Jaclyn Desforges

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JACLYN DESFORGES is a Hamilton-based literary artist who writes poetry, fiction, and picture books. She is the author of Danger Flower (Palimpsest Press/Anstruther Books), one of CBC's picks for the best Canadian poetry of 2021. She's also the author of a picture book, Why Are You So Quiet? (Annick Press, 2020), which was shortlisted for a Chocolate Lily Award, as well as a poetry chapbook, Hello Nice Man (Anstruther Press, 2019). Jaclyn is a Pushcart-nominated writer and the winner of a 2022 City of Hamilton Creator Award, a 2020 Hamilton Emerging Artist Award for Writing, two 2019 Short Works Prizes, and the 2018 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award. Her writing has been featured in Room Magazine, THIS Magazine, The Puritan, The Fiddlehead, Contemporary Verse II, and others. She is an MFA candidate at the University of British Columbia’s School of Creative Writing. Her curriculum vitae is available here.



"We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore. Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance." 

- Abraham Heschel 



 I can’t talk about my writing without talking about the world and how I see it: split in two, inner and outer, visible and invisible, physical and imaginal. My writing takes place at the intersection of the inner and outer gaze. My role as an artist is to function as a bridge between these two worlds. Whether I’m writing poetry, picture books or short fiction, my first task is to turn towards the inner world, the place where we as humans tend to stash away feelings, symbols, and memories. And then to translate the stuff of that numinous world into writing so it can be communicated to others.

I stand between inner and outer as I explore themes of nature, memory, embodiment, dissociation, mental health, sexuality, and motherhood. As a queer and autistic poet, themes of connection and mis/communication are essential to my work. My poems and stories tend to be inspired by real events, but often mixed with elements from fairy tales, nursery rhymes and popular culture. My goal as an artist is to look carefully at what goes unnoticed, the forgotten pieces of life. Whether writing for children or adults, I want to illuminate the very big feelings we tend to deny because we feel alone in them.



My writing is inspired by poets like Kim Hyesoon and the blunt power and strangeness of her collection Autobiography of Death (New Directions Publishing, 2018, translated by Don Mee Choi); Anne Carson’s story-poem-tangos in The Beauty of the Husband (Vintage Canada, 2002); the surreal prose poetry of Eve Joseph (Quarrels, Anvil Press, 2018); the exuberance of Donato Mancini in Same Diff (Talonbooks, 2017); and the sexy/playful/somber lyricism of Katherine Leyton’s All The Gold Hurts My Mouth (Icehouse Poetry, 2016). I’m also inspired by fairy tales, nursery rhymes, psychodynamic theory, nature, and mythology, as well as my own lived experience growing up as a neurodivergent girl in the 1990s.



While my style is always evolving, there are certain techniques that have come to characterize my work. My poems focus on musicality and rhythm and are meant to be read aloud. I like to use repetition and incantations in order to develop mood. In terms of the way my poems are arranged, I often use end-stopped lines, which provide a regularity of meter and invite the reader to slow down. Cadence is important to me, as well as juxtaposition – couplets are a favourite technique of mine, as they allow me to set one line against another, and change the meaning of the stanza accordingly.

I love writing in a variety of genres. My mentor, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, recently described me as “an ambidextrous writer who moves easily between fiction, poetry, and writing for children.” In addition to genre-hopping, I also enjoy moving between the inner world of creative discovery and the outer world of teaching and community building. I first began teaching general population writing workshops in 2015, in a renovated bank vault at the back of a Toronto coffee shop. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to facilitate writing workshops at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, around my kitchen table here in Hamilton, and at Indigo locations across the GTHA. In the past seven years, I’ve also mentored a diverse group of emerging writers one-on-one, both virtually and in person.

 Recently, I was invited to teach a poetry workshop at the first-ever hybrid edition of Grit Lit, Hamilton’s annual literary festival. I was delighted to learn that this virtual workshop sold out completely – the first poetry workshop to ever sell out at Grit Lit – and to receive enthusiastic feedback from participants and organizers. Over the past year, I’ve also worked as the Poetry Review Editor at the Hamilton Review of Books, allowing me to shine the spotlight on individuals and organizations who are co-creating a vibrant poetic ecosystem in Hamilton and beyond. It’s wonderful to be able to centre new and underrepresented voices, both in the books I review and the reviewers with whom I work.

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