Writer in Residence

Dream Space: an interview with Nikki Reimer

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Nikki Reimer lives on the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta. She writes poetry, essays and criticism, organizes in community, yells on the internet, and makes digital art. Published books are DOWNVERSE and [sic]; several more are in-progress. Creative and non-fiction work has appeared on stages, billboards, public art exhibits, pop-up bistro menus, and in various magazines, journals and anthologies. She has a partner and two cats.

Nikki is the kind of writer whose work reflects her personality: empathetic, generous, caustically funny, vibrating on an emotional pitch that leaves you ringing for days after you touch it. I was delighted (but not surprised) to find out that her online interests reflect the same huge-heartedness you can feel running under her work.

 

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EH: What's your current online obsession, and what do you love about it? 

Nikki Reimer

NR: Because I have ADHD my "current" obsessions are ever-changing and contain multitudes, or I never met a shiny thing that I didn't utterly love and want and need and then discard twelve seconds later for the next shiny thing. That said, right now I am crushing on a number of social media accounts for special needs animals or sanctuaries: Monty Happiness (Feline Down Syndrome), Maya the Cat (chromosonal abnormality), Smush the Cat (congenital abnormalities), Peanut the Cat (one-eyed, snaggletooth), Farm Animal Rescue and Rehoming Movement here in Alberta (they have a blind baby goat named Daisy who is best friends with a blind sheep named Merlin, and last September someone abducted Daisy and she was missing for EIGHT DAYS DURING WHICH I DID NOT SLEEP), and of course Goats of Anarchy (a sanctuary for handicapped or abused goats in New Jersey).

I love and feel kinship with most animals, but I'm particularly drawn to the beauty of those that are deemed conventionally unbeautiful. In my most idealistic version of the world, every person and creature would be loved and protected regardless of how imperfect, differently abled, sick or broken they are, and following these accounts allows me to live out these fantasies, I think. Pictures of these animals being cared for and living their best lives free from pain and fear warms my sensitive little heart and makes me smile. And they all have such fierce personalities! (Yes, I'm too sensitive to be alive. It's the worst). 

 

EH: Can you please tell me more about the emotional saga of Daisy? I want to know more about what happened with her, but also I want to know more about the way it affected you. 

NR: I dunno, the thing with Daisy is that I latched on to the pain of it, which is a thing that I do that is not particularly emotionally smart or savvy, and then I just rode the rollercoaster. A post about her being lost came up in one of my social feeds, and I was emotionally captured by her story—she'd been attacked by crows immediately after birth, which led to her losing her eyes and most of her tongue. She was bonded to a blind sheep named Merlin. Then she vanished, and she was just a sweet helpless little goat with special needs who needed to be cared for. I felt the pain—of the sanctuary workers who just wanted her home, of her companion who wouldn't understand why she was gone, of Daisy being separated from her usual environment and friends. 

The workers at the sanctuary were very good at publicity and mobilizing their supporters and neighbours to help. The story eventually made the news, and partly from donations, they were able to put forward a $10,000 reward towards Daisy's safe return, no questions asked. Finally, whomever took Daisy dumped her in a field not far from the Sanctuary, and FARRM's neighbours saw her and notified the Sanctuary so they could go get her. They never found the culprits. While she was missing, I was upset and distracted, I donated money to the sanctuary, and I posted and shared posts for people to be on the lookout for her, and then when she was returned, I felt tremendous relief. 

 

EH: I feel like a lot of the time, what people are looking for in these internet obsessions is content that's in some way comforting or analgesic. The extremely sweet and wonderful feeling you are describing, of seeing these special needs animals loved and cared for, is deeply comforting. But it's the opposite of numbing - it really engages some strong feelings. Does it feel like a kind of high-risk high-reward emotional proposition to follow this stuff?

NR: I guess it is a high-risk emotional proposition, but I'm not smart enough to put boundaries in place to prevent my being taken in. I'm sensitive to animals, always have been. I don't want them to suffer. The emotional attachment occurs before I'm cognitively able to recognize that it has happened, which means I don't really have a chance to prevent it.

I have to add a caveat here because we're having this conversation the same week that Nora Loreto has been inundated with death threats and hate speech for making the relevant statement that there is a problem in this country with grievability, and I just want to say that I am very aware of the politics around what stories make it to the media and what stories don't, and I'm very aware of what causes receive donations and what causes don't. There are some people who support the lives of animals over the lives of people, and there are animal rights activists who try to limit the rights of indigenous peoples to engage in traditional hunting practices, and I want to state for the record that I don't support those activists. As a settler, it's absolutely none of my business if indigenous people hunt and trap, and it's not my right to try to curtail their rights. I'm very aware that I'm able to be vegetarian because I live in a city where it's easy to access non-animal products for food, and also because I make enough money to be able to eat according to my politics, or according to my sensitivity about animals. Believe me, I walk around all the time feeling bad for caring about the things that I care about. 

Finally, I'm supposed to be working on spending less time on Twitter and Facebook and following the news because of how much it affects me, so if my therapist happens to see this, I'm sorry, I'm trying. 

 

EH: I'm curious about whether you feel like any of this leaks into your writing, or what you see the connection between these feelings and your poetics as being, if anything.

NR: How this all fits into my poetics is that I tend to go towards what is most tender for me. My last published book is more "about" civic politics and the affordability crisis in Vancouver where I used to live, but the MS I'm working with now is more "about" despair, and I have another project that is a response to my brother's death, so it's "about" all of the big yucky feelings.

I just finished reading Aisha Sasha John's magnificent I have to live, and it spoke so much to how I'm currently struggling to move through the world, though I don't think my own poetics accurately reflect this very well right now. (I get close to the tender spots and then I try to evade them with recombinatory practices so that I'm not really saying what I want to say).

This one section from Sasha John in particular:

I can live in the world with the people if they understand that

All a poet is is some bitch

Who thinks she's better

And feels sort of bad about it

But not, not really that bad more like

Feels bad

For feeling bad

At all.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.