Chantal Gibson

How She Read by Chantal Gibson

Griffin Poetry Prize 2020
Canadian Shortlist

Book: How She Read

Poet: Chantal Gibson

Publisher: Caitlin Press

Click here to read an excerpt.

Chantal Gibson

Biography

Chantal Gibson is an artist-educator living in Vancouver with ancestral roots in Nova Scotia. Her visual art collection Historical In(ter)ventions, a series of altered history book sculptures, dismantles text to highlight language as a colonial mechanism of oppression. How She Read is another altered book, a genre-blurring extension of her artistic practice. Sculpting black text against a white page, her poems forge new spaces that challenge historic representations of Black womanhood and Otherness in the Canadian cultural imagination. How She Read is Gibson’s debut book of poetry. An award-winning teacher, she teaches writing and visual communication in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University.

Judges’ Citation

“Chantal Gibson invites scrutiny of where language maps, or fails to map, the quiddity of the world. Here the English language carries and transmits the burden of its service to the imperial ‘adventure’, in schoolbooks, in literature, in historical artifacts and through image and portraiture in paint and photograph. Her interanimation of the visual and the verbal energises a private mark-making, a resistance poetry to the coded, at times subliminal, oppressions of history. To detox the soul then, to be free and creative as citizens, we deserve to read each mark with schooled attention. And trust in our own mark making, our right to speak it the way we see it. This is a fabulous primer, ludic and ferocious, in the grand tradition of liberation handbooks.”

from homonyms

We knead our
fingers in a little egg and water to hold it together.
We need our hands to touch and turn this mixing
bowl into a talisman. Jus skin n bones, girl, you wink
an elbow into my ribs, pray there’s time to make

a woman of me, but you just scratch the surface of
my adolescence. If I’d stop biting my nails, stand up
straight, we wouldn’t have to fight tooth n nail to get
along. You play “Stuck on You” for the umpteenth time,
snap your fingers on the downbeat. I count (5, 6, 7,

and 8) every scratch on the vinyl, mutter something
foolish like, Wish you’d keep your hands off my stuff,
til your backhand reminds me I am your stuff, always
under your skin, eyes rolling, all sass n backtalk, til
you’re itchin to skin me alive.

From How She Read by Chantal Gibson
Copyright © Chantal Gibson 2019

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