Star Trek Subtext (Feb 20.12)

Got out to Plasticine Poetry Sunday night. I haven’t been to a reading event for nearly two months. Not since I hosted Plasticine in December. I guess that’s part of the aging process – my unwillingness to bundle up warm and then drag myself out on cold wet nights to spots where there is barely room to sit at a table, let alone have a place to pile winter clothes. Paupers offers a bit of space for that in their booths so one doesn’t have to sit the entire night wearing the parka that you don’t want to throw on the floor.memole15

No mic cord for the first set of open stagers & feature. But the room was good for hearing without microphone – though first feature Lynn McClory did have to move to centre of the room. Her set was, for me, a bit dry. I’ve never been a fan of poetry about language – her works captures emotional distancing with abstractions, language play and broken phrases.  As much as I like phrases such as ‘deftly indifferent to the photographs’ I’m not sure how one is deftly indifferent. I did enjoy the irony of her closing piece about the Silent Majority.

During the break I connected with Adam Abbas – he did a great pean to Cathy Petch when he hit the open stage later. Also enjoyed running into and then sharing my booth with one of the Toronto Erotica guys. Thanks also to the organizers for cake to celebrate the recent launch of Cathy Petch’s book “Late Night Knife Fights” – which is already into it’s second printing.PC070014.JPG

Jim Nason started the second set – he read from his recent book “Narcissus Unfolding.” The pieces had a strong sense of place – the ocean, a back alley – that felt grounded and were emotionally inviting to me. Images like ‘the terrible flame of your father’s hand’ made sure I bought a copy of his book.

Final feature was Beatriz Hausner. When I featured with her at Plasticine a few years ago she read several surreal pieces about sewing the perfect man & that book  – “Sew Him Up” – is now in print, so I bought it. The pieces she read from it were infused with a warm Latino sensuality the reminded me of my favorites Lorca and Arenas. She read some pieces from ‘Raccoon’ that were rich with magic realism balanced with powerful emotional response to the life and death of Amy Winehouse – a book I can’t wait to get.

I managed to get into the first round of open stagers – read a couple of comfortable older pieces. As usual the open stagers run the gamut of pure Canadiana nature poetry to closing with a Serge Gainsbourgh song.

samples

Here’s one of the pieces I read:

Star Trek Subtext

an all day Star Trek marathon

the original series on Blue Ray

weird space plants

funky 60’s retro-futurist sets

Kirk Spock Bones Sulu

(Sulu who knew you were

the real queen of outer space)

we had nachos   salsa

bags of sea salt-n-pepper chips

Hawaiian pizza   fried chicken

diet coke   real dr pepper

a 90 inch plasma TV

Trek in all its never to fade glory

as each episode started

we did a soprano unearthly dance

every time Scotty said

‘I’m giving it everything we got captain’

we’d eat chips as fast as we could

when Uhura said

‘we are experiencing interference’

we saw who could burp the loudest

every time Kirk took off or tore his shirt

we removed an article of clothing

(Strip Trek)

every time the fate of a culture

was decided by a kiss from Kirk

we made moony eyes at each other

until someone said ‘phasers on stun’

each time human emotions

were a puzzle

we asked deep personal questions like

‘who has the bigger dick

Chekov or that guy

with his face painted black and white?’

when any alien said

‘what is this thing you earth people call kissing’

we gave each other alien tongue baths

every time Spock said ‘illogical’

we did the Vulcan grind meld

by the time the marathon was over

it didn’t matter

that neither of us really liked Star Trek

we’ll never forget this Star Date One

…..

When I got home there was Sulu – George Takei – on Celebrity Apprentice – though I don’t think I’d want of these contestants to make me a sandwich.

dish

Yukio Mishima

Mishima is one of the major influences on my prose writing – one that no one might suspect. I discovered him way back in the 70’s reading about the filming of The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea. I quickly became obsessed – think of doing that without the Internet – ordering books through a local book store or via mail from the publisher.

little blue chair
little blue chair

I don’t know when I found out he was gay. That certainly quickened my pulse. I read everything I could get and tracked things down as they became available in English. Plus some biographies.

‘His first major work, Confessions of a Mask (1949), dealt with his discovery of his own homosexuality. The narrator concludes, that he would have to wear a mask of ‘normality’ before other people to protect himself from social scorn.’

Mask and Forbidden Colors showed me gay life far removed from North America and even though he wrote about a difficult and repressed experiences it showed me that gay was everywhere, so to speak. That I wasn’t alone in it. He also showed me that one could write about it without porn.

very blue door
very blue door

Although I was already a fan of ‘serious’ writers like Fowler, Heller, Dickens – Mishima was my first real experience of another culture, another world. His epic The Sea of Fertility made it clear that even a queer could write monumental, complex and engaging literature.

another blue chair
another blue chair

I was let down by the film Mishima. As much as I enjoyed seeing scene from his books on the screen it did’t seem to capture his spirit – not that I know what it is but I wasn’t there.

writing sample
writing sample

this is an old piece – written under the influence of Mishima

WordPress removed – for some reason – all enjambments & spaces

Chrysanthemum

The sword

as sunrise

Highlights

the water

Flash cuts of red

A silver bird

A black curve

At the vision’s edge

Cautiously circling

Hedging

Toward another perfect landing

A black curve

A slowly forming oval

Figures into connections

Linear sensibility

Practicing the new motion

The cutting motion

Of ends realized

I cage

With sun and steel

The silver birds

Hoping

To dissect their eyes

To find what they see

Beyond my sight

I know they see more

They feed from other hands

I will not rest

Till I’ve emptied their hollow bones

Of soaring fluids

I must know more

Than the aching birth of flight

I must feel more

Than the caress of turbulence

I must have their sight

A feathered rhapsody

In a shimmering celebration

Another perfect landing

On an endless spiral

Of consecrated breath

Breath held

As long as possible

Released

To line a formed cloud

I release the silver birds

They soar and shimmer

Beyond all edges

Black round flickers

Their eyes intact

They see black curves

They fly spirals

The black curves are death

A vision I leave to them

Till my own bones

Are so hollow

All that remains is silver

From within the cloud

A silver bird

Wings on straw bones

A floating airfoil song

A crescendo of invention

A moment of escape

A curve of celebration

For this perfect landing

The vision

as heartbeat

Reflects

the edge

Fresh curves of black

gull uncaged
gull uncaged

‘A shot rang out’

parking plot
parking plot

‘How To Give A Reading’

After doing and seeing many features at various venues – at cafes where it was two-for-one expresso night (the sound of grinding and steaming add nothing to hearing or doing a set), to outdoors where it was ‘let’s put the spoken-word tent next to the drum workshop tent’, to perfect theatre setting – I’ve come to some conclusions as to what make a set work beyond the obvious of being able to hear the performer.

First off: turn your cellphone off, wear comfortable shoes, avoid noisy jewelry. Cold drinks can effect the throat & make projecting more difficult – even if you have a mic you have to be heard. Holding anything in front of your mouth makes you hard to hear.

A glass of wine or a beer to loosen up is fine – more than that can lead to the need to go potty more than you might want – remember you want to meet people not be ducking into the can very five minutes. Fans following you to the washroom is just creepy.

Being organized is crucial. When I was using paper I’d print out a fresh copy of the set, in a font large enough to be read, (learned from one reader who had to hold his pages so close to his face only his eyebrows were occasionally seen – his font was tiny to save paper & save the planet). Plus his mouth was covered.

Reading from your published book might seem a natural thing but if the font is too small for you to read from it may be too small for me to bother buying to read – have a copy of the book to show, and use something easy for you to read from. For the Kindle I bump the font size up to 24 and convert to PDF)

Have things the order you are going to read it. When readers are shuffling through loose leaf pages, jumping from notebook, to a printed text or flipping around their book(s) to find the passage(s) they planned to read I lose interest as they lose focus on what they want to read next. It makes me wonder if their  book is as disorganized as they are.

I like reader who don’t feel the need to explain, or over-explain every piece. I say little allowing the pieces to speak for themselves, this lets the hearer get what they get without me pre-directing their understanding. If your section(s) take longer to set up with back story than they do to read pick something simpler.

An action scene with two characters – one location if possible – too many of either loses the reader. Conversation you can follow of the page. without ‘tags,’ may need more ‘tags’ when presented aloud unless you can do other voices well.

One thing is flow. I’ve seen too many features where the pieces were an unrelated jumble – not that the set has be all related pieces but I like some sense of connection that takes me along with the performer. So as a result my features have been much more thematically structured. When I decide on a theme picking the pieces becomes easier – all pieces about sex, about relationships, about crazed people, about growing up. I try to keep in mind my audience – what I’d read at Erotic Writers is not the same as what I’d read for, say, Crime Writers Of Canada.

Another thing is pacing. Have you ever got a cd that started out with some great stuff then turned to mush. I always love a cd that starts strong and ends strong, even if there is some mush in between. With my sets I start with a piece I love & make sure I have a great piece to end. I know if the opening piece is too strong there is no where to go from there – more of same only weakens not strengthens things. I pace the humor, the serious, the short and the long. Early pieces aren’t as sexually direct as later ones.

Try to end with incomplete action: i.e. ‘A shot rang out’ not ‘A shot rang out and missed them.’

I also enjoy a little animation on the part of the performer – not that they have to act out every line but I want a sense that they enjoy being there, presenting their work to us. Listening to Dylan Thomas I can tell he relishes the words he is saying.

When I have my set line up together I run though it several times to makes sure its paced right, that it has flow, and that it has going to fit into time limits.  Now that I’ve been using my Kindle to read on stage I no longer worry about big white pages blocking site lines 🙂

plotting machines
plotting machines
wall plot
wall plot

Spoken-Word Fur Trappers

Everything I said in my Facebook status before the show: “David Bateman more animated than Seth MacFarlane: Philip Cairns more glitter than the red carpet; Lizzie Violet more glam than any after Oscar party; Helen Posno more emotion than any acceptance speech; Duncan Armstrong – well, there’s always a sore loser.” Holds up the following day. Except, unlike the Oscars, there were no losers, sore or others wise, at the Secret Handshake Gallery.

o superman
o superman

The space is intimate, homey – well, being second floor of a townhouse gives it that homey feel. A poetry salon – with coffee, sandwiches available. Seating a random array of arm chairs, sofas & folding chairs. Always nice to give a reading at spot where people are there just for the reading – not for some bar to sell food & booze.

After getting my videographer in place I opened the show with the bulk of my Brown Betty set – I added two additional pieces and cut one as I was going through the set. Got laughs were expected but the set isn’t all that comic. Bullying isn’t all that funny.

can I get a menu
can I get a menu

Next up was Lizzie Violet. Not much to add since my last review of her – but she is always an engaging and warm performer. I enjoy her sharp relationship – non-bitter – poetry & the zombie p.o.v. She read a new piece about her Scottish roots – ancestors who fought with axe and sword – much like the heroine of Corpse Flower.

After a short break things resumed with Philip Cairns. I hear Philip regularly at BuDa but don’t recall hearing a full set of his material. He treated us to reflections on winter ‘today everyone looks like a fur trapper,’ changing relationships ‘someone I once had the hots for but now hate the fact that he needs a shave.’ His pieces about New Orleans & Jewelry Box are image heavy and rich with his pleasure of both. He recognizes that  jewelry can be ‘substituting for love.’

coco chillnell
coco chillness

Helen Posno closed the show with a series of untitled reflections – ‘if I loved you would the snow be whiter’ – repeated use of water, the sea, sun linked the pieces. I enjoyed the coffee passage: ‘I drink my coffee black – I don’t soften my life’  Ending with ‘underneath this punishing ice spring yawns.’

Host David Bateman kept things lively between sets with give aways and fun trivia questions. I sold some chapbooks, got my set recorded for YouTube and also an audio recording for cd release.

tweety and friend
tweety and friend

#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!!

#NaNoWriMo – gram

 

NaNoWriMo winding down. I’ve been doing edits on what I wrote on the first 22 days – which was when I passed the 50,000 word mark. Going back through that first week when I fighting to get to 2000 words a day and adding to them till they were all over 2200 at least. I put in geographic info I didn’t then have about the lay out of my invented mining town, physical descriptions of characters who became more important after they were first introduced. Seeded info that would become more needed later so that it didn’t suddenly jump out.

your Dad’ll pick you up in 5 minutes

I’ll keep at this tweaking till the end of the month. Past years I pretty much laid the work to rest when I passed that 50,000 mark. So I’m trying something new this year by keeping on pushing to the end of days. I will put it to rest till the spring so that what is there can simmer in my subconscious.

 

your grandma’ll pick you up in 5 minutes

I’ve been trying to get back into my usual morning flash writing – which has been 90% poetry but that flow hasn’t come as quickly as it has in the past – such is life. In the new year I’m going to tackle, what I’m calling the Bradbury  – Ray Bradbury – and try to write a complete story every week. I’ve been productive with flash fiction so it’s time to push that to the next level to see where that leads to.

one of your parents’ll pick you up in 5 minutes

nasampleBirk and Clancy went their separate ways when they arrived at St Agatha’s hall.

Birk and Jake Malone sat near the back with another of their lane way neighbors Jim McKlusky. Birk had never felt at ease when there were too many people talking at the same time. Seeing all these men not on the colliery site was almost like seeing some of them for the first time. So Digger Johnny didn’t always wear that same denim coverall and canvas coat all the time. He looked like a different person in a clean white shirt and grey trousers, held up by striped suspenders. If it weren’t for the heavy work boots Birk would have taken him for a store clerk.

Two of the union men were going along the aisles and talking to miners quietly.

“Good to see you here tonight b’ys” one of them shook Birk’s hand. “We’re feeling that this time we can make a difference.”
“We’ve heard that before.” Jim McKlusky said. “Birk here might be too young to remember the strike of 1918. What the fluenza didn’t kill starvation nearly did.”

The meeting got started with William Gregory, the union rep, reading off the contract demands, none of which management was will to discuss.

The men in the back row around Birk whispered furtively back and forth with comments about what was being said on stage. Having Alf Landon there added to the seriousness of the situation. No one was pleased to hear that here’d be government support for strike action.

He looked around for Clancy but didn’t spot him. His side of the room was the most restless and resistant to the fact that the strike would commence at midnight that night.

“Lets get some fresh air.” Clancy tapped him on the shoulder.

They went out to the front steps of the hall and there were several other men out there smoking. He and Clancy shared the last of the Manny cigarettes.

“You know what burns me up?” said one of the miners outside the hall. “The fact that we have to meet here in this mick hall.”

“Not as if we have anything over our side of the town.” one of them said. “Fraid they’ll get their boots dusty in Mudtown.”

“Can’t expect to do this at the pluck me either.” another said.

The men laughed. “If’n they did they would dock our pay for the wear and rear on the floor boards.”

“Yeh I know that but it’s not as if we get anything from Rome to keep up appearance like the good Father does.” the first man said.

“Like that niece o’his. Looks good even with that bump on her face.”

“Who you think did that t’her.”

“Maybe she did to herself.” Clancy said.

“Yeh. Tripping in the church on those things they kneel on and hitting face on one of Jesus’s hands.”

The men laughed.

“I know what a smack looks like.” one of the men said. “Gives my missus enough of them.” He added knowingly. “Only way to keep ‘em in line.”

“Shows you care enough for ’em too.” another said.

“So you think she’s … got some bloke from around here?”

“I heared she has a past, you know, from Boston. Maybe the good Father had to keep her from going back. Y’ know bring the hand of God to bare.”

“A priest? Nah.”
“Remember Father Peterson. Coached us in hockey one year. Man he wouldn’t hesitate to give any of a good kick in the arse if we didn’t do what we was told. He didn’t care if was orange or mick either. We have more bruises from him than we ever got on the ice.”

“Yeh, but that was b’ys.”

“Doesn’t matter to me now. I just want them at the mine to play fair by us.” the first guy said. “No more playing favorites with the micks. Right Birk.”
“What?” Birk had been listening but not paying heed. From where he and Clancy stood they had a clear view of Lillian sitting by the tea trolly.

“You like getting left in the pit while that Manny O’Dowell gets set up in the rake yard?”
“No!” Getting above ground was the hope of many of the miners. Did matter where they worked or even the work was harder.

“Better get back inside.” Clancy said. “Looks like things is getting to the important stuff.”

“Only important stuff is how much strike pay we can expect when we goes out.”

When they went back in Birk saw that Blackie had arrived. Men were standing to ask questions about the strike or make statements of their particular concerns.

Jim jabbed him the ribs and whispered. “Say something about playing favorites.”

Birk stood. All eyes the room where on him. He feet got hot and he was slightly dizzy. He didn’t recognize his own voice as he spoke and when he finished he didn’t even know what he had said.

“Good on ye, lad. That’ll get those micks in a stir.” Jim said.

There were angry responses from the other side of the room. If there was an answer from any of the speakers to what he said he didn’t hear them. He did hear Seldon from the company store say there’d be no credit if wasn’t working. When Father Patrick forced them to say the Our Father he got up walked out with Blackie and Clancy.

 

I thought you were going to do the pick up

#NaNoWriMo – a- gram Sailing past #50,000

Scrambled past the 50,000 mark with a week to spare. What am I going to do with all that free time now :-). The semi-structured approach I used paid off well. I got through about half the various plot points I wanted to hit in the story. There are still some major scene yet to be tackled as well – maybe another 50,000 words in fact.

study in white 1

Also there are lots of details skipped in what I have done already – physical descriptions of characters for one thing, and the lay out of the houses and the town. As I wrote the geography of the town filled itself in. Now I need a simple map of some sort to make distances and locations consistent. Who knew, when I started, that I’d need a dock, two churches, street names, railway tracks.

study in white two

I didn’t get to all the big critical scenes scenes I planned out – so I still have the strike riots, the mine collapse to do. Then there’s the emotional scenes to work through – our heroes realize they are more than pals, the female protagonist gets thwarted by one of my heroes & when she finds out they are more than pals that crap hits the fan. So miles to go.

Best part of this unplanned plotting are the scenes that revealed themselves: the coal damp disaster, the burning of the company store, the corporal punishment of my female protagonist. I also discovered the tension between the Catholics and the Orangemen of the town. Political conflict is always more powerful when there is also a religious under-pining.

study in white three

I don’t think I’ll wait till next November to get back it though. But I do want to do the final edits on Lazarus Kiss, my last NaNo novel, to get it smashworded in the new year.

nasample

“I knows one place where we can something to feed our families.” Jim McKlusky said. “We all do! The Pluck Me.”

“The Pluck Me.” the men took up the phrase and left the hall en masse.

“The Pluck Me. The Pluck Me.”

They marched in a ragged mob along Chestnut Avenue to the company store.

Clancy and Birk stood at the rear of the men. McKlusky was pounding on the front door of the company store. Two other men had gone around to the back to make sure the manager, Daniel Seldon, didn’t slip away.

“He ain’ going anywhere.” Birk muttered. “Too much stuff inside. He’d never step away from a profit.”

“Open up, Seldon. Man, we know you’re in there.” McKlusky shouted. “We don’t want to harm you. We know it ain’ your fault wha’s goin’ on but we have families to feed too you know.”

A window on the second floor opened. It was to the left of the front door. A woman’s head stuck out. “Dan’l t’ain’ here.”

It was his wife.

“He’s gone up to the big office. He was sent fer at supper time. He ain here.”

“Then let us in mussus.” McKlusky stepped back. “We means no harm to you and yours.”

“I canna let you in. It’d be the end of me. He dinna want this to happen. But he’s got no choice He’s sorry he ever let his brother talk him inta runnin’ the cump store. Swore it was easy money. But it isn’t. It isn’t. We has to pay for everything just like you do. Even if it don’ get bought and goes bad we still has to pay for it.”

Birk had never heard Mrs. Seldon talk for so long.

“In that case we’ll have to ….” he reached along the edge of a piece of the wood that boarded up the windows and gave it a strong heave. It creaked and started to come loose.

The other men joined him and the boards were quickly all torn off. The windows behind were shattered. Three men kicked in the door and they streamed into the shop.

Birk glanced at Clancy to see if they were going to join in the pillaging. Clancy grinned and mutter “Well, guess we might as see what tea they got stashed there, eh? Or you enjoying that lilac leaf tea?”

“I don’t know. Don’t feel right to me.”

He looked up and saw Manny O’Dowell struggle out of store clutching packages of cigarettes.

“If the mick’s are doin’ it I guess we might as well too.”

“Stop! Stop!” Mrs. Seldon was screaming.

Some of the wives hearing the commotion had joined the men in going through the shelves. One of them went to Mrs. Seldon and smacked her.

“You had that comin’ for a long time.” she said to Mrs. S. “Be quiet or we’ll tie you up and leave you. There’s more in the root cellar.” the woman turned to the crowd.

Birk and Clancy pushed their way to the dry goods, beans, flour. Things Birk knew his mother could make use of. With their arms full they made their way back outside. There was a flicker of flame near the rear of the store. The flicker quickly got large.

Men where pushing and shoving each other out of the store.

“Watch this.” Clancy put his arm load of cans down and dashed back into the building.

Flames spurted out of the roof. A baby was crying loudly. Dogs were barking.

Clancy came stumbling out in a billow of smoke. He was clutching two jars of penny candy under one arm and a crate of cigarettes under the other.

“Something for yer sisters. Something for us.”

“You …” Birk had been fearful that Clancy wouldn’t get out of the fire. “You got a nerve Clancy Sinclair. I real nerve.”

He saw a woman dash up the side stairs of the store that lead tot he second floor and into the building. She appeared moment later holding something and trying to shelter it from the flames. Her skirt was caught on the door jam and she couldn’t get it loose.

Without thinking he bolted up the stairs, tore her skirts free and rushed her down the stairs. Sparks showered on them as the roof began to collapse into the building. He could smell his hair burning as it was singed in the heat. There was some applause as he got her safely into the crowd.

She thanked him repeatedly staring into his face. Even darkened by soot he knew it was the priest niece. She insisted on getting his name. He told her. When she was waving the priest over he slipped away.

“Didn’t think you had that in you Birk.”
“Think I’d stand here and watch someone burn up like that?”

They gather the stuff they had taken from the store.
The crowd stood silently and watched the flames destroy the company store. Mrs. Seldon stood to one side sobbing as she rocked her baby.

The fire was still going when they went back to Birk’s house.

“Say nothing of what happened.” Birk said.

“You mean you playing the hero? It was a good thing.”

“I don’t care. There’ll be no end of it once Ma knows.”

In the kitchen they laid out what they had grabbed in their haste. Mrs. MacDonnell sorted through the various cans and stuff they had.

“I don’t know Birk MacDonnell. I didn’t bring you up to be … a… hooligan who’d take advantage of someone like this.”
“But Mrs McD what good would it have been to just let this stuff go up in flames. Ashes don’t do anyone any good.”

“Wise words Clancy. Rest assured those ashes aren’t going to do any one any good when word gets back to the coal company what was done.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Best wash off that soot before you go to bed. Yer almost as black as ya are after coming from the pits.” She smiled and rubbed Birk’s forehead.

study in white four

#NaNoWriMo – a-gram – POV tango

Not enough hours in the day during November. Just passed the 40,000 word mark in my NaNo project – I’m happy with the way things are flowing and that I’m getting words down without being overly concerned with getting the right words on the first draft. In some spots I knew what emotional content I wanted so stated it baldly. I had make it more subtle in rewrite.

not the little pink sock

The same with inserting my research material. I have lots of facts and info on coal mining in the mid 1920‘s but rather than going to it constantly as I spew word I can put in correct terminology later. I  remind myself I’m not writing a how-to-manual either or a historical thesis on social life of the time – this is fiction.

I haven’t been able to find a way to fit in all my research – some of it would, I think, take over or call for more attention that my story needs – there had been an influx of blacks from the Caribbean imported to work in the coal mines – there is a great story there and I think even alluding to it would be unfair to their story.

little pink sock?

I’m also enjoying how scenes write themselves. When the miners went on strike they, at one point, rioted and looted & burnt down the company stores. My male protagonist gets caught up in this and we see events for his pov. In a later scene my female pov becomes an observer of the fire – but I wanted her to become more active but how? – well why not a burning building with a baby inside.

oh little pink sock – where are you?

melodrama that fits the writing of that era – she rescues the baby but gets snagged on the stairs trying to get out – my male protagonist steps up and frees her – information I didn’t have when I started the looting of the store. Now I can go back to his pov to add that rescue.nasample

It was night when they came to the surface with the rest of their level’s day shift. Birk headed straight to the wash up room after he hung his work clothes on their hook and pulled them up to the ceiling.

This was when he moved as fast as he could. The first in got the cleanest water. At first he wasn’t sure where the blood in the bowl was from then he recalled the dust up with Clancy. Showed him this little guy can’t be dealt with that way.

He glanced up at Clancy who was opposite him splashing water onto himself. He was trying to wash the grime out of his red hair.

“Yer hair will be black fer’ver m’son.”

“Only those don’t know how to wash have that problem.” Clancy replied.

“Get a move on,” one of the waiting miners shouted. “Some of us got dust to wash outta our arse hair too, you know.”

The miners laughed.

Birk dried himself quickly and got back into into his overalls and shirt. He could smell the clean of the shirt. His body ached for that big bed. Ah yes that almost made the day bearable now that he had that all to himself. Something to look forward too. No snoring Geo to deal with ever again.

“Same time tomorrow, soft arse.” Birk gave Clancy one last shove. “Keep pissin’ on them hands too or ya won’t last the week.”

Jake was at the exit gate waiting for him. Birk couldn’t wait to to tell him about the new guy he was breaking in.

When he got home he tugged off his work boots and socks. Tossed the socks and his face rag into a bucket and poured water over them. He’d scrub them out in the backyard later.

Blackie was home sitting at the kitchen table.

“Gotta another new guy. Why do I always get’ em. Manny got that sweet job in the yard. When’s the union gonna do something for me beside taking dues. I shoudda had that spot, you know. That Red Mac never liked me much.”

“My fault b’y.” Blackie nodded his head. “Should a been a mick. Not yer fault he takes his direction from the priest. Manny was the priest’s pet. You know that. Probably told Red Mac the devil would get him if he didn’t do right by Manny.”

“What about right by me. I’s been there longer ‘n him, too. But I showed that new guy his place fast enough.”

His mother came in from the backyard with some carrots from their garden.

“Jus look at these.” She held up a some stunted roots. “Soil here’s so bad nothing grows. I tires every year and its the same.”

Maddy followed her in with some daisies.

“Thank you little miss.” Birk reached for them.

“They’s for Geo.” she hid them behind her back.

“I should a guessed. How long for we eat?”
“When they get here. Sheila bringing a fish stew she made to thank me for the cake I baked.” His mother wiped at the table.

“I’ll be above.” Birk went to the stairs. “How’s Sal?”
“Still the same. Sat up for a spell though to look out the window. Weather’ll be fine soon to take her outside for awhile. Sunshine’ll fix her up fast.”

Birk went up to his room. Before he went in he looked in on Sal. She was propped up with a couple of pillows stroking the hair of a rag doll his mother had made for her.

“How’s my sweet sister today.” He said gently as he sat on the end of the bed.

“Don’t” Sal flushed in alarm. “Don’t get that dirt on dolly.”

“I …” Birk stood and walked out of the room.

He splayed on his bed and stared at the ceiling. At least his room didn’t want to be rid of him like his sisters did, like his new workmate did.

He drifted off to sleep to be wakened by loud laugher from below. His brother had arrived with his new wife. Same old Sheila but new all the same. He went down to the kitchen.

Someone with his back to Birk was talking to Blackie. The someone turned around. It was Clancy.

“Good, great news come rejoicing.” His mother said happily. “Yer brother has found someone to board here. Say hello to Clancy Sinclair.”

“We’ve met.” Birk said. “Board here? Where?”
“My room,” Goe said. “Thas a big bed. Yer used to sharing it.”

“Yeah with me brother not some soft arse who thinks I’m no better than a rat.”

little pink sock happiness

Am I #edgy?

Am I edgy? At the recent Loyalist workshop, when my piece was being commented on, one of the women started by saying – “knowing Duncan when I saw this was his work I knew I was in for something edgy, out-of-the-box and funny and I was was not disappointed.” This woman later presented a great piece about street people – one dressed in pink tutu with matching feathers in hair, so she knows edgy.

To be honest I don’t think of myself or my writing as edgy. When I think of edgy Electric Jon or Cathy Petch comes to mind – but me, I’m pretty tame, right? Sure when I write about sex I’m direct, fun – often people compliment me on being ‘brave’ – I just don’t get it – I know my audiences pretty well – what I present at the Erotica Writers certainly isn’t what I’d present at a high school poetry class.

shadow of the snake

So I guess writing frankly about sex is edgy? Or is the matter-of-fact way I present these pieces what makes them edgy? I’m thinking – what do I find edgy to write about. One area is race and sex.

Watching a recent spate of Weismuller Tarzan movies on Turner I couldn’t help but notice the amount of nearly naked flesh on screen – particularly the many ‘native’ bearers and tribesmen. I recalled Saturday matinees when I was a kid seeing some of these then and realized that the erotic appeal of black men had started then – now is this a racist memory? Is this dehumanization via a fetish of blackness or just some adolescent male seeing so much man flesh he likes it?

This reaches its apogee with Woody Strode in Spartacus – magnificent – his skin shines like armor in every scene – this movie brings up the another erotic area that caught me growing up – bearded, burly men in skirts. All those sword & sandal pictures: from the Ten Commandments to Hercules in the Underworld (I longed for Hercules out of his underwear).

Loyalist hardcore work
Loyalist hardcore work

I love all those Biblical epics with nearly naked men everywhere, rowing the galleons, training to be gladiators, just hanging around the market place waiting for Jesus (often a bearded hottie with a dozen other yummy bearded men to party with) to show up. When I see these today I am amazed at the amount of male flesh in them and am not surprised at how they informed my adult sex objectifications.

Sure there were pretty women in most these, usually so pure they gave our hero reason to win, or so evil they had to be vanquished. But first they’ll dance for you. Always in definitive period make-up too – eyeliner, eyelashes and blush. Not to mention cleavage that I’m sure required post-dub to removed the echo of any dialogue said near the valley of their ample, yet perky, breasts.

So Hollywood made me the queer I am – is that edgy?

bookshelf – some assembly required

 

writing sample
writing sample

Slap Unhappy

my masochist lover wants to leave

I’m not causing him enough pain

he’s tired of merely being ashamed

of being seen with me in public

he needs more domestic humiliation

I reminded him

it wasn’t my fault he needed an audience

in order to feel the depths of abasement

that got him off

besides I have rotator cuff tears from

spanking him every time

the dishes weren’t cleared away fast enough

testicular torture

aggravates my carpel tunnel syndrome

tennis elbow from fisting

doesn’t get me off at all

the constant stream of abuse

I had to supply him with was so draining

I had no spite left

for people who really deserved it

like that asshole barista

who couldn’t make a latte

without a shake of cinnamon

I told him twice no cinnamon

and when it came with a dash

a sense of futility

flooded me with each sip

of that fucking latte

I had no choice but to go home

and take it out on my masochistic lover

but that wasn’t enough for him

and now my masochistic lover wants

to leave

because I don’t make him suffer enough

he feels I don’t care when I hurt him

that I’m not into the brick-weighted nipple clamps

into the cigar scarification

that I do those things with too much detachment

I ask him why my not caring

doesn’t add to his sense of being abused

isn’t it worse when the abuser

does it out of boredom

and not out of passion

once he packed up his latex

I slapped him goodbye

then shut the door

suitcase

@TorPoet
@TorPoet

Star Trek Subtext

Got out to Plasticine Poetry Sunday night. I haven’t been to a reading event for nearly two months. Not since I hosted Plasticine in December. I guess that’s part of the aging process – my unwillingness to bundle up warm and then drag myself out on cold wet nights to spots where there is barely room to sit at a table, let alone have a place to pile winter clothes. Paupers offers a bit of space for that in their booths so one doesn’t have to sit the entire night wearing the parka that you don’t want to throw on the floor.memole15

No mic cord for the first set of open stagers & feature. But the room was good for hearing without microphone – though first feature Lynn McClory did have to move to centre of the room. Her set was, for me, a bit dry. I’ve never been a fan of poetry about language – her works captures emotional distancing with abstractions, language play and broken phrases.  As much as I like phrases such as ‘deftly indifferent to the photographs’ I’m not sure how one is deftly indifferent. I did enjoy the irony of her closing piece about the Silent Majority.

During the break I connected with Adam Abbas – he did a great pean to Cathy Petch when he hit the open stage later. Also enjoyed running into and then sharing my booth with one of the Toronto Erotica guys. Thanks also to the organizers for cake to celebrate the recent launch of Cathy Petch’s book “Late Night Knife Fights” – which is already into it’s second printing.PC070014.JPG

Jim Nason started the second set – he read from his recent book “Narcissus Unfolding.” The pieces had a strong sense of place – the ocean, a back alley – that felt grounded and were emotionally inviting to me. Images like ‘the terrible flame of your father’s hand’ made sure I bought a copy of his book.

Final feature was Beatriz Hausner. When I featured with her at Plasticine a few years ago she read several surreal pieces about sewing the perfect man & that book  – “Sew Him Up” – is now in print, so I bought it. The pieces she read from it were infused with a warm Latino sensuality the reminded me of my favorites Lorca and Arenas. She read some pieces from ‘Raccoon’ that were rich with magic realism balanced with powerful emotional response to the life and death of Amy Winehouse – a book I can’t wait to get.

I managed to get into the first round of open stagers – read a couple of comfortable older pieces. As usual the open stagers run the gamut of pure Canadiana nature poetry to closing with a Serge Gainsbourgh song.

samples

Here’s one of the pieces I read:

Star Trek Subtext

an all day Star Trek marathon

the original series on Blue Ray

weird space plants

funky 60’s retro-futurist sets

Kirk Spock Bones Sulu

(Sulu who knew you were

the real queen of outer space)

we had nachos   salsa

bags of sea salt-n-pepper chips

Hawaiian pizza   fried chicken

diet coke   real dr pepper

a 90 inch plasma TV

Trek in all its never to fade glory

as each episode started

we did a soprano unearthly dance

every time Scotty said

‘I’m giving it everything we got captain’

we’d eat chips as fast as we could

when Uhura said

‘we are experiencing interference’

we saw who could burp the loudest

every time Kirk took off or tore his shirt

we removed an article of clothing

(Strip Trek)

every time the fate of a culture

was decided by a kiss from Kirk

we made moony eyes at each other

until someone said ‘phasers on stun’

each time human emotions

were a puzzle

we asked deep personal questions like

‘who has the bigger dick

Chekov or that guy

with his face painted black and white?’

when any alien said

‘what is this thing you earth people call kissing’

we gave each other alien tongue baths

every time Spock said ‘illogical’

we did the Vulcan grind meld

by the time the marathon was over

it didn’t matter

that neither of us really liked Star Trek

we’ll never forget this Star Date One

…..

When I got home there was Sulu – George Takei – on Celebrity Apprentice – though I don’t think I’d want of these contestants to make me a sandwich.

dish