Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Clumsy Thing About Love

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I'm reading tonight at Q-Space, with Jeanette Lynes and Open Book Toronto's very own Grace O'Connell. There's a Facebook event if you want to see what it's all about, and perhaps come. When I was asked to read on Valentine's Day, I said yes immediately, without a moment's hesitation. It honestly didn't occur to me that my partner might have something to say about that until he started teasing me for not having a single romantic bone in my body.

He's right, of course. I joke about having a dried up little apple core for a heart, like the Grinch. I forget about markers and gestures. I know only very vaguely when our anniversary is (summer, right?). I joke that I don't like things that make me experience feelings.

The fact of the matter is, I am deeply, rapturously in love. We sit together and co-pilot our way through video games. We has the best taste is music and science fiction. We both hate the same things, which is just as important as loving the same things. He gets up in the middle of the night to take out the puppy and gets up early to feed her so I can sleep. 

Love has always deeply informed my writing, even as I have covered it with complex language and attention-grabbing themes. My two books of poetry are about sadomasochism and supervillans, yes of course, but they are also about love. Heck, the subtitle for DOOM is "Love Poems for Supervillains" for a reason. The poems are about sex and whips and laser cannons; they are also about ardour, devotion, tenderness. And if I am totally honest with myself, writing about love, and my own capacity to love, has always made me feel vulnerable, and embarrassed.

Being in love isn't cool, and it isn't a cool think to write about. Being damaged and devastated, wronged and railing is cool. Being slick and glib and charming is cool. Seduction is cool. But being is love, the silly, starry-eyed, fumbling this that impairs our judgement? That's not cool. What's worse, it's often not thought of as literary. Strong, clear love that is within our reach is often looked at as bland or ordinary, and not worth writing about very much.

Also, I think that creative people are under pressure to conceal their personal relationships to a personal extent, so as not to be defined by them. We are terrified of becoming the wife-of- or girlfriend-of-, and not without cause; women in particular are constantly defined by the relationships they have with the men in their lives. It can be frustrating and genuinely damaging to be reduced to relationships, especially as someone who makes a name and a living being defined by their work, their character, their words and presence. Being part of a couple threatens the idea of the solitary writer's fierce individuality. 

Another thing I have mentioned in passing but never fully explored is the idea of the true creative partnership, another thing that is often seen as reductive at times. My partner is an editor; I am a writer with a large output and a terrible tendency to overlook my own small typos. I'm great at coming up with concepts and ideas; he is much better at refining them into stories. There are few major pieces that we don't talk about, and almost all of my work that goes to press or print has had his keep eye over it. He challenges me and makes me a better writer. 

There is love out there that respects a sense of self, that touches without wanting to possess or destroy. There is live that enriches and deepens the words a writer has rather than making them voiceless. There are creative partnerships that genuinely work. They are also notoriously hard to write about.

This is a circuitous, rambling post. But then, I am trying to write about love, and I am not very romantic. I am, however, incredibly lucky, to have experienced love that takes, love that destroys or consumes, and love that helps, holds up, adds and extra log on the fire. Love isn't glamorous or experimental, might go against the brand we're trying to create or the sophisticated figure we are trying to cut. I think what I am trying to say is I am finally in a place in my life where I can say something like "I am in love," and not be embarrassed about that statement. Domesticity and happiness are not weaknesses and having them in my life don't lessen my writing cred. They don't make me less a Valkyrie. 

Happy Valentine's day, sweetie. I'm better because of you.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Natalie Zina Walschots

Natalie Zina Walschots is a music writer, poet and editor based in Toronto. She writes for a number of publications, both in print and online. Natalie's second book of poetry, DOOM: Love Poems For Supervillains, was published by Insomniac Press in the Spring of 2012.

Go to Natalie Zina Walschots’s Author Page