with/holding is a collection of genre-blurring poems that examines the representation and reproduction of Blackness across communication media and popular culture. Together, text and image call up a nightmarish and seemingly insatiable buzzing-clicking-scrolling-sharing appetite for a daily diet of Black suffering.
In this follow-up to her award-winning debut collection How She Read (2019), Gibson gives sombre voice to Nostalgia, "the signifying ache in search of its signified. " A meditation on the rise of falling monuments, in the wake of Add to Cart consumer culture, this collection draws on the language of brand marketing, news and social media, DIY culture and graphic design--"the tyranny of copy and paste"--to confront the role of the new colonial machinery in the relentless consumption and commodification of Black bodies.
Drawing on icons past and present, this collection imagines Black voices moving freely across time and space: the hold of a 19th century slave ship diagram printed on a white rubber yoga mat; a whispering set of 1950s grinning salt 'n' pepper shakers on a Pinterest dinner table; ringside with wrestler Sweet Daddy Siki at 1970s Maple Leaf Gardens on YouTube; and the dissenting centre of the 2020 Black Square. In the journey from longing to belonging, with/holding disrupts the fetishizing algorithms that continue to reproduce Black pain, promote anti-Black racism, and reinforce white supremacy. As an act of protest, this collection imagines how to survive the unspeakable present. As an act of reclamation it seeks to build a meaningful connection to the past through transcending acts of resistance.
Chantal Gibson is an artist-educator living in Vancouver with ancestral roots in Nova Scotia. Her visual art collection Historical In(ter)ventions, a series of altered history book sculptures, dismantles text to highlight language as a colonial mechanism of oppression. How She Read is another altered book, a genre-blurring extension of her artistic practice. Sculpting black text against a white page, her poems forge new spaces that challenge historic representations of Black womanhood and Otherness in the Canadian cultural imagination.
How She Read is Gibson's debut book of poetry. Her work has been published in Room magazine and Making Room: 40 years of Room Magazine (Caitlin Press, 2017), and she was shortlisted for PRISM magazine's 2017 Poetry Prize. An award-winning teacher, she teaches writing and visual communication in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University.
"Chantal Gibson's extraordinary and award-winning How She Read showed us how to look up close, to see what was always right in front of us. In with/holding Gibson pulls the lens even tighter on Blackness, on history, on culture, on media--on us. A gorgeous mapping of the relationship between technology and images, voice and power--some pages you won't be able to turn, and others that will hold on to you. This is tremendous work. This is how we read. "
--Otoniya J. Okot Bitek, author of 100 Days
"with/holding is stunningly bold in its jamming of the live feeds and undead archives of anti-Blackness. Cerebral, mischievous, and powerfully suffused with care, it is a rebellion against the relentless commodification, consumption, and co-opting of ongoing pain, against the cynical recognitions that foreclose and suspend justice. Chantal Gibson proves once again that she is an essential force in contemporary art. "
--David Chariandy, author of Brother and I've Been Meaning to Tell You
"Through her wickedly incisive manipulation of familiar imagery and genres--online advertising, black squares, product descriptions, and corporate diversity statements--Gibson unsettles and unravels the absurdity and inhumanity of whitewashed nostalgia and reconstitutes Black history, presence, and untethered futures. "
--Ebony Magnus, SFU Librarian & co-curator of un/settled at SFU's Belzberg Library
"with/holding embeds the reader in the flattening aesthetics of the internet, where every expression of Black life is always already a meme waiting to be reprinted on a yoga mat. . .. By turns heart-wrenching, scathing, and hilarious, the poems in with/holding refuse to stay still long enough to become consumable or meme-able. "
--Hannah McGregor, editor of Refuse: CanLit in Ruins
"Gibson's writing reveals the complexities of love and pain as she truly and empathetically works, and it feels impossible not to be marked by these thoughts that for some will linger into longing, while for others they will persistently fester and trouble all they accepted as authentic. As Gibson intones in 'Anchors,' 'how quickly we convinced ourselves we were watching the truth. '"
--Andrew Thomas Hunter, author of Sophia Burthen and the Wake of Slavery in Canada