For Pride Month we asked Nanaimo Poet Laureate Tina Biello, author of Playing Into Silence, published by Caitlin Press’ new imprint Dagger Editions, what Pride means to her. Below we share her thoughts and a poem from her new collection, which is a “look back at a dry time in lesbian history.”
Coming out for me was a non-event. I am Italian Canadian and my parents, immigrants who came here from southern Italy in the early 1960s, might not have known what to do with me if they lived to see me married to a woman. I am the youngest of seven and came out after my both of my parents died. I didn’t plan it that way, but looking back I wish I had the chance to tell them myself. I have heard many stories from gays and lesbians who lived through the ’60s in this country of constantly being on the run from family, to hiding at work, to being on the run with the police who raided nightclubs. I have gratitude for the paths they have created for us all and know we still have a ways to go.Being Poet Laureate of Nanaimo, one of the highlights for me is the chance to read one of my poems at the flag raising for Pride at city hall. Pride has become a chance to reflect on where we’ve been, what our community has come through in such a short amount of time and to celebrate where we are today and what lies ahead. Nanaimo has put in four rainbow crosswalks. There were only supposed to be two last year, but they were vandalized. The City re-painted those two crosswalks and added two more. This gives me hope.Below is a poem from my new book coming out with Dagger Editions in June 2018. “Coming home from school she notices Dr. Bellamy’s car in the driveway, 1967”All she can think about is last night and Lana’s breath on her neck.Underneath the kitchen window she hears the doctor talking to her parents:– How long has this been going on? he asks.– I found them together last night. I saw them through the cabin window, her mom replies.– Were they naked?– Yes Doctor, they were.– Sign here Mrs. Cooper. I’ll take her when she gets home from school.Her Dad says nothing.
Tina Biello comes from a small logging town in BC, and is born of immigrant parents. She studied theatre at UBC and is an actor, and now a poet and playwright. Her first full-length book of poetry, In the Bone Cracks of the Walls was shortlisted for the Bressani Prize and was part of a multi-disciplinary art exhibition of poetry, watercolour and music in Montreal, Vancouver and Italy. She has had poems set to music by composers from Vancouver, Montreal and Cape Breton. She is currently Poet Laureate of Nanaimo.