All Violet book launch: October 27

Community News & Features Sep 29, 2017 at 2:28 pm
Rani Rivera, author

Rani Rivera, author

Poems by young poet and social activist published posthumously

TORONTO–A young Filipino-Canadian poet’s collection of poems, found after her death in August 2016, will be off the press this fall, published by Dagger Editions, an imprint of Caitlin Press, a publishing house in British Columbia.
Rani Rivera, 35, a Toronto social activist, succumbed to the stresses of her long battle with depression and died of an overdose from her medication in August 2016. She had just completed preparations for the Fall Festival of the Weston Mount Dennis Community Hub, a community centre she helped established with Progress Place, an outreach program for people with mental health issues.

Rani’s immediate family found the poems on her computer after they were alerted by Rani’s partner, Seth Blender, that Rani wrote poems well into the night and had a number of them still intact in her old computer.

Her family retrieved the poems from her computer, including poems and notes written in notebooks and sheafs of loose paper. “I knew she wrote poems,” her mother, Patty Rivera, confided, “but I did not know she had collected more than a hundred from which we could cull a collection.” With the help of Rani’s friend, mentor and benefactor, Dr. Ruth Roach Pierson, an award-winning poet and emerita professor at the University of Toronto, they found acclaimed poet Jim Johnstone, to edit the poems.

It wasn’t long before the Riveras submitted the manuscript for possible publication.

“The response was immediate,” says Patty Rivera, herself a poet and retired editor. Among the first to respond was Vici Johnstone, publisher and editor of Caitlin Press in Vancouver, who offered to publish the collection under their Dagger Editions imprint.

All Violet coverAll Violet, the book

In All Violet, a young woman chronicles the experience of living on the margins, in spaces and places where body and mind are flayed by guilt, disappointments and betrayals. Her poems record the shattering trauma of struggling to survive through periods of doubt, fear, rage and pain, creating a narrative of disconnection, indignation, alienation and emptiness.

Employing lyrical free verse, Rani Rivera has skillfully employed the short line to pinpoint moments of acute perception. Unadorned, taut and precise cries of pain, loss and fury draw the reader deeper and deeper inside this in-your-face confrontation with a dark world of foreboding alleviated by flashes of grace under fire.

Poet as a social activist

After studying English Literature at the University of Toronto, Rani felt an ever-increasing need to focus on the social justice issues that mattered to her most: women marginalized by mental health and addictions, and, more specifically, the limited inaccessibility to the arts encountered by women living on the margins.

As a fellow at The School for Social Entrepreneurs Ontario, Rani founded Room, a consumer-survivor initiative helping young women with mental health and addiction issues through developing peer support and arts programming. She subsequently created an after-school program for children and youth at St. Jamestown Community Hub in downtown Toronto, and, through the mental health recovery centre Progress Place, an outreach program at the Weston-Mount Dennis community northwest of Toronto.

On August 3, 2016, Rani died, leaving behind this collection of poems detailing the anguish and pain she herself had been suffering.

Rani’s book of poems, All Violet, will be launched on Friday, October 27, 2017 (6:30pm – 9:30pm), at Progress Place (576 Church Street, Toronto, Ontario; tel: 416-323-0223).

Headlining a roster of readers is poet Lynn Crosbie, Rani’s poetry professor at the University of Toronto, including poets Christen Thomas and Evie Christie, performance artist Lo Bil and friends. Royalty proceeds will be donated to Progress Place. Rani’s book is available online at http://caitlin-press.com/our-books/all-violet/.

(PRESS RELEASE