Part essay, part poem, part fever dream journal entry, Dream Rooms is a book 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—what it means to take a stranger’s pet rabbit to the vet in a year of accelerating extinctions, to lose your clothes to a moth infestation then buy a duvet made of fossil fuels, to learn your bookshelf is full of work written by rapists and rape apologists, to consider a birth control device as a narrative about bodies and their possibilities, then pull the string.
Written with precision, humour, and sweeping lyrical insight, this work moves effortlessly from microcosm to macrocosm and back again, demonstrating the inextricability of self and world and how a shift in language or understanding in one realm ripples out. 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.
Praise for Dream Rooms:
“Can a book deflect predators? Is the book the place where the body can take a new posture, training itself to become a gentleman, an atmosphere, a counter-product, a galaxy? “There is no limit to how much you can learn about electricity” is one of the many sentences or lines in Dream Rooms that both absorbed and emitted attention, the strong and sometimes overwhelming energy that accompanies what the writer calls emergence. ‘Nothing alive belongs to anyone.’ Yes.” —Bhanu Kapil
“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.” —CAConrad, author of AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration
“One of this book’s many major achievements is its delightful continual configuration of everyday objects (wearing fuzzy white socks so ailing bunny feels at home; a broken razor leaving one very hairy leg shaved, one not) into a procedural for unbounded being. A voice moves from rental room to room, unspooling a life lived with divinely smudged or entangled boundaries between human and animal, between friendship and love, between prescribed and transitioning gender. Dream Rooms is a marvellous confection of the author’s definition of ‘revolution’—a series of small, courageous, flawed attempts to risk everything.” —Gail Scott, author of Permanent Revolution
“A quick-witted, momentum-filled, tender rebellion of a book.” —Chase Joynt, director of Framing Agnes and co-author of You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death and Transition
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.