butchered if he could only have come out, the way we can now, as whatever he would have come out as, bisexual or gay, either.

I felt but didn’t say that life was pulling me up by my heartstraps and telling me to listen, to put my bare feet against earth, to note the lumps of the tree roots under me, to listen to the wind, to take the indigo perfumes deep into my lungs, all the flowers’ mad sexual hurried displays.

Liz talked about my short story, “Hunger,” and how it had moved her when she read it in Edmonton, or maybe at the Tar Sands, camping, I don’t know, somewhere, and I told her about its etiology and about character-driven stories and how they were my favourites to write, and I thought about, but didn’t say, how much I miss writing stories, how all the stillborn stories ache inside me, discrete painful throbs like stubbed toes. She said “Hunger” had made her think a lot about power and how power plays out between couples, between mothers and children, and I said that it had made me think about that, too, but also I wondered if the girl in the story ever called her mom to let her know she was okay, and how I also wondered if she got enrolled in school. Maybe it was stupid to wonder how things turned out for a person I made up. I thought about love, then, and characters struggling to stay in love, and how hard that was in real life and in fictional life, too, and because the night was growing colder and Mom’s blanket was wrapped around me, and all the love in my life was sweet but also broken, I thought about Cole Porter’s songs, and Jules singing them along the southern coast of California, with her pure toned voice I could listen to for hours, and about the Percy Adlon video of kd lang singing “So In Love,” which I hoped someone would play at my funeral, and that women in attendance, or not in attendance, those I had slept with, would know that that was how I had tried to love them (excluding the “So taunt me, and hurt me/ Deceive me, desert me” part), full-throatedly, completely.  It is a video about a partner dying of AIDS, but it is universal in speaking to loss, and I would want the women to know that it hurt me to lose them; it hurt me to lose them in just that kd lang way.

And then it was too cold to stay, Liz was chilled and I was starting to shake, and we walked and wobbled our way to the surprising delectation of the polka-dotted piano, and I looked at Liz with true joy, and I met her eyes and we stopped there, for a second, just looking at each other, realizing that sometimes despite the Tar Sands, despite the cruelty that can go on between humans, and by humans towards everything else, a moment can leap towards you perfectly pear-shaped and soft in all the right places, and muscled in all the right places, like a beloved woman’s body, perfectly exquisite, perfectly perfect, out of the indigo night, and we looked until we were done registering this, and then we walked to my car.

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