‘Quieting the colonial hum’

 

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). 

 

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‘the knife of shame’

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.

My Own Devices 

when I came out

to my friends

I did it by stages

like – I’m no queer

but if ‘hot movie star’

wanted to have sex with me

I’d be willing to explore

but truth to be told

I jerked off 

to a bathing suit picture

of that hot movie star

who

decades later came out

 

when I came out to my friends

as fully queer

some were 

‘You know I’m not that way’

or

some never spoke to me again

or

got drunk with me & explored

 

When I came out to my mother

she said

‘don’t tell your father’

when I came out to my father

he said

‘don’t tell your mother’

 

when I came out

no one said

‘how do you feel’

‘what does it mean to you’

no one said

‘congratulations’

or

‘it’s about fucking time’

no one

at any point

engaged me in conversation

no one ever asked

‘are you seeing someone’

no one said

‘I work with a gay guy

maybe you’d like to meet him’

no one said

‘you must feel incredibly alienated

in this small-town hard-drinking

cis-hetero-red-neck culture’

 

maybe I was too stoic

not wanting to let anyone in

being queer was enough

without presenting

as weepy drama queen

I had to be man enough 

masculine enough

to keep up appearances

so no one would suspect

the emotional uncertainty

I was drowning in

 

I was told

that so & so

who was gay

had hung himself

or 

had stepped in front of semi

on a dark highway

told that by friends 

who never said

‘I hope you don’t do that’

who never said

‘if you feel like that

talk to us’

 

when I came out

I was left to my own devices

and survived

and sometimes

I jerk off 

to the memory 

of that bathing suit picture

of the hot movie star

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Ruby Red Christmas

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



http://www.queerslam.com

 

one of the horror pieces I read on the open stage

The Villagers

Anton was restless 

it had been a boring week

it seemed like ages

since they had stormed the castle

to stop the brain surgeon

who had transplanted 

criminal brains into spiders

which wasn’t as much fun

as the time the villagers 

had tracked down

the radioactive slime centipedes

let loose by the deranged 

unmarried woman scientist

she had hoped the slime

would restore her youth

but instead turned flesh

into hair then eyeball eating centipedes

 

Anton longed for the days

when there was castle

worth storming 

when fools who would play God

with forces of nature

would be forced to face the wrath

of uneducated villagers

the last time they had lit their torches

was to storm

the local coffee shop to force it to add

pumpkin spice latte to the menu

but that wasn’t as satisfying  

as chasing the giant 

bone-marrow-sucking mutant leach

into the power lines

to electrocute it 

that smell lasted for weeks

 

Dragos stopped him

‘Anton did you know

that the abandoned meat factory

that was once the asylum mortuary

has been leased to a Doctor Mortise’

 

things were looking up

it would soon be time

to open the torch shop again

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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So Over the Rainbow

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. 

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

April 03 – every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked)
 capfireslam.org 

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Hot Damn’s Pine Needle Eyes

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. 

Terra Cotta

he insisted

on terra cotta flower pots

not pots

planters

you know the kind big enough

for a …

oh you’ve heard this story

you know where it’s going

unlike the men

meeting him

they didn’t know where they were going

just that he promised

to take them somewhere

offered –

well I’m not sure what he offered

it’s hard to call that something sex

I guess I’m old fashioned that way

 

terra cotta is better for the plants

for the roots

it breathes properly

allows water to filter through

plastic containers trap the water

traps insects

plastic absorbs heat

the soil doesn’t breathe

 

neither do the men

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‘I Am Not Universal’

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?

The Caffeinated Dragon

the cup is a vessel

of unstoppable thought

caffeine sets off in its way

my conscious mind

can’t contain the words dancing

irritation on the page

spelling trips over its feet

trying to keep up

with the love of the flow

the place we go off the page

where I scatter

these steps skipping lines

with double dutch infections

the ship of schools

requires attention

I can’t attend to

not that the open window

distracts me

distances me

I know the page

isn’t a glass

yet I see through it to

food for the next

trip trippy world

to the next dance

each a pas de paradox

a menu of random improvisations

that call for bigger letters

sloppier writing

to empty the free flying feet

to the reading of the

window of the mind

under the eaves of distraction

the shudders

shutters

shooters in schools of thought

not caring

not daring

to find more

than the flow

of the caffeinated dragon

snorting the fire dance

sword dance

half-a-chance to catch breath

deep in the mines

not digging

dragging more

thoughts up the stairs

catching the eyes

that dread the dead end

the last drop of coffee

 

Chapbooks available: http://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

meandchap

#Judgemental? Me! http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2jn

https://capfireslam.org

check out these poets from  Capturing Fire 2015 & 2016

money

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