For former politician and businesswoman Jocelyn Burgener, Parkinson’s disease opened her heart and led her on into a wholly life-affirming, creative transformation. Like Michael J. Fox, Burgener does not wish her condition away. While there are certain challenges, the disease has instead enlightened her to a newfound, public confidence through art, creativity and family.
“I’ve always written and have sent notes, cards, and little stories to my families and friends. Now that I’m living, my voice writing has become very important to me,” Burgener says with a gentle, inspired tone. “One of the things about Parkinson’s is it’s so visual. You have tremors. You can’t hide it. My tendency is just to live with it and put it out there. That ties into being authentic.”
Burgener’s self-published tome, Naked Under My Coat, is a brilliant force of wisdom worked through poetry and short stories, offering readers visual stimuli through concrete forms and a pithy style. “When there’s a story to be told, I prefer to use prose. When there’s an observation to be made, I prefer to use poetry. Poetry is concise. It’s sharper. You hone in more definitively,” says Burgener, who then muses on the similarities between the quality of writing fiction and living with Parkinson’s. “Parkinson’s has heightened my awareness of things. I see things as stories. I see things as relevant. I see things as active.”
Naked Under My Coat is a heartfelt collection of 14 short stories and 43 poems chronicling one woman’s transformational urge to write, as it coincided with the onset of Parkinson’s disease. “The art scene in Calgary is revitalized. I actually coauthored civic art policies for the city back in 2005. I have a sense of where the city has been and where it’s going,” says Burgener.
Jocelyn Burgener will launch Naked Under My Coat at the Orange Lofts in the East Village on June 10.
By Matt Hanson
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino