The Bark and Bite of Feminist Killjoys Sina Queyras and Erin Wunker

"With cues from Sara Ahmed’s notion of the feminist killjoy as a necessary figure who kills the so-called joys (misogyny, rape culture, racism) of patriarchal culture on a daily basis, Wunker’s collection is a series of non-fiction essays taking up the concept."

Montreal-based Sina Queyras is a renowned writer, poet and community builder, a public intellectual of sorts, as her role as literary critic and poet bends and expands conversations in Canadian poetry. In Barking and Biting: The Poetry of Sina Queyras (Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2016), edited by Erin Wunker, a selection of Queyras’ extensive bibliography is boldly selected.

As chair of the board of Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), managing editor of Hook & Eye: Fast Feminism, Slow Academe, and author of Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life (Book Thug, 2016), Wunker took her fan-girl to the next level.

Wunker asked Queyras if she could propose a selection of her work to the Laurier Poetry Series, a press known for its accessibility, affordability, and geared towards making poetry by key Canadian writers available to a wide readership, she swiftly agreed. With 25 books in Laurier’s Poetry Series, Barking and Biting: The Poetry of Sina Queyras, is the sixth selected work by a woman/woman-identified voice.

“I felt that proposing a selection from a poet who, I think, is doing some of the most innovative work right now was one way to shift that balance. That’s something I can do, I thought,” says Wunker. “I can do the work of editing and compiling, and that work, if it introducing people to Sina’s writing, well, that’s worth the effort. And if it shifts a catalogue to be just a bit more equitable in terms of representational justice, well that is well worth my effort, too.”

The title of the collection: Barking and Biting: The Poetry of Sina Queyras, is taken from her blog Lemon Hound’s tag line –“more bark than bite,” where she contributes to literary discussion, debate, and publishes up and coming poets online. Queyras’ publications span poetry, essays and a novel; including: Someone from the Hollow (1995), Slip (2001), Teethmarks (2004), Lemon Hound (2006), Expressway (2009), Unleashed (2010), Autobiography of a Childhood (2010), MxT (2014) and Barking and Biting (2016). She’s won the Pat Lowther Award for Poetry and a Lambda Literary Award.

“To my mind, each of Queyras collections is a real project – the poems start at one place, and through a huge variety of tactics, end up at a different place by the end of the collection…No selected works will ever take the place of reading an entire collection.”

For Wunker, Barking and Biting: The Poetry of Sina Queyras, demonstrates an evolution of poetic form over time, genealogies of literary and artistic influence, explores intersections of lyric and conceptualism, and offers readers a sample of the different kind of poetic work that creates each of Queyras’ books.

Wunker has created the literary equivalent of a mixtape. Nothing is random, everything is a choice, and holds a narrative. She took Queyras’ experimentation with font, pagination and poetics into heavy consideration in the editorial process.

“There is the story of my own reading relationship to the poetry. I didn’t choose all my favourites, that’s not what I am saying,” says Wunker. “But I did choose in such a way as to try and introduce the reader to a miniature version – a taste, a sample – of the larger projects happening in each of the collections.”

In terms of her public work as CWILA’s board of directors chair, managing editor of Hook & Eye, her role as a teacher, and academic background, Wunker is comfortable with her publics, though she has never called herself a writer until now.

Wunker’s forthcoming book, Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life (Book Thug, 2016), is critically crucial. With cues from Sara Ahmed’s notion of the feminist killjoy as a necessary figure who kills the so-called joys (misogyny, rape culture, racism) of patriarchal culture on a daily basis, Wunker’s collection is a series of non-fiction essays taking up the concept.

“The essays draw from literature, critical theory, from pop culture, and they are all rooted in my own life,” she says. “I am the feminist killjoy in the book, thinking through what it means, for me, to live a feminist life. Topics include killing rape culture, being a feminist and becoming a mother, and friendship between women as an act of the feminist killjoy.”

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