Episode 23 – Interview with Faizal Deen

The Small Machine Talks, Episode 23

with a.m. kozak, Amanda Earl and Faizal Deen

Recorded on Sunday, September 17, 2017

We discuss fairies, hippogriffs, half-girls and magic with a nod to Secret Feminist Agenda’s interview with Adele Barclay.


Faizal talks about queer worlding and childhood, transformation and metamorphoses, a meeting of worlds that find a different kind of life in the colonies. He talks about folktales and ghost stories and rehabilitation of a body, the diaspora and stories of haunting.

Ol Higue https://www.thingsguyana.com/ole-higue/

We discuss the concept of othering. We talk about metamorphosis in the work of Shani Mootoo and oral tradition, epic  journeys in African culture. Faizal discusses divergent branches of humanness and the naming of difference, the violence and reclamation of naming in the queer community.

Faizal notes that his work doesn’t seek the approval of straightness, but is not working against efforts at living the way you want. He talks Mephistopheles as a bath house and its place in his poetry. Amanda mentions the heteronormative romance films mentioned in The Greatest Films as juxtaposition. Faizal’s Canadianness is mediated by Canadian parents, who are negotiating what it means to be in a racialized partnership and interculturality. Objectification of the racial peripheral other is usually othered, but in TGF the white male body is racialized and sexualized. We talk about the film Prospero’s Books, an adaptation of the Tempest

Aaron asks about the role of escape in fairy tales. Faizal talks about the set tropes that recur in his books, the type of escape and what you are escaping to, what tools you can retrieve. He talks about game theory in  the Greatest Films, the role of Linden Forbes Burnham in the book. The fairy tale always fails but the glory hole doesn’t. The book ends in an act of pleasure with the speaker on his knees.

We discuss Harry Potter and the Lost Boys, Dickens, orphan narratives and the important age of 12-14 for boys, particularly for cis men.

We talk about the difference in tone and voice between Land Without Chocolate and The Greatest Films. Faizal discusses English’s variety as a collection of beasts that never stops feeding. The poem is also feeding. Faizal reads from one of the Mom and Bob Matinee poems (p. 34) to show the thematic enjambment of the memories and the diasporic journey of coolies from India to the New World. The Greatest Films came out of an academic project, his MA in English. Lots of great eyes on the project led to a chance to do what he wanted with sound and line breaks.

Amanda asks about music, there’s a list of songs in the back of the book, including Warm Leatherette; here’s Grace Jones’ cover…


Faizal talks about being 18 in the time of Bell Hooks, Audre Lourde, being moved by friendships between artists we admired. People who weren’t afraid to piss everybody off. Faizal talks about the link between carnivals in Guyana and queer dance hall culture.


Relevant to how the tropes are working in the book, the carnival was a forbidden space. Amanda points out the long almost sonnet like language and lines of Land Without Chocolate and the different rhythms and sounds of TGF.

We discuss the structure of TGF as five different sequences done in a round and the role of the deleted scenes in the book. Amanda suggests alternative readings, reading each series together. Faizal discusses tracking the emotional linearity of the poems. Deleted scenes are part of the cinematic. Aaron talks about Prufrock’s reference to lanterns, going back to early 1900s. Figuring out how to write diaspora.

Aaron asks about similarities between tennis and poetry, since both Faizal and Aaron share a love of tennis. Faizal talks about the sound of the clay on the soles of tennis players and the idea of surface, other kinds of surfaces as a way to negate being bored with form in poetry. Moments of desperation alike in both sports. Variety of shots. The limitless world of language. Tennis is a solitary sport as is poetry, struggles with the self and setbacks, need for resilience. Faizal talks about beauty in tennis and conversations around race and gender in sport and cultural affluence. As a colonial Faizal is drawn to engagements dangled in front of him that were forbidden to him. He talks about not being drawn to perfection. Aaron talks about the possibilities for openness in both tennis and poetry, elitism isn’t inherent albeit historically there.

Faizal returns to the question of language, syntax and sounds in the Greatest Films, an increasing interest in Canadian poetics. Clipped lines, triumphant moments require that form.

We end in a discussion of festivals and alcohol. How typical.

Thanks to Faizal for this wonderful interview and thanks to Charles Earl for the podcast magic and to Jennifer Pederson for the intros and outros.

Stay tuned for the next podcast episode in early October. Please share with everyone you know who loves poetry, tennis and hippogriffs.