Emotionally raw and deeply human, womanhood and marginalization, these are just a few of the words that describe the two newest books of poems and conversations coming from York English and creative writing Professor Patricia Keeney.
There are three launches scheduled for Keeney's new books, First Woman (Inanna Publications) and You Bring Me Wings (ANTARES Publishing House of Spanish Culture). The first is Tuesday, Nov. 8 at The Art Bar at 8pm, second floor of the Paupers Pub, 539 Bloor St. W. in Toronto.
The second will be at York on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 3 to 4:30pm, as part of the Canadian Studies Speaker Series, in the Senior Common Room, 010 Vanier College, Keele campus, where she’ll also read and discuss her creative work and research. The third launch by Inanna Publications for First Woman will take place Thursday, Nov. 24, from 6 to 8pm, at the College Street United Church, 452 College St. in Toronto.
Keeney draws her greatest inspiration from the intersection of cultures, whether between members of one family, intimate friends or peoples around the world. She is a constant traveller. This academic year alone, she was involved in conferences and arts festivals from Russia to Slovenia to Iran. As Keeney puts it, "I'm a wanderer...more of a cultural explorer than a tourist." And it is those wanderings that seep deep into the layers of her work, emerging as poems that often express a different way of seeing the world.
Left: Patricia Keeney
For You Bring Me Wings, Keeney travelled to Mexico City for a summer of imaginative conversation with Mexican poet Ethel Krauze that spilled onto the pages of their new book. This bilingual (English and Spanish) collection is infused with what Keeney identifies as "poems and conversations around love, the creative process, the conditions of womanhood and the marginalization of two distinct cultures co-existing along the American border.” The conversations explore approaches to writing poetry and living life fully. As writer Eva Tihanyi puts it in her introduction: “Finally a book that presents talking and poetry as a partnership, that dares to embrace its own subjectivity.”
Keeney was one of the first Canadian writers to be given a grant under the North American Free Trade Agreement to open up areas of cultural exchange with Mexico.
Keeney's poems have been hailed as lyric and political, ranging from sexual love to individual relations, to confrontations with power and profound meditations on life and culture. In her First Woman collection of poems, she examines, at a "deeply personal level, the richly ambivalent experience of living in South Africa, for instance, and it explores the dynamics of family. So, the interior life is both personal and political, local and global. For me, there is no discrepancy in this," says the author of nine books of poetry and a novel. "The way we see things and the weight we give them determines their importance in our sense of who we are."
Keeney continued her investigation of cultural borders in Iran recently where it is mandatory for women, including foreign visitors, to wear a hijab. "The ambivalence I felt about this was echoed in some extraordinary conversations with women in academia and the arts around various kinds of repression in a society that is deeply divided. I am writing about it already," she says.
Left: Patricia Keeney sharing a traditional meal in Iran with her husband, York theatre Professor Don Rubin, and a friend (left)
Her poetry has been translated into French, Spanish, Bulgarian, Chinese and Hindi. As a book and theatre reviewer, and an arts journalist for over 20 years, Keeney has written extensively in various Canadian and international publications, including The Canadian Forum, Maclean's magazine, Canadian Literature, Canadian Woman Studies, Arc Poetry Magazine, New Theatre Quarterly, based in London, England, South African Theatre Journal and Critical Stages, a web journal.
Some of Keeney’s previous work includes her first collection of poetry Swimming Alone (Oberon Press, 1988); a post-feminist novel, The Incredible Shrinking Wife (Black Moss Press, 1995); and Selected Poems of Patricia Keeney (Oberon Press, 2002). She is currently working on new fiction.
Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.