I do not want to die… until I have faithfully made the most of my talent and cultivated the seed that was placed in me until the last small twig has grown. -Käthe Kollwitz
Welcome, I am Mary.
I enjoy writing essays on poetries, poetics, and feminist philosophies as well as drawing and painting self-portraits. And there is only one way to do these things: in time, and while listening to good Jazz. Every kind from every period, even if the 1950s and 1960s are essential.
Thank you Adrienne Rich, Michelle Cliff, Audre Lorde, and Beth Brant for your words and intellect. Thank you Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa for editing This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Colour in 1981. Thank you Joy Kogawa for your elegant use of flowers when writing Obasan that same year.
Thank you to the countless women who established independent bookstores and publishing houses transnationally during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. I have the fondest memories of The Toronto Women’s Bookstore as well as Women in Print in Vancouver. Thank you Margaret Laurence for writing The Stone Angel in 1964.
Thank you to the French post structuralist philosophers Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Catherine Clément for instigating the project and discourse of écriture féminine (“feminine writing”) in the mid 1970s. Feminine writing informs most of what I do.
Thank you to the expatriate writers between the wars: Ernest Hemingway, E. E. Cummings, and the female literati of my favourite city; the writers, publishers, bookstore owners, and salon overseers of the Left Bank in Paris: Margaret Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Natalie Clifford Barney, Sylvia Beach, Germaine Beaumont, Bryher, Colette, H.D., Janet Flanner, Radcliffe Hall, Jane Heap, Mina Loy, Adrienne Monnier, Gertrude Stein, and Renee Vivien. Your memoirs are invaluable to my literary career.
Thank you Louise Brooks for your screen presence, rebellious streak, and haircut. My 1920s alter ego, Mary Books, originates from you. Thank you Josephine Baker for being Mary Books’s supremely talented super-heroine.
Thank you Pedro Almodovar for being influenced by the Surrealists and skillfully portraying the complexities of sex, gender, love, and death onscreen. Thank you François Truffaut and Jean Luc Godard for your film critique, autobiographical storytelling, jump cuts, aesthetics, and choice of actresses in the 1960s. Thank you Jacques Tati for your intricate, colourful, comedic cinematic world.
Thank you Joseph Mallord William Turner, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Wassily Kandinsky, Alphonse Mucha, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Francis Bacon, Emily Carr, Käthe Kollwitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Amrita Sher-Gill, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol for your wonderful drawings and paintings.
Thank you Hetty Pettigrew for being the subject of Theodore Roussel’s The Reading Girl in 1886. I am grateful to all the female models of figurative paintings I have admired. Their work must be acknowledged and respected as much as the producers of the craft.
Thank you Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Erik Satie for your beautiful symbolist, impressionist masterpieces on classical piano. I often dream my work through yours.
Now to Jazz.
You can tell the history of Jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker. -Miles Davis
Thank you Miles Davis for being at the forefront of musical possibility, you are my favourite. I heart your drawings too. Thank you Charlie Bird Parker for being the best of the best; for the sweetness and complexity of your instrument. Thank you Chet Baker for your subtle tones and for singing to me in English in 1954 and Italian in 1962. Thank you Bill Evans for your effortless fluidity while playing with Miles and Chet.
Thank you Billie Holiday for singing honestly and perfectly. And for wearing gardenias in your hair.
Thank you Sidney Bechet for giving Mary Books the soundtrack of her life.
Thank you Thelonius Monk for changing the musical landscape of modern jazz. Thank you Charles Mingus for your relentless innovation and integrity. Thank you John Coltrane for recording Alabama in 1963 and being able to integrate light to heart and spirit. Thank you Wayne Shorter for composing visual soundscapes and reimagining Nefertiti in 1967.
Thank you John Abercrombie for your haunting melodies and understated guitar playing on Sargasso Sea and the Gateway albums. Thank you Jaco Pastorius for making me cry with your intimate storytelling from Word of Mouth in 1981.
And thank you Louis Armstrong for walking into a recording studio in Chicago with your fellow five jazz instrumentalists on June 28, 1928 and altering the course of music history.
My dream is to create self portraits until I am 100 years old and then donate the collection to the archive for future studies in life writing.
This is she.
A line isn’t wrong until you actually put the next one down. Music is the same way…you don’t make bad notes. The note next to the one that you think is bad, corrects the one in front. -Miles Davis on drawing, music, and life decisions