CIRCUS – Tara Borin

As part of Red Alder Review‘s Open Mic series – Q&A and poem from Tara Borin.


Red Alder Review (RA): How do you normally connect to the poetry/literary community? 

Tara Borin (TB): Because I live in a remote northern town, I find most of my connections online, via Twitter. I try to get down to Whitehorse as often as I can to catch live poetry readings, and anytime I’m out of the territory I try to do the same. 

RA: What is the most memorable poetry event or Open Mic you attended in-person?

TB: I think the most memorable literary event I’ve attended was the inaugural Indigenous Brilliance reading at the Growing Room Literary Festival a couple of years ago. It was in the Native Education College in Vancouver, a gorgeous room of stone, wood and big windows with a cozy fireplace in the center, people gathered all around on benches. Readings from Joanne Arnott, Carleigh Baker, Marie Annharte Baker, Gwen Benaway, Selina Boan, Molly Billows, Sharon Jinkerson-Brass, Samantha Nock, Deanna Partridge-David, and Bev Sellars.

RA: Who are the poets who most influence you?

Big influences for me include Al Purdy, Kim Addonizio, Kayla Czaga, and Katherena Vermette.

RA: Whose work are you most excited about reading in the months to come?

Joanna Lilley, John Elizabeth Stinzi, Gwen Benaway, Mercedes Eng, Claire Caldwell, Amber Dawn

RA: How has the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic affected your writing practice?

TB: I’m having a very hard time focusing. When I can focus, I feel like anything I could write is trivial or irrelevant. I’m trying hard to give myself permission to just write crap and sort it out later.

RA: What are you working on right now?

TB: Rebuilding some kind of regular writing practice. 

RA: Do you have any new work forthcoming (in journals, chapbooks, collections, anthologies, etc.)?

TB: I have poems coming out in The LaHave Review and Prism International in the coming months and my first full length poetry collection will be published with Nightwood Editions in 2021.


Spring brings a cold front of sorrow. Heartbreak comes in threes: a wooden cross to Second and King, lapped by a wash of flowers wrapped in cellophane; river search parties come up empty; ashes spread on swift water. Rumours self-seed like sweet clover in the ditches. Rain and clouds low enough to get caught in toothy spruce, town shrouded in— a landlocked island. Friends from Outside ask how’s your summer going? and nobody’s sure how to answer, braced for the next blow. 
As if conjured by our gathered grief, The Great Benjamin’s Circus appears on a Thursday afternoon in July, the sun briefly unfettered by clouds. 

In an hour’s time the tent is up in the ballpark, blue like the insides of a wizard’s draped sleeves, wafting scents of cotton candy and fried dough. The line-up to get in stretches all the way back to Fifth Avenue; the clown at the entrance takes our tickets, marks our hands with a hot pink Bingo dabber. The tent expands to hold a town’s worth of sudden, chattering children, seated on metal bleachers. Tiny holes in the tent-top like stars. Our faces lit by sweeping lights, bones buzz to the bass. The clown who took our tickets sells balloons at three bucks a pop. Sequins glitter darkly. 

Acrobats wind themselves in silks then unravel, twisting towards the floor—catch themselves as we catch our breath. Our cheeks, wet. Daredevil in the center of a metal cage, her arms lifted, unmoving as a motorcycle roars around and around her, exhaust fumes clouding the tent. Nobody dies. Clowns toss light in the air as if it were a tangible thing, catch it, let us catch it, too. We take the light home, pass it around. We leave it at the foot of the cross, tucked in with the browning flowers; set it afloat on the river that has swallowed so much, on the wind, on our bedside tables. Next morning, like a lover slipped out the back door, the tent is gone. Wind ruffles the flattened grass.

Tara Borin is a poet living in traditional Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in territory, Dawson City, Yukon. They are a recent graduate of Simon Fraser University’s The Writer’s Studio Online. Their work has recently appeared in Prairie Fire and is forthcoming with The LaHave Review and Prism International. Tara’s first full length collection, The Pit, will be published with Nightwood Editions in 2021. 

Twitter: @tara_borin

Insta: @taraborin