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Poetry and Politics with Liana Cusmano

An Italian family Sunday lunch is the setting of one of the first poems Montreal poet, Liana Cusmano (they/them), read on the virtual performance “Poetry & Politics” that Accenti magazine organized on October 18th. At noon as people began to come into the call, their kitchens, offices, and living rooms appeared on my screen, creating an atmosphere of intimacy and trust which is ideal for a poetry reading regardless of the medium.

Trust and safety are important matters for Liana who combines their artistic work as a poet with politics: “Poetry informs my politics,” Cusmano said.

Poetry is the art form they use to explore queerness, depression, and power dynamics from the margins. Later, these reflections may enrich Liana’s political participation on subjects like climate change, gentrification, queer rights, and healthcare.

Before the Sunday virtual spoken word performance, I didn’t know about Cusmano’s poetry nor their career as a politician. As a subscriber of the Accenti magazine newsletter, I received the poetry reading invitation and after brief research on their work, I registered for it. I am not a member of Montreal's Italian community, nor a member of Montreal’s Green Party. I am just a curious writer and Liana’s frank, honest poetry was an invitation to explore love, fear, sadness, vulnerability, and to understand each other a little better.

Liana talked about their complicated relationship with their grandmother. They love her but they can’t communicate openly about their queerness. In their grandmother’s kitchen, Liana revealed to us, a blue measuring cup is the “absolute measurement” for every ingredient ever used in there. Their tone added a quality of rigidity to the matter that slipped into their next poem “Here”.

In that poem, Cusmano, of Italian heritage, challenges gender conventions of traditional societies; in Italian tradition, long hair could be used as the measuring cup to determine a woman’s value. The voice in the poem is anxious yet courageous, and considers their options for breaking free: what is there to lose, and what is there to gain from those relationships? The voice seems to ask. Through their art, Liana chooses love over differences.

Liana read an excerpt as well of their first published novel “Catch and Release”. Using a nonlinear narration, Liana tells the story of a bisexual woman who suffers from major depression. The novel is expected to hit shelves in the next few months.

To watch Liana’s performance at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Finals 2019 click here.

Liana is a member of The Writers' Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, the Quebec Writers' Federation, the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW). As read on the Quebec Writers’ Federation website, Liana Cusmano is the 2018 Montreal Slam Champion, representing their city at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Guelph (November 2018).

Liana Cusmano wrote and directed the film Matters of Great Unimportance. They also wrote the film script for La Femme Finale, screened at the Cannes Film Festival as stated on the Writer’s Union of Canada website.

By Lily Olivas


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