ZOM-FAM

By Kama La Mackerel

ZOM-FAM
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In their debut poetry collection, Kama La Mackerel mythologizes a queer/trans narrative of and for their home island, Mauritius. Composed of expansive lyric poems, ZOM-FAM (meaning "man-woman" or "transgender" in Mauritian Kreol) is a voyage into the coming of age of a gender-creative ... Read more


Overview

In their debut poetry collection, Kama La Mackerel mythologizes a queer/trans narrative of and for their home island, Mauritius. Composed of expansive lyric poems, ZOM-FAM (meaning "man-woman" or "transgender" in Mauritian Kreol) is a voyage into the coming of age of a gender-creative child growing up in the 80s and 90s on the plantation island, as they seek vocabularies for loving and honouring their queer/trans self amidst the legacy of colonial silences. Multiply voiced and imbued with complex storytelling, ZOM-FAM showcases a fluid narrative that summons ancestral voices, femme tongues, broken colonial languages, and a tender queer subjectivity, all of which grapple with the legacy of plantation servitude.

Emerging from a creative process in spoken word and live performance, these poems transform the page into a stage where the queer femme body is written and mapped onto the colonial space of the home/island. Interwoven with Kreol, ZOM-FAM showcases a unique lyrical sensibility, a musicality influenced by the both unforgiving and soothing rhythms of the ocean, where the poet enunciates the complexity of their displaced Indo-African roots, "the lineage of silence / that we weave in-between our intimacies. "

Kama La Mackerel

Kama La Mackerel (they/them) is an award-winning Mauritian multi-disciplinary artist, educator, writer, community-arts facilitator and literary translator who works within and across performance, photography, installations, textiles, digital art and literature.

Kama has exhibited and performed their work internationally and their writing in English, French and Kreol has appeared in publications both online and in print. ZOM-FAM, their debut poetry collection published by Metonymy Press, was named a CBC Best Poetry Book, a Globe and Mail Best Debut, and was a finalist for the QWF Concordia University First Book Award and the Writers' Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ2S+ Writers.Kama was also awarded the Canada Council for the Arts Joseph S. Stauffer in Visual Arts in 2021.

Excerpt

he passed the peacocks perched on mango trees /roosting in the precinct of the temple /he entered the courtyard /removed his sandals /rinsed his feet /circled the temple three times /breathed deeply/ & finally stepped across the doorway /as the first light of the day /washed over the sculpted /eyes of a thousand & one gods /he bowed to each one of them /praying praying /praying praying /they'd protect me from the towers /of mofinn looming over my destiny/

Awards

  • League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert Memorial Award 2021, Long-listed
  • Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers 2021, Short-listed
  • Quebec Writers' Federation Concordia University First Book Prize 2020, Short-listed

Reviews

"It is refreshing and nourishing to read that zom-fam have historically been acknowledged in Mauritian culture. .. The book recounts difficult experiences and feelings, yet the writing persists and uplifts, ending with a strong note of acceptance and celebration. " - Quebec Writers' Federation Concordia University First Book Prize Jury

[ is] a work of art, it's experimental, it's daring. And it's also [La Mackerel's] memoir, rooted in the performance of authenticity and the authenticity of the performance. - saahil mehta, Brown Girl Magazine

This poetry collection tells a new story of Mauritius's history, one that includes and celebrates the queer and trans stories that helped shape the island's history. - from CBC Books "The best Canadian poetry of 2020"

As the first poetry collection by a self-identifying queer/trans Mauritian artist, ZOM-FAM is a milestone in Mauritian literature. Titled "Man-Woman" in Kama La Mackerel's native creole, the poetry collection explores what it means to craft life and love in the slippery spaces between diasporic, linguistic, and gender identities. - World Literature Today

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