Jason Purcell’s new poetry chapbook explores how illness affects us, from the challenges to our bodies to the alteration of our minds in perceiving the world. Purcell found that his writing helped in connecting with the incomprehensibility of his own body’s struggles.
“Illness has meant that I have begun to feel alienated from my body,” he says. “I’ve come to realize I am not in control of my body—I can’t think myself better—and so poetry has been a way for me to perhaps reacquaint myself with my body via my body’s own experiences.”
The Edmonton poet also addresses the impact of aggression and hate on physical wellbeing.
“Illness then becomes a metaphor for the violences some of us have had to accept and internalize,” he says. “It makes sense to be sick in a world that treats some people as sick, or for the body to react violently to a world that is violent.”
In “Men in the Gut,” Purcell offers a searing portrait of enduring homophobia as a young man:
“A punch to the gut / I anticipate violence here one cell layer / deep shallow spreading roots / a memory system in my body. / On the side of the road a drive-by for men / homophobic in trucks swallowing spit. / When I was a teenager I let them / disembody me internalizing everything / through the mouth and now my stomach / wants it out.”
The poems keep their attention on the human body throughout the collection with a vivid and scientific focus on physical experience.
In “Love Noises” Purcell writes, “The plinking sound of microbes homing in a petri dish. You can hear / the blue in them. A man uses a spoon to scrape them from his body, / humming about a place more hospitable than / he is.”
Reflecting on his choice in naming the chapbook, Purcell talks about the power of writing in creating a sense of belonging.
“Titling the collection A Place More Hospitable is, perhaps, a call for hope, and a place where I can mark out, even just within the confines of the page, a place that is indeed more hospitable for myself and those I care for and am in relationship with, from relationships and friendships down to a microbial level,” he says.
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