On the afternoon of Saturday, April 22, 2023, Hollay Ghadery launched her poetry collection, Rebellion Box, at the Kawartha Lakes Museum & Archives.
The occasion was a drop-in event, allowing guests to arrive anytime between 1pm and 4pm to visit with the author, buy her books, and enjoy the refreshments she brought.
My visit with the author was brief, but included chatting about women’s issues and the ghosts that haunt the old jail that houses the museum.
The museum is an excellent location for the launch since the title poem, “Rebellion Box,” was inspired by small wooden boxes made at Fort Henry by prisoners from the Rebellion of 1837.
The collection includes 63 poems of various types, and presents a portrait of the author as she pushes against the limitations of gender roles, race, bodies and minds.
That portrait is at times intimate, as in “Postcard, Santa Maria,” where the author writes,
I'm not that girl anymore. I have the conviction of dust and the cervix of a fifteen-year-old, my doctor says. Not bad for four kids so I believe in anything so I can belive at all.
Other poems like “Search History” and “Fight like a Girl” feel universal and vast. The collection conveys many relatable experiences.
What follows is my interview with Hollay Ghadery about Rebellion Box.
KLW: What made you first take up writing poetry?
HG: I started writing poetry because it seemed the most fitting way to process my understanding of the world. I live with OCD and anxiety and from the time I was a young child, I needed someway to make sense of the way I experienced life, which I recognized was at odds with what most people experienced. Poetry—this small, exacting form—gave me a manageable way to try to make sense of the enormity of what I was feeling, as I was feeling it, without having to have the vocabulary to analyze it—which I didn’t have as a kid.
Poetry is, for me, a way to take control of something, but also, to let it go—very important when living with OCD.
KLW: As someone who also lives with high anxiety, I very much understand the need to find something that can be controlled or managed. How do you keep anxiety and OCD from turning into paralyzing perfectionism or otherwise preventing you from publishing and sharing your work?
HG: My OCD and anxiety centre around existential dread that I may not have time to do and say everything I want to, so I definitely don’t have an issue sending my work out there into the world.
KLW: Some of your poems feel like they come from a deeply personal place, while others have a clearly separate voice to them. Do you write all of your poetry from your own self, or do you adopt a point of view or persona when you write?
HG: Everything I write is from my own experience; my own self. Even if I am writing through another persona, it’s because I’ve seen something in that individual that resonates with me; I’ve found a connection. Usually, a connection that makes me feel less alone in something I struggle with. For instance, I wrote a poem for Thomas Foster–the former mayor of Toronto and a businessman. On the surface, we have little in common but Foster also created (or had created), The Foster Memorial: a Byzantine-inspired mausoleum located outside Uxbridge, Ontario. It was erected1936 in honour of his daughter, Ruby, who died just before her tenth birthday of pneumonia, and his wife, Elizabeth, who died a few years later of an undocumented cause. Living with existential OCD, I understand the very existential impulse to create art as a means to immortality.
KLW: One last question: what advice do you have for someone just starting to write poetry?
HG: Great question! I’d say to read poetry and read it widely. There are so many different types and styles and I find many people new to writing it have a relatively narrow understanding of the scope, and as a result, can really stunt their own development. Also, read interviews with poets. Read reviews of books of poetry. Really immerse yourself on the more technical side of the art. It’s not glamorous but I think it’s necessary to write well.
KLW: Thank you, Hollay!