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Justene Dion-Glowa: Trailer Park Shakes

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Justene Dion-Glowa is a non-binary, Kamloops-based Metis author who is sharing their story through poetry in their debut collection, Trailer Park Shakes.

Justene was born in Win-Nipi (Winnipeg) and has been residing in Secwepemcú’lecw since 2014. They are 37 years old, and when not exploring the world through poetry, dedicate themself to work in the non-profit sector with nearly a decade of experience in human services.

Justene has been writing as far back as they can remember, using pieces of their life as a medium to speak through. In one instance, Justene recalls a memory they had while in the sixth grade:

“I had written a poem that [was] about my mom’s struggle with alcohol addiction. My teacher had read it and loved it and made me read it to the rest of the class, and we had a really open conversation with that class about what it’s like to live with a parent who has an addiction[.] That moment was a total change in my life. That teacher actually let me write poetry for the entire rest of the year for English. So, I didn’t do a single other thing, I wrote an entire book of poetry that year. ”

Much of the poetry that Justene has done was pulled from personal experience, and many times, negative experiences. Art in its many forms can provide an outlet and a release for pent up energy and trauma, which is no different than some of the work in Trailer Park Shakes. Being able to put that energy and emotion into a creative medium can be quite cathartic to be able to sort through feelings in such a way.

“[Sometimes] it's not something you can process. I think we, you know, often feel like healing is linear or there’s some kind of end point, but there’s not [...] I think often we don’t express the anger that comes from trauma. So a lot of the poems come off as sarcastic, like they have a bite to them and a tone that's not very sympathetic. It’s not that it’s not sympathetic, but it's kind of like, I honestly can’t believe I’m still thinking about this. One of the poems actually ends with ‘how many years will it take to heal this wound?’ and it's actually a real question that I have."

Much of the work in Trailer Park Shakes is personal, but some pieces of poetry also touch on connections to nature and more ethereal pieces of retrospection. Justene goes to say “I hope people who like my first book hate my future books, because my future books should be sunshine and rainbows and roses - just happy stuff.”

The 96-page collection in Trailer Park Shakes was compiled in around a year. Justene had begun writing it in the summer of 2019, and then began to approach publishers in 2020. Justene doesn’t know what the future has in store, but mentions: “So long as there are things I am experiencing that I need to process, that’s likely what the work is going to be about.”

Justene encourages anyone interested in pursuing poetry arts to submit their work as often as possible. Submitting to open journals and presses is a great way to get experience in the field and see what happens in the process.

“Just don’t give up [...] there were so many times that I never got a response. There were so many times I was told my work was just not good. I think like in anything in life, if it’s worth doing, you can’t just take someone’s word for it that you suck at it. You just have to keep trying and hope that someone’s going to see the genius for what it is.”

Justene also mentions to Indigenous artists: “Don’t pigeon-hole yourselves. If you are Indigenous and you are making art - that's Indigenous art. Don’t think that you have to create something a certain way so that it’s ‘Indigenous’, it is Indigenous because you made it.”


Trailer Park Shakes releases on October 1st, 2022

You can order the book on the Brick Books publishing website for $22.95 CAN.

About the Book:

“The poems in Trailer Park Shakes are direct and vernacular, rooted in community--a working-class Métis voice rarely heard from. These poems, while dreamlike and playful, bear unflinching witness to the workings of injustice--how violence is channeled through institutions and refracted intimately between people, becoming intertwined with the full range of human experience, including care and love. Trailer Park Shakes is a book that seems to want to hold everything--an entire cross-section of lived experience--written by a poet whose courage, attention, and capacity to trace contradiction inspire trust in her words' embrace. Dion-Glowa's poems are quietly philosophical, with a heartfelt, self-possessed politic.”

Poetry Reading and Event at Massy Books

On Thursday, October 6 at 6pm, join Massy Arts, Massy Books, and Indigenous authors Justene Dion-Glowa and Tyler Pennock for An Evening of Daring Dreams, a double launch event of their books Trailer Park Shakes (2022, Brick Books) and Blood (2022, Brick Books).

At this in-person event, Dion-Glowa and Pennock will be joined by guest host Denise McCuiag for a night to celebrate literature, and to question how creative writing can be a platform to address injustice, violence, community, and connection.

The Massy Books gallery is at 23 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1S9, Canada

The gallery is wheelchair accessible and a gender-neutral washroom is on-site.

This event is free + open to all, but registration is mandatory. Click here to register for FREE through Eventbrite.

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