This is a 5-week class presented by Surplace in collaboration with Schole Alternative School.
This class will take place every other Sunday from 1-4pm.
Class dates will be: July 8, July 22, Aug 5, Aug 19, Sept 2.
In Jamaica Kincaid’s essay “To Name Is to Possess”, she questions the colonizing practice of plant collecting as a form of ecological & cultural violence and, more broadly, the politics of owning living beings. Building on Kincaid’s ideas in this research-creation course, we’ll use the framework of ‘garden as metaphor’ as a starting point from which to follow our collective and individual interests around the politics of place, displacement, and ecology. We will respond to each other’s works rather than to canonized texts, sharing our research and creative processes as we think through group-led discussions. We’ll explore ‘bioregionalism’ as it refers to people and cultures in relation to their native land, to knowledge shared and practiced within local communities. We’ll ask what ‘an ethics of place’ might be— what it means to both belong to a place and to be displaced from it.
The course will operate through a system of creative responses to each other’s work based on shared research. In preparation for the first class, the group will be asked to read Kincaid’s essay which we will then discuss in class. In the break between the first and second class, members will perform their own research into topics which sparked their interest during our discussion, which they will then share with the group in our online forum. In the second class, each member will bring in their ‘research creation response,’ which they will then present to the group. This response can be an essay, a blog post, a poem, a dance, a painting, a collage, a performance, a song—literally anything which was created with critical intent. We will spend the second class discussing each other’s creations and research, and then the process will repeat—the group will share research online which was sparked by our discussions and respond in the next class to one of the other group member’s creations.
The goal is not to organize a workshop in which group members critique each other’s creations, but rather to create an environment for critical discussion in which formal academic writing is not prioritized over other forms of understanding. By constantly responding to each other, we will be able to direct and re-direct our focus throughout the course. In the first class, we will check-in to see what group members hope to get out of the class and how they would like to operate, and will continue to check-in throughout the course.
Some topics which our discussions might cover:
• place, displacement, relationship to land
• garden as microcosm, ownership of living beings
• post-humanism, non-human life
• ecology, eco-criticism
• post-colonialism, colonization, globalization
• monuments, ‘shadow places’
• slavery, labour politics, race
• Indigeneity, Indigenous knowledges
• mythology, folklore
• herbalism, witchcraft, alternative medicine
• the fallacy of metaphor
Ideally this class will attract a diverse group—people of different races, sexualities and genders, people who have a complex relationship to land (immigrants/second generation people), academics and artists (both with and without formal educational background), people with scientific or experiential understanding of gardening/plant life, etc.
Kincaid, Jamaica. “To Name Is to Possess”. My Garden (Book):. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. Print.
+ ongoing research & participation in online forum
Jessica Bebenek is a teacher, poet, non-fiction writer, and transdisciplinary artist who splits her time between Toronto & Montreal. She is a recent graduate of Concordia University’s Masters program in English with a Creative Writing focus. Bebenek’s poetry, short fiction, and other writings have been published in PRISM, CV2, Vallum, and 30 Under 30: An Anthology of Canadian Millennial Poets, and her series “Talking Trash” on low-waste living was hosted at Floral Manifesto. Her third solo poetry chapbook, Fourth Walk, was published by Desert Pets Press in June 2017. She is currently completing the manuscript for her first full collection of poetry entitled No One Knows Us There and non-fiction collection Writing For Men.
Bebenek has worked for years as a teacher within academia, as an independent workshop facilitator, and leading one-on-one counseling sessions. As Programming Coordinator at Concordia’s Centre for Expanded Poetics, she lead the Contemporary Poetry Reading Group, facilitated printing & zine collaborations, and organized the Occult Poetics Symposium. As a queer anarchist witch, she believes in creating non-hierarchical learning environments in which everyone’s ideas, identities, and forms of expression are valued equally, and in which asking questions is the primary path towards learning.
She is currently exhibiting fine arts work in textiles & weaving which engages with poetry & translation, a selection of which is featured on The Volta. Her durational performance piece, “The Waste Land”, was performed at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2017, and her series “k2tog” was exhibited this Fall at the Gladstone Hotel‘s twelfth annual Hard Twist exhibition. A chapbook of her knitting patterns for poems, k2tog, will be published by Berlin’s Broken Dimanche Press in Summer 2018.