My Talented Friends

With the festive season rapidly approaching it is a good time for me to recommend great gift options produced by many talented friends. Starting with some sweet sounds from SoulFistikato  the head nod. I met SoulF at Valentino Assenza’s Cryptic Chatter back in the day (time for a reunion show Val?). He (& frequent collaborated Dane Swan: whose excellent new book “He Doesn’t Hurt People Anymore” can be found on Amazon) are out of the slam scene. the head nod is a set of sampled, remixed & original instrumentals that are easy on the ear & uplifting to the spirit.

Charlie C Petch’s  Mel Malarkey Odes & Acts is a studio recording of their one-person Cabaret. I say Cabaret in reference to the musical as this is out of that vaudeville tradition – even the instrumental numbers have that Kurt Weill lilt. Charlie is another artist I first encountered at Valentino Assenza’s Cryptic Chatter back in the day (time for a reunion show Val?).

Carolina Brown’s Carolina Brown is a richly textured set of their songs. Compelling guitar work with raw & sometimes playful lyrics. Carolina confronts gender & transphobia directly & connects emotionally to the listener. I’ve heard Carolina several times & have enjoyed the fearless energy they use in creative expression in such a directly honest way that invites rather than challenges. Not that some of music isn’t challenging but it is a challenge one is willing to face.

Kris Gebhard’s Fairy Feather Files is another collection that confronts gender & transphobia directly & connects emotionally to the listener. Spoken-word with gentle marimba interludes that refresh the spirit. Kris presents difficult realizations with a tenderness that lets the listener hear the experience. I first heard Kris at Capturing Fire (produced by Regie Cabico) in Washington DC. Challenging in content at times but done in way affected way that draws you in emotionally.

So much for the audio portion of this post. Andre Prefontaine’s Freshwater Genteel & Saltwater Rage chapbook is full of fun, difficult, angry, not-so-fun but always honest poetry. Their writing is sharp, thoughtful, penetrating & human. I’ve seen Andre perform several times & each time am amazed & inspired. Contract him via Facebook to find out how to buy this book.

Finally Goddess X’s Blk Grl Sick: Tales from the Library Burned. I met X at Capturing Fire a few years ago & was stunned by their writing & their performance. The writing is powerful, raw, honest & clear. I always read poetry out-loud – this allows me to feel the words as opposed to slipping over them with eyes. In reading this book aloud I was caught up in the frustration & fears of being a black trans woman in the USA in way I didn’t expect. This is a fearless, challenging, fierce book.

Maybe these sound too challenging for Christmas gifts? Sure a pair comfy slippers would be nice but challenging someone to see the world around them in a different by giving them chance to leave their comfort zone is infinitely more rewarding. Take up the challenge it could also help change the way you see the world.

The Good Old Days

when I was a boy things were different

we’ve come a long way from those days

when there wasn’t anything to do

till the sun had come up

as there was no light allowed at night

stumbling in the dark

from one strip joint to the other

to listen to dancers in the dark

fleshly moist parts

pressed against your shoulder

the only part of the body

they were allowed contact with in the dark

now that we have light at night

it’s like going to the dentist

antiseptic and numbing

ah yes we all remember

those days when the only music

came from the slap of thighs

when the village women did the wash

as they whacked the dirt out of clothes

 

we didn’t have the worries we do today

then we worried about

how many smelt or moose

would the men catch

would there be enough

so that even a lad of ten

would have a fiver

to take to unlit strip bars

so the men could afford a soothing drink

to make up for the time it took

to wash the blood out of their hair

while the village women

whacked their clothes on moist rocks

to get the stain of smelt or the stink of moose

out of those rubbed-soft loose-fitting pants

that held the private parts

of the men they loved

those were the days when people loved

 

we had such pie in those days

small pans

so carefully tended in wood stoves

wood that we children had to find

we had to scour empty condo complexes

break off chair legs or hat racks

so we could be a part of things

so we could prove

we were good for more

than homework and giggling

because we loved to giggle

especially at the women

who spent so much time getting ready

for their shifts at the unlit strip bars

putting on sparkling fish scales

that no one would ever see

and the men hot and hollowed

would stagger home to fall asleep

on piles of wet laundry

licking their lips

waiting for the sun to rise

 

those were the days

when things were different

unlike now

when different

is just another brand name

chapbooks for sale http://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

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HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

http://www.queerslam.com

November 1-30

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‘silence is manslaughter’

Hot Damn! launched it’s 4th season (may the 4th be with you) at  Buddies In Bad Times Theatre Thursday night with rainbow-high-energy, out-to-win slammers, fearless open stagers & a wildly enthusiastic full house. Charlie Petch was in fine form keeping things flowing & the energy somewhere over the rainbow.

First set of open stagers & slammers: by the time you are able to read this, you may not remember me – I was told I could pave the way for women, why can’t I pave the way for all mankind – teens decomposing their own songs – this place smell of chance & lost dreams – less that nothing is still something – if it all means nothing, why not have fun – I dream of things I never want to see again – I wake to fear walking above ground – pour smoke over my heart – Wendy’s pigtails never fit the little boy that worse the – you wanna say best & breast comes out – I say I’m sorry more than I say I love you.

Andre Prefontaine’s feature set was amazing – emotionally resonant, overflowing with rich images, vibrant precise anger, & sassy theatricality. Honey, he was tougher than any nail they used to stab you – my Dad uses your homosexuality like a pair of scissors that cuts you out of his picture – worry about the future is a tragic waste of your imagination – I’m so calm it’s almost like disassociating – don’t you know how difficult it is to blow someone and do origami at the same time – hold the bible like brass knuckles – silence is manslaughter – people killing people for killing people.

After a much needed break – during which I got to hand out flyers for my feature (see below) – I picked up a couple of copies of Andre Prefontaine’s new chap book & got caught up with Vanessa McGowan. (when is her Hot Damn! feature?) I started out the second set of open stagers with my hair piece (see below).

From the rest of the night: that little crack makes you so human – I’ve never been struck by lightning – my body tells the truth when it shows the scars that anchor me to the reality of what happened – biting is cool, bite marks are not – we can’t use my name as a safety word – you left tiny blades my throat where you name used to be – the art of drowning in perfect make up – the rest of you is still living – never explain lost battles for your recovery – somehow your pain is never about you – being gay is more than whatever gender you choose – anatomy trump compassion – that word holds a power I cannot overcome – do you know where you are – chill of frosting in my bones – I smell like a Wes Craven movie –

Scores were added up & an array of prizes were handed out. Teddy Syrette took the Queirdo Prize for funnest bingo poem. Ezra Stewart took first spot in a tight race for a chance to win the big big prize: a trip to Washington DC (if Canadians are still allowed into the USA next summer) to attend Capturing Fire.

Next Hot Damn! is Gueph! Sept 30th. Hot Damn! returns to Toronto at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre on November 30.

Don’t Touch (My Hair)

she was a stranger

who felt no compunction

in reaching out to touch my hair

I must have been in my mid-twenties

at the time

my hair was freshly washed

shoulder length

‘it’s like baby hair,’ she said

I was a natural blond

even blonder

after a month of summer sun

‘I would kill to have hair like yours’

she smiled

‘thanks’ I replied

not adding

that I hate my hair

I hate it being so smooth

hate being asked

are you a boy or are you girl

being called fruit

by guys because of my hair

not that I was mr masculine

to begin with

shortly after that

I dyed my hair for the first time

I wanted a change

I bought a home kit

to make it permanent jet black

the look was striking

my mother said

‘what were you thinking’

I went to work

raised a few eye brows

but no comments

the black faded after the first wash

so much for permanent

in a week it was ash

in three weeks

back to baby fine blond

my hair

was like my sexuality

something I couldn’t disguise

no matter what women

I flirted with

no matter what I tried to call it

bi questioning pan

no matter what I drank to blot it out

it would always be

like my hair

something I was powerless over

something I hadn’t constructed

something I had to live with

I remember my first perm

a head of tight blond curls

they bounced in the light

it was my face

but a different me

the stylist conferred with a colourist

both agreed

that my hair was too fine

to hold colour for long

that it would be a shame

to tamper with it anyway

the permanent curls

would flatten within a week

I wasn’t willing

to go to bed with hairpins

so I’d get that perm

every month or so

I loved my hair for the first week

then a week of doing what I could

to keep the curl in

it was too much work

too much time checking in mirrors

I had a friend who was

what he referred to as a hair burner

he touched my freshly washed

uncurled hair one day

‘you have baby hair

I have clients

who would kill to have hair like that’

I said

‘I hate my hair

it’s too much work’

he said

‘do you trust me’

I let him do what he wanted

it took a couple of hours

that first time

to cut it short short short

then incise with electric razor

patterns into the hair

sometimes a maze

other times circle or triangles

always different

then he died

murdered by HIV meds

I shaved my head for his funeral

no one would ever touch my hair

again

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‘read the smoke’

kumari giles, in ‘things i cannot speak’,  with ‘young palms lined with old stories’ shared some stories as part of the Young Creators Unit at Buddies in Bad Times on the weekend. Memories of Sri Lanka, coming-out, the power of the haircut, of grandmothers, infused the piece.  Of war ‘you cannot erase a people without erasing yourself.’ kumari shifted from characters easily, perhaps too easily, as at times one wasn’t sure whose pov was being presented – which, in a way, underlines the difficulty of maintaining  any identity in our culture.

whiteshelf

a moment of shelflessness

Simply staged, with good use of red fabric – it was blood lines and restraints at times – sound effects and lighting. A simple, evocative performance in which I identified with the way we become ‘impressed’ with actions of the past – how we take on mannerism of parents without realizing it – I have my father’s aches.

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put your drawers down

Next up was Andre Prefontaine, in ‘(mE)dith Piaf’, ‘read the smoke’ of his past for us as he shared his recovery and his love of Piaf. Like kumari’s performance he shifted from character to character but his piece was about self-destruction and self-discovery. Funny, clever, emotionally vulnerable and satisfying. He touched on the recovery process without being industrial; queer life & the sex trade without being defensive or exploitive. An honest, direct & accomplished piece.

drawers

Ikea magic

The staging was as simple as the first piece but with a greater sense of theatricality – the evocation of Piaf via lighting was excellent. Sound effects propelled the story perfectly as Andre created characters with lighting, accents and appropriate finger-snaps. Looking back the piece also mirrored Cabaret: the musical about sex, drugs and self-discovery right down the Joel Grey like personification of cocaine. Je ne regrette pas le voir.

samples

a piece of mine about sex, drugs & rock’n’roll

Unmasked

background:

Hendrix: burning the midnight lamp

soon … I wish I was a merman

foreground:

messy coffee table

open bottles wine beer Scotch

weed rolled in papers too thin to write on

yet strong enough to hold a shared dream

midground:

three of us

Del me Kathy

share this joint enterprise

laugh at a phrase I was going through

hands touch to pass

the precious opener of minds

or rather the opener of pants

as Del loudly called it

his eyes on Kathy

she gave him a look

that said ‘see you later’

then left with her cigarettes

and the remains of the wine

‘uptight bitch’ Del laughed

as the door shut

he stayed

the supply on hand

held more appeal than

the supply leaving the room

that Jimi guitar

hooked its way around our brain

led our vision across patterns

my voodoo child eyes would wander

all along the corduroy

that hugged and held Del

he invitingly pushed the coffee table away

to make room on the floor

we had become so smoke soft

only the backless floor could

hold our floating

rolling

bodies

till we found ourselves

naked

I could feel the crosstown traffic of my heart

the sensation of his tongue on mine

the coarse grind of pubic hair on stomach

a move for a breath of air

to refresh the disguise of liquor

thighs hands lips

trimming a midnight lamp

that still burns today

but no longer needs

a smoke-screen

the bottled mask of permission

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