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. 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
2023 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry Jury Citation:
Dream Rooms is an impressive, incisive, philosophical collection wherein the author surveys their own life from an angle that reveals not only the actors and plots and settings of a particular trans life, but also all the stands and weights and pulleys in the background responsible for holding it all up.
[The book] unravels, tangles, and weaves new threads, whole tapestries with effortless wit and heart. At once tender and sharp, this book disrupts and creates genres to open up a world where the seemingly mundane, everyday can be injected with meaning, transformation—revolution.
Halen’s writing is quirky and electrically contemporary. Despite their humour, and their gift for self-deprecation, the poetry always drives toward an insight or a manifesto that leaves you breathless.
Most Anticipated: Our Shelf 2022 Fall Poetry Preview —49th Shelf
“In Dream Rooms, Halen simultaneously reveals and creates a new kind of space for themselves in the space of their own body, and their own body in space, one occupied by family, friends and current and former partners. Halen’s sentences reveal and invoke, blending the best of their poetry and non-fiction through this multi-faceted examination of form, from gender identity and the prose essay through the poetry day book.” —rob mclennan
River Halen on Books that Bend Reality and the Self —Literary Hub
October’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature —Lambda Literary
Reading Rainbow Recommendations —Autostraddle
103 Queer and Feminist Books Coming Your Way Fall 2022 —Autostraddle
Bay Area Reporter: Fall Arts Preview —Edge Media Network
“Dream Rooms is an impressive collection that invites the reader into scenes of tenderness and confrontation, suffused with the imaginary as much as with the everyday, or ‘[t]he way dreams connect to new landscapes that are really just the same familiar landscapes.’” —Klara du Plessis, Montreal Review of Books
Shrapnel’s Fall Favourites of 2022 —Shrapnel Magazine
Under the Cover: Dream Rooms —All Lit Up
River Halen —Bookstorm Podcast
A ‘best of’ list of 2022 Canadian poetry books —rob mclennan, Dusie
“This is a tender, funny, and profound collection that employs both poetry and prose to, as Halen says, ‘properly attend’ to the world, to inscribe safe and productive spaces for the unfolding of a trans self.” —Renee Gladman, Artforum
“The beautiful complexity of Halen’s writing is a balm against that feeling of self-estrangement. I fall into Halen’s poetics and prosaic histories like they’re made of feathers, emerging as a reader both new and comfortably animal, a suddenly shapeless body held safe inside the margins.” —Spencer Williams, The Poetry Project
“Dream Rooms as a whole, is an earnest attempt to reckon with these issues and find a place of acceptance in the world.” —Steven W. Beattie, That Shakespearean Rag
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.