Clementine Morrigan is a force of nature.
A bold voice for the voiceless in feminist literature, her career has included the release of three books, multiple zines, essays published in print and online, as well as revered spots at academic conferences. Mostly, though, I know her as the person who changed my life with a single card.
I was edging towards my 26th birthday in February of last year, unsure of what to make of it. I felt odd about entering the latter half of my twenties. My older brother had died at a heroin overdose at 25, and I was feeling his absence from my life deeply. I felt like I was entering uncharted waters.
At an art fair we were both tabling, Clementine accepted one of my prints for a one-card tarot read. I asked for a read about my upcoming year. Clementine pulled the Hermit.
“It’s not just about isolating yourself,” they explained. “It can be, but it’s not necessarily. See how he’s holding his lantern?” They pointed to the Hermit’s old scraggly hand, stretching a candle in a lantern in front of him. “He’s following his own light. It might be lonely, but he answers to no one.”
I asked Clementine some questions about writing ahead of their March 8th reading at Crobar.
Me: What is your ideal artistic community?
Clementine: I’m really into accessible, welcoming artistic spaces where writers and artists encourage and support each other. I really love the model of the Naked Heart festival in Toronto, in which line ups include people in various stages of their careers, from big big names to people just starting out. I like spaces that acknowledge art and writing as important political work, and that make space for different styles and approaches to artistic practice. I also really love when artists and writers come together to process and practice together, to talk honestly about the hard work we are doing.
Me: For our readers who may be unfamiliar with your work, how has sobriety impacted your writing practice?
Clementine: I’ve been sober for almost seven years. I’m an alcoholic/addict and my life used to be very different than it is today. Writing is the second most important thing in my life. Sobriety is the most important. This is because my sobriety is the foundation on which everything else rests. Without it I wouldn’t be able to be a writer in the way I am today. I might not even be alive.
There’s a popular narrative that artists and writers need drugs and alcohol, that it’s part of the
work. There can also be glamorization of addiction and suffering. My writing practice is invested
in exploring pain. I write a lot about pain. But more importantly, my writing is about hope, and
the drive for life in the face of violence, harm, and suffering. I love being alive. I have worked
hard for it. I want my writing to be a practice of devotion toward living.
Me: How does submission/submissiveness affect your writing practice?
Clementine: In the last few years bdsm has become an important part of my life, and also something I write about. Most of my writing explores trauma in one way or another, and as a survivor of a lot of sexual violence I am really interested in healing my sexuality. I write a lot about the process of discovering and claiming sexuality that feels good and nourishing for me as a survivor. I write hot queer sex scenes within the context of complex ptsd. Submission in particular is a profoundly powerful and healing space for me that has influenced my writing. I wrote a piece for GUTS magazine called “Fuck Me Up: Submission as Trauma Magic” that explores submission as a process of healing from trauma. The thing about bdsm is that it is a space in which to consciously, intentionally, and consensually explore power and loss of power. As a survivor I’ve never had much say in my loss of power, but choosing to give up power in controlled, safe settings feels good and healing and hot. I’m interested in submission as a space of healing, a space to explore deep, intense feelings, a space to surrender control, and space in which to feel loved and cared for.
Me: Who do you write for?
Clementine: I write for queers, trans people, slutty bisexuals, femmes, people trying to love and fuck and desire in a world that teaches us our desire and love and sexuality are bad. I write for survivors of violence, survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse, people who have been betrayed and harmed in the most intimate and visceral ways and feel fucked up and crazy because of it. I write for addicts, alcoholics, drug users, sex workers, people who live with trauma, psych survivors, crazy people, witches, believers in magic, people searching for magic and possibility and hope. I write for the pain that we carry and all the ways we survive and the blistering burning beautiful possibility of healing, change, transformation, and growth.
Me: Why are public readings important?
Clementine: Writing can be such a solitary practice. So can reading. Public reading events are important community building spaces in which we get to come together, listen to the work together, talk about the work. I love the electric energy of reading events, the way the words come alive, and the opportunity to make new connections with people who love writing and reading.
Me: How would you define “love”, as it pertains to romantic relationships?
Clementine: I definitely agree with bell hooks that love is a “commitment to another person’s spiritual growth.” I am also very invested in expanding our definitions of important, life changing, world changing love beyond the romantic couple and beyond family of origin. I see love as a practice, a process, and a vital energy that can change things. I believe in love as a commitment to each other, our friends, our communities, our lovers, our partners, our chosen families, our movements, the places we live, the world. Different loves can have different textures and nuances but they are all important. And even romantic love can vary from one romantic love to another. I think the important thing about love is that loving and being loved should make our worlds bigger, not smaller. I also think that loving and being loved is brave and scary and hard work.
Me: What is your primary, driving emotion? Where does it live in your body?
Clementine: I guess I have two: pain and hope, and they both live in my heart. The pain is an endless well that goes straight through me, it’s like a lake without a bottom, it is deep. The hope is expansive like deep breath, like exhale, like opening. They both live inside me and inform everything I do.
Me: When was the first time you felt like a writer?
Clementine: I have been a writer and a story teller all my life. Writing to me is a relationship, a spiritual and collaborative practice, a reciprocal love with the living world. Writing is and has always been a key way that I stay alive, transform pain into magic, and return to love, return to the world, return to myself.
You can find out more about Clementine at their website. Clementine will be headlining Lit at Crobar, with support from Birdie Bergeron, on March 8th.