Episode 77: Dominik Parisien

The Small Machine Talks, Episode 77 with Dominik Parisien

Recorded on Thursday, June 24

Side Effects May Include Strangers (McGill-Queens University Press, 2020)

We, Old Young Ones (Frog Hollow Press, 2019)

We discuss our friendship, which began in 2008/2009 through U of Ottawa’s Cafe Nostalgica reading series, the New Stalgica run by Sean Moreland.

Dominik talks about launching his debut poetry collection during the pandemic. David Drummond designed the cover. The title was changed from the Body Poetic. We talk about how Dominik picked the poems and organized the collection. Both of us enjoy the editorial process from the point of view of both author and editor. We talk about the three epigraphs for the book.

Roxanna Bennett, the Untranslatable I

Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olandria

Dominik talks about the connection between disability, the body, queerness with the way the book is set up, its cohesion, the different perspectives. Amanda talks about the stages of a poem’s composition and when it is ready to be read aloud to an audience. We discuss the sense of intimacy of reading to an audience or a few people. He has done few open mics.

I ask Dominik to talk about the way pain is represented in the book, its metaphors and the idea of reshaping the language of pain. He refers to a panel with Moira MacDougall and Adam Sol, How Poems Move in the Hospital. Dominik talks about how his artistic practice and having to live with pain and the problem of antagonistic representations of the body in pain, a person’s need to express it in their own way.

I ask about the two prose poems in the book, “Can We Call This An Aubade” and “Concussion,” which feel like departures from the rest of the short, stanza-based poems in the collection. Dominik relates these, in the “Metamorphosis” section of the book, to change and transformation. This style relates to his current work and also more like his brain works. He’s working mostly in long form non fiction at the moment.

I ask Dominik about the pronouns in the book. “I” is less frequent than “we” and “you.” Dominik talks about his experiments with voice for the poems in the collection. Sometimes there are different versions. “Writing after targeted assault,” for example needed the distance. Amanda brings up the change of pronouns that is common in conversation.

We talk about the use of statements and imperative verb in the book. Dominik talks about how certainty here can be an act of resistance because marginalized people have to constantly fight to have their voices recognized. He pairs confidant assertions with uncertainties at other points in the collection. We talk about the humour in the collection as well. Dominik talks about how ill and disabled people are often seen as characters.

On August 18, 2021, Dominik Parisien will be a feature at the Riverbed Reading Series.

Dominik reads his poem, “Let Us For A Moment Call This Pain By Other Words,” the opening poem in the book.


Dominik Parisien’s Side Effects May Include Strangers is a necessary and insightful examination of pain, and its troubled articulation in language. It counters conventional and ableist attitudes towards the body with defiant strength and debunking of myths. “I like to fuck in protest of this body.” from “AFTER CONVULSING IN PUBLIC” is probably my favourite line from the book and I repeat it like a mantra sometimes to get me through. The book is an inclusive, compassionate gathering of bodies in pain, queer bodies, bisexual bodies, and an empowering celebration of othered bodies.

Stay tuned for future episodes of the podcast featuring Lisa Richter, Jennifer Mulligan, Kristine Snodgrass and Concetta Principe. Thanks to Dominik for being on the show, to all of you for listening and sharing the episode.