Dominik Parisien

Dominik Parisien's picture
Photo credit: 
Alexandra Albert
Biography: 

Dominik Parisien is a disabled, bisexual French Canadian who lives in Toronto. He is the author of the poetry collection Side Effects May Include Strangers (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2020) and the chapbook We, Old Young Ones (Frog Hollow Press, 2019). His work has appeared in Maisonneuve, The Fiddlehead, The Literary Review of Canada, PRISM International, and elsewhere. He co-edited several anthologies, including the Hugo Award-winning Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. He is also an Associate Prose Editor at Plenitude Magazine, an instructor with InkWell Workshops, and he has worked on various magazines and editorial projects, including The FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity). His work has a particular focus on the lived experience of disability and chronic illness. 

Micro-interview: 
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

Oh, yes. I grew up in French and I carried battered copies of Theophile Gauthier and Charles Baudelaire's poems in my backpack as a teenager. They made me feel like I was on to something with the whole goth thing I had going on. I particularly loved Baudelaire's "Le Spleen de Paris" prose poems. I thought they were beautiful and strange. At home, we also had two books of poetry from my great aunt, Odette Parisien. I read them from time to time, and while I didn't have the slightest clue what any of them meant, I liked them all the same. 

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

Fairly young. I remember being in grade school and writing some words with weird line breaks and thinking "Tadaa! Poetry!" I didn't really start to think of myself as a poet until I began publishing some pieces and people described me as a poet. Poetry seemed something you did, not really something that could define you. Even the poets I liked, I thought of them as writers, not poets. It can be a handy distinction, though, so I use it now.

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

To make us think, make us feel something strange or new. To tilt the world a little, or a lot. Maybe that's a bit vague (okay, it is), but I always worry that trying to specifically define the role of artists risks limiting what they can or might do. I guess I think a poet's job is to "try".

If you have a poem in our anthology what inspired you to write it?: 

"Un Docteur Anglophone Traduit Les Inquiétudes De Son Patient Avec Google / An English-Speaking Doctor Translates the Concerns of His Patient with Google" is a poem grounded in my bilingualism and the problem of translating pain and illness. It came out of my many medical experiences and some conversations I was having with English poets about language, medical systems, and poetry. 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

This is surprisingly easy to answer. "The Trick" by Roxanna Bennett. I saw Roxanna read it a few years ago and I knew immediately I had to buy their collection. I already loved poetry at that point, but that was a poem that almost felt like it was written for me. I stayed up all night reading and rereading the book. Later Roxanna and I started corresponding and became good friends. That one poem brought so much good to my life. Aside from it's personal significance, it engages masterfully with the disability poetics canon, and it's an exquisite piece of writing. I think anyone who lives with pain finds themselves reflected by it and even a little transformed.  

Publications: 
Title: 
Side Effects May Include Strangers
Publisher: 
McGill-Queen's University Press
Date: 
2020
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
We, Old Young Ones
Publisher: 
Frog Hollow Press
Date: 
2019
Publication type: 
Book