River Halen is an award-winning writer of Catalan and Danish descent living in Tio’tia:ke (Montreal). Their poems and essays dealing with relation, ecology, transformation, and sexuality have been published widely in Canada, as well as in the U.S., Australia, and in translation in Japan. Their work has been shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and a National Magazine award, and selected for inclusion in Best Canadian Essays as well as Best Canadian Poetry.

River has been a full-time freelance arts worker since 2011, editing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for large and small presses. They are a member of the new Brick Books editorial board and teach sessionally in the Toronto Metropolitan University publishing program.


Praise for Dream Rooms
Bookhug press, fall 2022

“These pages are like the best conversations I have had with poets, relentlessly pushing through the mystery together. There is no choice but to learn a new way to hold what we think we know or drop it on the ground. ‘When you hurt one of us you hurt us all,’ writes River Halen in a book I would buy for you if I knew you, driven to share this brilliant conversation.” —CAConrad, author of AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration

“A quick-witted, momentum-filled, tender rebellion of a book.”
—Chase Joynt
“Can a book deflect predators?  Is the book the place where the body can take a new posture, training itself to become a gentleman, an atmosphere, a counter-product, a galaxy?  “There is no limit to how much you can learn about electricity” is one of the many sentences or lines in Dream Rooms that both absorbed and emitted attention, the strong and sometimes overwhelming energy that accompanies what the writer calls emergence.  ‘Nothing alive belongs to anyone.’  Yes.”
—Bhanu Kapil

One of this book’s many major achievements is its delightful continual configuration of everyday objects (wearing fuzzy white socks so ailing bunny feels at home; a broken razor leaving one very hairy leg shaved, one not) into a procedural for unbounded being. A voice moves from rental room to room, unspooling a life lived with divinely smudged or entangled boundaries between human and animal, between friendship  and love, between prescribed and transitioning gender. Dream Rooms is a marvellous confection of the author’s definition of “revolution”—a series of small, courageous, flawed attempts to risk everything.
—Gail Scott


I looked for the exit, found a sleeve

A long poem and performance piece interpreted by flamenco dancer Katherine McLeod, I looked for the exit, found a sleeve is a ritual for a time in my life when I began to ask questions about my gender. The poem serves as the score for the dance, which is twenty-eight minutes long.

Moving from the intimate to the global and back again, the piece attends to the ways in which personal information belongs to and affects all living systems—from bacteria to insects to human bodies in and out of love to international politics—and listens for the edges, the points at which an unravelling could begin.


In the haywire time my attention
was called to small things for example
the moths that had been eating my clothes

for two years, to the point that I did not have much to wear
except polyester blends
which are very ancient
bugs and plants and larger
animals subjected to unimaginable pressure
then woven.