A CanCon Christmas

I’ve been reading some great CanCon that is worth adding to your Christmas shopping or reading lists. 

 ‘The Dame Was Trouble’ is a collection of ‘the best female crime writers in Canada.’ This is a fun, culturally diverse collection, that spans genres: noir, supernatural, interplanetary & hard-core crime – edited for an excellent flow of styles & lengths.  Some read like perfect 30’s noir movies & some deserve to become star of their own novels; Kelly Armstrong’s Indispensable Ivy for one, & M.H. Callway’s hard-driving Grace is another.

Rosemary McCracken’s ‘Uncharted Waters’  continues the saga of Pat Tierney: Financial Planner. Much like Jessica Fletcher, murder & deceit follow Pat wherever she goes 🙂 This time she is opening her business in Toronto’s Annex & is confronted with … well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. Nicely plotted, it moves quickly with some humour & lots of Toronto. 

Peter Unwin’s ‘Written on Stone’ is also humorous, Parkdale is one of its Toronto location but the bulk of it happens in buses out of the city & in the wilds of Northern Ontario. One element of the plot is the nature of ‘authentic voice’ as perceptions are spun by various characters to support their view point. The language is richly imagistic, the characters tend to blend into each other & events flow in a non-linear way. Unlike ‘Unchartered Waters’ this is not a murder mystery and leaves the reader with unanswered questions.

I’d be remiss not to mention Heather Babcock’s “Dirty Sugar.’ Read all about it here:  Dames – Wiggles and Bates https://topoet.ca/2020/09/13/dames—wiggles-and-bates/ . All of these can be found on Amazon.

Finally a non-book recommendation. The song ‘Toronto’ by Bloodstone surfaced in my Tumblr feed. From the 60s it was well-produced with a semi- Chicago sound. I did a bit of a search & found it & the flip side on band camp. Apparently this was the only release by the band lead by Dee Long. The lp is a sweet collection of his song, some are polished, some are demo. If you treasure Canadian pop history you’ll love this set. https://deelong.bandcamp.com/album/1235

Do You Breathe

do you hear what I hear 

even when I’m not listening 

when I walk unawares 

through the streets

through the crowds

through the malls 

do you hear the infinite variations 

of footsteps clothing rustle whispers

cellphone chatter

do you hear something in that burble 

people being people

something that gives you reassurance 

life is worth while 

<>

or do you hear

dispirited distracted unfocused clatter

people looking for a way out of

something they don’t fully understand

yet feel they have no other option

than consuming depleting the bounty of the planet

<>

bounty of the planet

who do I think I am

drivelling out such a tired reflection

do I hear myself 

when I say such things

do I find it profound silly 

I’m not expecting to change any minds here

another shopping opportunity

another listening experience 

where I’m not fully attuned to anything

except the sounds of

cars slipping through slush dogs barking

glass breaking doors opening closing

coffee being poured

masks lifted for a smoke

<>

do you see what I see

when I look around 

dimly aware there are people around

the focus is on not bumping one another

but avoiding at the right distance

finding a safe place to look

that isn’t already an advertising nook

wrapped in earbuds mask

magazine on the subway

fearful someone might think

that casual glance at their shoes

is a violation of their person

stick to what is safe see nothing hear nothing

except what one can control

<>

if you hear what I hear

see what I see

you are too close

I don’t want to breathe

what you breathe

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Dames – Wiggles and Bates

Heather Babcock’s Filthy Sugar is a noir window into a Wanda Wiggle’s life in the 30s – the writing is rich in hard-boiled dialogue, descriptions & situations. Set in the Toronto sex-trade of the time it is refreshingly non-judgemental, funny & at times sexy. Wanda does sort of wander through what we se of her life – an opportunity, & her overflowing bra, take her into the burlesque world.

At times Wanda reminded me of Playboy’s Little Annie Fanny – a buxom gal who innocently engages in sex & yet isn’t exploited or emotionally scarred by it. Matter-of-fact as opposed to unsavoury or shocking. Wanda has this same attitude & is aware & in control without being manipulative (unless pulling gun can be called manipulative) or deceitful. Heather builds a world that is true to the times but still has an element of fantasy that keeps it from feeling depressing or hopeless, which I suspect those times were. Characters are well-developed, situations are real & the emotion level is also real – no melodrama here. Check out her excellent blog https://meetmeatthesodafountain.home.blog .

From the 30s we move into the 40s – I was lead to Betty Bates: Lady at Law by The Stiletto Gumshoe‘s blog. I ordered the collection of complete stories from Amazon. It is full size pages but sadly in black & white. She is a kick-ass female lady, public defender at one point, district-attorney at another point. She battles gangsters, spies, mad scientists & the occasional unsavoury miscreant. There are enough great plots here for endless movies & I’m surprised she never made it to the screen.

Perhaps she was too independent for the male movie moguls to consider. Men are either villains or irrelevant, even her love interest goes undeveloped. No sidekick either. She gets into & out of jams mostly by her wiles & her martial arts skills. The drawings are classic comic book. The story writers & illustrators changed over the years. Some years she might have been naked except for a line drawn for hem & collar.

The collection is sweet though sadly the scans are not in colour, as the originals were, which results in more greys & blurred images. Also with her is Miss America: gifted with powers of the Statue Of Liberty she – fights criminals & spies. Fun rah-rah America propaganda. A collection worth checking out. The The Stiletto Gumshoe is another excellent blog.

Hooterville

the one area I feel empathy 

for straight guys is 

cleavage

where are you supposed to look

when caught up 

in a barrage of boob

focus on her eyes if you can

and hope 

she doesn’t perceive 

the wavering flickers

as you try not to get drawn down

<>

it is easy to see how women 

become objectified

even when they object to it

how to pretend she isn’t pretty

that you find attractive 

attractive 

without being demonized

brow beaten by breasts 

for being such a beast

<>

there’s no way of making up for it

no apology

no affirmative action

removes the taint of having a dick

of having two competing heads to think with

of being faulted 

for thinking with the wrong one

regardless of which one is being used

berated being opportunistic slaves 

to base male instinct

all men are guilty

no way out no absolution 

to be hormonally driven dick heads

is punishment enough

<>

I have this simmering empathy 

when I get caught 

as they often do

in décolletage

try to make conversation

as subtle light shifts with each motion

as she pushes her hair behind her ear

try to focus on her words

try to ignore non-verbal communication

<>

I’ve never heard a guy tell a woman 

‘stop looking at my package

my eyes are up here’

yeah I know

eyes are the window to the soul

I don’t think either of us is 

ready to go there

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Roadblocks

Will there be roadblocks in & out of the Golden Horseshoe while it remains in phase one as the rest of Ontario moves on to phase two? How else can the rest of the province be protect from possible contagion? If I go to, say Cambridge, will I have to spend 14 days in quarantine before I can even get out of the car? At least I’m not worried about getting a hair cut 🙂

I have used Zoom this past week more than usual by attending the launch for Heather Babcock’s Dirty Sugar. The launch was smoothly run & well-attended. I’ll wait for the eBook before ordering it though. (https://www.inanna.ca/product/filthy-sugar/) Purging books the past month has reinforced my desire for empty shelves & to simplify 🙂

I have been attending recovery meetings via Zoom & enjoy them more now that I’ve learned how to ‘control’ Zoom. At first I loved seeing all those faces but I quickly became distracted by people’s actions while they were listening to others share. Not that they were deliberately distracting but their eating, grooming, stretching etc isn’t what I’m there for. So I minimize Zoom to audio.

I also only turn my camera on if I’m participating, the same with sound. No one needs to hear the TV, the kids, the dogs in the other room while someone is sharing. Maybe I have control issues but the sounds of people shuffling pages, cutting fingernails or humming to themselves is annoying. Some groups only allow mikes on when participating – which does cut down on that extraneous sound. Zoom Etiquette ebooks on their way 🙂

I’ve been posting a photo series of Ghosts. Places that have closed but some trace of them remains, usually the outline of a store name. Walking along the Danforth I’ve been many ghosts of the future. Restaurants with new ‘for lease’ signs in the window. At least one that had started to change to a fast-food chain back in February now changing to different fast-food chain. I guess takeout hasn’t created sufficient cash flow – though only doing take-out between 4 – 7 may not be that profitable. I’m have my camera eye on you ghosts of the future.

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The Soft Slip of Hot-Sauced Flesh

It was with anticipation & gratitude that I went to the Supermarket Grill to co-feature at the March – World Poetry Day edition of Hot-Sauced Words. I arrived at the grill with time to have a meal – excellent mango salad & a great burger. I glanced over my set – made some mental edits – with the Kindle it’s impossible to make actual edits. I was ready.

After greeting the warm, receptive audience host James Dewar set the poetry challenge for the night – a poem about the weather from the weatherman’s point of view. The show started with several strong open-stagers. Here’s a smattering of lines: silence as passing, the silence of keeping your mouth shut for once, text message silence, sounds like gunshots under the ground, bundled like ghosts, a wafer of desire dissolves, attention subway passengers there is a delay at Royal York – the operator has forgotten how to drive a subway, of the strangers one or two may be insane, an odourless glass office sits in it’s place, pale blue coat, pretty girls are often seen but seldom found. (this line gave me chills), I am the things thrown away, I’ll cover you with death, I’ll drain you when I’m good & ready, I’ve killed enough for one night, contented murmur of Friday evening diners, standing all the home with heavy bags, Hank who stank, murdered the piano musically to pieces, shivering from sun poisoning.

After a break, in which I sold enough chapbooks to cover the cost of supper – I was first up. I like starting with Almost Dead – it gives me a real emotional text to get my performance juice flowing, hits the audience with, what I hope is, a sharp social punch. Each piece worked well, for me, I could feel reactions to my endings. Chalk & Hard On got the expected laughs. Breaking in Grief is a bitter sweet emotional tone to end a set on – emotive in a way none of the other pieces try to be. I did what I call my ‘stand and deliver set’ – little talk about the pieces with just a dash of ‘in your pants raunch.’

After another break Brenda Crews took the stage. She is a dance & deliver performer – costume changes, wigs, a Martha Grahamesque piece – she was the opposite of me. The audience sure gots its money’s worth. Some lines: blanket of black feathers, she held the tide line in her hands, crazy old woman at the edge of time, she who turns life into art with her gaze, sunset spilling out of her eyes, seeking a freedom that is terrifying, the way we enslave ourselves, serpents of protection or do I hallucinate, the soft slip of flesh etched in stone, written in the night blindly.

This was followed by the weather writing challenge: who can say where the tornado’s toe will touch down, what was I thinking – I was think about the money, dark ruminations until spring, it was very cloudy outside the day we started to over throw the government, today we are in for a real shit storm. The winner was Zak with the amazing stach.

It was a great night. Heather Babcock and I created a glamour zone at our table. Brenda Clews was kind enough to video my set, which is probably on Facebook by now. It’s always good to have real proof one actually performed. Chap books were sold, even some paypal orders the next day. My next performance: if the prevailing pattern continues it’ll be another 3 years before any series will come knocking.

the video: http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2hm

Breaking In Grief

he talks of wearing

his dead son’s sneakers

bought a month before the son’s

step off into oblivion

new shoes a sign of hope

of a future planned for

not of a life too soon to be ended

they found the sneakers

still in their box

in the cupboard

worn once to try them on

designer expensive

too nice to toss or donate

so he’ll wear them

it gives me the creeps

practicality in the face of catastrophe

 

I visited home

the summer after my dad died

his death was sudden

it was the body that gave out

he didn’t go out of his way

to find that oblivion

I go through his clothes

to help my sister winnow out

throw out donate

to share some memories

I end up keeping a couple of jackets

that actually fit me

 

the shirt and pants

were easy to part with

most of the shoes too

my Dad was all business

when it came to shoes

his idea of comfort wear was

hard onyx red oxfords

there was a new onyx pair

only worn to try them on

they sort of fit me

very stiff and inflexible

never being broken in

expensive

I take them

 

I wear them a few times

then drop them in a clothing box

they don’t fit

right size but wrong shape

maybe that’s why my Dad never

wore them either

 

the life my Dad hoped I would fit into

was also the right size

but the wrong shape

I was unwilling to do the work

that would break me in

so it would be a comfortable fit

 

I meet my friend one day

he’s sporting wildly neon runners

these were his son’s

a year after the suicide

he wears them

knowing he’ll never leave that grief behind

but ready

to walk forward with it

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Noir leaves us lipstick smudged

Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir continues to run the bar staff at The Central ragged – even on a hot August night the space is crammed beyond capacity and with an audience reluctant to leave when the show is over.

snake this really makes want to get my hair done here

After a quick round of open stagers (including myself plugging Pinebow) spoken feature Heather Babcock read several emotional pieces. Her new short story ‘The Dancing Bear’ was full of sensory detail: ‘the sidewalk grey box of my apartment,’ ‘had a shot of whisky as I ordered another beer,’ ‘lipstick smudged straw of her vodka cranberry’ as well as clear emotions ‘it’s as if I’d stolen all of tomorrow’s pain.’ Sexually explicit as well the temperature rose as she read. (heatherrosebabcock.tumblr.com)

dolls I’d like to thank all the little people

Regina Dentata actually preceded Heather, then kicked off the second set as well. I’ve seen Regina a few times now, enjoying her more & more (at least as much as a confirmed gay guy can). Sensuous and focused she knows how to dance well even in the limited confines of The Central. Her second number was a more tradition strip-tease: glove peel, tassels. She does what SYTYCD does – takes traditional form and merges them with ultra-contemporary music – SYT will pair ballroom fox trot with Basement Jaxx. I’m hoping she treats us with some tassel twirling one of these times. (http://reginadentata.weebly.com)

Music feature Lacey Wilson was slightly hampered by sound system issues for her keyboard player. I first must declare that as an east coast guy I do have a bias for east coast performers, especially from Nova Scotia. She could have easily done the set without keyboards. She has a sweet, strong stage presence, a fine voice and strong lyrical writing. Her rambling rhymns and wistful longing brought Dory Previn to mind. Add a countryfied dash of Carol King in the mix as well. ‘alone in your bed at night,’ ‘you got my number/ but I ain’t got no phone.’  (https://soundcloud.com/lacey-wilson)

snowday that cold day in the park

The Pinebow peek I read was already slated for posting here Wednesday – so come back tomorrow for that. A word of warning about the piece I am posting. I’ve been working on prompts taken from the 108 Buddhist mayas – this one was ‘cursing’ – so the language is relentlessly vulgar, clearly blasphemous & possibly offensive to many – so don’t read it with any fluids in your mouth.

samples

Nuncle John

‘by the quivering tits

of the unfucked mother of christ’

I’ll never forget Nuncle John

he was a friend of my Dad’s

not an uncle

so we called him Nuncle

but no nun he

he would remind us kids

‘not by the quivering all-smooth nut-sack

of the unsucked dick of Jesus’

I never knew if people

were more shocked

than amused by Nuncle John

when he’d launch into a stream of cursing

he would often be muttering

‘fucking fairy’

‘useless bitch’

‘dumb cunt’

‘call that driving you fart fucker’

when he drove

glaring at other drivers

‘you using that stick shift on your pussy lady’

my mother would leave the room

the house

if he was coming over

his wife Mildred

would look simpering and apologetic

when Nuncle John

got caught up in a tirade

usually about ‘the stunned cunt Leafs’

or some ‘asshole licking mayor’

he swore without thought

it rolled off his tongue

as easily as good morning

ask him how he was doing

he’d reply ‘better than a hand job’

not that I knew, as a kid,

what half the stuff meant

but it lead me on my own voyage of discovery

‘there’s no such thing

as useless cock sucker’

he once said

‘if you’re horny enough’

I did figure out

the mother of christ

and the virgin birth

what complex vulgar blasphemy

it was a useless bit of knowledge

but his lesson on the use of cocksuckers

has proved itself to be very true

so even if he was ‘a pussy munching

unwiped asshole of a jerk off’

he did lead me to

more than few colorful turns of phrase

SAM_1101 airy condos

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Hot February Noir Night

Cabaret Noir with another packed-to-the-rafters show managed to melt all the ice and snow for an area of two hundred meters around the Central with a super-charged show Sunday (Feb09). Lizzie draws from a vast pool of sexy sensations who are also exceptionally talented (is it pc to say sexy sensations?).

christinegoodbye to Christine

Regina Dentata (aka Regie) brought a sweet flirtatiousness to her well-honed, playful burlesque routines. Her first few were, for me, closer to modern dance but she did incorporate scarves and fans to bring in some traditional elements. Her final piece was a glittery gown traditional pieces – glove peel to black lace undies and pasties. Her choice of music was non-traditional – no show tunes or sax vamps but choice cuts by Skrillex and even I Hate Todd’s Zombie Love. Eye and ear delight. http://facebook.com/Lady.CocoD

 pigeonsperched

I’ve heard Heather Babcock several times & each time am pulled into her emotionally complex writing. I like the way she combines direct sexuality with real situations and her use of dream logic transitions. A line like: ‘large hands slightly dirty as if fixing cars all day’ quickly gives us not only smell but a sense of who this person is. Read more by her on tumblr.  www.heatherrosebabcock.tumblr.com

spud?sweet street potato

I’ve also heard blueVenus more times than I can count & each time I am captivated by their stage presence, song writing & energetic performance. Andrea & accomplice Jessica Stewart did a fun and fierce set of great pop originals. Why aren’t these performers getting Juno nominations? Blue Venus is off to Australia next for a month long tour. check out their blog for some free downloads: http://www.bluevenusmusic.com

I did hit the open stage, but only to promote my up coming features at Plasticine this Sunday and Racket the following Friday. I’ll be doing two completely different sets – but more about that in my next blog post. 

samples

Focus Pocus

In one corner Helen placed her left hand on top of the television. She raised her right arm toward the ceiling, not straight up but at a slight angle towards the north-east corner. In her hand she held the hollow copper rod with the amethyst crystal at one end and the hercimer diamond at the other.

‘I call on the forces of magnetism … I call on the grace of the permafrost … ’

The three others, James, Karl & David stood in the other corners. They joined her to intone the final line of the spell.

‘We call on the righteous spirit of fair weather and foul to bring us all the known channels of the universe, now.’

The lights in the room dimmed. There was darting flicker of blue in a thin static-like thread that flashed around to all of them from the tip of the copper rod.

Karl collapsed. Helen took her hand from the TV. The screen came back to life. It was an Italian game show. People dressed in sponges were trying to climb a waterfall. The sponges filled with water & slowed their progress. James was transfixed.

‘Thanks Helen.’ David shook Helen’s hand. ‘How much do we owe you for this one?’

‘Let’s see,’ Helen put her copper rod back into her tool box. She added up the changes on her fingers. ‘First the calling – that’s $125.00. The focus of elemental energies is another $50.’

‘$50!!’ David said. ‘It was only $25 the last time.’

‘Takes more energy each time it has to be done. This could be the last time though. Thanks to your, uh, sacrifice.’ She nudged Karl’s lifeless hand with her toe. ‘This should secure your cable for at least another five to six years.’

‘That long? Well, then it was worth it.’

‘You gotta see this.’ James had changed the channel to a Philippine soap opera. Two naked men were in a punch out beside a bed. On the bed was a weeping woman with a huge mane of black hair. ‘This is something else. Only Earth channels I suppose?’

‘Dunno about that,’ Helen snapped the locks on her tool box. ‘I did call on all the channels of the universe.’

bookseBooks in the flesh

Au Noir at Cabaret Noir

Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir December show was yet another packed house for the Central and an unnecessary confirmation of Lizzie’s ability to put together a dynamic show, though being a part of the evening’s line-up I may not be impartial.

benchOpen stagers were many and diverse with an odd connecting image of drowning and the sea working through them – John Oughton, being drawn into a carpet pattern; Heather Babcock with a section from her novel whose heroine teasing invites drowning between her legs; Philip Cairns longs to drown in summer warmth; Cate McKim singing of the Dark End of Street where lover drown in shadows; Meagan Morison with her song about rising from the waters of difficult times. And that was just the first set of open stagers.scarfI was the first feature and felt that my set went over well. Even if it didn’t my shirt did (shirt Atilio by www.au-noir.com bought at www.wardrobeformen.com ). Because one of the features was unable to make the show I had a few extra minutes to fill so I started with covers of two Anne Sexton pieces. I had careful built my set around bitter-sweet memory pieces and then took it briefly to my brand of in-your-pants raunch. Candy cane and cock is festively naughty.

tee

After the break the slate of open stagers started with Arlene Peculan’s tsunami song; Neil Tenant paid tribute to John Lennon & also sang about rain (keeping up that water motif); Myke Mazzei reeled in a lost track from After The Gold Rush; Rex Havoc wanted to drown in Xmas hit song royalties; Brenda Fricker was drying out from a flood in her apartment; Vanessa ? swimming in the memory of why she loves poetry; George with a sailor memory; Evan ? with a section of his novel – a seaside dream sequence; finally open stager was Nelson Sobral with a chilly winter song but no one can feel a chill with him heating up the stage. (sorry about any mispellings of half-heard names. see below for list of open stagers supplied by Lizzie)

blueput your toys away

Final feature was Matt Gerber whose ukuele and kazoo combo makes me think of seaside boardwalk buskers. I first heard Matt Gerber in August of this year (see review) and was looking forward to hearing him again. There wis no flavoUr without U, neither is there msic without U.

  sample one of the pieces from my set

Wooden Soldiers

I always wondered what happened

to those presents the magi brought

gold frankincense & myrrh

were they accepted refused lost

put away for a rainy day

because I don’t recall Joe & Mary having a life of ease

while Jesus was growing up

did he ever ask about those presents

did he remember the magi

did he look at the myrrh

and think what the heck

how much gold was there

a few ingots   a darling little ankle bracelet

did he drum on the frankincense & myrrh jars

till they broke

and another thing what happened to lazarus

after he was risen from the dead

is he still wandering around cursing the miracle

eager to sleep to dream of being able to die

but mostly I wonder about the magi’s gifts

I don’t have any of my first xmas gifts

my first toy car

my earliest gift recollection is of wooden soldiers

I must have been about four

I’d found them hidden away in a closet

under some towels

I wanted plastic ones & was disappointed

but I have no memory of unwrapping them on Xmas morning

did my folks decide to teach me lesson

and not give them to me after all

did Jesus have a memory the smell of barns

did the sight of camels make him wonder

where is my gold mom

is lazarus playing with my wooden soldiers

seat

decnoir13

Set 1
John Oughton
Heather Babcock
Philip Cairns
Cate McKim
Meghan Morrison
Set 2
Arlene Paculan
Neil Trayor
Myke Mazzei
Rex Havoc
Brenda Clews
Vanessa Smythe
Evan LeBlanc
George Deagle
Nelson Sobral

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#secants and #underpants

The Beautiful and The Damned kicked off their residency at The Central with a packed house and a dynamic line up hosted by the incomparable Duncan Armstrong (modesty is not his middle name 🙂 )

airy bottom

First feature Brock Hessel blasted the room with an in-your-face, take-no-prisoners piece that trampled several Canadian cultural icons underfoot – from Jack Layton to Don Cherry no one was spared at the hands of his palm-reader/masseuse Joannne, who will earn your votes ‘one had job at a time.’ His other pieces were filled with hard-earned understandings ‘dancing alone in front of the mirror you used to take selfies,’ ‘you bookmarked the box you used to box me in.’

After the break DM Moore made an impassioned appeal for Tarek & John – two Canadians caught up in Egypt. Then Heather Babcock captivated the crowd with a polished image that suited her polished work. her first piece. ‘Where did my face go’ was delightfully self-aware & funny piece that acknowledge the power of looks while wondering on looking into the mirror where her face was gone ‘perhaps my nose is rolled up in a forgotten sock.’ Her fiction pieces were as direct, ‘as if layoffs were contagious and could be spread by eye-contact,’ ‘looking for a place in her bones called shelter.’

popping up all over the city

Music feature Nelson ‘SoHot’ Sobral, despite suffering from a sore throat, did a high-energy  set that left us wanting more (but we had to clear the stage for another show at 9:30). With his propulsive, crisp acoustic guitar he gave us a set of emotional, direct to and from the heart songs. ‘I’ll always be by your side, even when I’m on the floor.’ He harkens back to Fred Neil & Joe Walsh and is so hot he popped my cork.

red on red

The cork was on the bottle of champaign that The Central honored us with for the launch of the Damned. The staff was great, kept sound levels perfect, and kept our thirsty audience happy. Looks like the Damned has found a beautiful new home. Join us next month, October 31 for a scary scary night hosted by Lizzie Violet.

 

samples

one of the pieces I read at the Damned:

Square Root

 I wished him dead

every time I sat in his class

I wished he were dead

buried

not someone I had to face every day

I would only have to glance up at him

writing formulas on the black board

the drone of his voice and wish him dead

he would always call on me

to read out what he had written

I picture his brain exploding

bloody cosines gush from his nose

all over his spotless white shirt

I wanted a sharp steel edge on my protractor

to cut out his heart

save the class from algebra trig calculus

his stories of sailing

how he figured directions with his slide rule

die die die

so we can figure out the angle

to bury you

so your rotting corpse

will slump into your penny loafers

bones a jumble of secants and underpants

the formula on the board

meant nothing to me

it could have been written in flame

blah blah squared equals something degrees

my feet burning by the time I sat down

he would pat me on the shoulder

say you seem to be catching on

when I was really catching on fire

his abacus belt buckle at eye level

I’d stare at the rubble on my page

hope his hand would stay a bit longer

hope some of his knowledge could rub off

what was the angle of the dangle behind that zipper

if he were to die I wouldn’t have to wonder

about where to look when he stood so close

I leave his class

can’t remember a formula or anything

all I could see was that glint of belt buckle

and that wouldn’t be on the exam

on stage Damned @The Central Sept13
on stage Damned @The Central Sept13

#CircusRides and #RollingPins

As always PlasPo offered a great, eclectic lineup of readers for its February edition. Bitter cold outside but warm, packed house inside. Once again I got to do the hosting duties – seems Cathy Petch sometimes has a real life 🙂

ferris wheel anyone
ferris wheel anyone

First up was Damian Rogers – who showed us how ‘the bird of the mind returned to find it’s nest a mess’ but what a lovely mess. How to be happy includes ‘learn how to swing a rolling pin.’ Her pieces were crafted around wry observations ‘if life is a movie I sneak out for smoke breaks between shoots.’ Loved her memory of meeting with Robin Blaser – ‘the light freezes into ice cubes for our cocktails.’

She was followed by Rob Coleman who read from his recent book ‘Little Empires. The man likes his dogs ‘the knives of their lungs,’ ‘dogs breath of thieves.’ His pieces are personal, sometimes funny, often constructed around crisp images and alliterations: ‘a corolla of condemnations’ ‘shell of the new self.’

ready to go-go
ready to go-go

After the break Heather Babcock – looking sharp – read some flash-fiction and a section from a story of hers to be in an upcoming Descant. Emotionally demanding pieces about damaged people – a child’s unhappiness with her looks soothed by arcs of ‘red rubies’ that replace her eyebrows. ‘her man’s face was a fist,’ looking for ‘a place in her bones called shelter.’

Final feature was Sheila Stewart – ‘poetry is not giving up each other’ – I’m not a fan of poetry about poetry but lines like the above ‘verbs tensed in pleasure’ can speak to me. ‘The sky lifts making room for my mid-winter steps’ captured February for all of us. Her final piece ‘Sugar’ was a compelling contrast between the sweetness of sugar and the way it is harvested. It made it so clear how removed we are from where our pleasure comes from.

yeah! tilt-a-whirl
yeah! tilt-a-whirl

A dynamic slate of open stagers added to a great night, with good food, libations and creativity. Not to mention a host in fine form :-).

not porn!!
not porn!!