POET • PLAYWRIGHT • ACTOR
Playing Into Silence is a visual and musical journey into the memories of Pamela, a young woman discovering love in the 1950s. Recalling her first love, a girl from a neighbouring farm, Pamela recounts the sweetness and innocence of youthful romance, which is quickly overshadowed by the oppression of her family and community.
Biello’s collection is a deeply human story, at times tragic, but also charming, laced with a humour easily understood—“Inside the humour you hear the tears.” Good-natured charm is braided tightly with memories of childhood trauma, making the work consistently inviting, never disingenuous. It is a story of connection and encounter, of injustice and misunderstanding, expressed through images of love, heartbreak, abandonment, and joy.
What happens to a family when aging and disease become its main storyline? In an attempt to keep the heart and mind connected, memories become medicine and hope sews them together. Tina Biello’s A Housecoat Remains is the quilted result of such a dedicated project —the project of remembering, reflecting, grieving, giving, and, essentially reclaiming the identity of the living poet who remains.
Reading Biello’s poetry made me pause, grip the book to my chest, and weep. Alzheimer’s disease is slowly ravaging her mother, and as it does, Biello uses poetry to help herself remember—remember her mother’s past, remember her relationship with her mother before she began to change, and remember to forgive her mother and herself as the disease progressed.
Narrative poetry often seems autobiographical even when we know it isn’t. Perhaps poetry is by definition more intense, concentrated and personal than prose. Tina Biello’s two previous books of poetry, In the Bone Cracks of the Walls (Leaf Press Spring, 2014) and A Housecoat Remains (Guernica Editions, 2015) are frankly personal, drawing on family relationships and origins.
We can’t be so sure about the narrative in Playing into Silence, the most recent slim volume from Nanaimo’s Poet Laureate.
The protagonist, Pam, is a generation older than Biello. Her hometown setting, Heisler on the Alberta prairies, is not Biello’s. That would be the logging community of Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island.
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Poet, playwright, actor, Tina Biello was born in a small logging town on Vancouver Island to immigrant parents. She has honed her skills of being from “two places” and speaks a few languages because of it. She believes in the power of poetry to reach in and grab hold, and get us through.
She has honed her skills as a poet over the years working with many fine poets, most notably, mentor Patrick Lane. Her work has appeared in literary publications and is included in numerous anthologies, edited by Patrick Lane. She has three books of poetry published and has a long background in theatre as an actor and playwright. She was Poet Laureate of Nanaimo, from 2017–2020.
Tina has taught performance mask, from senior drama classes in high schools, to university theatre classes, to the Belfry Theatre with masks from mask maker, Bruce Marrs, from California. See photos for some of the work she has done in outdoor market festivals and class work with students.
For more information regarding workshops for students, either in senior drama classes in high schools, universities, or the general public, please contact her.