The Gospel of Breaking
In The Gospel of Breaking, Jillian Christmas confirms what followers of her performance and artistic curation have long known: there is magic in her words. Befitting someone who "speaks things into being," Christmas extracts from family history, queer lineage, and the political landscape of a racialized life to create a rich, softly defiant collection of poems.
Christmas draws a circle around the things she calls "holy": the family line that cannot find its root but survived to fill the skies with radiant flesh; the body, broken and unbroken and broken and new again; the lover lost, the friend lost and the loss itself; and the hands that hold them all with brilliant, tender care. Expansive and beautiful, these poems allow readers to swim in Jillian Christmas's mother-tongue and to dream at her shores. (From Arsenal Pulp Press)
Jillian Christmas is an educator, activist and community organizer who focuses on increasing anti-oppression initiatives in spoken word. She is the former Artistic Director of Vancouver's Verses Festival of Words.
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"When I started to put some of the poems together into a book, I realized that one of the elements that needed to be examined was some 'root work' for me — retracing of my arrival in this place — both for how I physically came to be here but also for the emotional context of my work. So I had to go home, and to a number of different homes.
"I had to go back to some of my family story — my origin story — and I had to go and travel to Trinidad and Tobago. This was to ground myself and my family's story. I would spend time developing those relationships that are disrupted by all of the distance that comes between us.
I had to go home, to a number of different homes. I had to go back to some of my family story — my origin story — and I had to go and travel to Tobago and to Trinidad.- Jillian Christmas
"I spent a month with my grandmother in Tobago and started to write what would be the pieces that are held in parentheticals in the book. They are all, in some way, related to my paternal grandmother. That felt like a critical piece.
"The book started to come alive to me when I introduced those pieces to all of the other pieces that existed. They started to give them an anchor."