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Remedies for Chiron: Interview with m. patchwork monoceros
Poet and interdisciplinary artist m. patchwork monoceros’s debut Remedies for Chiron (Radiant Press) is a collection of poems about finding a place to exist in the intersections of young, queer, Black, and disabled. We had the opportunity to chat with the poet about their new book, the interplay between one’s history and artmaking, and how being a writer is a way of “creating my own doors, or portals, into worlds that are buoyant and bursting with acceptance and comfort, an ease of existing.”
All Lit Up: You recently published a poetry collection Remedies for Chiron with Radiant Press. Can you tell us a little about your book and your poetic style? How does your qrip (queer + crip) and Black identity show up in your writing?
m. patchwork monoceros: This book is my first published collection of poetry. These poems were written from my early 20s into my early 30s. It covers a lot of the intimate personal experiences I was navigating during those years; especially what it was like to live at the intersection of my marginalized identities in a city that always felt a little bit faster than I could keep up with.
In terms of style, a few of the pieces were written paying particular attention to form so “dial tone,” “construction,” “looking up with feet on ground” as well as the introductory poems to each chapter. I like the constraints and freedoms that writing within a form offers as much as I appreciate being able to b be more free form poet and spiritually improvisational.
My qrip and Black identity show up in my writing because I am writing it and I’m a qrip and Black person. A lot of this book is trying to find a place where I could not just belong but expand and unmask though I may not have phrased it that way at the time. The searching for kinship, understanding, validation was a primary objective. Especially as someone in their younger adulthood it was very important to me to have the parts of myself that I had knowingly repressed during high school and earlier aerated into my regular life. I mostly believe in keeping secrets. I think there’s a time and a place for them. I don’t believe in forcing yourself to be the secret to be protected from the judgment, discrimination, or violence from people that you know and love and care about and vice versa. So the years leading up to beginning to writing those first poems, you know.
I grew up in a predominantly white environment and could never be open about feeling excluded or feeling othered. I’ve always had some limitations with my health and mobility, yet all of my friends growing up were very able-bodied, athletic people. I knew that I was queer well before I got to high school, and I also knew that it wasn’t something I was safe to talk about, even with my closest friends. I was already Black, and an only child in a town of 2.5-kids households, and I had a dead mom that made people uncomfortable to acknowledge. I didn’t want more otherness by adding a non-normative sexuality, in the late ’90s no less.
All through elementary and high school I was hiding my mental health struggles, my self harm, the difficulty I was experiencing at home. The most frequent receiver of these secrets were my journals and notebooks, their pages crowding with emotionally fraught rhyming couplets. And so, writing, collecting, and sharing these poems that very explicitly named my queerness, my disability, my blackness, and mental illness, things like that, were essential to begin to name those things outside of my brain. To begin to find other people with similarly isolating experiences and to have some of the isolation shaved away by finding those people over time.
Even into my 20s there is still so much of myself that I felt I couldn’t share with certain friends or family members, and the weight of carrying that secrecy isn’t one I want to continue carrying; and it isn’t one I want to model for the generations that follow me.
ALU: As an interdisciplinary artist, you work not just with words but textiles and other mediums. How does your art inform your writing? Where do they merge?
mpm: I’m very interested in and energized by the act of untying knots and untangling tangles. Particularly when working with weaving and embroidery, the very small details around tension, thread weight, arm motion and gesture, posture, things like that, all shape the making of it and the shape of the thing when it’s done. For most of the textile arts that I work with, they begin with some kind of blank skeleton or canvas. This is different compared to knitting, crocheting, or lace, for example, where the movement in the creation is making the entirety of the piece. With weaving there’s a warp and a weft thread and the weave only exists because they intermingle. The weft cannot exist without the warp because it doesn’t have anything to be supported by. With the embroidery that I have practiced to this point, I start with fabric and the thread builds onto that to become whatever it’s going to be.
So thinking about the structures that shape my existence, my history, my interest even though I’m very different from the seeds that I came, having a tangle or having an uneven canvas, such as childhood trauma or illness etc., means that the alteration in that scaffolding will affect every part that was created on it.
I allow a lot of imperfections to exist in my textile work and know that those imperfections are only detectable by me and that what others may see or connect with doesn’t factor those in at all.
It’s not always detectable what that error will be until well into the making and the only way to fix it is to undo everything and start before the mistake happened. That’s not always possible with weaving and it’s very not possible with living. Of course, we want to be able to go back in time and undo the thing that broke us, but the material is frayed, the needles are broken, the stitches have become fused over time, and that’s not something that can be undone. Thinking about living as a person in grief or with complex trauma, there are more days than not when I want to beat myself up or am frustrated with my seemingly lack of progress with overcoming.
ALU: The cover art for your book is very striking. We learned that the raised needle art on the image was made by you. Can you tell us a little about it? Is there any significance to your book? How did the cover come together?
mpm: So, the piece that I created for the cover is a replica of a piece that I originally made close to 10 years ago. I attended a trauma and textile art workshop at the Allied Media Conference in the summer of 2015 and was inspired to create a sew-as-you-go/improv embroidered piece with materials that I had on hand. Once I was back home and shortly after I began that piece. My grandmother, who was 91 at the time, was in an accident that landed her in the hospital for a number of weeks. During my back and forth TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) trips to visit her in Scarborough from my west end apartment, I would pull out my hoop and stitch the entire way. I would show it to her and tell her about it, put her hands on the raised stitching while she slept. She thankfully made a full recovery and would be with us for two more years. When she returned home from that incident, the embroidery was complete. That piece then went on to become part of my first art exhibition as a textile artist, Point of Origin in 2016. That show was a mix of quilts, embroidery, woven tapestries, and poetry. There are six sets of textiles, and each was created alongside a corresponding poem. I’ve always loved the designs that were created in that improv embroidery and so used it as the template for the cover. I turned it into a stencil that I copied on to muslin, chose new colours, and stitched a modified version of that original design. I then treated the fabric with a mix of tea staining and flower dyeing with flora from around my yard and garden. My grandmother was a gardener through and through and though she wasn’t able to live long enough to see the book finished, I feel her carried through the thread and paper. That is now its own art piece, which I hadn’t anticipated would be a part of creating this book, but I very much enjoy the connection. The wonderful design artist Tania Wolk at Third Wolf Studio then worked with me to create the final version of the cover. I couldn’t adore the final version more, and sharing my neurodivergent sensory joy in the form of raised letters was icing on an already beautiful cake. In the future, I hope to make prints of the original textile for offer as I am partial to having text and textile pieces in relationship whenever possible.
ALU: You have an interesting way of describing your art. What do you mean when you say your works are portals?
mpm: My first relationship with writing poetry was as a way out of the hurt of my present childhood moment. I wrote to express what I couldn’t speak aloud, to direct my energy into scratching into paper and not my skin. Though I was not able to grow up with my mother due to her dying when I was so young, I was able to find her again, to share with and connect with her through writing, artmaking, and creating a space for her memory to be on the surface of my everyday in celebration as much as in mourning. As much as I create and write for me, my ancestors and descendants, I create and write to open pathways for others to find witness and healing. I know too well what all kinds of alone can feel like, can make life feel like, how it can make death feel near and alluring. Being a writer, an artist, is the practice of creating my own doors, or portals, into worlds that are buoyant and bursting with acceptance and comfort, an ease of existing. Healing and recovery of any injury or trauma is painful, destabilizing, sometimes joyous. Society isn’t often a safe place for beings like us to be our full, broken, mending, miraculous selves. I want my works to proliferate into the ecosphere and be a safer place for our wholistic complexity.
ALU: Is there anything you would like readers to take away from your work?
I am slow moving, always have been and likely always will be.
Grieving, healing, trusting ourselves or those around us; discovering what fills us with purpose and energy, what makes us feel cared for, what making care for others feels like, this takes time. It takes the time it takes.
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m. patchwork monoceros is a poet and interdisciplinary artist exploring polysensory production and somatic grief through text/ile and film. Their work considers a collective qrip (queer+crip) consciousness by connecting to marvelous bodies living with complexity as sick or disabled. A Black creator of Jamaican Taino/Arawak ancestry, monoceros lives with their four-legged menagerie: Onion, Dax, Hoa and Essun in Treaty 1 also known as Winnipeg, MB, traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Dene, Cree, Dakota and Oji-Cree Nations and home of the Métis First Nation.