I invited Canadian blogger, bi-linguist and teacher Michelle Payette-Daoust to write about creativity. Michelle responded with a three-part lyrical essay, exploring several of the creative pieces published on this site since it began. Michelle also ‘looked between the lines’, examining my orchestrating role as interviewer, blogmaster and MC.
I was born and still live in a suburb of Montréal (Québec) and have only travelled to England twice for short stays. Unlike Leslie Tate, the author of this blog, I’m not connected to a broader artistic community, and I’ve never been published, except in local newspapers. My vision of the world has been profoundly shaped by my simultaneous bilingualism which—in a Canadian province where debates about language, identity and politics are ongoing and always fraught—has allowed me to move effortlessly between the English and French speaking worlds here and to understand and feel invested in the view from both sides. Because my bicultural identity is more fluid and flexible than most Québécois, my province’s intermittent lapses into nationalist identity politics cause me sharp pain and anxiety.
This, combined with my graduate studies in history and second language education, has made me into something of a missionary—not unlike Leslie— bringing my own “good news” to every room in which I teach French to adult immigrants. It’s a message about the beauty of Québécois French and the vibrant culture that it expresses; about the value of natural, cultural, ethnic, racial and sexual diversity; and about the joy that results from the successful commingling of them all.
By day, I travel all over Montreal, straight to the workplaces of the thousands of immigrants who arrive here every year. In small conference rooms, I try to make French accessible and appealing to them, but mostly, I strive to make them feel welcome, included and optimistic about their futures here. What I want us to seek together is the joy of being alive in a beautiful city, and of belonging.
In the early morning, I write. Two blogs for my local library—one in French and one in English—and a third personal blog where I find the freedom to express myself in a different voice and to share everything I’ve learned from my students, my children, my life.
I recently wrote that the greatest appeal of this blog is that when I’m visiting it, the world expands. At its heart, there’s its author, with his too often solitary journey through childhood; his struggles to live with his “funny habit” and to emerge, whole, into the light of adulthood; the way of his imagination, which led him to a life of writing; his search for transcendence and spiritual elevation guided by the creative spark; his active nurturing of community.
A directional awareness runs through every post like the ribs and veins of a leaf. There’s much to take away from each week’s post as individual artists, writers, publishers, actors, community health workers, filmmakers, poets and musicians respond to the invitation to share the distinctive expressions of their creativity and its place in the world they inhabit.
I feel sure that everyone who comes to this blog finds something to carry away. Because I seek most of all to expand my view and connections with the world in order to learn more, feel more compassionately and write more authentically, I’ve been moved by many themes that recur throughout the dozens of posts I’ve read.
When creative people speak of their lives, patterns emerge. Many contributors to the blog wrote of:
- the creative spark that, once awakened, continued to burn within them; and of the links between creativity and spirituality;
- the pain: of memory, of trauma, of exclusion, of illness, and the struggle to emerge from behind one’s defences, one’s masks:
- the delicate movement inward and outward that creativity requires, despite the pain;
- the stories that need to be told with words, objects, images, in song and in silence;
- the challenge of living a life of creative integrity and achieving a sense of wholeness.
The contributions of each guest are important. Separately, they offer a focused glimpse into the creative mindset of an artist and the individual story that underpins it. Together, connected as they are by Leslie’s own life story, they are an invaluable testament to the resilience of the creative spirit, artistic initiative and the strength of community in divisive and fractious times.
On Oct 30th the next instalment of Michelle Payette Daouste‘s three-part piece about creativity appears.
ABOUT LESLIE TATE’S BOOKS:
- Heaven’s Rage is a memoir and a collection of lyrical essays. In brief: ‘Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. “A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage” – William Blake. You can read more about/buy Heaven’s Rage here.
- Purple is a coming-of-age novel, a portrait of modern love and a family saga. Set in the North of England, it follows the story of shy ingénue Matthew Lavender living through the wildness of the 60s and his grandmother Mary, born into a traditional working-class family. Both are innocents who have to learn more about long-term love and commitment, earning their independence through a series of revealing and closely-observed relationships. Purple is the first part of the Lavender Blues trilogy. You can read more about/buy Purple here.
- Blue tells the story of Richard and Vanessa Lavender, who join a 90s feminist collective sharing childcare, political activism and open relationships. Boosted by their ‘wider network’ they take secondary partners, throw parties and observe the dance of relationships amongst their friends. But finding a balance between power and restraint, and handling shared love, proves difficult… Blue is the second part of the Lavender Blues trilogy. You can read more about/buy Blue here.