Every week, I’ll be doing a mini feature on my site (& blasting it on social media) on activists, artists, and educators who are doing important things in the world. Like Levar Burton says, the only thing these folks have in common is that I like them, and I hope you do too.
This week’s feature is a femme near and dear to my heart: Leah Horlick. Leah reached out to me in 2011 to express admiration over a poem I’d published in So to Speak, and we became long-distance friends (she lives in Vancouver!). I’ve followed her poetry and activism ever since, rejoicing at the success of her work in her home Canada and beyond. Her poetry is beautiful and devastating, making space for the kinds of un-discussed narratives that are so vitally important in the queer community. Like her words, she is kind, generously-spirited, and a fierce advocate for literary citizenship. Would that the world had at least forty dozen more beautiful souls like Leah Horlick.
& in her own words.
Where can we find your work?
If you ask your local indie bookstores sweetly, they should be able to order you each of my book-babies: “Riot Lung” (Thistledown Press, 2012) and “For Your Own Good” (Caitlin Press, 2015). I am super-fortunate to have not one, but two poems from my new manuscript on the ARC Poem of the Year shortlist — Couple Flying Over Village and You Are My Hiding Place, based on my trip to Romania & Moldova last year. I recently cut my teeth on co-editing with the brilliant Adèle Barclay and Poetry Is Dead’s just-released “Coven” issue. Selfies, plant photos, and stacks o’ books are on Insta @leahhorlick 🙂
What themes or ideas do you feel your work engages with?
I used to be sensitive about my “range” as a poet but I’m also pretty committed to working with the raw material life gives you, so no use being sensitive writing about the stuff that keeps coming up! So here I am, and here’s the work, and the work is mostly love and queerness, femininity and recovery. Depending on the day I sometimes say “healing.” (Do you know the Neko Case song The Next Time You Say Forever? I’m on a little loop at the moment where I sing it in my head except instead of “Forever” it’s “Resilient.” I swear, if I hear somebody say that word one more time…ugh.)
What were you like as a child?
Extremely sensitive, very bookish! Hid in the bathroom to avoid going outside at recess! So, minus the recess part…essentially me now, but taller.
Can you remember the first piece of art– performance, literary, fine, street–you saw/read that wowed you?
I think more than a particular piece of art it was the library. The idea of a quiet place that you could just go and sit by the window and read until you ran out of books, and then take home more things to read, was about as good and pure as it got. (Still is!)
What work do you do in the world that you feel proud of?
I feel like The Discourse on queer sexual violence has really changed in the last decade…but it still hasn’t changed THAT much. I remain really proud of the work that my second book, For Your Own Good, is doing in the world, and this essay that I wrote for Autostraddle a few years ago. I think it’s hard to be a queer in-community survivor right now; everyone around you might be talking about sexual violence and still not quite recognizing your particular experience. I’m also super proud of myself for leaving full-time work in the anti-violence field, too. A gal needs a break.
What’s keeping you embodied right now?
I’m obsessed with the Satellite of Love queer horoscopes from Corina Dross, an upcoming camping trip, and trying to do as little as possible after I get home from work. Plus an overflowing pot of starry night petunias in my yard.
Tell us a story.
Leah Horlick is the author of Riot Lung (Thistledown Press, 2012), and For Your Own Good (Caitlin Press, 2015), which was named a Stonewall Honor Book by the American Library Association. In 2016, she was awarded the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. She grew up as a settler on Treaty Six Cree territory in Saskatoon and now lives on unceded Coast Salish territories in Vancouver, BC.