Littoral Listening #6 MARGINALIA

Read Madeline Donald’s reflections on this event here!

WHEN: October 28, 2022, 3:00-4:30 PM PST


CONVENED BY: Madeline Donald

Margins are places of relation and emergence, the space around a text in a book or the mucky edge of a river for example. Marginalia are the methodologies and becomings of margins: “The essential and defining character of the marginal note throughout its history is that it is a responsive kind of writing permanently anchored to pre-existing written words” (Jackson, 2001, p. 81). Listening/reading an excerpt from Angélique Lalonde’s (2021) story “Lady with the Big Head Chronicles” together, we’ll stretch this concept, looking crossways at the idea of a text (which might also be understood as a discourse) and thinking with marginalia as, for example, attempts “to parse out the spirit bits” (Lalonde, 2021, p. 14). This parsing can be through commentary, attention and intention in transitional spaces, and tentatively exploring life in and along edges.

“[I]t is so hard to hear when we are always stating things” (ibid., p. 15) the story’s narrator muses. Margins are tentative places wherein “so loud authoritative claims” (ibid.) are tempered by reflective response and softened by the layering of voices. Come join us in the murk of the margin!


1. Angelique Lalonde (2021). “Lady with the Big Head Chronicle.” In Glorious Frazzled Beings (pp. 1–16). House of Anansi .(excerpt from this short story).

In her own words Lalonde’s writing “explores the tentative magic, beautiful sustenance, and obscure connections between beings, lands and relations.” It is the between that connects the short story of the lady with the big head to the topic of marginalia. The Lady lives a fringey life, dwelling just outside the narrator’s recognizable norm; they come to know one another through marginal encounters and exchanges, often from afar and often asynchronously.

2. Daniella Elza. (2012). “a shoreline to stand on.” In The weight of dew (p. 55). Mother Tongue. (a litorally evocative poem)


1. This Witch Please Episode about marginalia. The first 40 minutes or so is almost entirely without Harry Potter related content.



2. Hazard, C. W. (2022). Underflow 5: Affects and Ecopoetics Practice. In Underflows: Queer trans ecologies and river justice (pp. 167–173). University of Washington Press. (A note on responsive writing in practice with the Land.)

3. The web comic xkcd, which makes use of alt-text not for accessibility (for more about that see alt-text as poetry) but as marginalia. A brief meander through their archive will make this clear. Pass your cursor over the comic panels and wait a moment until the alt-text is revealed in a text box.

3. Hartman, S. (2008). Venus in two acts. Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, 12(2), 1–14.

Saidiya Hartman’s essay speaks obliquely to marginalia through a processual account of writing towards “impossible stories” (p. 10) through ”silence in the archive” (p. 3).

4. Jackson, H. J. (2001). Marginalia: Readers writing in books. Yale University Press. This is the primary source text for the Witch Please episode above:

%d bloggers like this: