A Place More Hospitable
Launch event from 7 to 10 p.m. on May 15.
The Almanac, 10351 Whyte Ave. in Edmonton
The name Jason Purcell might be familiar to local literati for his involvement in the crowdfunded bookstore-slash-wine bar-slash-community space called Glass Bookshop. While that project is still in gestation, the St. Albert-raised writer has come up with something that might very well sit on the store’s shelves some day.
He is releasing his new chapbook of poetry, A Place More Hospitable, with a special event on a special day mid-month. It’s a fine moment for Purcell, especially how much he’s had to go through to get to this moment. These works, he explained, are borne out of years of suffering: he’s been plagued with a strange and undiagnosed illness for the past few years.
“What's really been frustrating is that it's been really difficult to pinpoint or to diagnose. What has happened is that I just live with these bouts of pain that I can't see coming and that I can't necessarily sidestep or even deal with in the moment. You have to live through it,” he began.
The pain brings with it a sense of alienation from his physical self, he says. It makes him know that he isn’t really in control of his own body, a belief that he feels many people dealing with a chronic illness can probably relate to.
“For me, I was pretty young when this started happening. I think I was still living with that naïve sense of invincibility and then it came and made me reassess my relationship to my body and to what extent I am in control of it and to what extent I have to work with what I'm given. This alienation, this sense of 'body being a separate thing than you', it's something that I've been thinking a lot about and exploring in my writing. I think that's coming through in the chapbook.”
Though a modest selection of works, A Place More Hospitable is dense with visceral language that meditates on a common theme of body integrity. He calls it a “somatic collection” where the writing reflects his musings on physiology and vitality. He finds that kind of scholarly and literary intellectualism to be exciting … reinvigorating even.
“There are some collections and books that don't have the same sort of narrative throughline, which I think is really also exciting and vibrant. The project that I saw coming together was one that really did meditate on a theme of illness in the body – where it resides in the stomach and the teeth – I thought I had enough of that to say something. It really excited me to put together something that had a cohesion because not all books have to and not all books do. To me, that was the crux of the project.”
Purcell launches his chapbook on Wednesday, May 15, a special event that coincides with his birthday. He’ll be joined by special guests CJ Bogle and Lisa Martin who will first do some of their own readings before the man of the hour takes the mike.