Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.
Both of these pieces engage with two interconnected “threads”: the handicraft of embroidery, and the concept of chrestomathy. Embroidery is a central folk art of Hungary, where my dad’s family is from. For many, many messed up reasons, my family from Hungary was severed from one another when they came to Canada in 1956, and the connection to the language and culture was lost. So, I’ve been using thread, fragments, and a heck of a lot of patience to slowly piece together a narrative of connectivity in/of/through absence and disjuncture.
These pieces also form a personal chrestomathy, which is a collection of passages from an author or author(s) used to study a language. Both pieces bring together the act of sewing and of weaving together a language. I don’t speak Hungarian, and it is one of the most difficult languages to learn. But working with letraset, thread, and the work of some women Hungarian poets, I’ve been able to start studying the language — not just for meaning but for sound, contours, edges. How does it sound and feel to dwell in these brittle, difficult linguistic spaces? I’m challenging myself in this labour and continually checking in on what it is I’m asking of the thing, and of myself.
In the first poem, the words (szomjas — thirsty, lelek — soul, mond — tell, az — the, ébred — awake, séta — walk) are taken from various poems by Hungarian poets — namely, Agnes Nemes Nagy, Margit Kaffka, and Krisztina Tóth. I’m playing with this idea of “spinning” thread and using it as a fascia for language to get caught up in — to be held in suspension. As I am spun by the absences of my own family history, I spin the language to know and feel. In the latter poem, the lines sewn together here are from the opening of Nemes’s poem “Trees” (Fák): The winter trees / hoarfrosted crown to root. / Immovable curtains.” Working in a language you don’t understand is a delicate and tedious task — one mirrored here by the delicateness of sewing paper and brittle natural objects together. Through this work, and in these fragments, I’m finding and nurturing affinity, connection, and femmeship in the gaps of loss and silence.
Kate Siklosi lives, writes and thinks in Toronto. She is the author of numerous works of poetry and criticism, both online and in print, including four chapbooks of poetry: 1956 (above/ground press 2019), coup (The Blasted Tree, 2018), may day (no press, 2018), and po po poems (above/ground press, 2018). She is also the co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press, a feminist experimental poetry small press.