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The Dirty Dozen, with Jessica Hiemstra

Jessica Hiemstra

Jessica Hiemstra is a visual artist and poet whose third published volume of poetry is Self-Portrait Without a Bicycle (Biblioasis), a book that explores the grieving process and the fleetingness of life using the idea of fugitive colour. She will be reading at Dani’s Bistro in St. Catharines, Ontario on April 3rd, 2013, as part of the Niagara Literary Arts Festival, along with fellow poet Robert Melançon. Please view the event details here.

Today Jessica takes on the Open Book Dirty Dozen, which gives authors the chance to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves. In this interview, Jessica tells us the story of her rescue of a drunk fisherman in a sinking canoe, reveals a few of her near-death experiences and explains what she does when her writing isn’t working.

12 thoughts related to throwing and water

One.

When I finish reading a book I throw it. Even if I love it. Especially if I love it. Even if it’s a library book. Well — if it’s a library book I lob it. Gently.

Two.

I’m an e-book revert. When you hurl an e-book across the room, you wreck more than the spine. Also, I was nearly finished After the Flood a couple of years ago when I ran out of electricity for three weeks.

Three.

I rescued a drunk fisherman last year. He couldn’t swim. I swam out to him at six a.m. with a big yellow jerry can full of air tied to a rope around my waist. I hauled ass (and jerry can) to the sinking man, in his sinking canoe, who had been bellowing for help for three hours. He told me that at first he was afraid I was the devil, but then realized that the devil doesn’t usually arrive with a jerry can roped around the midsection. I threw the can to him to hold. He wrapped his arms around it and bobbed. It took three hours to get him and the nets and his canoe to shore. I made him tea when we got to land. The devil doesn’t usually make tea either.

Four.

I fell through the ice on our creek when I was seven. I was launching my little body from boot print to boot print to boot print, my mom’s tracks. Sorel Sorel Sorel. I was scooped out of the water as quickly as I had cracked into it. I was zipped into my neighbour’s snowsuit and plunked in front of the woodstove to dry out. My life didn’t flash before my eyes, but I still feared for it.

Five.

I hyperventilated and threw up into the Pacific (at a dock in Vancouver) skin diving to rescue an earring. I hope my earring is walking around on the back of a hermit crab right now.

Six.

I can throw a ball. I played rugby in high school. There was a brief moment in my life when I was called The Red Bull. That’s my moment of glory.

Seven.

These are my West Coast Personals:

a. To sad on the sea. Are you happy now?
14 years ago. It was dark. I was wearing my yellow rain boots. You were sobbing on the beach. I followed the sound of your sadness and wrapped my arms around you and you wept into my neck. You shook for a long time. When you were done I let go and walked away. I’m wondering: are things better now?

b. To the nice lady whose tent I stole. I’ve lost it. I wish I could give it back.
14 years ago. I took the ferry across the Strait of Georgia, in the Salish Sea. You lent me your tent because you said I had an honest face.

Eight.

I loved killing leeches as a kid. We’d swim in the creek and come out and scan ourselves for fat black lines. They were so strong but salt, innocuous salt, was their kryptonite. I loved to watch them whither. That’s my moment of shame.

Nine.

I nearly drowned on the Spanish River in a canoeing accident with my family.

Ten.

When I was whitewater rafting on the Zambezi I was moved by the lobelia clinging to the rocks by Victoria Falls — and the names of people carved into big cacti on the rocks. There’s a poem there, about lobelia and whirlpools and eddies and a cactus. But I don’t know how to write it without wrecking it.

Eleven.

Last year I held a beautiful English woman in a black bikini as my friends hauled her drowned father out of the water. I can still feel her collapsing in my arms when they pulled his body from the canoe. I spent the afternoon holding her hand, and her father’s false teeth and khaki shorts.

Dozen.

I don’t throw myself at obstacles. When the writing’s not working, I wait. I just fall through when it melts. Or I cling if it’s stone. Lobelia on the side of a cliff.


Jessica Hiemstra is a visual artist and writer who divides her time between Sierra Leone and Ontario. She is also the winner of two Malahat Review Open Season Awards (2011) and the Room Magazine Annual Poetry Contest (2009). Self-Portrait Without a Bicycle (Biblioasis) is her third volume of poetry.

For more information about Self-Portrait Without a Bicycle please visit the Biblioasis website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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