when the shackles come off

my therapist says it’s all about sex
i say no: what about god, and honeybees,
and sentences complex?

my therapist says which parent made you sad
i say no: this is not about mom or dad
it’s about hummingbirds and tap lessons
and being pushed off the dock
and that time i stole nickels from oh my god it IS
all about m
y parents

my therapist says you need to lighten up
i say light ain’t the problem; i’m running out
of guff about my happy childhood

my therapist says why do you
think you’re so cynical
i say cynical, schminical;
my father cheated my mother drank
my brother pimped my sister shrank
i’m the most well-adjusted leaf on the family tree
and i’m the one in therapy!
because i can’t go out at night
because i can’t put up a fight
i never pretended to be sweetness and light
but what a crock, this womonly plight

my therapist says let’s explore what you mean
i say this distressed couch could use a steam-clean; how many heads
have you shrunk here before me?
were they better at disclosure and paying your fee?
did they do their home selfwork re bad touch and strangers
were they unhinged, but sane now?
free from emotional pain now?

my therapist says that’s our time for today. next week
could we start sooner? you’re regressing
i say next week could we start with pills and rum? you’re depressing

my therapist says perhaps you should find
another couch; you’re growing more hostile
i say screw the couch let’s jump straight to the bed
it’s like you & sigmund have already said:
everything always comes back to sex
and don’t think i haven’t noticed the way you look at me

my therapist says you’re projecting
i say i’m really just self-protecting
my sanity, my tiny place in this world
it’s hard, you know, when you throw like a girl

my therapist says that is your time, now goodbye
i say thank you for nothing
now watch this loon fly

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BELOW THE LINE: i just found this on my computer in a bucket marked ‘drafts.’ apparently i created the file
back in november, but i have ABSOLUTELY NO RECOLLECTION of writing it, or what the initial prompt/context was, or which dog-eared notebook it was birthed into. does this mean the inevitable spiral into madness has begun?
or was the writing preceded by three very large glasses of cab sav? oy!
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a little pick-me-up from the spam filter (found poetry)

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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?

Wet Your Eyes

The Poetry of Water

Consider what water represents to you – symbolically, elementally, metaphorically – when viewing The Poetry of Water, a solo exhibition of 24 of my paintings currently on display at the Kaasa Gallery, lower level of Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium.

flower petal lagoon, acrylic on wood panel

Water refreshes. It has the power to calm us, cleanse us, mesmerize us and, literally, buoy us. Fundamentally, it quenches our thirst; we could not survive on this planet without it.

We talk of healing waters, and of still waters running deep. Water can also have powerful negative/destructive connotations: drowning, flooding, the turbulence of stormy seas, tidal waves, etc.
In Jungian dream analysis,
water represents intuition, emotion and the depths of the unconscious.
Water can also symbolize the womb, amniotic life, the fetal period.
In alchemy terms, it is the source of everything: prima materia. The source of water is the source of Life.

The wetness continues through mid-August.

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.

the gospel according to kandinsky

Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and … stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to walk about into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want? 

The more frightening the world becomes … the more art
becomes abstract.

Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colours, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.

— Wassily Kandinsky

 

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.