The Torment of Linguistic Delights

I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me. —Roland Barthes

Labour of Literature

Writing is like giving birth:

words are pushed out of your body,

small, vulnerable, and crying out

with the visceral agony of creation.


The words will fly untethered

if allowed, swirling around,

causing chaos—from chaos

to creation: creation through editing.


Editing is the butterfly net

used to capture the winged creatures:

it holds the delicate beings

without crushing them.

Language is a Lady

Language is an elusive goddess that cannot be possessed,

but only borrowed for a fleeting moment.

She is the scapegoat when we fail to express ourselves,

and the heroine when we find the right words.

She torments our souls when she evades us,

and delights us when she graces us with her presence;

pushing us to the brink of despair,

then pulling us back again with a gasp of fresh air.


Language must be a woman body and structures

widely debated, scrutinized.

At once mutable and muted.

Features contested, body contained.

Men try to control her, master her,

conquer her foreign land—but her language, her body, are not for the taking:

Language—and Lady—can no more be controlled

than a whirling goddess of the winds.


For it is no more possible to control the wind,

than it is possible to control language,

or to possess a woman.

She is transient and ephemeral,

not unstable—moveable.

She changes and evolves and morphs:

She is always there, but rarely seen,

felt like a warm breeze in the heavens.

Liminal Letters

Writing is agony and ecstasy.

Editing is the salve and the pill.

If we write to express ourselves,

we edit to contain ourselves.

We contain ourselves to the page,

to grammar, to styles, to social norms.

In containment, writers find

community and communion; a faith in words.

Yet faith, like words, can fail us, leaving us

flailing to find the correct diction,

structure, syntax, phrase. Embrace the struggle,

for the joy is found in the friction.

SOPHIE CORBIERE is a third-year student at York University in the English and Professional Writing program. From 2011-2013, Sophie was a member of the Toronto Street Writers, and her poetry was published in their bi-annual publication in 2012.

Land Acknowledgement

We would like to begin by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples of all the lands that we are on today. While we meet today on a virtual platform, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of the lands, on which we each call home. We do this to reaffirm our commitment and responsibility in improving relationships between nations and to improve our own understanding of local Indigenous peoples and their cultures. 

York University’s land acknowledgement may not represent the territory that you are currently on, and we would ask that if this is the case, you take responsibility to acknowledge the traditional territory that you are on and its current treaty holders. 

York University acknowledges its presence on the traditional territory of many Indigenous Nations. The area known as Tkaronto has been care taken by the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat. It is now home to many First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. 

We acknowledge the current treaty holders, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This territory is subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region.

From coast to coast to coast, we acknowledge the ancestral and unceded territory of all the Inuit, Métis, and First Nations people that call this land home. Please join us in a moment of reflection to acknowledge the effect of residential schools and colonialism on Indigenous families and communities and to consider how it is our collective responsibility to recognize colonial and arrivant histories and present-day implications in order to honour, protect, and sustain this land. 

In recognizing that these spaces occupy colonized First Nations territories and out of respect for the rights of the Indigenous people, please look for, in your own way, to engage in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.