Desert Pets Jess at The Rocket Science Room

Reviewed by Kian Vaziri-Tehrani

On the evening of Thursday July 27th, the Rocket Science Room (a lovely loft space in Little Italy, Montreal) held the Desert Pets Press chapbook launch of Jessie Jones‘s Nix, Jess Taylor‘s Just Pervs, and Jessica Bebenek‘s Fourth Walk, hosted by Catriona Wright.

Catriona Wright

The eager crowd of roughly 40 came to a hush as author and co-founder of Desert Pets Press, Catriona Wright, took to the stage. Introducing the three Jess’s and thanking Vallum’s Leigh Kotsilidis for providing the venue, she went on to cite the Urban Dictionary definition of “Jess”, claiming it to be the name of “most kind, beautiful, and nicest person you could ever meet.”

Jessie Jones and a curious polar bear

The first of the three Jess’s was Jessie Jones, poet and co-founder of the writing service Literistic. Her warm tone and deeply personal poems from Nix evoked memory, self-reflection, and past and present selves. In a comedic, frustrated tone Jessie explained the rationale behind one of her poems by referencing the “Yes” and “No” dance manifestos, specifically highlighting the satiric “Maybe Manifesto,” which she claimed, in disbelief, ends with the lines “Maybe yes, maybe no.” On self-transformation, a major theme of her work, Jessie left the audience with the heavy lines:

“you were once/
and will be again, were once, will again”

Jess Taylor

Next, Catriona introduced Toronto writer and poet Jess Taylor, who jokingly noted upon reaching the stage how the ocean documentary being projected behind synced up perfectly with the readers lines. Her confident, clever voice shone as she read selections from her chapbook Just Pervs. The story, she explained, is told from multiple points of view. She first read as Jill then as Jenade. The central theme of her work is sex, and Jess approached the subject without limitation, exploring its effect and influence on the lives of her characters with subtle humour and poignant realism.

Jessica Bebenek

Finally came Jessica Bebenek‘s turn to read, who, along with being a poet and essayist, coordinates the Centre for Expanded Poetics. She began by mentioning the passing of her grandfather as the main inspiration and driving theme behind her collection, noting in particular the cyclical nature of her work as an allusion to the course of death. Her poems dealt with grief, pain, and death with beautiful, heartbreaking detail. Her soft, melancholic tone worked in perfect, somber tandem with her descriptions of bodily and emotional decay.

The night of fantastic poetry was elevated with a surprise cocktail in honour of the Jess’s made from Soupson’s ginger pear juice, Kraken Black Spiced Rum, lime juice, served in a sugar rimmed glass!

Despite sharing the same first name, each of the three Jess’s readings were vastly different, captivating, and evoked a range of emotions. I admit, though Jess and Jess were great, my favourite of the night was…Jess!

To read more about Desert Pets Press and the amazing chapbooks they publish, visit their website.

Find Jessica Bebenek‘s poem “The World Without” in Vallum 14:1 “Evolutution” here.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

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