The Operating System


So I went to the west coast for a week on a mini tour.
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The first stop was Portland, OR, at Future Farm for a house reading with Jessalyn Wakefield, Seth Brown and Imogen Binnie.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Jessalyn, and last we were together, she was living in Sacramento. She’s working on this epic, sprawling poem on masculinities that I’m excited to be tinkering on / editing with her. We spent a morning in a cafe, going through some of the early drafts of what’s shaping up to be a book length project, then hit Powell’s, which has a three aisle poetry section. I found this zine there, too, which means I probably don’t need to make one, now.
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The reading in Portland was Imogen’s first one on tour with her new novel, Nevada. I’d gotten my copy in the mail the day before I left, but decided to hold off on reading it to let my introduction to the book be through hearing it live – I was really glad to be out with Imogen for three nights in a row, to catch new glimpses of the book every night, and watch the audiences respond to it. It’s really funny, vulnerable and sharp stuff.
I headed up to the Timberland Public Library in Olympia on Saturday to read with Imogen and RVIVR, who were leaving the next morning for a tour in support of their new album, The Beauty Between.

My bus got in early, so I walked around Olympia for a bit. It was weird to be in a town that was so mythologized for me, growing up, and to realize how relatively small it is.
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I walked through the neighbourhood by the library, searching for a laundrymat, and stumbled across a pro-life protest in front of what I’m guessing was the local abortion clinic. Four older white guys, standing around with giant placards. On International Women’s Day. I stood at the intersection with my backpack full of dirty laundry, trying to figure out what to do. I finally kept walking, realizing I’d stood there long enough to have my response read as ‘loomed in audible disgust’.
A big thank you to Kelsey, the librarian at Timberland, for coordinating the Olympia show. I got to actualize my dreams of pogoing in library stacks, and had the surreal moment of being the poetry opener at a punk show, something I think I’ve been waiting for since I started making zines. And I made the dial up modem noise in front of the crowd during the Q&A. RVIVR were amazing, and while I danced around in a crowd of strangers, I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve felt truly relaxed at a punk show. I totally forgot to bring earplugs, and walked home grinning, with a half-eaten pizza in hand and my ears ringing.
We drove north in the morning with Imogen’s girlfriend Alex and their dog graciously crammed in the backseat so I could take the front, and had a long car ride to talk about finding home, negotiating the academy, weddings, nationalisms and Camp Trans. Alex and the dog were camping at a state park that night – where I learned there is a season for clamming. (And that season is closed) We dropped them there, packed our books up and started making plans for negotiating the border – Imogen details our exploits pretty well over here.
We rolled into Vancouver, and into performing pretty much immediately, as we got in right at show time. Amber Dawn opened with a piece from her new book, How Poetry Saved My Life. I was really glad to finally get to see her read – I reviewed her novel,Sub Rosa, for Broken Pencil awhile back.
The post-show Q&A got into the lip-service given to trans women in queer & punk communities / trans women’s opting out of those spaces due to cis people’s hlaf-assed performances of ‘including trans women’, which felt really fucking neccessary.
My friend Kay organized the reading – despite sharing photocopying and zine making adventures for over six years, this was the first time she’d seen me read, which felt like a bit of a homecoming. I was so glad to see her, and get a chance to talk more over dinner after the show. I’ve never toured before – it’s bizarre to breeze into a town for one night only, and try to muscle a hundred conversations into your little windows of time with people before spinning off again in separate directions. Natalie Reed was out with us at the show and dinner, too, and had some seriously smart things to say while we ate sushi the size of your face.
Then I said goodbye to Imogen in a parking lot, Kay drove me to the place I was crashing, and I fell asleep under a purple funfur blanket in a Vancouver living room.
Imogen’s on tour pretty much everywhere in America for the next two months. You should go hear her read and let Nevada give you all the feelings.
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I took the ferry over to Nanaimo on Monday to read with Rhea Tregebov in a log cabin on the Vancouver Island University campus. She’s got this great poem about leaving Toronto – encapsulating perfectly that loving / loathing feeling the city manages to engender.

There were rabbits all over campus, totally not afraid of anyone. I took photos of them, and felt like a tourist. I always take the piss out of people parked on the side of highways doing this at home.
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Then I took a ferry back to Vancouver while listening to that Matthew Good cover of True Love Will Find You in the End because it was night time and raining like it sometimes is when you’re travelling alone. I slept in a closet in a condo just outside of Chinatown and took the skytrain to the airport in the morning, heading home to Toronto with a backpack full of other people’s books.
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Sarah Pinder  lives in Toronto. Her first collection, Cutting Room, is out with Coach House Books. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Expozine Small Press Awards and included in the anthology She’s Shameless, and journals like Room, Geist and invisible city. A zine-maker of over a decade, you can find her work in Montreal’s Distroboto art vending machines, as well as a mailbox near you.
You can find Sarah’s poetry featured in Exit Strata PRINT! Vol. 1, and she also appears here in our online platform, celebrating the work of poet Libby Scheier as part of 2012’s inaugural 30/30/30 Poetry Month series.

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