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Meet Christina Foisy PhD

Bio

Christina Foisy is an author, academic and artist with a PhD in Health Humanities from York University (Toronto). From grassroots community health organizing to advocating for equity policy and system change in large-scale institutions: Christina is a creative thought-leader with a passion for listening deeply and meaningfully to those most impacted by a particular issue or cause. She has published original research in the field of ethics, health equity, peer-based sexual health education, life writing, memory studies, Mad studies and grief studies. Her poetry, lyrical essays and collages have appeared in print in the following literary journals: Abstract, Contemporary Expressions, Open Minds Quarterly, POEISIS, and Canadian Women’s Studies.

Her doctoral research, Sounding Madness: The Ethics of Listening in Janet Frame Faces in the Water, was nominated for the Faculty of Graduate Studies Award (2021) and funded by the Canadian Graduate Scholarship (CGS), Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). In the wake of a revived framing of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a miracle cure for trauma, her dissertation and sound art trilogy was an attempt to care for ECT survivors’ testimonies of memories of erasure that have been delegitimized historically, politically and culturally. Sounding Madness is a request to create a receptive context for madness to exist, speak and reverberate as a legitimate way of knowing and perceiving the world outside of patriarchal, colonial and white supremacist modes of knowledge-power. Her co-creator in the project was Janet Frame. Her autobiographical novel, Faces in the Water, offers “madness as a new kind of music” (Frame 77) to empower diversely situated Mad women politically and discursively to be heard as meaning-making subjects.  

Her book of prose poetry, Black Pond, is a is a tough and tender evocation of family relationships under pressure after her mother's postpartum suicide in 1982. The book unfolds in the shape of a sectioned long prose poem that evolved out of her M.Ed thesis and autoethnographic research A Sound Memoir: Listening to Suicide Survival. A story emerges in a silence that speaks: not a plot-driven narrative but an assemblage of details that, pieced together, approach a history of survival. The radical hope embedded within this project is to transform a story of suffering into one of beauty and forgiveness. 

Artist Statement

I write to remember what I am afraid of forgetting, to forget what I am afraid of
remembering. Mainly, I write about grief and its expression in private moments
and in grand public-facing gestures. I follow grief to absurd places to make-meaning from its obsessions, repressions, as well as its generative potential for creation and life.  

My poems and essays are narrative collages that skip through time and place, weaving fragments of memory, objects, heirlooms, and archival traces into new frames of reference to imagine possible worlds governed by the heart.

Stylistically, I am interested in how poetry and collage align energetically to rip up old hardened narratives that no longer serve. I let a new story emerge from the wreckage and ask: how do we continue after losing everything? 

The leading catalyst for my exploration of grief was my mother’s postpartum suicide in 1982. I recover stories of my mother and my learning of her (and her suicide) through family fragments: photographs, artwork,  mementos. How can I think through (and with) my mother’s death, haunted family narratives, buried plots? 

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Black Pond (2020) explores how I survived my mother’s postpartum suicide through radical hope and transformation. This collection is a tough and tender evocation of family relationships under pressure, in the shape of a sectioned long prose poem. I use a poetics of accumulation to mimic my father’s hoarding compulsion, in a hybrid piece that merges an autobiographical lyric with fragmented prose poems.

Themes of estrangement, loss, trauma, and the desire to understand, perhaps reconcile, the various pressures are developed in a language that is concise and spare yet vivid, sometimes startling. A story emerges in a silence that speaks: not a plot-driven narrative but an assemblage of details that, pieced together, approach a history of survival. The radical hope embedded within this project is to transform a story of suffering into one of beauty and forgiveness.

 

My practice serves to unearth what is difficult to say out loud or to know for certain. I do so to illuminate the dark and solitary corners in which grief manifests itself, as well as to juxtapose its intimate expressions with how it is performed and ritualized in public life.

 

I am interested in how we collaborate with ghosts in ways that cannot be perceived through human faculties alone, but requires a leap of faith and trust in our ability for interdimensional communication. 

Education

Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) York University, Toronto, ON.

(2011-2021) Humanities (Health Humanities, Mad Studies and Sound Studies) 

Master of Education (M.Ed.) York University, Toronto, ON.

(2008-2010) Interdisciplinary studies in Language, Culture and Teaching with great distinction 

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Concordia University, Montréal, QC.

(2003-2006) English Literature/Creative Writing and Women’s Studies with distinction 

Diplome Études Collégiale (D.E.C.) Dawson College, Montréal, QC.

(2000-2002) Arts and Letters (Literature) with honours 

Employment

Christina Foisy is a Health Equity Specialist at the Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) in Toronto (intermediary organization funded by Ontario Health and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health).

In addition to my creative and academic work, I also offer Astrology & Tarot Readings

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