Two Poems from Run Riot

During a ninety-day stay at a Vancouver rehab centre, Ash Winters wrote a poem a day—a body of work that would later become their debut collection Run Riot (Caitlin Press). In this vulnerable, powerful portrait of the struggle against addiction, Ash takes the reader through moments of determination, anger, hilarity, and heartbreak. Below, we share two poems from Run Riot.


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Two poems from Run Riot 

Day 24
Go fetch me an altar
to a god I haven’t met yet
I want to laugh at something sacred
or destroy something important
a thing drenched in meaning
that I don’t for a second take seriously
Too much around here I am supposed to be gentle with
cupped hands and held breath
For fear I might break something of someone’s
that is the only unbroken thing left
Day 42
You lasted three days
I met you twice
I don’t understand why people don’t stay
Your eyes had layers and layers of shields
different colours and shapes
I could see them moving when others would speak
You tried to open up
even through your doors were rusted shut or broken off
You said you missed home
“and it was fucked”
because home was your dealer’s house
I think I know
where you are now
where you went, when you slipped out the back door
I wish I said more than just welcome
small talk here is absurd

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Ash Winters is an emerging Toronto-based poet. Queer and sober, their work navigates the intersections of addiction, identity and trauma. Growing up queer in small town Ontario gave Winters a chance to develop a lavish sense of humour and a deep respect for empathy, both of which come through in their work. They graduated with their BA in English from Lakehead University in 2010. Their poetry has recently appeared in Existere and Open Minds QuarterlyRun Riot is their first book of poetry.Photo credit Andrew Rowat

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Thanks to Ash for sharing two poems from their debut collection Run Riot with us, and to Monica at Caitlin Press for connecting us! For more poetry samplings, click here.