Etown Top 30: #2, Folk Fest

(This Top 30 comes to you courtesy of Edmonton Winter. It’s a list of things that keep me here despite weather like, well, like the royal blizzarding we’ve had this week. Today’s item is a true summer gem: The Edmonton Folk Music Festival.)

I lived in Edmonton for almost a decade before I ventured to Gallagher Park on the second weekend in August. Friends had gushed on about Edmonton’s storied folk music festival, yet for some reason I steered clear of it until the early ’90s.
Then I got my first taste … and have been hooked ever since.

Weather movin' in, main hill, 2011

The Topp Twins. Jennifer Berezan. Ferron. Catie Curtis. Melissa Ferrick. Janis Ian. Ani. The Waifs. The Nields. Serena Ryder. Sarah Harmer. Iris Dement. Long John Baldry.
The Stage 3 Gospel Hour on any given Sunday morning…

My fave year remains 1996. That heavenly lineup featured Jann Arden. Joan Armatrading. Laura Love. Roseanne Cash. The Flirtations with Suede. (One of my favourite FF workshop memories is Suede recalling being asked if the Flirtations ever played at weddings. ‘Our people aren’t allowed to HAVE weddings,’ she replied with a grin. My, how times have changed.) k.d. lang in a dashing white suit belting ’em out during the Sunday finale. (Garth Brooks was also in town that weekend, and he stole the front page spotlight in the local tabloid. Twice. Harumph.)

Other highlights from over the years: Mary Gauthier rockin’ Wheel Inside the Wheel with Buffy Sainte-Marie’s band. A Stage 6 folkapalooza with Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Nancy Griffith, Tom Russell, plus Greg Brown if memory serves (and it doesn’t always). The northern lights dancing across the eastern sky as the Indigo Girls closed out the 2002 festival …

Melanie and her son lay down Candles in the Rain

There have been amazing blasts from my teenaged past (Melanie,
Al Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez, Bruce Cockburn …)

There have been marriage proposals … and actual weddings … and a whole lotta flirtin’ in between. Oh yeah, baby.

Each August I heard things that caused me to race to the ‘record tent’ to purchase music by artists I’d never heard of and who now, years later, still feature prominently on my iPod.

Of course, I’ve missed a few folkfests here and there – we always seem to be out of town when Emmylou Harris drops in. And family commitments prevented me from hearing Joni Mitchell and Elvis Costello in ’94. Chris Isaak shuttin’ her down a couple of years ago? I was, I confess, too tired to stay around for the finale that year. But managed to stick for the return of k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang this year; another outstanding lineup from three decades of outstanding lineups. Other 2011 notables (for me) were Imelda May, Lissie, Angelique Kidjo, Lyall Lovett and Jeremy Fisher, to name just a handful.

Rather than gush on and on about how wonderful this festival is — I haven’t even mentioned the green onion cakes, chickpea curry, getting all folked up in the beer garden on more than one occasion, eating lunch with Dar Williams (still kicking myself that I didn’t have the guts to introduce myself and my partner as Jane and Amber), or the legendary tarp races of last century — I’ll just sign off with a gallery of snapshots from over the years.

why don’t dreams speak english

(revised for november 11, 2011)

why don’t dreams speak english
why do i crave coffee and salt
why can’t two or more lovers
vie for my affection with flowers
sonnets, chocolate, pearls
& boat trips down the seine

why don’t we hold hands anymore

why don’t we give people names to war games
like we do with hurricanes:
peggy sue instead of desert storm,
sam & dave
instead of shock & awe
(it might be hard to take all this fighting seriously
if patriot missiles were called emily
& soldiers were all called sarah)
why don’t we search with flashlights
for kindnesses
instead of with big tanks
for more things to destroy

why are my eyes so red
where have all the flowers gone
who knows where the time goes
does anybody really know what time it is?
why do i eat when i’m not hungry
why don’t i just sleep when i’m too tired to stand
when did i get so naive
when did i first practice to deceive
when did i let myself go

and what the christ happened to our prayer flags?

who’s in charge
who goes first
whose is biggest …

who won
who won

who won, dammit, WHO WON?

and

what does it matter;
everyone’s still so bloody scared

& can somebody please explain to the virtual jarhead
in the back of the room
the killer irony of lining up to buy a videogame
that lets us make sport of the brutality of war
on the eve of remembrance day?

where’s the love? / that’s your call of duty
where’s the love? / that’s your call of duty
where’s the love? / yes sir, that’s your call of duty

hell, why can’t somebody just invent a peace bomb?

and jesus

if there’s really a wise & loving god,
why does everybody look so fucking sad?

torontosaurus wrecks

News item, February 2011:
Toronto the Good ditches longtime nicknames T.O., T.Dot and Hogtown; dubs itself ‘El Toro.’
Dear Toronto,
Please refer to Seinfeld episode #175: You cannot give yourself a nickname. It must be bestowed upon you by others. As George Costanza discovered, when you try to get people to call you ‘T-Bone’ you end up being called ‘Koko.’

Ironically (or was it a cry-for-attention cheeky collective nod to Seinfeld?), ‘T-Bone’ was runner-up in the Eye Weekly contest that unleashed ‘El Toro.’
Whatever. Nine months have passed since CBC television host Evan Solomon, one of the celebrity judges, proclaimed the winning moniker has ‘a delightfully multicultural tinge.’ Right. So … Is anyone actually referring to Toronto
as El Toro?

Didn’t think so.
Love,
Spatherdab

ACT I
two bruised peaches on the subway platform
samuel taylor coleridge on the TTC
two new moleskin notebooks
to match your bergundy chick-magnet blundstones
whispering around the henry moore
gourmet popcorn on the menu at starbucks
*
man on crutches to litterer: you dropped something.
litterer: thank you.
man on crutches: you dropped something.
litterer: you’re welcome.
man on crutches: so why don’t you pick it up?
litterer: fuck you.
man on crutches: aren’t you going to pick it up?
litterer: fuck you!
man on crutches: pick it up!
litterer: go fuck yourself!
*
you miss chagall at the AGO by one week
dark green centre

lochhead . riopelle . borduas
shamanic art ^^^ automatist painting ^^ ahhhhh ^
canadian landscape (NFB movie
featuring a.y. jackson, 1941
you know, the year your grandmother
killed herself)
‘can paradise ever be achieved?
A) damnshit right it can. got some of it right here ahhhh ahhhh ^^^^^ ahhhhh ^^
B) not without modern appliances
*
robert motherwell says art = an experience, not an object.
general idea says poodles = “the hairdresser’s little friend”
(which of course = code for “SO GAY!”) ^~^~^~^
*
INTERMISSION
it’s obvious you’ve been wondering:
what is it about the poet brain?
what sets those sad captains apart?
is it hope?
belief in miracles?
in true love in daffodils in forever?

you may not be ready to hear this but the truth is
when we myopic fools finish deep wrestling with a particularly obstreperous line
or recalcitrant couplet
we more frequently than we care to admit
wake up in a strange hotel room days later
lying next to stanzas smeared with blood and mascara
exclamation marks reeking the sweaty sour reek of vodka
hungover commas retching into the morning-after porcelain
(which act of punctuational thuggery
tore the bathroom door off its hinges this time?)
the fetid stench of onomatopoeia
hanging in the air
like stale pizza
*
DENOUEMENT
oh look look at the clever hipster youngster
being wicked funny on queen street
‘donation? donation?’ he giggles, waving an empty coffee cup
under the noses of saturday night flaneurs and leafs fans.
the genius is wearing a $200 gap sweater and shiny italian shoes.
begging as a lark, it’s such a joke, will anyone toss a coin
into his blatantly un-needy cup?
(true homelessness has become just so banal …)
three blocks later another sharp dresser grabs your arm and asks for change.
no but i’ll give you five bucks for that leather jacket
— what? fuck. no. seriously, lady. i need it for food. i haven’t eaten in three days.
sorry.
— PLEASE! THREE DAYS!
you start walking away so he accosts the person behind you
with even more hostility in his voice.
— for food! PLEASE!
then he leans against a brick wall and (blatantly, defiantly) lights up a joint.
someone yells:
geez, pal, if you can afford weed surely you can afford a cheeseburger


5-star review for White Shirt

Nice to know that, more than a year after its publication, new readers are still trying White Shirt on for size. Lovely review posted on Amazon.com a couple of weeks ago by Rob Jacques of Puget Sound; here are just a few snippets:

Poems about an implacable determination to experience joy
Laurie MacFayden’s poems are bright, colorful splashes of language with highlights of rhyme and meter that capture human angst about love, youth, and yearning — boisterous, roughhousing, tomboyish poems. But for all of their energy and muscle-flexing, they have a wonderful, carefully crafted artistry that contains and balances their zesty play on words, zany metaphors and sexual exuberance.

“The collection opens with a poem that’s going to be anthologized for the next couple of centuries: ‘My Date With Jackson Pollock.’ MacFayden probably spent a year working out the absolutely magnificent, colorful linguistic twists and curls that exactly duplicate a Jackson Pollock painting, the poet bursting with the same highly charged, only partially contained life-energy of the painter. The provocative socio-sexual interplay between the narrator and the painter is an intense thing of beauty in itself, and the poem rewards discerning re-reading with fresh connections between paint and language.

“Poetry and humanity both need her lusty, never-give-up, never-stay-down spirit wrapped in masterfully executed poems.”

You can read the whole blessed thing here.


Lambda Awards: Spotlight on White Shirt

The good folks at the Lambda Literary Awards have posted one of my white-shirted poems, when lust and prayer collide, in the run-up to next week’s gala ceremony.

I’m still pretty much pinching myself at the thought of being in the same room as Edward Albee and Stephanie Powers. Kate Clinton and Katherine Forrest might not be household names to a straight audience, but Forrest’s Curious Wine is a coming-out classic to those of us of a certain generation; and many of us cut our lesbian literary teeth on her Kate Delafield detective mysteries. Clinton, meanwhile, describes herself on her website as a “faith-based, tax-paying, America-loving political humorist and family entertainer” … who has “worked through economic booms and busts, Disneyfication and Walmartization, gay movements and gay markets, lesbian chic and queer eyes, and eight presidential inaugurals.” She believes humour “gets us through peacetime, wartime, scoundrel time and economic down times.”

SPY LUST: In 1967 I had a crush on every person in this photo. Just sayin'.

As for Powers … what can I say? She’s mostly known as half of the TV show Hart To Hart, but long before that, right around the time I was becoming acquainted with Louise Fitzhugh’s fictional tomboy extraordinaire, Harriet the Spy, Powers starred in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. as a girl spy (GIRL SPY!) named April Dancer. Swoon.

Here’s the full scoop on the 2011 Lammys:

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee and Gold Dagger Award-winning crime fiction writer Val McDermid will be special honorees at the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards ceremony to be hosted by comedienne Lea DeLaria on Thursday, May

26 in New York City at the School of Visual Arts Theater. Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally will introduce Albee, and pioneering lesbian mystery writer Katherine V. Forrest will introduce McDermid.

Historically one of the most glamorous LGBT literary events in the country, this cer

emony brings together over 400 attendees, sponsors, and celebrities to celebrate excellence in LGBT literature.

“At this year’s ceremony, the Foundation has the incredible honor of bestowing its Pioneer Awards on the greatest living playwright of our time, Edward Albee, and on one of our great crime writers, Val McDermid, who will be coming to New York all the way from her home in the U.K.,” says LLF Executive Director, Tony Valenzuela.  “Lambda’s Pioneer Awards are important because they pay tribute to those who, through their considerable achievements and passionate commitment, have contributed to our literary community in significant and tangible ways.”

The Lambda Awards glamour quotient will reach a new high with this year’s stellar roster of presenters who represent a diverse cross section from the worlds of film, television, theatre, politics, religion, sex, and of course literature. Gracing the stage will be film and television actress Stefanie Powers, former New Jersey Governor and Episcopal priest in training Jim McGreevey, comedienne Kate Clinton, transgender photographer Amos Mac and feminist porn actress and director Tristan Taormino, to name just a few.

Immediately following the awards ceremony will be a VIP after-party at Chelsea’s Cheim & Read, the legendary art gallery that has exhibited Robert Mapplethorpe, Don Barchardy, and Diane Arbus. Louise Burgeois: The Fabric Works will currently be on exhibit. The performance troop Unitard (Mike Alboof the Underminer, Nora Burns, of the Nellie Olesons, and David Ilku, of the Dueling Bankheads) will provide their twisted and sardonic brand of entertainment.

“Everyone’s talking about Terrence McNally presenting a Pioneer Award to Edward Albee, but wait until they see Stefanie Powers present Best Gay Fiction wearing Alexander McQueen,” says Chris Shirley, New York City Host Committee Co-Chair.  “Our host, Lea DeLaria is a riot, and where else can you see Miss New York and Mr. Gay USA walk the red carpet then appear on the same stage? For the safety of our audience members, we may install seatbelts.”

Indeed.

I can’t wait.

I will also try to remember the words of a legendary football coach, who advised his players: “If you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

A Goldie Opportunity

White Shirt has been shortlisted for another literary award.

Last month my debut poetry book was named a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards. Today I received an email from the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS), informing me that the book is also a finalist for the “Goldies” in the lesbian poetry category.

The GCLS is a literary and educational organization “for the enjoyment, discussion, and enhancement of lesbian literature. Our goals are to support and strengthen quality lesbian literature by providing places for readers and writers to interact, to encourage and assist new writers and established authors, and to recognize and promote lesbian work.”

The winners of the Goldie Awards will be announced at a conference in Orlando, Florida, on June 11. I am unable to attend, sadly, because my presence is needed right here in E-Town that weekend at GOD LOVES WHITE SHIRTS — a reading featuring the two Lammy-nominated authors from Edmonton — Vivek Shraya (God Loves Hair) and myself. That’s on Sunday, June 12 (the front end of Pride Week) at Cafe Leva, starting at 2 p.m.

I WILL, however, be attending the gala Lammy Awards ceremony in New York City on May 26 with my lovely and talented partner. Thanks to the overwhelmingly generous support of our awesome friends, neighbours and loved ones, we earned enough at Saturday’s ‘Big Apple or Bust’ art sale to feed and shelter ourselves during our stay in Chelsea, and to even get ourselves back home again.
Heartfelt thanks again to everyone who helped make the fundraiser a huge success.

black, er, pink tie occasion for white shirt

Great news today – just learned that White Shirt made the shortlist for the Lambda Literary Awards in the Lesbian Poetry category:

White Shirt - Lammy finalist

“Finalists for the Lambda Literary Award were announced today by the Lambda Literary Foundation in Los Angeles.  Books from major mainstream publishers and from academic presses, from both long-established and brand new LGBT publishers, and even from emerging publish-on-demand technologies, make up the 114 finalists for the ‘Lammys.’  The finalists were selected from a record number of nominations.

“The awards, now in their 23rd year, celebrate achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing for books published in 2010. Winners will be announced at a May 26 ceremony in New York at the School of Visual Arts Theater (333 West 23rd Street).

“Lambda set a record in 2009 for both the number of LGBT books nominated (462) and the number of publishers participating (about 200), reports Lambda Awards Administrator Richard Labonté. But that record has been surpassed this year, with more than 520 titles represented from about 230 publishers.”

The other four lesbian poetry finalists, from 17 titles submitted, are Jen Currin’s The Inquisition Yours; Money For Sunsets, by Elizabeth J. Colen; The Nights Also, by Anna Swanson; and The Sensual World Re-Emerges, by Eleanor Lerman.

Other Canadians who made the Lammys shortlist include Edmonton’s Vivek Shraya for God Loves Hair (LGBT Children’s/YA category); and Zoe Whittall, whose Holding Still For As Long As Possible is a finalist in two categories: Transgendered Fiction and Lesbian Fiction.

Read the full story here. And you can order White Shirt by clicking here.

Q the Arts … and hop on the bus, gus

portrait/self/framed

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.
When:
Sunday, February 13, 2 to 4 p.m.
Where: Leva Café, 11053 86 Ave. (Garneau neighbourhood)
Why:
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.