Poetry in Motion: Jody Chan + impact statement

Examples of carceral capitalism disproportionately traumatizing and re-traumatizing people of colour, people with disabilities, and queer people are not hard to find. In their new collection impact statement (Brick Books), Jody Chan asks the reader to imagine a much sunnier alternative: community-led care in a queer, disabled, and abolitionist context. Listen to Jody read their poem “A Note on Absence” below.

The cover of impact statement, a poetry collection by Jody Chan. The cover features a watercolour illustration of raindrops flowing down into a collection of jars and urns, while fish swim underneath.


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Poetry in Motion

impact statement confronts the carceral archives of madness and confinement. The poems trace a history of institutionalization in Toronto, from the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in 1850, its torture treatments and iron fences, to CAMH’s current glass-walled and sanitized iteration. Over the course of this collection, a ghost chorus emerges. A lawless “we,” a dissident collective. Those whose names have been lost to the colonial ledger, policed out of existence. “How does one revisit the scene of subjection without replicating the grammar of violence?” writes Saidiya Hartman, in the essay “Venus in Two Acts.” Not by claiming to speak for any individual patient, nor even a single brick in the asylum wall— but rather, by giving voice to my haunting.

And so “I” becomes illusion, attempt, false evidence. And so “we” becomes an act of agency, a fugitive desire. Care is not coercive. Legibility is not life. Presence, in the abolitionist sense, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore speaks of it, is a labour of interdependence, of struggling alongside each other. Against borders, against prisons, against eugenics, against empire’s many death-producing technologies.

At rallies for Palestinian liberation, one of the chants goes, “In our millions, in our billions, we are all Palestinians.” It is this sort of “we” that the collection reaches for, imperfectly circumscribed as it may be: a “we” not based in identity, but in solidarity. A call and response. An accumulation of efforts.

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Jody Chan is a writer, drummer, community organizer, and care worker based in Toronto/Tkaronto. They are the author of sick (Black Lawrence Press), winner of the 2021 Trillium Award for Poetry, and impact statement (Brick Books, 2024). Jody is a performing and teaching member with RAW Taiko Drummers, an editorial board member of Midnight Sun Magazine, and the 2023-2024 Artist-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Queer and Trans Research Lab.