Today’s Fall 2022 Preview features River Halen’s Dream Rooms. Part essay, part poem, part fever dream journal entry, this newest addition to our Essais Series is about personal revolution, about unravelling a worldview to make space for different selves and realities.
Set in the years that led up to author River Halen coming out as trans, this collection concerns itself with what sits on the surface of daily life, hidden in plain view, hungry for address. Deeply queer and trans not only in its content but in its thinking, Dream Rooms invites readers to that place in consciousness where fear and desire, hidden information and common knowledge brush up against each other and are mutually transformed.
“These pages are like the best conversations I have had with poets, relentlessly pushing through the mystery together. There is no choice but to learn a new way to hold what we think we know or drop it on the ground. ‘When you hurt one of us you hurt us all,’ writes River Halen in a book I would buy for you if I knew you, driven to share this brilliant conversation,” writes CAConrad, author of AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration.
We’re delighted to share an introductory video and reading from River Halen. Enjoy!
In addition, we’ve selected an excerpt from the book, which you can read and enjoy below. Dream Rooms will be released on October 18, 2022, and is available now for pre-order now from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.
From “Six Boxes”
Was there a system of reading and writing and shelving that would lead to justice. I wanted to know.
Was I interested in justice or was I just having trouble letting go.
In the end S did not burn her books either. Blue bin, blue bin, blue bin.
My books took up a whole wall. It was unreasonable to try to hide them.
And I had cultivated the kind of life where it was normal for people to come over to drink and eat and smoke pot and develop feelings about my books, and by extension, me.
It was normal for me to talk about my feelings about my books, or even more normal to talk about something else, with my feelings about my books on display in the background.
As a young, feminine-looking, out bisexual person whose tastes were regularly questioned by guy friends, straight friends, lesbian friends, I had developed some defences against shame. I would feel it begin to well up inside me, and then I would do these little internal curl-ups to keep it down. I was strong. I was reasonably, adequately strong to be living in my particular body.
But now I encountered a different situation. The people judging me were not misguided or uninformed. They knew what I knew: My bookshelf was not a sanctuary or a clear idea or the beginning of an evolution in a positive direction. It was not a worthy love. It was a history of things I had let into my life that had not, for whatever reason, disappeared yet.
By this definition it was my body.
I wanted to tell people that I knew how bad my books were, that I was keeping the works of the rapists, the attempted murderers, especially, to learn from. That there was something about literature and my relationship to it I still had to figure out. This always seemed to come out wrong.
River Halen is a non-binary transgender writer of Catalan and Danish descent born in Surrey, BC, on unceded Coast Salish land and now living in Tio’tia:ke (Montreal). Their poems and essays dealing with relation, ecology, transformation, and sexuality have been published widely in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Japan. They have been shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and a National Magazine Award, and selected for inclusion in Best Canadian Essays.