My Talented Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good Old Days

when I was a boy things were different

we’ve come a long way from those days

when there wasn’t anything to do

till the sun had come up

as there was no light allowed at night

stumbling in the dark

from one strip joint to the other

to listen to dancers in the dark

fleshly moist parts

pressed against your shoulder

the only part of the body

they were allowed contact with in the dark

now that we have light at night

it’s like going to the dentist

antiseptic and numbing

ah yes we all remember

those days when the only music

came from the slap of thighs

when the village women did the wash

as they whacked the dirt out of clothes

 

we didn’t have the worries we do today

then we worried about

how many smelt or moose

would the men catch

would there be enough

so that even a lad of ten

would have a fiver

to take to unlit strip bars

so the men could afford a soothing drink

to make up for the time it took

to wash the blood out of their hair

while the village women

whacked their clothes on moist rocks

to get the stain of smelt or the stink of moose

out of those rubbed-soft loose-fitting pants

that held the private parts

of the men they loved

those were the days when people loved

 

we had such pie in those days

small pans

so carefully tended in wood stoves

wood that we children had to find

we had to scour empty condo complexes

break off chair legs or hat racks

so we could be a part of things

so we could prove

we were good for more

than homework and giggling

because we loved to giggle

especially at the women

who spent so much time getting ready

for their shifts at the unlit strip bars

putting on sparkling fish scales

that no one would ever see

and the men hot and hollowed

would stagger home to fall asleep

on piles of wet laundry

licking their lips

waiting for the sun to rise

 

those were the days

when things were different

unlike now

when different

is just another brand name

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

kiss3

HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

http://www.queerslam.com

November 1-30

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Howl Ashes

One of the things I enjoyed about Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam   & Capturing Fire was not being the only queer in the room – in particular the only out queer guy. In most of the readings, spoken-word shows I went to for years I was the only one, apart from some queer women who would show up. So I found it rather ironic that when I was on HOWL this past week to talk about the queer poetry scene in TO I was once again the only gay guy on the show 🙂

Valentino pulled us together to talk some about our experience at Capturing Fire, as well as our participation in the TO lgbt poetry scene. The show include Cathy Petch, Tanya Neumeyer, Barbara Erochina & myself, as the token gay guy.

bluejohn

Johnny off the spot

Cathy Petch was up first with Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam news – on the Pride North Stage June 28. She read a terrific new piece ‘two little boxes/ short coffins of gender/let us lay you in one.’ She has so much coming up there can’t be an event she isn’t going to be at plus she’s putting together Hot Damn! season two. I’ve a listen: https://soundcloud.com/mzmcgee23/matthew

reddevil

casting out the devil

After her was Tanya Neumeyer talking about her new chap book ‘What Breaks Me Open’ (which I bought a copy of) & her summer workshops. ‘I’m so gay … when I have children they will be called queer spawn.’ The segue from Tanya to her partner Barbara Erochina was no surpise 🙂 Barbara read a perfectly chosen, edited on the spot, section from her Wrestling Girls … ‘I imagine my rib cage torn open like a gate to let Jesus in.’ Both with so much happening this summer you better to their web pages to check it out.

When I got to the mic I addressed Val’s question about reading queer material before hetero audiences. There wasn’t enough time for me to explain why I was leaving TO during pride week (the Loyalist workshop changed it’s dates to the end of June – I wasn’t avoiding Pride.) I did get to do a super fast read of Born to be Blown.

redhat

where’s the fire?

Valentino runs a great show at HOWL, asks challenging questions and apologizes like it’s an addiction 🙂 If you missed the show you can stream the show: http://www.ciut.fm/shows-2/spoken-word/howl/ from the player at the bottom of the page, or download it to iTunes, and listen to it whenever you like. Enjoy!

sample

the other piece I had in case there was time:

Ashes

he smells of coal

I know its a conditioner

an after shower lotion

to keep his skin from drying

into ashy patches

he smells of coal

but has never been in a mine

has probably never burned coal

the smell takes me back

to my childhood

growing up in a coal town

sorting a freshly delivered load

in the basement bin

picking though for rocks

that would pop in the furnace

scare my mother

when we moved out of that house

to one with oil heating

I never missed the smell of coal

until I met him

a tar dark skinned man

who held me with a cautious tenderness

he’d come from a country

were men of his sort

were stoned in the street

where women who loved women

could be raped with impunity

here he was still unsure

he didn’t quite believe he was safe

he couldn’t free himself

of the fear he grew up with

I cannot free myself

from the smell of coal

I grew up with the same fears

as he did

so when we meet

we taste the ashes of our pasts

soon02

June 21-26 – attending – Rosemary Aubert’s Workshop: The Novelist’s Selfie – Loyalist – Belleville https://www.facebook.com/events/965611026782246/

( I’ve registered already 🙂 I’m doing two presentations )

loyrocket

register now while there is room at the table

page 23 for details next page down for registration info

https://www.loyalistbanner.com/ceweb/doc/LoyalistSummerArts2015.pdf

June 26, Friday, 10:00 pm – feature – Pride 2015 Erotic Cabaret – Glad Day Bookstore, 598a Yonge St., Toronto

glad

https://www.facebook.com/events/630930370341697/

June 27, Saturday – 9:00-  Feature along with Alissa Vox Raw, Neil Traynor:  Hot Summer Nights at Hirut, Hirut Restaurant, 2050 Danforth Ave., Toronto

hirut

https://www.facebook.com/events/550898671715666/

September 3-6 – attending – Fan Expo

Expo15

( I’ve registered already 🙂 )

http://fanexpocanada.com

October 18, Sunday – feature: Cabaret Noir: Inner Child Sacrifice

noiroc

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pink

‘I’m some hole’

A sun thunder shower didn’t keep people away from the May Noir show at the Central Sunday night. The enthusiasm of capacity house wasn’t damped by the heavy rain as it stomped its approval for Lizzie Violet’s lineup for the night.

tossed02

time machine?

Open stagers added more than their fair share to the night’s fun with some fine acappella singing, insightful poetry & even a healthy dash of tres gay raunch (I wonder who brought that to the stage?)

First feature Valentino Assenza open with a couple of well-detailed urban Toronto pieces, streetcars ‘echoes of rides past’  & street corner signers. His set was filled with ‘echoes,’ of the city, of his boyhood summers in Molica, of mentors. ‘the wash and posh,’ ‘business blur of buildings,’ ‘I need you to smother me some relief,’ ‘don’t follow the text book trail,’ ‘playing possum with Buddha.’

tossed

moving on

After a brief break Christina Walkinshaw (http://walkinsauce.tumblr.com) brought the house down with her comic tales of Tinder (‘a Pez dispenser for horny people’) life & being ‘happily single.’ ‘smiling at a child in Loblaw’s is as good as being a mother,’ ‘some girls are wholesome, I’m some hole.’ The story from her blog was wry & taught me, one again, how hard it is to edit while you read. A great fun set.

blackcan

the noir throne

Arlene Paculan (http://www.arlenepaculan.com) closed the show with a sweet sampling of her well crafted pop songs. The great thing about a keyboard is that the musician doesn’t need ten minutes of tuneup before they can start 🙂 The songs she performed covered longing, love & survival. Catchy music and direct, emotional resonant lyrics – ‘I found that bad bad boy/ I trapped him in my broken heart,’ ‘lonely miles away from you,’ ‘I keep waking up to no one,’ ‘I’m stronger than you ever thought I could be.’ As usual she left us wanting more.

rough draft sample
rough draft sample

besides The Amazing (http://wp.me/p1RtxU-PE) I read this new piece:

Sex With Men

I have sex with men

I almost started this with

I sleep with men

opting for that gentler phrase

but the truth is

I don’t sleep with them

I can’t remember the last time

I spent the night with a man

I can’t sleep with someone beside me

 

I have sex with men

I like the kissing

but that isn’t a deal breaker

unless they want

to push on to more than

sucking

 

I almost said oral

opting for that gentler phrase

but the truth is cock sucking

plays a big part in what turns me on to more

the more mutual the sucking

the more that is possible

 

I said ‘more’

opting for that gentler phrase

because anal

I mean butting fucking

opting for that gentler phrase anal

is another way to distance you from what happens

 

I have sex with men

gay bi straight curious

single partnered married

with or without children

living alone

still living at home

as long as they are willing

I’m willing

 

willing up to a point that is

what I’m not into

I’m not into

I draw that line when I have to

I can say no

to what won’t get me off

I say no

because there is no gentler phrase

 

what works for you is fine

if you want to say ‘sleep with’

‘oral’ ‘more’

or sex suck fuck

it’s all the same to me

as long as you do it with me

because I have sex with men

 

 

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My Renaissance Teapot

I was walking along the Danforth on a sunny Saturday in 2015 and as I passed the Renaissance Cafe I noticed that the doors were wide open with Randy in the midst of a sell-off of the old cafe’s stuff – cutlery, china, menus – even the tables & chairs.

renpot01

Renaissance Teapot: 400 ml

The Ren was where I made my way into the spoken scene in Toronto thanks to the Cafe’s dedication to local musicians and writers. Even the staff were performers. I remember hitting the Cryptic Chatter stage way back in 2000 & how badly I had to pee the minute I stood behind the mic. By the end of the year I did my first feature there.

renpot02

Renaissance Teapot/ my morning tea mug 750 ml

I have so many vivid memories of people I met, heard and even still know today. Valentino Assenza, Kevin Fortnum, Jeff Cottrill, Cathy Petch, Cynthia Gould, Mike Bryant, Paisley Rae – to name a few – plus musicians Blue Venus, Arthur Renwick, Shawn Sage (he was the waiter the first time I stopped there for lunch), John Layton, Big Blue Sky. I have cd’s I bought there & always enjoy. Plus this where I first met Nik Beat, Norman Cristofoli – where the Renaissance Conspiracy was first hatched.

renpot03

Renaissance Teapot flashing its basket

I wrote lots of material that was first performed here. I came out as a loud mouth queer poet here. So it was a little heartbreaking several years ago when Randy had to close the cafe – poetry isn’t a money making proposition for either the poets or the venus that sell them their bottomless cup of coffee. I looked through the goods on sale and picked up one of the single serving tea pots. My Renaissance Teapot – it still had the the loose tea basket intact and even some loose tea leaves in the pot. I took it home, cleaned it up and polished it for a prime spot to remind me of good times.

sample

a piece inspired by & written & eventually first performed at the Ren – published by Norman Cristofoli in his literary journal Labour of Love:

Rimes of Ancient Drunks

got time to listen to an old drunk

well, not so old and not drunk enough

but you’ll listen won’t you

buy me a beer

and I’ll tell you your future

not that you deserve to know your future

because its the same future for all of us

listen

you won’t want to miss this

I’ll tell you  what you really need to know

that stuff in books

isn’t going to get you anywhere

words aren’t the answer

you think you know it all

well all you know is shit

are you listening

you understand that much don’t you

all that thinking and writing

isn’t going to get you any where

you know that don’t you

there isn’t any way out of this

even what I say isn’t going to mean shit

in the long run

it’s just a pointless chase

after something that isn’t even running

something that can never be caught

you following me – catching my drift

I see through the likes of you

come on buy me another beer

you gotta have something to share

I’ve more to say than you’ll ever think

no matter how broke you are

the morning always comes

a body needs a drink

a way out for a few hours

that’s all we really want

you getting this down

do I make you uncomfortable

can’t be bothered looking at me

is that the problem

you wanted a little quiet

to doodle useless words about

the way of  the misery in your world

that some gal is not giving you enough

some guy playing the same game

no way out of it, is there

not that I give a shit

you know that don’t you

that’s half the problem

no one gives a shit

they just want suffering to stop

so they don’t have to see it on TV

that’s the way of the world

you know that don’t you

and you

you think you have some notion

of a better way to live

yet don’t have the decency

to buy a guy a drink

well that’s the way of the world

that’s why I say what I gotta say

something you won’t ever hear

because something more important

is waiting for you

buy me a beer

maybe I’ll change your life

because you know buddy

it’s time for a change

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 Razzo Cavalcata

The November edition of Makin’ A Racket at the Rocket was a warm respite from the chilly night. Even without Deborah Kimmett, who bowed out due to illness, there was more than enough talent on stage with excellent (& a couple of perfectly raunchy) open stages and features.

slush02 get me to the Rocket

First up was extreme east-ender Greg Santos (http://about.me/greg.santos) from Montreal who read from his recent book Rabbit Punch. After his train trip here where he was ‘motionless in my seat/I chase the moon’ he read a set of fun, sometimes tender pieces filled with pop culture references from the Green Lantern to Taylor Swift to Daffy Duck.

In Hansel and Gretel – the children aren’t cast out by evil parents but ‘lured by their own desires/we were ready to die for love.’ His final piece tagged movie title with ‘We’ – ‘We The Wild Bunch, We Walking Tall etc’ After his train poems I expected ‘We Trainspotting.’

ice the river of ice

Next up was Valentino Assenza (http://valentinoassenza.wordpress.com) . I’ve seen Val many times but it has been a couple years since hearing a full set. He stands and delivers, his set was almost a master class in how to take the stage without being overbearing. Confident and precise he had the audience following every mood of his pieces.

The poems were emotionally resonant and hight relatable. Strong images – in Archer: ‘a life time spent making a mark.’ In memories of childhood summers at his father’s tobacco shop in Italy: ‘the sign says we speak English/but they never do,’ ‘the echoes of smoke/that was once blown here.’ Memory pieces enriched by the use of Italian. His slam experience surfaces with a fine sonic word play ‘bebops of bliss bouncing off buildings.’

slush01froze the pants off him too

The night ended with a fun short play by host Sandra Cardinal. ‘Graveyard Shift’ in which a phone solicitor has the tables turned in an unnerving way. A neat effect very Twilight Zonesque piece to end a great night at Red Rocket.

 

sample

ignorance

i did not know that

honestly

this is the first time

anyone pointed

that out to me

weird eh

all these years

and this is the first time

anyone has taken the time

to explain that to me

i can’t imagine

how i got along all this time

without knowing

no i’m not being facetious

or saying that what you told me

was so trivial

it was never worth

my time finding out

it’s just

that it never dawned on me

yeah

things will be a lot easier

now that i know

no

i wasn’t in denial

i was merely never informed

you know

like a blind man

who never knows what color he is

it,s all about whats relevant

right

and I’m certainly grateful for you

pointing out to me

something

that it appears most people

already know

it’s not as if we get taught

what we really need to know in school

which is where i was taught

the ignorance is bliss

and now my bliss is over

sunny-side sunny side up

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