Body, Event, Life Writing, Medical Humanities, News, Self-portrait without Breasts

Reading at the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre at Ryerson University, Toronto, 10th October 2012

I don’t know how to write about the experience of coming here to present my work – it has been too wonderful, really.

Wednesday evening’s event was beautifully planned and organised, every detail generously thought through. Many thanks to Irene Gammel and her team at the MLC, and special thanks to John Wrighton. I feel quite at home here and I’m having so many great conversations.

The audience was very diverse. Questions and points raised during and after my talk/reading are already sending me off in new directions of enquiry, on this evolving and open-ended journey.

Here is some commentary about the event from the MLC website:

I woke the next morning with a fire in my core – always a sign that some intensely creative process is going on!

After breakfast I took a chilly walk around downtown Toronto, through the business district and past the station (seen here with building works) towards the lake shore. I peered at hundreds of cranes, and I stared down into holes and up at half-built skyscrapers. The city is alive with the sound of drills and jack-hammers. Reconstruction everywhere. Eventually I found myself at the spectacular St Lawrence Market and had to buy a pair of gloves and a bagel to keep warm (I wore the gloves and ate the bagel).

Later in the day I had delightful interviews with Tara MacInnis from The Ryersonian and with Daniel Browne (see his utterly fascinating award winning film-poem at

Just now I looked back at my journal from early 2007. Sometimes I still feel a strong sense of vulnerability – that’s good, it means I continue to be open to the change and growth that can come through this project. I go on exploring.

7 March 2007

The scars are starting to fade, the new covering skin is silver and finely stretched – more of a membrane. This silver shows first between where the stitches were, so the scars look like the dotted lines you see on food packets: Cut here.

Finding the numbness difficult. How do you deal with something you can’t feel, can’t sense? Mystery parts. Like those early maps of the unknown continents, with little drawings of half-recognisable creatures and strange plants to indicate ideas of wilderness. Places of imagination, hearsay, story, tales, adventure, mystery. Here be dragons.

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