Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews the Myths of Girlhood

Christine Ray is an extremely rare creature, seemingly transplanted from another age and time, in that she knows absolutely no bounds and will persevere through any obstacle and has the passion of a seventeenth-century bard in her poetic composition and expression.

In today’s saturated world of online bloggers most of us have read competent even exciting authors but few stay with us, underneath the skin. To achieve that, a writer must have captured the moon and control the tides. We live in an impermanent world where we change our fascinations as often as our clothing, loyalty, and fidelity are almost dead. For a writer to clamber from obscurity and retain our fascination seems a heroic feat, more often we have moments of desire for a certain writer and they are forgotten as the next one comes along. Commitment to their art may ensure a writer is briefly remembered again if they keep producing but readership is terribly fickle, no more so than online in the bloggers universe. 

Christine Ray even has a memorable name, but she’s far more than just a female poet writing like so many others, on WordPress and other sites, building her following. Ray is a creator, at once a beautiful mess of a woman and a powerhouse, dynamic in a very contradictory way, on the one hand, due to chronic health blights, she has genuinely struggled both physically and mentally, but despite this, or should I say, through this, she has defied the modern authors dilemma of being one of many on a continuum, and become a standout writer who you will remember and need to read.

I can’t say this happens often these days, most of my favorite poets are 200 years old, they lived in a time when the sheer pain of existing meant a tragic will lent their writing a poignancy you were unable to shake. In today’s fattened world I don’t see that level of intensity transmuted into writing, more often there are vain attempts to mimic those of old or replicate the sordid suffering of our idols and it is usually just that, a pale imitation. 

On so many levels, Ray is an original. Her work brands the reader with charged, unapologetic, stark and often exquisitely painful memories that don’t lose their potency overnight. The first few times I read a piece by Ray I didn’t continue through others blogs, I paused and thought about what her work made me feel, and that emotion stayed with me all day. She’s got that impossible quality that people would donate their soul to inherit, it’s not something you can learn in graduate school, it’s a pulse underneath the skin that few possess and it marks her as a serious contender for being unforgettable.

Having a book of Ray’s work in my collection excites me, her work leaves me like an addict, wanting more, it’s that simple and this, in a day when few authors can come close to achieving that alluring lasting quality. We live in a world that in many ways, has lost the fantastical and the unknown. We can get answers almost immediately, nothing is mysterious anymore, and therefore, when a writer can leave us breathless and disturbed, we cleave to them like shelter from an otherwise barren landscape. Such is the modern art world, few strike us through the heart or possess the raw talent to remain relevant and pulsating when it’s hard enough finding time to read poetry and locate its worth in our lives. Many who feel broken and have reasons for self-destruction, cannot weld the self-possession it takes to give voice to an unacceptable feeling or experience, yet Ray owns it with her wordsmiths alacrity she displays torment and survives it, bringing hope to burning wounds through the grace of her intelligent observations, pushing them from her deepest recess with no intention of going back.

Ray brings back my love of poetry, she throws it into an empty room and it proliferates, sometimes frighteningly, until it’s halfway down my throat and I only want more. A once in a lifetime author will cause you to become obsessive, you’ll never truly get enough, and you’ll forget your other lovers. That’s how I feel upon reading Ray’s work and I am certain of one thing, she’s only going to keep surprising us, because despite everything, she lives for her art, and it shows, in the sheer force of her will to write it out, and touch us with her fire. She alone can create a cage, set a stage for madness, tattoo a feeling, gut an emotion or twist my psyche with an uncanny awareness of what makes us tick. If we know everything then the only thing left is what we make of the fallout, and Ray is the mistress of revealing what lies beneath us. 

In this ability to represent our deepest emotions, Ray reminds me of the classical poets whom we adored and emulated, she is the original from which we follow and yet, she is desperately relevant to today, because she inhabits the now with the tongue of yesterday. This first published collection is an exquisite rendering of Ray’s kaleidoscope of work themed around mental angst, PTSD and the unbearable lightness of being, cleaved from her chest cavity. She wields her deft needle, threading gorgeous imagery, ghosts, voids, screams, immeasurable psychological depths and carved beauty in one breathless gathering of work. Read her. Want her. Need her. 

The Myths of Girlhood is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble Online, and Book Depository

Candice Louisa Daquin’s own life, traveling from her native France, via England, Canada and finally the US, has brought a myriad of experiences that others have often been able to tap into via her writing. A collection of lives really, and with this, she tries to weave greater meaning through poetry and touch those who experience similar questions, doubts, and hopes. Surely this is what writing attempts in its very human form?

Daquin’s themes include feminism in its complex, everyday form, and the experience of being a woman, a gay woman, a bi-racial woman, a bi-cultural woman and finally, a Jewish woman of Egyptian extraction (Mizrahi) and how this sits with the world’s current revolt between the dominant faiths.

You can read more of her writing at The Feathered Sleep.

Kristiana Reed Interviews Kindra M. Austin, Candice Louisa Daquin, Rachel Finch, and Christine E. Ray About the Anthology ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’

In the last few years, the stage on which women and men were always expected to prance and perform has changed. Windows are being installed in the wings. The heavy, velvet curtains are being pulled down and the ropes are being severed. The gauze on the lights is being torn or removed so they shine brighter and the ornamental ceiling has wide cracks in the stucco and tears in the paint. All that has been built around us for centuries – patriarchy, gender stereotypes, heterosexuality being the only sexuality, expectations of femininity, toxic masculinity and silence – is crumbling. It is crumbling because of people like the editors of We Will Not Be Silenced.

This anthology, which showcases powerful poetry, prose, essays and art, is the lived experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I was given the wonderful opportunity to interview the women who, in response to current events such as Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous stand against Brett Kavanaugh, decided to do more than just support those who share their stories. Christine Ray, Kindra Austin, Rachel Finch and Candice Daquin chose to create a monumental anthology which empowered an array of men and women from around the globe, to shatter the bonds of silence they were told they had to keep. It will no doubt propel the momentum we already feel with movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo and continue to shift power from the guilty many to the innocent many; who never asked for what happened to them.

I asked the editors four questions and below I have edited together their responses. I hope you enjoy reading about their own personal strength as well as their unconditional desire to help others.

We Will Not Be Silenced’ – What does this phrase mean to you?

Rachel: ‘It means Courage, Strength, the Reclaiming of Personal Power & Healing. It means we are not victims but survivors.’

Christine: ‘Breaking the silence and writing about my experiences became critical to my survival. The public backlash from the Kavanaugh hearings also reminded all of us how easy it can be to dismiss a single survivor.  We wanted to make a strong statement that we would not continue to maintain a silence that only benefits our abusers and the rape culture that surrounds us.’

Kindra: ‘We Will Not Be Silenced means we have found our voices, and we are going to use them—we will not wait to be asked.’

Candice: ‘By having a movement first with #metoo and now with We Will Not Be Silenced, this has felt like a reclamation or growth, the silence into a unified voice. That voice is saying no, you don’t have the power to silence me anymore. I am going to speak my truth.’

What do you envision or hope the legacy of this anthology will be?

Candice: ‘To be one way by which survivors and their loved ones, as well as anyone affected by sexual assault, can gain acceptance, healing, conversation, openness, through a pure art form.’

Rachel: ‘I hope the stigma concerning this type of abuse will change and that the anthology will help raise both awareness and understanding of how such an experience can affect a person. I hope that those that do know this pain are able to see that they are not alone in their experiences or feelings related to this and know that their voice matters and they need not be silenced as we were. I hope my daughters and sons read every page and see clearly that a person can carry strength even in their quiet but that we do not have to be.’

Kindra: ‘I hope that survivors of assault find strength, validation, and camaraderie within the pages. I would love to see We Will Not Be Silenced nationally recognized for what it is: a call to action.’

Christine: ‘We want to see the Anthology in public libraries, and rape crisis centers, and being read on public transportation.  We want to hear non-survivors say, “I didn’t understand until now.”  We want this to lessen the isolation of survivors who have not shared their story and help them realize that whatever they are feeling is normal and that we don’t have to stay victims.’

Why is the publication of this anthology important to you?

Christine: ‘The week of the Kavanaugh Hearings was incredibly triggering for me as a survivor.  There were times that I felt afraid and literally heartsick at what I read on social media, what I saw on the news.  But what I increasingly felt was outrage and anger.  I needed to do something creative and productive with those feelings.  I needed to connect with others who were feeling the same way and create something bigger than ourselves.’

Rachel: ‘When you have carried a story with no words inside of you for so many years, the telling of it becomes much more than just that. Many of these poems stir deep and painful emotions, at the same time, the collection is both empowering and liberating.’

Kindra: ‘We have to fight way too hard for respect, and compassion, and equality. Survivors of sexual assault live with a stigma projected upon us by the people who should be working toward justice, and making sure we have the support we need to get back to living and not just existing. This publication is important because we want victims to become survivors.’

Candice: ‘For the four of us, this was a necessary response to the climate politically in America and world-wide. Publication of these voices is a validation of their existence and their survival and I truly believe in the power of the printed word.’

You thanked people for trusting you with their pain, their stories and their survival. Can you share the moment when you realized how significant and powerful this project would be for you and many others?

 Christine: ‘We only opened submissions for a two-week period and received hundreds of pieces of writing and art in those two weeks.  We are still hearing from people who just learned about the project and wanted to submit.  It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring to hear from the contributors why it was important for them to participate.’

Candice: ‘This has slowly evolved into something far bigger than any of us could have expected, it speaks for all of us, it contains all of our momentum, frustrations and rage as well as our need for more than we presently have. I truly believe it’s taken on a life of its own and this is exactly what you would wish for as far as any collaborative project goes, although the fierce beauty and courage of these survivors never fails to take my breath away. I am so honored and humbled by the response it just makes me want to do more.’

Rachel: ‘Whilst reading through each piece I found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks for both myself and every survivor that had come forward with their truth and it was during the submission process that I realized this project was significant to many hundreds of people and that together the poetry creates both a powerful depiction of what it is to experience sexual violence and the importance of why we must untangle our vocal chords.’

Kindra: ‘All I know that is that all four of us are awestruck by the strength—the sheer will—and honesty of these beautiful contributors. I’ve collaborated on a lot of projects, but We Will Not Be Silenced is by far the most important and powerful to me.’ – Kindra Austin

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We Will Not Be Silenced was be released on November 27, 2018.  It is available in both print and Kindle editions.

The editors want to ensure free copies of this anthology make it into to the hands of the people and organisations who need it most. Visit their Go Fund Me page to learn more about how you can help this movement be one which saves lives and changes history.

-Kristiana Reed

Image courtesy of April Yvette

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews Nicholas Gagnier’s Leonard the Liar

As a kid I read a short story in a magazine that has stayed with me ever since, the poignancy of the story was so powerful I never forgot it. When you read a lot of fiction it takes a unique tale and way of conveying it to be unforgettable, I could probably name all the books I’ve read that have had that impact.

Which is why, reviewing Gagnier’s book has been such an unexpected experience. His little novella is one of those rarified stories I won’t ever forget, alongside Françoise Sagan’s novella, Sunlight on cold water, which has quite a lot in common with, whilst not being in any way similar. I don’t, however, want to compare this book with others; it would be too easy to say Gagnier could be the next Paul Auster (but he could) or that his writing has hints of Flaubert’s tragi-heroine Emma in Madame Bovary (which it does). Neither is it sufficient to note Gagnier has the phantasmagoric echo of older writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and yet simultaneously,  is very much a writer of his generation the way the Beats poets captured theirs. Nothing will truly sum up his alacrity with words and conveying emotion, you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

I will say, this proves novellas, which are making a strong come-back in the field of fiction, are a force to be contended with. In many ways it is harder to put into a short story, everything, yet we know by the likes of Roald Dahl (Kiss Kiss/ Over to you), that it’s not only possible, it’s like an extension of a favorite poem. Gagnier has that alacrity of verse, and his characters get under our skin very quickly and stay there. Of course, the protagonist, Leonard (who is not a liar) has the greater relationship with the reader, but Gagnier pulls off some very believable and well-rounded female characterizations as well as a slew of side-fellows who bolster the credibility and believability of his storytelling.

With the line; “Death is the ultimate break-up,” this novel plunges the reader into a fast-paced emotional rollercoaster, imminently relatable for anyone who has suffered loss or queried the fates. There are some classic lines that complement the strength of the story, including the retort; “Do you always talk like you’re already dead?” There is a lot of pathos and dark humor too; “If he’s a douchebag supreme, you’re engaged to marry him and he’s spending time with dying ex-girlfriends behind your back.” There’s also heart-stopping matter of fact horror and grief alongside a savvy understanding of the male psyche and human condition, this alongside a backdrop of death, which much like a classic black comedy, the theme of death prevails but is not off-putting.

When Leonard considers that; “You are doing this to see how you are,” that’s the crux of his experience thus far, but not his entirety. Leonard is a man who believes dishonesty is the devil’s playground yet continues to struggle to tell the truth, believing himself a broken soul who only messes up everything good he is given, this, therefore, is his story of redemption and discovery. As he says of his own catharsis; “Mom and dad left a house and a gaping hole in the ground. It took two decades to build my own house over them.”

Gagnier’s storytelling is at once a simple shock to the system, as it is wily and philosophical, it would not do his work justice to say he’s a modern author, because he has the informed maturity of a hundred voices previously working their way through his creative process. I am reminded of some of my favorite movies in the visuals this story provoked, namely The Rivers’ Edge, for it has a gritty, bittersweet undertone of youth turning into middle age, infatuation becoming love, connections transforming to loyalty, and the fragility of life. As Leonard says; “Every moment you spend planning for something to go wrong is one less moment you’ll have, in the end, to make things right.” Fortunately, Gagnier ensures his character arc is redemptive and profound, you won’t forget his little book any time soon.

Leonard the Liar is available at Amazon.com