Arts and Culture

SpokenWeb lab’s Poetry in Memory project harnesses creativity and recollection

Dr. Jason Camlot’s team captures the essence of verse recitals, weaving creativity and nostalgia into every recording.

The brain works in mysterious ways. It will sometimes get rid of crucial information, such as important notions for a test, but will vividly retain details about an ordinary day that took place a decade ago. Poems, lullabies and nursery rhymes seem to be a part of this second category—the brain likes to store them somewhere safe, and though you may not give these verses a thought for a long time, they will still be there, intact, in case you ever summon them. This phenomenon is what the team from the SpokenWeb lab dissects in its Poetry in Memory project. 

The team set up a pop-up booth in the CJ building atrium on March 25 to gain some visibility and publicize their project, as well as to collect data. The project consists in interacting with people in various locations and getting them to recite a poem, a nursery rhyme or any other type of verses purely out of memory. The SpokenWeb team records these people’s songs or poems on authentic tape recorders from the mid-20th century, or “vintage reel-to-reel devices,”  and then digitizes the product to preserve it. The team also makes sure to record the story behind how the participants learned the poems they recite.  Since the team moves around a lot and meets people from various backgrounds, the recordings include recitals in many different languages.

Dr. Jason Camlot is the Principal Investigator  and director of the Concordia University SpokenWeb team and is also the mind behind the Poetry in Memory project. He works closely with Isabelle Devi Poirier, undergraduate student, and Ariella Ruby, MA student, who were both present at the pop-up booth on March 25. 

This project has been in the making since before the pandemic, and so far, Camlot’s team has amassed about 24 hours worth of recordings.

The SpokenWeb lab rallies scholar teams from all over North America who specialize in “the preservation of sonic artifacts,” meaning that they study and create projects based on recordings that have historical value. Camlot and his team set up booths in different locations and engage with people who are interested in their installation. They are hard to miss, owing to the authentic Sony tape recorder from 1959 that sits on their table. 

“The portable reel to reel is one of a few we have in the lab for on-site projects,” explained Camlot. “It is a solid state portable recorded from 1959 by Sony. This kind of machine would have been affordable to people for everyday use, and is the kind of recorder that would have been brought to poetry readings to record them in the 1960.”

The Poetry in Memory  project will soon become available to the public. “Some of this audio will be used by Prof. Camlot to produce a podcast on the memorized poem for the SpokenWeb podcast series,” said Ruby, “and all the audio will eventually be integrated into an audio exhibition that is planned for 2025.”

Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

I Know I Need to Move Out

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

Could have been perfect, me and you, alone. 

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

My clothes in your closet, hung in a line, 

the very first day that I called you “home” 

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

So how could you let my clothes, in your confines,

be eaten by the mold your dampness had grown?

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

I tried to convince myself we could be fine, 

made excuses to my mom on the phone.

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

I wish that I would have known when I signed 

your lease that you would wear me to the bone. 

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

I thought living alone would be divine.

All you had to do was be my new home.

I had wanted you for such a long time.

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

Arts Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

Prayer to Saint Anthony

my dad sent a package to me that I never received. maybe it got lost, maybe he sent it to a thief. 

I call my mom and mention it, and I don’t know what I am hoping she’ll say. she sighs his name on the phone, like it was his fault. a heavy sigh, knocks the wind out of me. 

like it was his fault.

somehow it reminds her to tell me—one lost thing leads to another, in her mind— the tree in my backyard fell yesterday. 

everyone is fine. 

my cat’s old aching bones can climb the branches once more– they fell down to the earth to meet her, they missed her enough to come kiss her hello. 

the hot tub, where I dug my wrinkling, boiled fingertips into my palms for so many evenings, and so many years, is still intact.

the gazebo, where I slept in the summers, covered in beach towels and spiders, where cigarette butts steeped like tea in jars full of rainwater, is only banged up a little bit. 

the old tree, arm choked by a rope swing tourniquet, is plunged into the earth below. grave and grave marker. branch become root. 

it was the wind that did it. a heavy sigh knocked it over, knocks the wind out of me. I sigh, my breath echoes in the phone call feedback loop, my aching lungs passed down from my mom. she sighs back. 

like it was his fault.

Arts Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Steven Gao

Born in Jinan, China, and currently living in a small town on the west tip of the Montreal island, Steven draws inspiration from his roots and observation of the world. He writes poetry in English and sometimes in Chinese. Before starting at Concordia University, majoring in History, he graduated from CEGEP and worked full-time in marketing for two years. He participated in Twigs & Leaves (a poetry reading event, now defunct) and continues to be a regular participant in another poetry/arts event, Kafé Poe. In his free time, Steven enjoys learning history and doing scale models, as well as photography.

=UnexpecteD Flashʞɔɒd=

It was a Saturday evening

I attended a poetry event

With people


Made me feel cozy


Fine dessert and coffee



Went back home


Kissing the foreheads of my beloved ones



Found my long gone love


The songs


Give me a feeling of home



A °F0ᴚƎigᴎ feel


Going through my history


The revolutionary Red met

The impetuous Blue


The new mƎ






Arts Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

Jessica Wood is a second-year student in creative writing at Concordia University. A writer her whole life, she particularly enjoys writing creative non-fiction, poetry, and autofiction.

Hopeful Romantic

it’s the arms in my heart reaching out to hug the unfamiliar shape of a new friend. 

it’s laughing so hard my “waterproof” mascara runs down my cheeks in the shape of joy.

it’s standing with a friend on a train platform, singing along to the busker playing Sweet Caroline. 

it’s a lipstick shade named Caroline! 

it’s nodding, listening, as my best friend speaks, as her thoughts cross her face. 

it’s learning that hope is a strength. poison is bitter, but so is medicine.

it’s reaching out to new people. 

it’s not reaching out to someone you thought you’d always need. 

                                                (I wish I had two hearts. 

                                                one for the good times I have had, 

                                                and one to keep in a box and only use on special occasions, 

                                                like the fancy soap I bought in Paris when I was fourteen 

                                                and only used for the first time last month. 

                                                one heart that stays safe from the wear and tear of everyday use,

                                                and one to run ragged.)

anyway, I don’t know what it is, but it’s nice. 

I’m a hopeful romantic!

Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

Jessica Wood is a second-year in creative writing student at Concordia University. A writer her whole life, she particularly enjoys writing creative non-fiction, poetry, and autofiction.

Originally from Vancouver Island, BC, she has been in Montreal for a year and a half and has loved every minute of it. This is the first publication of her writing, and she hopes it will be the first of many.

Graphic by Maya Robitaille-Lopez

In the Dead of Winter (I Can Feel Okay Again!)


in the dead of winter I can feel okay again. 

this week is already better! I’m tentatively hopeful, and defiantly confident that 

in the dead of winter, I can feel okay again. 

sure, my heating bill is higher than my friends, who warm their hands on a shared joint, shivering together like molecules as they puff and pass. 

and even though I don’t smoke, I’m standing out there too 

in the dead of winter. I can feel okay again! 

even though 

-my laundry freezes on the walk home (the laundromat dryers eat my quarters and spit out no hot air in return) 

-there’s salt water rings around my boots (I am using all of my towels to block off drafty windows) 

-I have to shovel the stairs if I want to get groceries (I pretend I’m a penguin, imploring myself to laugh when I slip on the sidewalk) 

I am hopeful. and I am confident. 

in the dead of winter, I can feel okay again.

Jessica Wood

Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

Poetry Spotlight: Steven Gao

Born in Jinan, China, and now living in a small town on the west tip of the Montreal island, Steven draws inspiration from his roots and his observation of the world.

He writes his poetry in English, sometimes in Chinese. Gao currently studies history at Concordia University in history. He participated in Twigs & Leaves (a poetry reading event, now defunct) and continues to be a regular participant in another poetry/arts event, Kafé Poe. In his free time, Steven enjoys learning history and doing scale models, as well as photography.

Photo by Steven Gao

Yet Another Morning… Lost?

The sky is crooked, not like if it were smudged by clouds.

But I feel something’s off.

I see the reflection of the lake, reminding me of blinking fish scales.

At what scale?

– I don’t know.

But they flicker randomly.

Should you trust me with a pinch of salt?

My measuring is off, so is the sky, yet the light is on.

Confused indeed.

Is it another day of hallucination?

Or mental condensation?

I still see ripples dancing.

I hear the morning piano go off key.

I smell the burnt coffee.

I feel the floor quaking.

Not again,

Everything goes off the charts!

Or am I trembling?

Ah! I forgot to adjust my lenses…

Photo by Steven Gao
Photo by Steven Gao
Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

A rose, a pomegranate and prose

Unyielding self-expression, vulnerability and trust emerged as through-lines between all of the night’s performances. Spoken word poetry, freestyle rap and stream-of-consciousness monologues revealed the artists’ emotional and spiritual depths. Each performance captured the artists’ respective grapplings with notions of selfhood, bittersweet memories of distant homelands, the intimate disappointments of failed relationships and the destruction necessary to rebuild one’s sense of identity. 

“Fruit moi, fruit toi; ouvrir une pomegrenade avec les dents, les pieds, les reins,” recited artist Elyanne Desaulniers after her performance—her white satin blouse drenched in the pink and red juices of a pomegranate. Desaulniers’ sensual and violent untitled piece left the audience in quiet awe as she crawled and writhed on the floor—partially nude—beating and gnawing at the fruit until it was nothing but a scattered pile of rinds and seeds on the sticky gallery floor.

Her evocative performance spoke to the complexities of transgressive desire, hunger and yearning, which are entangled in the mythology of the pomegranate as the forbidden fruit of the underworld. Desaulniers’ display of erotic aggression was ultimately a celebration of  exhibitionism—her dedicated photographer was very much a part of the performance—that sought to elevate and memorialise the messy and corporeal elements of sexuality.

Desaulniers’ photographer documenting her performance. Photo by Emma Bell // The Concordian.

Later, artist and writer Shaghayegh Naderolasli performed her meditative piece titled The Rose. Knelt in front of a small cutting board, Naderolasli recited fragments of memories and personal notes-to-self as she sliced the petals and stem of a red rose. As she worked, she remarked: “When I was walking from my apartment to the gallery, I realized that the rose was too red. The contrast led to comments, smiles, questionable looks. My rose kept me company through it.”

In the poem that accompanies the performance, the artist treats the rose as a living being that can listen, speak and watch. She—the rose—is an extension of Naderolasli herself. The rose in this work represents the artist’s understanding of her own femininity—one that has largely been constructed for her by external forces, such as the media and the culture that surrounds her.

Shaghayegh Naderolasli performing The Rose. Photo by Emma Bell // The Concordian.

In this performance, her actions mimic the preparation of culinary ingredients, drawing a visual connection between the iconic feminine symbol of the rose and the traditionally feminine domestic responsibility of preparing meals. Naderolasli is assertively responding to the expectations of conventional femininity through reworking the rose—taking it apart so that it could perhaps become something else that she can design on her own terms. Rather than discarding femininity, she is reinventing it, manipulating it and making it her own. 

The artist grieves the loss of the original flower—its conventional beauty, the way it draws attention, its simplicity—while understanding the necessity of its sacrifice. Indeed, this powerful metaphor speaks to reclamation, agency and rebirth.


A brief introduction to Dionne Brand’s poetry

Having produced an extensive body of work throughout her life, the multi talented writer is perhaps best known for her poetry

Canadian writer Dionne Brand has become a staple in Canadian literature over the last several years, churning out 18 books, with the majority being poetry collections. The writer’s work often addresses issues pertaining to sex, gender, race, migration, and more. Though Brand is certainly multitalented, having written an array of fiction and nonfiction books, held teaching positions at several post-secondary institutions in British Columbia and Ontario, and even writing and co-directing several films, her poetry is arguably what she is best known for.

Brand was born in 1953 in Guayaguayare, Trinidad, and later moved to Toronto in 1970 to study at the University of Toronto. Shortly after the completion of her BA in English and Philosophy, she released ‘Fore Day Morning: Poems, the book that put her work on the map.

Her work began garnering praise in 1997, with her poetry collection Land to Light On earning her both a Trillium Book Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Following this success, Brand released two more highly acclaimed works, one in 2002 titled thirsty and another in 2010 titled Ossuaries. 

Her work often seeks to challenge the idea that Canada’s multicultural identity has created an innately accepting country, free from frequent instances of racism. Her poems are especially engaged with the experience of immigrant women in Canada, and they aim to convey the challenges these women face, like language barriers and unequal access to employment and education. Brand’s poems are proof that the act of writing can serve as a powerful form of activism, as it has the capacity to empower marginalized readers.

Suggested Pick

Though each reader’s favourite Brand book will vary, her long poem titled Inventory (published in 2006) is undoubtedly one of the author’s most influential pieces of literature. The book seeks to understand what an inventory for the early years of the 21st century might account for. Inventory can be read as a sort of catalogue, one that recounts both specific historical events, such as Hurricane Katrina, and more widespread events that continue to occur today, such as systemic violence against marginalized people. Her poems address mounting instances of violence, humanity’s growing reliance on technology, the steady shift to a surveillance state, and more. While this book may not be an ideal choice for someone seeking a leisurely read due to its unsettling content, Brand never fails to pen lines that confront the brutal and honest truth.


Graphic courtesy of James Fay



Deepening our connection to nature with ecopoetics

Ecopoetry can help readers better understand the natural world they inhabit by focusing on how humanity interacts with their environments

In an age where ecological destruction has become more prevalent than ever, some writers have turned to ecopoetry as a way of addressing concerns they have with the climate crisis, the plight of endangered species, and humanity’s responsibility for the environment. Although the term “ecopoetics” may be interpreted to mean poetry about the environment and natural elements, it is actually quite multidisciplinary in its approach; ecopoetry often looks at the relationships between nature, culture, history, anthropology, and more. For some, ecopoetics can be considered as a call to action, and not just a meditation on the beauty of our world. It can encourage us to look beyond ourselves and consider the tiny lives that we coexist with, while hopefully inspiring us to invoke some sort of change, be it big or small.

If you’re not already intrigued, here are three ecopoetry books that will grab your attention and, perhaps, have you consider taking up residence in a Thoreau-esque cabin by the water. A walk in the woods will also suffice.

Between Dusk and Night by Emily McGiffin

McGiffin’s debut poetry collection follows the writer on her journeys around the world as she attempts to not only understand the relationship she shares with the many environments she encounters, but also aims to address the responsibility humans have in preserving the natural world. She spends the majority of the collection carefully reflecting on how humans got here and she wonders, at times, if we even deserve to be here.

Between Dusk and Night is an excellent introduction to ecopoetics with its multidisciplinary approach to nature and humanity. McGiffin’s collection is an honest attempt at understanding how the micro and macro parts of the natural world interact.

Small Arguments by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Although Thammavongsa may be best recognized for her short story collection titled How to Pronounce Knife, Small Arguments is a book that readers who are interested in ecopoetry won’t regret reading. Thammavongsa’s poems offer a perceptive account of the most minute natural elements, whether it’s a piece of dirt or a raindrop. Through her “small arguments,” she seeks to establish the importance of these elements despite their tendency to be overlooked by humans.

Like many of us, she looks for a grander meaning in the things that occupy her space, and tries to make sense of her own existence in the process. Small Arguments is a breezy and relatively short read despite the gravity of some of its content.

Deactivated West 100 by Don McKay

Since the 1970s, McKay has been considered a pioneer in the realm of Canadian ecopoetics, releasing 12 collections dedicated to the country’s unique landscape and wildlife. His poetry often uses defamiliarization, a technique where writers present their readers with common things in an unfamiliar way. This technique allows, as McKay puts it, “the mind’s categories to glimpse some thing’s autonomy — its rawness, its duende [soul], its alien being.”

In Deactivated West 100, readers follow McKay as he journeys around Vancouver Island, looking to deepen his understanding of home and his place in nature. This book is brimming with big questions, ones that a trip to Vancouver Island surely won’t be able to help answer. But this doesn’t stop McKay as he reflects on how humanity coexists with nature, while simultaneously encouraging his readers to temporarily lose themselves in their surroundings in order to better appreciate them.


Graphic by James Fay


A brief look at the life and work of Gwendolyn MacEwen

Having published over 20 books in her lifetime, the work from this Canadian writer still remains underappreciated to this day

Despite publishing over 20 books in her lifetime, Canadian poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen remains one of Canadian literature’s most elusive and underappreciated writers. Born in Toronto in 1941, MacEwen grew up during a time when many young male writers, such as Leonard Cohen and Daryl Hine, were being discovered in Canada.

This made it extremely difficult for women to be accepted into the arts community as established writers. As well-known Canadian author Margaret Atwood notes in the introduction to MacEwen’s Volume One: The Early Years, “Women artists of any kind, in that still heavily-Freudian era, were assumed to have adjustment problems… if women insisted on doing rather than being, they were likely to end up with their heads in the oven.” This certainly didn’t deter MacEwen, and Atwood adds, “MacEwen wanted to be out on the sharp edge with the boys, not back in the kitchen with the girls.”

By age 16, she had several poems published in the well-respected literary journal The Canadian Forum. By 18, she left high school to continue honing her skill as a writer, and she soon wrote her first novel Julian the Magician. While many had warned her that adopting a career as a writer wasn’t a good move for a young woman, especially during the late fifties, she continued to churn out spellbinding work that would eventually win her the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1969.

While a quick Google search will offer relatively limited information about the writer, it remains clear from brief biographies that MacEwen’s life was a turbulent one. Her mother suffered from mental illness, spending long periods of time away from home in mental health institutions. Additionally, her father suffered from alcoholism.

In 1987, the writer’s own life came to a tragically early end due to complications arising from her own struggles with alcoholism.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, MacEwen turned to writing as an escape. Atwood later notes in the introduction that “Her childhood was stressful; but the conviction that she would be a poet came to her as a saving grace in early adolescence.” MacEwen was able to not only craft fantastical settings and characters for herself, but also for her readers. While her work offers an escape, it also holds up a mirror to readers and demands that they take time to reflect on the world around them. Take for example this particular verse from one of her most well-known poems The Discovery. MacEwen writes:

When you see the land naked, look again / (burn your maps, that is not what I mean) / I mean the moment when it seems most plain / is the moment when you must begin again.

In her poems, she often encourages readers to push the boundaries of things they may interpret as both real or unreal. She also encourages readers to scrutinize even the most unsuspecting and ordinary of objects around them, such as clocks and coins.

MacEwen’s poems are guaranteed to take you on an adventure, but it certainly won’t be a breezy one. It’s one that challenges you, one that guides you to the darkest corners of the mind. And although MacEwen’s readers are left with many questions, they know not to expect answers. Perhaps that’s just part of her charm, and ultimately, her legacy.


Feature Graphic by James Fay


Former Concordia student Karaline Alessia releases debut poetry collection

Love & Other Anxieties offers an intimate glimpse into the author’s emotions

The lockdown has shuttered many of us indoors, lending more time to catch up on some leisure reading. Montreal based poet and former Concordia student Karaline Alessia recently released her debut poetry book Love & Other Anxieties.

The book centres on the themes of love, feelings of anxiety, and women empowerment, with Alessia writing her poems as an open journal to the world. This collection offers an intimate glimpse into the poet’s emotions as she navigates through both difficult and triumphant moments.

It can be difficult to reflect on certain parts of your life,” said Alessia. “My poetry is all about my experience, and it was hard to think back on times in my life that I would have rather forgotten.”

When not writing poetry, Alessia works as a public school teacher at Westmount’s Roslyn Elementary School. In addition to this, the author runs the Caterpillar Club, a literacy centre that aims to help students who struggle with reading, writing and phonics.

Despite her busy schedule, Alessia dedicates as much time as possible to writing, whether she is scrawling ideas into a notebook, or her Notes app while on the go. 

“I had most of the book written as I had previously self published a version of it before,” she explains. “With my publisher, we decided that we wanted to republish it as an even better version.”

Alessia published her book with Ace of Swords, a Montreal-based publishing house established in 2019 by four Concordia graduates.

“The publishing aspect also took several months, as there are many different parts to publishing a book. Writing takes a long time, and you have to be okay with that.”

Alessia began writing an array of unpublished children’s books, with many ideas arising during her work as a teacher. 

“As time went on, I decided to change up my style and take a try with poetry,” says Alessia.

The author notes that if you’re looking to write poetry, it’s important to spend a considerable amount of time reading poetry as well.

I read a lot of poetry before writing. I think it’s really important to read in the genre you write for inspiration and to learn.”

Alessia suggests studying writing techniques from established authors.

“Some people see this as copying for some reason, but it’s not. It’s about learning and teaching yourself.”

To purchase a copy of Love & Other Anxieties, visit the Ace of Swords website. Those looking to stay updated on Alessia’s work can follow her on Instagram.

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