I have two pieces in the Pandemic Poetry Project ed. David Bateman published by Buddies In Bad Times. I’m is good company as the anthology includes work by Patricia Wilson, Kathleen Whelan, Robert Standish, Neta Rose,Charlie Petch, Stedmond Pardy, Dianne Moore, Ashok Mathur, Merle Matheson, David Marshall, Marcy Rogers, Sri M., Peter Lynch, Amy Lester, Steve Keil, Brock Hessel, Sky Gilbert, SK Dyment, Judith Chandler, Philip Cairns, Ashley Bomberry, Marusya Bociurkiw, bill bissett, Paul Bellini, & David Bateman. A superb sampling of lgbtqia writers.
I was asked by David to submit a couple of pieces last year. I sifted through some recent writing & sent in the two that appear. At the time I was unaware that it was a ‘Pandemic’ project or I might have sent pieces with a lockdown subtext. It is a handsome little book the size of a cd case with 150 pages of insightful, silly, spiritual, sexy, political writing.
It can be bought for $19.95 , in person, at Buddies In Bad Times on Alexander St. Glad Day Bookshop also has it on the shelf or you can order it, but there will be shipping costs.
Season six of Hot Damn! has seen attendance grow steadily while the courage & numbers of slammers grow as it continues to offer a safe space for lgbtqia creatives to explore & express themselves, plus laugh, cry, sing & dance in harmony.The newly shorn Robyn Sidhu hosted the show & left things moving smoothly with some handy Dad jokes & pointed political comments. Her family escaped Punjabi state sanctioned genocide to Canada where she now witnesses Canada’s state sanctioned genocide of its native population.
A fair bit of the work centered around mothers – the guilt of not loving the one who never loved you, the decision not to be one, the struggle for acceptance from the one who loves you. Some addressed the struggle with body image, gender dissonance & even the conflict between biology & hormone replacement. Heartfelt without becoming melodramatic or self-pitying.
The feature Sincerely Shyy gave us a set brimming with ‘black girl magic.’ ‘she is born of the cosmos’ ‘she is an indictment’ ‘I tried to make a home out of you’. I particularly liked her piece: ‘I’m not here for the revolution – I just want to fuck you’ – it was honest, sexy, fun while being politically resonant. Her set was too short 🙂
If you’ve been reading my Hot Damn! reviews you’ll notice this time there are no quotes from the open-stagers or the slammers. One thing the Queer Slam does in regards to photos is let people op out for privacy. I decided to do the same for the performers (except the feature). The show is in a public space but its contents is only for the public that shows up. ‘the unzipping of the promise’ comes from one of the slammers.
The season finale is Friday, April 3, at Buddies in Bad Times theatre.
Earlier this month Diop Clothes did a little profile of me. There is no direct link to the feature though 😦 so I’ve pieced it together. Because these are screen grabs none of the links in the article are live.
The Hot Damn! season 5 finale filled Buddies in Bad Times to the rafters. The house filled so rapidly that the event actually started on time !! Yes, a spoken word event that started on time 🙂 House music was provided by DJ Sofia Fly, who also supplied great entrance & exit music for the slammers. Not that the energy of the house needed any help 🙂
The show opened with Charlie Petch’s land acknowledgment followed a set of songs by Ogichidaa Kwe. The song about the warning heard but not believed resonates in our political climate as we deal with governments who feel warnings are not to be believed without the right corporate backing.
I was one of the lucky poets who participated in Nasra Adem’s Mirror of Tarot workshop the night before at Unit 2 so I was ready to see their feature set. In a flashing of red and gold Nasra’s set was spokenword alternating with songs and a dash of political anger.
some moments from that set: the sun looks up & catches my glint – I just want to ride my intentions – I quiet the colonial hum around me – how loud men are with their fear – healing only happens when I’m safe enough to call for help – bluest black starlight – if this shit ain’t intersectional it don’t exist – white feminism can suck my dick – you can wipe your tears they aren’t needed here.
After a break Charlie started the slam with the queer national anthem – somewhere over the rainbow. Then the eager slammers hit the stage with pieces that were emotionally powerful, funny, deeply personal & accurate skewering of our dominant culture’s inability to accept diversity on all levels.
moments from round one: a shade of blue trying make bruises jealous, half my identity was stolen from me by the time I was six, I want you to talk to me rather than write it all in your journal, compensation doesn’t undo the truth, he tried to whitewash me with his bedsheets, my bravery doesn’t mean your allyship is unnecessary, down the rabbit hole of trauma, the nights my memory of you is my razor blade, I never studied dance but learned how to fall with precision, it’s safer to play chameleon, either swallow fear of be swallowed by it, fat kids should eat because they are fat, every bite tastes like shame.
Moments from round two: you don’t want me & it cuts to my soul, wrote a note on my phone not to text you, the sound of motherhood knocks a cracked door, when in this city I avoid the subway, I would hold you the way gravity holds the atmosphere, I guess it isn’t about sex anymore, confession is telling how good she tastes, is there a way to be Christian & not be ignorant, being queer is fucking difficult, I used cover girl to cover up the hicks, congratulations! you’re straight, why can’t I be as angry as him.
Over these five years Hot Damn! as become an amazing force for diversity. It has created & maintained a safe space were the gender marginalized members of already marginalized communities can come together to express their loves, frustrations, fears and outright fucking anger without being judged. Oh right, they are judged as part of the slam, but that’s a different matter 🙂
It was a non-stop feast (or perhaps feeding frenzy) of words from the competing poets Sulva, Charly Bird, Dee Durward (QUEIRDO winner! Doe!) Robert Molloy, & Danielle Workman. After scores were tallied: the top three were (it was SO CLOSE) Jayda Marley (3rd 58.5), Fira (58.9) and winner Wes Ryan (59.2).
Things change 🙂 the morning starts out a little overcast, the sidewalks are clear then an hour later one is caught in a winter wonderland of slush. Hot Damn!’s workshop facilitator and feature gets bogged down by the slush of chronic illness & things change. I end up facilitating the workshop: Vulnerability/Strength. It was productive enough, for me, at any rate. Too bad I wasn’t prepared to do more than to listen & write a little.
Charlie Petch was scrambling for a new feature while getting set for an interview before the show itself. Over supper I went though my note books to see if I had suitable pieces besides the two I had uploaded to my Kindle. It had a few things to present. I forgot what I had jotted down to work on later – some going back a few years.
Vanessa McGowan stepped up to feature, so all I had to worry about was being all judgemental for the slam. Even with slushy snow falling there was a decent house for the show at 8. Lots of great open stagers and some dynamic slammers made for a rewarding & cozy night. Plus good conversation with fellow judge Teddy Syrette.
The participants were the epitome of diversity with indigenous, trans, queers across the gender spectrum, coming from as far away as Ecuador (Hola) to share honest, emotionally raw and sometimes very funny material. This is the real power of Hot Damn!’s vision to create a safe space for queers to perform, mostly without judgement. I say mostly because part of a slam is being judged 🙂
Random lines from the open-stagers & slammers: ‘don’t tell your mother’ ‘children need parents who want to be parents’ ‘I practice reparation by topping settlers’ ‘he was masc looking but not masc looking for masc’ ‘my spirit name is isolate for safety’ ‘I want you all over mt skin’ ‘seeking wisdom in dreams’ ‘I am six minutes behind the world’ ‘nothing scares me – not even clowns’ ‘sometimes bullies look just like body guards’ ‘let me tell you where I left these bones’ ‘the attack from within is worse that the wound from without’ ‘I say to them it’s not your table’ ‘the blood I shed won’t tell me what I missed’
Vanessa’s set was emotionally charged, frank, sometime a little ironic humour slipped in – her social commentary is from within situations not from the p.o.v. of an observer. ‘we met beneath the water line’ ‘I still cannot say your name – my mouth is full of water’ ‘removing the knife of shame from throat so you can remove it from yours’ ‘covering up for poverty is exhausting’ ‘they praise me for being highly functioning’
Winner were declared, prizes were awarded (for those names: Hot Damn!) Next Hot Damn! is in St. Catherines in December. It returns to Buddies in Bad Time January 10, 2019.
On the open stage I read Cold Spot https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3ci & this old piece – if one considers September 2017 old – I dug out.
Hot Damn! varied its usual slam context for a an evening with Jillian Christmas at Unit 2 in the west end. Home of Bricks & Glitter it provided a simple intimate space to feature this great poet/singer/storyteller. Host Charlie Petch was effusive, emotional and, for the most part, focused 🙂 Plus some mighty fine open stagers (including myself) made for a great evening.
Too many open-stagers to name – they ran the gamut from national champions to just plain folk. Pieces covered self-realization, the desire to be a rich bitch & scary Halloween (scare provided by me.) The space was welcoming for us who made it through the rain to fill the house. Some pieces brought out tears, some laughter. All satisfied.
I’ve known Jillian for several years now so my thoughts on her may be slightly biased 🙂 One of the good things about knowing performer over time is that one can see the changes in their approach and even in subject matter. It’s been maybe two years since I last heard her perform. She was one of the lucky Hot Damn! season winners who represented Damn! at Capturing Fire – which, I might add, she also won.
Her set was generous with a great range of styles, p.o.v and emotional frankness. Pieces about relationships, family, the ecology, same-sex self discovery & magic. Accompanying herself on uke (which she elevates to lute like delicacy) at times, on a snare at time & even with both at the same time for one piece – she held the audience spellbound. By the time she was done she left us as one heart – ruby red.
Next Hot Damn! November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
I recently watched a History channel series on Frontiers’ Men about the exploration of the American west. It was, as expect, rah-rah about these intrepid men but also was unflinching about how the aboriginal peoples were mistreated, exploited and the degree of cultural genocide was disgusting – yet somehow the white immigrants are seen as civilizers of these savage tribes.
The features & slammers at the season 4 finale for Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam made it very clear the ways that that cultural genocide continues. I was grateful that Hot Damn! has provided a safe space for very complex layers of racal & gender cultural repression, to be exposed, expressed & appreciated. I was more than entertained I was moved & educated.
The Hot Damn! season ender slam at Buddies played a packed to the rafters – mean packed, the balcony was full, extra seating had to brought out – enthusiastic audience. After acknowledging our debit to the natives who occupied this land Charlie Petch.
The show opened with Mahlikah Awe:ri Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw (The Woman Who Walks In The Light) drum talk poetic rapologist who did a powerful set about the racial imbalance in the justice system. Mahlikah was emotional, impassioned & without expressing their anger allowed us to feel our own. ‘they are tracking us’ ‘you can’t see what you don’t understand’ ‘seeking their own power/ looking for home’ ‘150 years of being acquitted by your peers.’
Witch Prophet (an evolution of Toronto based, Ethiopian/Eritrean singer/songwriter Ayo Leilani. A soundscape of vocal layers, loops and harmonies on a bed of hip-hop, jazz and soul-inspired beats) gave us a music set that gave us a taste of their up coming album. The first piece was a freshly multi-tracked piece – voice was layered on itself & on itself to create that vocal soundscape. A solo piece but for dozens of voices. The DJ added interesting beats to the other pieces with sweet variations, more complex vocal interplay. Touches of pop, jazz, and hip-hop created a fresh sound. ‘What if I told you who I was/ would you be more fearful’
After a break the slam proper (or is improper the right word?) got underway once Charlie played ‘Over The Rainbow’ the queer national anthem on the saw. Lines from round one: ‘tempered by hot sand’ ‘one first bite I know I am stubborn’ ‘death is just another word for resistance’ ‘my emotions fluid like my gender’ ‘a generation where we can’t express ourselves so we cat out’ ‘I like to think I am fine’ ‘this books haunts me/ it took place in my home town/ a dozen murdered women’ ‘this book is too heavy for my heart’ ‘the graveyard were the bodies were disposed of’ ‘I thought my feelings were love’ ‘I’m told to find comfort in being uncomfortable’ ‘a mirror whose only task is to tell me how lonely I am’ ‘smelling of something I can’t quite remember’ ‘hear the heart break of all of us at once’ ‘we are no more than the pain they throw to us’
After too brief a breather round two; ‘saggy baggy jeans’ ‘she took me to places others were scared to’ ‘the ears of lady justice plugged by the screams of white men’ ‘I find it hard to breathe when I think about the future’ ‘how much space does nothingness take up’ ‘the object of disconnection devalued your voice’ ‘this is just a voice’s journey’ ‘this art is not a luxury’ ‘don’t ever forget what your voice looks like’ ‘you are what I thought impossible’ ‘everyone ends up leaving anyway’ ‘their eyes said what they could not’ ‘we already labeled as little criminals’ ‘killing us while our hands are up’
If I’ve misquoted keep in mind I’m listening, making notes & getting my score ready. Many of the slammers lost points by running past the 3 minute 10 second limit, so some of the final scores were affected by those deductions. Defending 2017 winner D’Scribe won the trophy once again.
My Hot Damn! experience this month began with a workshop at Glad Day Books lead by D’Scribe that lead us through a fun prompt then on to various practical aspects of performing. There were some simple voice- warmups; talk about the use of volume, speed & hand gesture – ending every piece with a middle finger isn’t a good idea 🙂 There was time for some of us to try some of these techniques on one of our own pieces.
The Hot Damn! slam at Buddies was an enthusiastic, intimate. After after acknowledging the land and the debt of settlers to the original people of Turtle Island Charlie launched into the Hot Damn! anthem ‘Over The Rainbow’ on music saw. They talked about Soaring Eagle’s Camp in Toronto that is calling attention to indigenous people & justice.
After donning our selection for the moustache party Charlie gave us an exclusive sneak peek at their new piece “Daughter Of Geppetto” to debut at the Emergency Performance Festival #22 in Peterborough March 22/23/24. ‘when I was just a talking log’- Chopin’s Nocturne 9 #2 clearly played a big part in teaching that log to talk.
Open stagers and slammers hit the stage. I presented Terra Cotta (below) & Pleasure Shame (see my blog post of the same name) “I circle around your square like a tourist” “smelling the difference between rice & books” “lie of the moments as I write the story you want to hear” “two weeks with the company of your empty bed” “I unplugged your alarm clock” “drive the side streets of my heart beats” “dancing beneath the cosmos following the moon home” “when I was born those bodies were found” “thirty pounds of my life on my back” “I will love you though I never met you” “they live in the garden of a house that is a home”
D’Scribe did a energizing set that was often a barely controlled rant – spilling over with fearless & emotionally resonant pieces were about oppression of indigenous people, addictions & it ended with a fun piece about oral sex. “you can hear the break of all our hearts at once” “we are more than the pain they throw us” “silence rarely changes anything” “the news never tells us the full story” “pine needles eyes with a hint of hazel” “I kept drinking to find an answer” “still breathing but dead inside” “my biggest regret is not being good enough”
A rare tie for for first place sends two slammers to the season finale on April 6 at Buddies In Bad Times. The winner of that slam gets swell prizes including a trip to Washing DC for Capturing Fire in June. One of the features will be the amazing Witch Prophet.
The third season finale for the unstoppable Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam filled Buddies to the rafters. That this queer slam circuit would become so quickly establish & vital clearly reflects the power of poetry and the hunger there is for queer performers to have a safe, inviting, encouraging space to share their work. If you think, what the fuck is he going on about – trust me covert & not so convert homophobia is always present – in the local poetry scene.
As always Charlie Petch opened the show with an homage to the people whose stolen land we live on & then with the queer national anthem. No time was wasted before the open stagers (not in performance order) Fira Astrali, Niambi Leigh, D’Scribe, Ossian Maceachern, Shawna Dimitry, & Darcy Alemany (title of this blog post is from one of his pieces) tore up the mic with the first round of pieces:
black girls never win the Bachelor – Trump didn’t invent racism – I want to say best & breast comes out – saying I’m sorry more often than I say I love you – how much am I allowed to love you – I don’t speak the language of my ancestors – the nail is not a fashion statement – Justin: just in time for Time magazine – what right angle explains attraction – straight because I never had to prove I was straight – a love that doesn’t need to be gendered – you can be attracted to people of who are more than a single gender – sudden onset of requests for threesomes – this mouth keeps you warm at night -nthis mouth starts forest fires on Saturdays – this mouth tries not to remember – Dear Love, don’t find this creepy, but I like to watch you – are you the devil, is that why I worship you – I’m am not universal I am just here –
Next up was Queen Sheba. Can I mention the feature’s fashion sense without coming off as a typical shallow gay man? Whatever, as if I have a reputation to lose, right? She was fly in smart hat, tight red skirt & heels for days. Her pieces were powerful, funny, emotional & directly from the heart. – riding the rainbow – bruises as medals of honour – only as strong as out last execution – no place in a woman’s house is a hiding place, God will give you the gift but you’ll never know what it is until you open it – dive too young to know what a diva is – directly from lips to your curiosity – I cool-side-of-the-pillow love you. She finished with truncated version of her Period piece that was hilarious, explicit & made me grateful I’m male.
After a brief break Charlie launched the second round – her scrubs are dancing too – maybe that’s just my IV lines – I smell like a Wes Craven movie – he has lost most of who he is – our pain is not illegitimate – compassion was a childhood myth – still leaving myself in dreams – this is what a leaving hurricane looks like – lets talk the theology of the margins – better to shut up & pay the bills – one day you’ll be okay – edges of edges you wish you didn’t know – pray your medication protects you from evil – my God is made of the arms of my friends – no one deserves to pray alone –
I look forward to seeing winner D’Scribe wow them at Capturing Fire in Washington DC this June. Stay tuned for season four of Hot Damn!
on Friday I took in Queen Sheba’s writing workshop. One of the exercises was a free-write with a new word introduced every 30 seconds. This is my very incoherent product?
Plasticine Poetry always offers us a line up of excellent poets. This month was no exception. After a stirling set of open-stagers the first feature Nyla Matuk gave a set that opened with Don Draper’s ‘silk pocket square standing at attention’ and ended with ‘hyacinth like a limp handkerchief.’ Her works are tightly structured, filled with precise images (‘shark sharp waters rings Alcatraz’) and literary references (‘the hyacinth girl’). Language so layered one misses lines absorbing what one has just heard. Poetry that may work better on the page, where one can stop to mull and move on, but lovely to hear.
Next up was Lisa Young. Her work is loose, casual, emotionally compelling and funny ‘if you’re nice people think you’re stupid.’ Conversational phrases would be touched with poetic imagery ‘this is all there is … the taste of the new moon.’ A strong use of nature images ran through her pieces without losing sight of people in those landscapes. Loved ‘as if you keep your head low enough/you can avoid whatever comes.’
Anya Douglas started the second set. Her often untitled pieces were spare and precise ‘you stayed like snow/like tire tracks.’ I enjoyed her pieces about Russia – watching TV in a house that didn’t have plumbing – about her family’s early days in Canada. She has an emotionally direct way of talking about relationships ‘it’s not love I’m feeling/if it is/it’s not going to last.’
I’ve heard these three writers before and enjoy them more with each hearing.
Final feature was James Deahl. His history in the poetry scene is extensive. It was fun to hear his recollections of sharing an apartment with Milton Acorn. The pieces he presented were filled with nature – images (‘the wind like a silk scarf slips through the trees’) and the need to protect what we have . Loved: ‘the moon braves the razor of darkness.’ He presented tender pieces about his various wives with direct clear images that left me wanting more ‘her hands/ like water seeking their own level.’
Charlie Petch kept the show moving with patience, humour and glamour plus they are crazy for my ass, for some reason.
this is a new, and barely edited, response to a recent news story about eco-worship:
On Yer Bike
according to concerned parents
recycling is a tool of satan
to reuse repurpose is an insidious evil
that values nature more than the comfort of people
that to worry about the ecology puts jobs at risk
makes it hard for a god fearing catholic
to earn a proper living
to feel guilt free
when they discard their coffee cups
wherever they fucking want to
it’s a free world after all
they don’t want their children’s minds
to be sullied with the need to not waste
our dwindling planetary resources
after all human survival is in God’s hands
let’s take it back from the lawmakers
who are out to protect minorities
whose dubious sexuality
is condemned by the scripture anyway
anyone who recycles is not only a tool of satan
but an abomination unto the face of the Lord
only faggots carry travel mugs
only queers care about traffic signs
that impair the biblical right
to drive as fast as you want
get those devil bicycles off streets
after all it says in the bible
Jesus drove the money lenders from the temple
even if doesn’t mention the make
of the car he was driving
it doesn’t say
he told those money lenders to get on their bikes
to spare the air
Jesus wants to save your soul
not the planet
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