River Halen is an award-winning transgender writer of Catalan and Danish descent living in Tio’tia:ke/Mooniyang/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 an acquiring editor for Brick Books 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

Live Events

Arc 94, The Polymorphous per Verse issue launch
June 16, 2021
I read my poem “The Enemy” at an event that also features Cameron Awkward-Rich, CAConrad, Jiaqing Wilson-Yang and SJ Sindu. Hosted by Trish Salah and Ali Blythe. My reading begins at 3:40.

Mile End Poets’ Festival
Nov. 22, 2018
Flamenco dancer Katherine McLeod choreographed and performed a dance to accompany my long poem “I looked for the exit, found a sleeve,” punctuating its soundscape with footwork and other effects. 

Published in my book Dream Rooms, “I looked for the exit” was originally written as an incantation/ritual/tantrum for coming into trans identity. In it, a clothes moth infestation provides an opening to think more expansively about gender, ecology, accountability, and the universe.

Katherine and I subsequently performed the piece at La Vitrola on March 17, 2019, at an event that also featured readings by Nadia Chaney and Marcela Huerta, among other performers.

Some other past performances
Words and Music (Montreal), Knife Fork Book (Toronto), Wolfe Island literary festival (Kingston, Ontario), Tree reading series (Ottawa), the Box Salon (Toronto), International Festival of Authors (Toronto), Atwater Poetry Series (Montreal), Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference, Caesura (Edinburgh), a house reading curated by Corina Copp (Brooklyn), Fish Quill Poetry Boat tour (eight readings along the Grand River in Ontario, with travel by canoe)