Q the Arts … and hop on the bus, gus


The last couple of months
have been bittersweet.
My 2010 ended with the sad, sudden death of a dear artist friend. Around the same time,
an injury to my dominant (painting+ writing) hand, followed by four weeks of a tenacious flu, forced me to endure a frustrating period
of creative dormancy — but also allowed me to stay inside and cocoon through more than a month of harsh, cold weather.
(Meh; the universe has its reasons.)

Thankfully, the paint pots
are flowing again; the pen has resumed its infernal messin’ with the integrity
of the blank page. 2011 has been very good to my inner crayon so far.
As the new year dawned, I was selected to be part of Q the Arts, Calgary’s first
queer arts & culture festival, being staged by FairyTales Presentation Society
and Swallow-A-Bicycle Theatre at the Arrata Opera Centre (March 5, 8 p.m.).
I’ll be reading about 15 minutes of poetry, including some of the queerer bits
from my 2010 book, White Shirt.
Other ‘Q’ performers include the Backyard Betties, Chantal Vitalis, Jessica McMann, Lindsay Brandon, Emanuel Ilagan, Travis McEwen, the Orton Sisters, Jamie Tognazzini/James Tea, Brianna Strong, and the electro-soul band Light Fires (a collaboration of Reginald Vermue/Gentleman Reg and James Bunton of Ohbijou).

A few days after all of that sunk in, I learned an exhibition proposal I’d submitted to the jury at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium (henceforth to be referred to as the Jube, for reasons of brevity) was accepted. Which means several of my paintings will hang in the Kaasa Gallery this summer (exact dates TBD, but my show will partly coincide with the Jube’s run of the hit broadway musical Wicked — ‘the untold story of the witches of Oz’ — which seems totally appropriate.)

POETRY IN MOTION: I have just been appointed co-ordinator for the latest round of the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s Take the Poetry Route project, which involves installing panels of poetry fragments inside Edmonton transit vehicles. As a car-less (by choice) poet who’s been bumping around in the ETS barges for more than 10 years, I’m happy to be steering this puppy. We’re throwing everything into high gear to get the first batch of verse circulating well in advance of PoFest 2011, which commences April 25.

KISSES AND KUDOS: In case you missed it, some fabulous writer and musician friends and I teamed up on Gypsy Valentine, an afternoon of steamy verse and jazz-hot/bohemian tunes, at Leva Cafe on Sunday. Mandie, Kelly, Amy, Karen, George and Lindsay deserve huge bouquets of long-stemmed roses and cinnamon hearts for keeping things on a sultry, sexy, slow burn all afternoon.
We’ve already lit the fire on a sequel (stay tuned).
And the days are getting longer.
Life is good.

ONE LAST THING: The lovely and talented Michelle Boudreau is opening for Cris Derksen at the Empress Ale House this Saturday (Feb. 19) afternoon starting at 4 p.m.  What’s not to love about that?

Get your lust on

This ain’t no namby-pamby cinnamon hearts & chocolate flowers couples fest.
This is Gypsy Valentine, an afternoon of smokin’ hot verse and bohemian music
at Leva Cafe on Sunday, Feb. 13.

Edmonton poets Mandie Lopatka, Kelly Shepherd and Amy Willans and I
will start the fire, accompanied by the smouldering violin of Karen Donaldson Shepherd and the Mediterranean stylings of Greek/jazz guitarist George Koufogiannakis.

In honour of our hot-blooded theme, the fine folks at Leva have created a food+drink special for the occasion: two 3-ounce glasses of house red wine combined with their fabulous artichoke/pesto pizza for $20.

My poetry book White Shirt ($16) and Kelly’s chapbooks the bony world ($10)
and Circumambulations will be available for purchase.

What: A caravan of steamy words and sexy rhythms
guaranteed to get your heart pounding.
Sunday, February 13, 2 to 4 p.m.
Where: Leva Café, 11053 86 Ave. (Garneau neighbourhood)
To drive the cold winter away; or as Stephen Berg so nicely puts it on his own blog, Grow Mercy, to “put the red back into your blood.”

About the Poets

Mandie Lopatka: For God so loved the world that She tossed equal parts Marilyn Monroe, Aretha Franklin, Loretta Lynn and Amy Winehouse into a martini shaker, jigged until Her Holy Hips were out of joint, and poured The Divine Miss M-Lo into the world’s most elegant cocktail glass. Johnny Cash could have used a friend like her.

Kelly Shepherd: The Clark Kent of E-town poetics. Underneath the mild-mannered reserve beats the heart of a spoken-word warrior. Master of the slow burn.
If a leaf falls in the forest, he hears it. Knows where to find the key that unlocks the door that frees the baby bird that’s been caged inside your chest since the beginning of time.

Amy Willans: Knows what it means to miss New Orleans. Shows you where to look among the bourbon and burnt sugar. Inventor of skin, bone, the colour red, piercing blue, black ice, white lightning and magnolias. Wrote the User’s Manual & Maintenance Guide for A Streetcar Named Desire.

Laurie MacFayden: Has a thing about red shoes, white shirts and cheekbones.

Gypsy Valentine: Not for the faint of heart.

creativity quote of the day

‘When I’m asked about my work, I try to explain that there is no mystery involved.
It is work. But things happen all the time that are unexpected, uncontrolled, unexplainable, even magical. The work prepares you for that moment. Suddenly the clouds roll in
and the soft light you longed for appears.’

— Photographer Annie Leibovitz

Alberta Views tries White Shirt on for size

“Laurie MacFayden’s White Shirt is the sort of garment that appeals
and reveals far more than it conceals. Love, longing, loss and desire
drip and swirl like the poet’s own Pollock-inspired cover art. Simple strategies
work well here: the Tower-of-Babel adjectival pileup that describes
one babelicious mouth in ‘dear life’ leads into other catalogues
and accumulations throughout the book. Once in a while,
as in ‘the knowing,’ the lusty shout turns reflective and insightful.”

Alberta Views Arts & Culture Issue, December 2010
(the one with Robert Kroetsch on the cover!)

Never out of style

White Shirt of the Week

‘The white shirt is now an omnipresent part of the fashion scene, a wardrobe staple
of the world’s most stylish women.’

Not to mention the world’s most stylish sax players…

I’ll be reading from White Shirt on Saturday, Dec. 4 as part of the ‘Book Lover’s Christmas Sale’ at Stanley Milner Library (Centennial Room, lower level).

It’s a Writers Guild of Alberta event, from noon to 5 p.m., and more than 40 authors will be on site to sign their wares, with more than 100 titles — plus CDs, bookmarks and other specialty items — up for grabs.

I’m slotted into a poetry trifecta with Alice Major and Peter Midgley from 2:30 to 3 p.m. The complete reading and signing schedule is available here.

White Shirt (Frontenac House, $16) has been long-listed for the Alberta Readers Choice Awards.


Beneath the White Shirt: Passion, tenderness, vivid colour

Lovely review of White Shirt from George Elliott Clarke
in Sunday’s Halifax Chronicle Herald:

“White Shirt announces itself with stunning cover art by MacFayden herself. The cover art, Allegra, its violent lashings and splatters of paint, testifies to MacFayden’s sensibility: Her work is ejaculations, vivid, colourful, clashing, all indelibly marking the white page. Her first poem, my date with jackson pollock, is explicit about this esthetic: “i want the spatter! but he’s / cleaned himself up / i want loose fields, / vigorous lines, angry smears!”(Come to think of it, MacFayden’s cover painting also recalls the black, yellow, red explosion that is the cover for Irving Layton’s poetry book Fornalutx. She also seems to share his admirable frankness.)”

Clarke continues: “There’s mucho — even macho — passion here. There’s tenderness, too, as when the poet recalls an exhilarating day riding 10-speeds with a girlfriend, the twain, “just grinning like hell and knowing that, oh man, we are best friends, we are invisible,
we are invincible, we are fifteen.”

White Shirt is a fine collection — especially recommended for readers who usually ignore poetry.”

UPDATE: White Shirt was recently long-listed for the Alberta Readers Choice Awards.
I’ll be reading from it on Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Writers Guild of Alberta’s Book Lover’s Christmas Sale, Stanley Milner Library (downtown Edmonton), 2:30 p.m.

a little bit sweaty

My debut manuscript, White Shirt, was one of 10 titles selected for Dektet 2010,
a 10-pack of Canadian poetry published by Frontenac House in honour of their 10th anniversary.

The books were released five months ago with launch parties
in Edmonton and Calgary at the end of April.

Finally, the Toronto leg of the promo tour is upon us.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, all 10 Dektet authors – from all over Canada, including myself, Jannie Edwards and William Nicholls
from Edmonton – will read from our books at Revival Bar,
783 College Street, beginning at 7 p.m.

There will be refreshments, cool people, and plenty of opportunity
to get autographed copies of the books.


“A bust-out-of-the-closet voice where occasional touchstone rhymes and furious lists score the page. The poems are stripped down, poignant, exact, and as heartily playful
as any serious blues. Here is Sappho crossed with the Supremes.”
— Jury, Dektet 2010

… at home in the canon of Canadian lyricism. — The Globe & Mail

In this debut collection, best friends scream downhill on their ten-speed bikes;
a tree planter spells out her lover’s name in seedlings; and a mysterious entity
steps out of the mist in Stanley Park. The author contemplates how best
to seduce Joan of Arc and goes on an abstract-expressionist date with Jackson Pollock. Like the white shirt in the title, these poems are crisp, seductive
and a little bit sweaty.

White Shirt / Frontenac House, April 2010

ISBN: 978-1-897181-40-9
Price: $15.95

Post-launch ritual

5 minutes avec chemise blanche

on the nightstand:

The Best Day The Worst Day; Life With Jane Kenyon by Donald Hall;
The Bruise by Magdalena Zurawski; The Measure of Paris by Stephen Scobie

on the iPod:

amy winehouse; eartha kitt; dusty springfield; chris knox; laura love;
j.d. souther; the kinks

what white shirt had for breakfast:

two pieces of whole grain toast with peanut butter and blueberry jam;
two coffees with homo milk; one glorious large and lovely purple plum


‘A poem begins with a lump in the throat’

~ Robert Frost

cufflinks of the week:

frontenac house authors dinner (tuesday); lunch with old friends at terroni on queen street (wednesday); hangin’ with family (thursday); art gallery of ontario (friday).

the gospel according to white shirt:

… she wants rowboat love
jungle sex
an end to the sunflower dreams
and a religion that lets people feel good about themselves
(sometimes, page 47)

dear mary o,

dear mary o,

the soft animal of my body is in crisis.
i went to the river and got turned back
by mosquitoes,
of all things.

i went to the forest
and got turned back by sadness.

i sat in the long grass
turned my eyes to the sky
and was blinded
by impatience.

it has been so long
since carrots tasted like carrots
and tomatoes tasted red.

my toes, too long in shoes,
forgot the forgiveness of sand.

the dirt under my fingernails
was replaced by ink
– which was not so bad at first
but it is hard to wash off,
and doesn’t smell nearly as wholesome.

your galaxy always seemed so much

even the flapping wings,
the hot buzzing of insects
possessed a stillness.

my galaxy is now – OMG! – so OTT
i can barely
stand it.

so: i have begun construction
on a new planet. admission is by invitation
only. no plastics, electronics
or genetically engineered food products allowed.

lichen, wolves, geese, snakes
and yes, mosquitoes
will be welcome.

fish and bees will thrive.
forests will no longer be sad.
water will be entirely

i would like you, mary o.,
to cut the (all-natural, organic) ribbon at the grand opening
of my new planet.

there will be hummingbirds
and singing
and frollicking dogs
and lemonade and

the soft animals of our bodies
will love themselves again.

we will dance
under the whispers
of the moon

and all of our masks
will come off.