Fragmented thoughts on political correctness and appropriation


I don’t understand the problem that people have with political correctness. I’m on many sides of this issue. I think it stems from a conversation I had with my boyfriend about how people were outraged with Steve Martin’s tweet upon Carrie Fisher’s passing.


The responses:

Here’s one from New York Magazine:

I think Steve Martin was speaking from the heart here. People are allowed to be outraged. I personally don’t believe the tweet was in poor taste, but maybe deleting his tweet was. I can see that Martin probably got upset or tired of the responses he was getting. Keeping in mind that Martin is from a different time, I think of what he might have meant, which was probably thoughtfully considered, especially knowing that he knew her personally. Her fans knew her well too, hence the outrage. The public might have gone overboard, but in this place and time, today, if you’re going to engage with the public, you’re engaging with thousands, even millions of people. And they will respond in multitudes in real time. That is the hyper world we live in now.

This all brings me to the controversies in Canadian literature and western literature as well. Here’s the latest: Editor Resigns Over an Article Defending ‘Cultural Appropriation’

Now I’ve spent a good portion of my writing career talking about appropriation. I’ve written about the ethics and colonization aspects of it within the literary establishment. But I want to note that a lot of this conversation, a lot of this backlash is coming from writers of colour. This isn’t about being politically correct, or being too sensitive in this day and age,  or “political correctness” gone haywire. These are legitimate concerns that people of colour have had for ages. We were rarely heard though even though we’ve been shouting it out from the mountains. Why are we not giving more people of colour and the disenfranchised more opportunities to flourish and to be heard?

I like to think I’ve been “woke” since I was a teenager. The Gulf War and the Human Rights Now Tour of the 80s really made a impression on me. Reading the Charter of Rights here in Canada and the Universal Declaration of Rights from the UN, empowered me and made me feel like anything was possible. So when I began writing, I noticed a few things that I was told to brush off. Why weren’t there only a few people of colour at poetry readings, book launches, literary parties, and the like? Why were there so few people of colour as editors to magazines and publishers in the industry? The more I questioned, the more I got consoled.

“It’s not true. We’re trying. It’s all in your head. We’re a community.”

Nevertheless, after a few poetry readings I started to begin my sets by looking around the room and if I didn’t notice anyone like me, or my colour, or diverse like community in Toronto I live in, I would say, “Thank you for inviting me. It is a privilege. It’s great to see people come out for poetry. Looking around the room, we need more people of colour, more people from the community here.” And then I’d start my reading.

It’s a response to gas-lighting. It was a response to truly waking up to reality. I feel it’s a statement that forces attendees and organizers to do something about it. Unfortunately, a lot of that ends up on people of colour’s shoulders. We are asked to solve the problem the privileged have created. We are told to bring solutions to the table. Therefore, instead of us focusing on our craft and our chosen careers, our labour is given to fixing messes or putting up the illusion that something is being done about the establishment’s “diversity” problem.

As soon as that article in Write appeared, I spoke out on twitter and Facebook and quickly retreated. I did speak out a few times on threads trying to point out the ignorance in our literary community, but nonetheless, I had to let it go. I realized how much those debates take out of me on social media. In turn, I also thought about the emotional labour that the indigenous writers who were in that Write issue were about to take on. It’s scary and overwhelming, even full of opportunities because people want to “diversify” their platforms, and hey, you’re there right in the middle of it, so why not?

But it takes up your time and space in your head. It does for me because I feel really passionate about anti-appropriation and for ethical appropriation in poetry and prose. A lot of the fights I feel like taking on, I have to step back and think, “Whose voice is better suited for this?” I can’t speak for the indigenous cause, nor can I speak for the causes of a black person. I can speak from a Latinx (yes I’ve adopted this term because I’ve come to love it and I’ve chosen it), Afro-latin second generation Canadian female perspective. That is who I am and how I was born. I don’t go around saying that is how I identify. That’s just how I try to approach these controversies and debates in the literary and the real world community. At 44, I think it’s a pretty awesome freedom to be able to self-identify nowadays.

What enriches a community is not taking from its members nor imagining what their experiences might be. What enriches literature and art is taking from one’s imagination and evolving that fictional or non-fictional world through a centre of empathy and compassion. We can imagine ourselves and write from another person’s shoes, for freedom of speech is an inherent and fundamental right, but we can not steal and appropriate to our sole benefit. We must acknowledge if we’re taking a scene, a slice of life, or a culture that comes from a place of pain and colonization.

Many would dismiss colonization as real today, but all you have to do is look at your televisions, the books you were taught in school, our world leaders, and the people that hold positions of power in our literary community. I just want most of you to go out there and notice. Keep a keen eye. Open your mind just a tiny bit and see how many people of colour you interact in media and in those literary communities. Who are your professors and who are your publishing editors? Take note of the people around your neighbourhoods. The establishments you visit and the things you promote. Is it truly reflective of the community around you? If good work stands the test of the literary establishment, why is it there are so few people of colour being published or in those positions of power. We are hard working and for the most part, talented, for our stories are rich and interesting. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be appropriated by so many white privileged folk.

The personal is always political. You can’t dismiss injustice or you will get told. Get ready to interact, get ready to truly expand your work by engaging.

I’ve spent the past few years reading people’s written defences for appropriation. That we need to learn to be free to express however we want to become one people instead of a world of races. I’m sorry (not sorry), but we can’t be one people if you fail to acknowledge and listen to why we are complaining and outraged right now. Why be politically correct? I see it this way, if you’re a writer, you try to engage your reader to feel with your character and their lives. Not only that, but you have to bring something new to the table, something that innovates literature, and emboldens it like the writers of the past have. If you keep appropriating and not innovating your own experience, you stagnate and literature becomes dull and droning. Those who have learned to appropriate ethically, who have opened the doors to an empathetic and considerate new world in literature will move on without you. And when you finally wake up to the issues, for it can never be too late (oh can’t tell you how I hold to that thought fast or I’d sink), then you will be offered a seat at the table and we will share freely, full of heart, and full of good work.

Sure, outrage can go all over the place, but really, I’d rather be able to read stuff like Steve Martin wrote about Carrie Fisher, read the outrage, and then discuss. Humanity and our creative output doesn’t evolve by dismissing, but by interacting and listening. Radical empathy, please google it and do the work yourself. :


(P.S. You can write from the imagination and from experiences that are not your own in fiction and poetry. You can learn and appreciate different cultures and be influenced by them in your style and comportment. However, the point of all of this is that people are asking you to think, express, and create from a space of consideration. If you want to share and take part, you have to listen and consider.)



Events coming up…

HI! It’s been a while, and I need to update some of the pages and doings on here, but for now I have few things I should mention:

  1. I’m in this anthology! Come on out to the launch: “It’s The PAC’N HEAT Launch Party! Come celebrate with us at See-Scape on Thursday Nov. 10th from 7 PM to 10 PM! Check out the video games! Drink some drinks! Buy some books!”



2. I’m teaching an Uncreative Writing Workshop at Naked Heart Festival (Saturday, November 12th at 10:30am):


Info on my uncreative writing stuffs:

3. I’ll be presenting a paper/on a panel for the Diasporic Joyce: the 2017 James Joyce Conference in Toronto:


4. I’ll be reading at words(on)stages on January 19 at The Central


And still working on my novel manuscript. It’s been an adventure.


There Is No Escape Out of Time Book Launch


Come help us celebrate our new titles and the warm weather!

Jacqueline Valencia, There Is No Escape Out of Time (poetry)
Michael Murray, A Van Full of Girls (short fiction)
Dog the Moon, Stan Rogal (fiction)

Thursday, July 7, 2016
6:30 PM
The Supermarket Restaurant and Bar (Kensington Market)
268 Augusta Ave
Toronto, ON

JACQUELINE VALENCIA is a poet and film/literary critic. She has written for The Rusty Toque, Lemon Hound, Next Projection, subTerrain magazine, and The Barnstormer, among others. Her chapbook Maybe was selected for the 2012 Arte Factum exhibit by Poetry Is Dead Magazine.

THERE IS NO ESCAPE OUT OF TIME is an ethereal cinema of a mind, jumping through wormholes in a poet’s past, present, and future, even in space.

MICHAEL MURRAY works as a creative writer, commentator, blogger, and “journalist.” He has written for The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Hazlitt magazine, CBC Radio, the Ottawa Citizen, TheToast, as well as scores of other prestigous publications that pay extraordinary amounts of money and fly him around in helicopters.

A VAN FULL OF GIRLS is a collection of short, dizzy, funny things. It’s zippy and unpredictable, like a mongoose, but it’s dead sexy.

Poet, novelist, and playwright STAN ROGAL’s work has appeared in magazines and anthologies in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. His poetry collection Love’s Not the Way To (Bookland, 2013) was shortlisted for a ReLit Award.

DOG THE MOON is a compelling novel that offers a new look at the traditional Canadian tale of a city boy in the “wilderness,” taking aim at our literary mythology with sharp, satirical darts.

saturday poem

on perusing my manuscript and finding your drawings in the margin

I want you out.

I want to stop dropping to my knees
at the force of the automatic waterfall
whenever I see something of yours
because I live in us still.

I want you out.

I want you to stop inhabiting my words,
haunting my stories, and
my steps through the city.
Stop interfering with my laughter
it diminishes when
I remember I’m alone.

You obscure my sight
my view of a tomorrow
the memory of you
a shadow
stand in the way.

Lingering dark
black dog.
I want you out.

I want you out
of my liver, my skin,
my core, beyond the ribs that
extend when I breathe us out
my own warmth disappears
in the cold air
frozen by the idea of you.

I want to turn to stone to banish you
with the flick of my wrists
or become empty
like a vessel for
something without within.

But no.

I want you out
exorcise you with
smudges and blurs
good days and parties
these exclamations
of hope in paint
and words become
powerless sigils
when you’re here.

I am convenience

because my heart still beats
and tries to keep up
with that rhythm when
we first met
while yours thumps wildly
too far away for me to hear
and also to other metres.

I want you out!

But you can’t do anything
and that’s the rub
that by doing nothing
you’re still there.

Can’t Lit Podcast

Untitled copy

“Dina and Daniel head to Toronto, a.k.a. Hotline Bling central, and Jacqueline Valencia is there to talk with them about Toronto Poetry Talks, her upcoming poetry collection, There is No Escape Out of Time, diversity and race in poetry, teens, chocolate and Instagram. D & D give an update from their trip to Montreal’s strip clubs, karaoke bars and mozzarella stick establishments and even create a new strip club. And we all shout out The BreakBeat Poets and come up with whole new categories of literary awards.”

Check out the latest episode of Can’t Lit with Daniel Zomparelli and Dina Del Bucchia (and me!):

Harriet’s Legacies at Brock University


From the event site: “Harriet’s Legacies: Race, Historical Memory and Futures in Canada
Organized by Ronald Cummings, Natalee Caple, Gregory Betts, Kevin Gosine, and Tamari Kitossa
This important conference will highlight the historical presence of Black Canadians in Canada. The title refers to the crucial role that St. Catharines played in the Underground Railroad and the abolition of slavery. Harriet Tubman, who is recognized by UNESCO, as a freedom seeker, abolitionist and ‘conductor’ was the city’s most renowned participant in the Underground Railroad. Tubman and the Black citizens who helped to build St. Catharines are soon to be recognized by the opening of a new elementary school in downtown St. Catharines. The timing of the conference will help to connect the university and the broader community around shared goals of unity in diversity, the recovery and memorialization of Black history in Ontario and the promotion of general knowledge around the multiple accomplishments of Black Canadians”

I’ll be on a panel tomorrow, October 22nd:

2:00-3:15 Panel 3: Creative Writing / Writing Through Race and Building
Better Communities
Chair: Natalee Caple
Kaie Kellough
Jacqueline Valencia
Klyde Broox
Clifton Joseph

Full event schedule here:

July Update

image from pixabay
image from pixabay

There are few things on the go, but if I haven’t posted on here yet, here you go:

  • 1. My poem “The Climb” is up at The Week Shall Inherit The Verse.

The poem is part of a larger lyrical project I’ve been working on whereupon I take some of my old poems and remake them via new views and methods. It’s kind of like using an evolving vocabulary (words, colours, media, my mixed culture, language), as I look for the source of what drives me to write poetry.

  • 2. My short story “Weird Girl” is up at Lynn Crosbie’s HOOD.

Also, a tiny part of a universe in which I’m basing the novel I’m currently working on. Accompanying image selected by Lynn Crosbie for our mutual love of Malcolm McDowell in Lindsay Anderson’s If…. (I was once a wee extra in a film with McDowell called SUCK, along with many of my goth friends. I only really said hello to him.)

  • 3. I have a short story in this great anthology, Gods, Memes, And Monsters edited by Heather Wood:


  • A few other things are going on, one of which is that I’m concentrating on prose, poetry, and submitting more work. It is because of this that I’m trying to finish and tie up some of my current conceptual work.
  • I’m still doing this: (Joyce can be so frustrating, but I keep coming back to it.Today’s transcription started with Bloom thinking on space exploration and somehow ended up talking about ovaries and sperm. That woke me up.)


What I wanted to bring to you today was my closing the chapter on This Is Room 101

I wrote three paragraphs of 1984 and remixed them with three paragraphs from The Wall Street Journal’s headline story.

This project was inspired in part by my experiences as a dj and seeing how I could use them with just words. Olivia Rosane at The State did a piece on my project called “Living in Dystopia”:

I found many of the things she touched upon very interesting and her analysis blew me away. I didn’t have any big intellectual epiphany in starting it or while doing it. It just seemed like something to do while I fought off writer’s block.

It yielded this little chapbook called Text One which I wrote as part of the Found Poetry Review’s Oulipost month:

So in an effort to have a record that I did this project, I’ve made a free downloadable PDF available with a cover to accompany it.



I have printed up 5 paperback copies of the project. It is 411 pages.:


One copy I will keep. The other four I will be on sale from me personally for $198.40 each. Each copy will be signed, numbered, and come packaged with original artwork by me.

If you’d like one of the four, please email me at ravensee at gmail dot com.


A reminder that the “2016 Toronto Poetry Conference 1st planning meeting” is on July 22, 2015 at 8pm Pauper’s Pub (539 Bloor Street West) in Toronto. All are welcome, not just to plan, but to hear input or share in some grub.

That’s when I’ll select and finalize a date for the conference.

On the Defence of Conceptualism

Viktor Vasnetsov. The Unsmiling Tsarevna (Nesmeyana). 1916-1926. Oil on Canvas

(Like many of the posts on my blog, this is a ramble sparked by current events. I apologize if it lacks solidity and editing [I might go back and edit it, I might not] And like most of these posts, it comes from a need to get it out and it will get expounded upon eventually through the rest of my writing in the future. I’ve got nothing to lose.)

It is hard to defend conceptualism nowadays. I have been thinking, speaking, and digesting it for months that I woke up today in a state of agitation. There have been a few controversies with it way before I started using it in my work, but in 2015 things got a little haywire. Regardless of poetry or art’s motivations the enfant terrible of the poetry -isms has pushed beyond its confines and some of us are left to pick up the detritus left in its wake.

Some of us are appropriating it. Some of us are dismissing it and moving on. Some of us are doing both, which includes me. I’m purposely being vague because if I’m going to be talking about appropriation and interpretation in poetry, I have to step surely from a place I know and with consideration of the craft that is under fire.

A few years ago, I yearned to get back into writing. I started this blog in 2010 with the intention of starting up again, even if it was just to express myself in order to communicate better with my children. That same year while at the book store I picked up Update by Bill Kennedy and Darren Wershler and Eunoia by Christian Bök. A Griffin poetry prize winner and a book that utilized social media, an expressive form that revolutionized the way I communicate every day with relish. Reading these texts bent my brain in a good way, blew my mind actually, thus after doing a bit of research I came across Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing.

(Now before I continue, some will posit this: influenced by works of white men. Well, I counter that with the fact that William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe were the first lyrical poets to impact me heavily because they were taught to me school. As the child of immigrant parents from Colombia, I was taught and read to in Spanish at home. It was only until later, in my explorations that I broke out of the white bubble of today’s education system to find poets I identified with not just from expression, but from relatable “minority” backgrounds. You can say the same for conceptualism.)

I gobbled up Uncreative Writing just like the first time I came across a Magritte in person. With Rene Magritte’s L’anniversaire I realized I could paint from dreams. With uncreative writing, the writer’s blocks I often suffered were suddenly alleviated. It was remarkable. Let’s go beyond the Warholian analogies/comparisons and stick to what I feel makes conceptualism work.

Every day we are bombarded with information and a lot of this information takes the form of text. Even when we are presented with images, those images are comprised of an ordered binary text built to present an image before you. When Shakespeare observed the world around him, he saw oral stories and built textual narratives out of these already well-known legends. He appropriated history and his every day to bring you Hamlet and King Lear (Lear being my favourite btw). It is the task of the poet to take the world around her and build her own language to communicate it. When the printing press was invented, the writer saw potential in it. When the typewriter was invented, writers saw potential in it. When the personal computer was invented…wait hold up.

“Uh. How do we use it?” the poet asked.

The personal computer isn’t just a word processor, it’s a text generator and a text manipulator. The poet can copy and paste, rearrange, and create out of the infinite sedimentary material coming from its input and output. It’s mad, I tell you, madness! A poet and writer doesn’t just have to write about the sky, the dying rose, or the way her lover’s face melts in her memory. A poet can now write about the ingredients in her jello pudding and the impact that the words “jello pudding” have post-Bill Cosby. I could take the ingredients of jello pudding and put them through a word processor, copy and paste them and remix them with the word “rape.” The poem generated can read like nonsense for some, but for others, well, it’s a statement. Words have strong meaning regardless of how they’re arranged, they nevertheless mean something.

In Against Expression, an anthology of conceptual writing by Dworkin and Goldsmith, visual artist Claude Closky describes his refrigerator:

My refrigerator

The usable volume of my refrigerator is far superior to conventional capacities, and allows me to store my fresh and frozen produce. The meat compartment with adjustable temperature and the crisper with humidity control assure me a perfect preservation of my food. Furthermore, the fan-cooling unit makes and dispenses my ice to me as well as fresh water. Moreover, my refrigerator is equipped with an anti-bacterial coating that helps me to keep it clean.”

I don’t care if you don’t like it, but this dude just wrote a love letter to his fridge. Who does that? Who even dares to write poetry about the brilliant network of fire and power under the hood of a car? Surely that’s just as complex as the curves of a lover’s body. Why are we still writing about the moon in someone’s eyes? WHAT ABOUT THE DUST *ON* THE MOON? Conceptual writing takes the mundane and places it on the same pedestal as the glory of a rising sun. I know that after a blackout there’s no sound as mellifluous as the buzz of the fridge motor kicking in. When Marjorie Perloff titles her analysis of conceptual poetry as Unoriginal Genius, I think she forgot that there is originality here and it lies in the hands of the artist that appropriates.

Right now, arguments have been getting hung up on the word “appropriation,” and within good reason. Issues of copyright will always be a writer or artist’s concern. For some, the craft of writing is where we can both expressive ourselves and make a living while doing it. We can’t live like Jack Kerouac anymore and we don’t have the financial cushioning of Isabel Allende (an indirect nod to Roberto Bolaño). Writing these days is treated like a hobby and sometimes as a joke career. Therefore, number one rule in appropriation is posting credit where credit is due. While the work, let’s say, remixing a national financial newspaper with a gossip mag, is free, the poet must credit the places they took their material from. It’s not only ethical, but it gives the work context and a means for the reader to relate to the work. Painters paint what they see, writers write what they know, readers and art consumers eventually own your piece of work in the long run. Give them something to chew on.

Now I’ve written a few pieces on the latest controversies appropriating racial bodies, ethics in conceptualism, and such, and for some of these I’m awaiting them going into print. I can’t elaborate on that subject matter without stepping over the publication of that material. For the purposes here, I will stick to “a current defence of conceptualism.” I mean, current because what sparked this post was this:

This screen cap taken from my the stream on my twitter feed.

The Poetry Foundation piece is this one:

I agree, it was scathing commentary. It’s been a pile on since April 2015. On all sides. It’s cringe worthy for those of us that practice conceptualism to have to defend what we do because a couple of people made some mistakes and stepped over a huge line. Now let me try to elucidate why people are angry with the current tactic and defence of conceptualism.

As someone who has her privileges and in many ways I don’t, I have to say that watching three white men mansplain the world of conceptualism right now is a huge way to get me to dismiss your argument. How is that a defence of the work? In an ideal world, our skin colour, financial status, scholarly background, sexual orientation, and gender shouldn’t matter. We should be free to talk about what we want to talk about. Free speech builds the world up and can revolutionize it when it needs to be.  What do I want to see? I want to see a discussion by people who disagree with each other, who come from different backgrounds who profess their ideologies without blinders on. It’s really hard to defend conceptualism and lyricism right now if you don’t have a phD, are not white, are not currently pitching a novel, or thinks of themselves as the greatest new thing since Picasso. Fuck Picasso. Picasso’s dead, man.

Arguments like Perloff’s above insinuate that those of us that speak against what Goldsmith’s work in April are “not privileged enough to know better.” How do you expect anyone to listen to your argument if you’re telling us, that we must *appreciate* a work that is racist (Note: I do not believe Goldsmith is racist. Not at all. The resulting work at Brown University was racist. The poet, not so much.). There is a fundamental flaw in telling a reader that they have to appreciate something in order to understand it. Excuse me and my place, but you don’t tell me how to appreciate something. If we’re going to sit back and let the work speak for itself, I’m the reader and digester of work much like we all are, thus I have full power here.

What I’m finding in all the arguments against and for conceptualism is vitriol. Blind vitriol and animosity from all sides. It’s a detriment to your arguments. Conceptual writing comes from conceptualism going back to French medieval thinkers and the Jesuits. Talk about colonization. Talk about lyricism and how it helped educate the slave world and eradicate the languages of the New World. All modern literature is racist in a way. However, not all written work is racist. Some of it is rebellious. You can take a white man’s text and make it your own. You can manipulate text to expose its racist meat or you can take a whole education system down by taking the archaic means by which it operates and turn it against itself. You can decolonize using conceptualism and lyricism. You can take the works of William Shakespeare and expose the racism and misogyny within its production. You can take the works of a fascist ruler or corporation and use them to bring them down.

I defend conceptualism from the romantic view that lyricism ingrained in me. There’s an unlimited amount of rebellious potential inside of it. Anyone is free to use conceptualism and to use it well. You don’t need a degree or financial backing to create poetry nowadays. Words belong to the people and the people must use them. It’s a huge responsibility, but that’s the key. Words and their production are a huge responsibility and you must think before you use them and about why you’re using them. How does the poet’s work affect the consumer of it? Sure, we can create work just because we can, but in this day and age, you can not call yourself a poet without progressing the work (even if it is just for yourself). If anything this year has taught me is that words, no matter where they come from, have great power. You can not use that power callously.

Fuck colonization. Fuck all of it. THINK for once about your audience. You’re not convincing anyone in a circle jerk of hate or elitism.

Let’s come at this whole poetry anger from a place where we can revolutionize again. Poetry is freedom. WE NEED TO REVOLUTIONIZE in order to move forward.

In this post I said that every book should have a white cover. My white covered books have grey fingerprints and as such, is unique to my shelf.

I want to fuck/conceptualize your white texts up because in the end, I am free to do so. I’m covering all your texts with grey and colour.


I HAVE SO MUCH MORE TO SAY. The poetry world hasn’t experienced this much upheaval since the 1930s. There’s no possible way I could parse the state I’m in and condense it well and coherently.

I’m just venting here, but hopefully I make sense to someone out there. I gotta go do groceries before a Skype meeting. My kid took my last croissant. I have to put away the books that I took out to write this thing. I only cited one.

I’m not sure if all things poetry agitate me or are exciting to me today. Do I put the books away or do I throw them up in the air?

Be agitated or agitate. Sink or swim.


Thanks to for this photo. ❤

Edited to add: I really enjoyed this long form piece by Kim Calder up at the LA Review of Books. 

Do read it if you get the chance.