Raymond Helkio’s review of A MAP OF RAIN DAYS

Raymond Helkio’s review of A MAP OF RAIN DAYS

The first poem in this collection, and certainly one of its most poignant, is “I Love You.” This piece serves as an ode to an earlier self, perhaps a much younger and more naive version. While the poem is heartbreaking, it also functions as a siren song—a warning about the other kind of relationship. One that replaces hope with despair and held together with love bombs and breadcrumbs. It’s perhaps the worst type of relationship one can endure, yet many of us find ourselves neck-deep somewhere between Stockholm Syndrome and insanity.

Having heard Hosein recite this live many times, I never tire of it. To write with such brutal clarity, Hosein had to endure a journey that many do not survive. Those who do often discover a new version of themselves, a phoenix rising from the ashes.

One of the many extraordinary illustrations by Jennifer Hosein that mark new chapters in the book.

In “A Map Of Rain Days”, Hosein’s use of imagery is vivid and visceral, inviting readers to empathize with her sense of being overwhelmed and strained. Her inherited struggles and legacy manifest in physical pain, creating a juxtaposition of physical deformity against emotional turmoil. This quickly introduces themes of radical acceptance and resilience.

“Angolan Dance” signifies the loss of innocence as we transition from pure infantile innocence to a marred, obscured reality we are unprepared to face. The symbolism of dance as both a literal and metaphorical expression of freedom underscores the poem’s reflective tone.

In reviewing a poet’s collection, I am always curious about the first and last works chosen. Hosein opens with a work about an unrequited love, one built upon layers of codependence and fortified with years of gaslighting and emotional dissonance.

My new favorite poem, “After the Fire at the Asylum,” deftly explores themes of historical suffering, gendered oppression, destruction and entrapment. Through evocative imagery and poignant contrasts, it paints a powerful and haunting picture of a place marked by enduring sorrow and unrelenting confinement. The distinct portrayal of women’s and men’s suffering adds depth to the poem’s exploration of historical trauma.

“Light” appropriately wraps up the collection, creating an atmosphere of confinement and neglect marked by the mother’s absence, leaving the girl in an environment of monotony and emotional emptiness. Yet, the poem concludes with the girl reaching “for the sliver of light” left behind in her mother’s wake. “A Map Of Rain Days” is a deeply reflective and emotionally rich journey as Hosein carves out a silver-lining amidst the rubble.

Buy the book.

 

Brockton Writers Series 14.09.22: Jennifer Hosein blog post

Brockton Writers Series 14.09.22: Jennifer Hosein blog post

Brockton Writers Series 14.09.22: Jennifer Hosein’s blog post

HEART

     As a writer and visual artist, my work tends to overlap. In difficult times, I lean into one or the other, or both, for sustenance. Therefore, when my mother’s aortic valve needed replacing, I began to write frantically about our time together.

     After her passing, I did not know how to survive, so I painted. Madly. I painted my mother from old black-and-white photos and found her in the hours that I spent looking into her face. I am still painting her, nine years later, still privileged to be in her company. She never leaves me!

     I’d like to share a video of the poem “Heart” from my book A Map of Rain Days, as well as an excerpt from a work-in-progress:

Excerpt:

January 5th:

  Tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday. I promised her a cake before midnight, and I do everything I can to stop the car from turning me back home, my heart pounding against the steering wheel. But my mother is waiting by the window. She doesn’t know, and then she does, tossing fragments of her old life into plastic bags: a handful of photographs, a miscellany of yellowed papers, a tattered jewelry box, too-tight clothes, slippers.

     I am paralyzed. I cannot pull myself up off the floor where I spent much of the summer in a pile of sleeping bags and pillows, paper and pencils. There will never be another summer like that: doctor’s waiting rooms, Chinese supermarkets, creamy popsicles from the Pakistani grocer’s, trips to the lake. Sometimes, then, I felt caged. Now, it’s all I want.

     My aunt’s house is warm, but my mother’s new bedroom is wintry and smells of mothballs and cat. I spray perfume into corners, place a few of my mother’s photographs on the dresser top, tune the clock radio to the jazz station we listened to on dusk drives from my aunt’s house back to my mother’s apartment. How I will miss those drives! Helping my mother dress for bed, I take her socks off, pull a flannel nightgown over her head, kiss her and tuck her into the cold, stinking night before I go.

     I race down the Don Valley Parkway toward January 6th, but there is a car rolled over on the highway. I run in the door at 11:54 p.m., just in time to put candles on the cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to my daughter. Love fills me up like a balloon, so full and stretched and thin am I.

Genealogies: online reading – July 13th, 7 p.m.

Genealogies: online reading – July 13th, 7 p.m.

Genealogies

Please join Allan Weiss and Jennifer Hosein for a free online reading, Genealogies, on Wednesday, July 13th at 7 p.m. Registration is required. The event is funded by The Writers’ Union of Canada.

Allan Weiss is a Toronto fiction writer and Professor of English and Humanities at York University. He the author of three story cycles: Living Room (2001), Making the Rounds (2016), and most recently Telescope (2019). Other short stories, both realist and fantastic, have appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Wascana Review, On Spec, and the Tesseracts anthology series. His next story, “A Tartan of Many Colours,” will appear soon in the anthology Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People.

Jennifer Hosein is a Tiohtià:ke/Montreal-born writer, visual artist and educator of Trinidadian and South Asian ancestry residing in Tkaronto/Toronto. Her debut collection of poetry, A Map of Rain Days, published by Guernica Editions in 2020, was longlisted for the League of Canadian Poets 2021 Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Her poems, short fiction, creative non-fiction, and a play have been published in The Fiddlehead, The Quarantine Review, Event, Rubicon, Makara, and more as well as translated into Hungarian for the anthology Crystal Garden/Kristálykert. Her artwork has appeared on book covers, in magazines, and in solo and group exhibitions in Toronto; it is also featured on the cover of A Map of Rain Days. 

 

ARC POETRY MAGAZINE book review by Kate Rogers – January, 2022

ARC POETRY MAGAZINE book review by Kate Rogers – January, 2022

Book review by Kate Rogers

Jennifer Hosein’s A Map of Rain Days is “an unflinching evocation of the physical and emotional violence men can do to women under the pretext of love,” writes reviewer Kate Rogers, as well as “love for her mother and daughter [that] shines through even the bleakest of her poems.”
Read the full review on the Arc website; click on the image for the link.