This has been a crazy week.

It kicked off a little earlier than that as we wrapped up the regular season of Capital Slam.

That night didn’t go so well, as I wrote about on this blog.

When that went down, suddenly I was getting praise from various sources about being a ‘good feminist’ and having a willingness to talk about such things.

I wasn’t really expecting that, exactly, and that isn’t why I did it. Every time I hear praise for such things, it rings false to me. I say, “but what about all those other times, when I said nothing?”

In fact, you could easily argue that the people I called out were guilty of having bad timing (in addition to the things they chose to say) because they spoke at a moment that bubbled my ‘tolerance’ past the tipping point. The same thing happened when I was in a position to talk about safe space a couple of months back. Someone thanked me and I had a hard time with that, knowing HOW OFTEN I had looked the other way and taken the easier path.

No more.

I realized something as VERSeFest wound up… I bought a bunch of books this year, and see if you can see a common theme…

Elizabeth Bachinsky – The Hottest Summer in Recorded History
Karen Connelly – Come Cold River
Lenelle Moïse – Haiti Glass
Mary Ruefle – Madness, Rack and Honey
Sarah Clancy – Thanks For Nothing, Hippies
Souvankham Thammavongsa – Light

Each one is written by a woman. (Though I also bought the new issue of Arc Poetry Magazine, which presumably contains work penned by more than one gender…)

This doesn’t take into account that I desperately want the new David McFadden book, but it has not yet been published. I also already own Blaise Moritz’s Zeppelin and the 2 Dope Boys chapbook… AND I quite enjoyed a number of readings by male poets…

…but those are the ones I chose to buy. What is it that spoke to me with those readings?

I can certainly that it wasn’t the same thing from reader to reader. We’ll see.

(Though right now I am reading a Witold Rybczynski book called Waiting for the Weekend…)

So, amazing – though tiring – VERSeFest. I have enjoyed very much helping, in my small way, to put the festival together.

My favourite part, obviously, was the VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour ceremony.

Sandra Ridley did an admirable job trying to fit all of Amanda Earl’s accomplishments into an introduction speech. Amanda’s contributions to the Ottawa poetry scene have been immeasurable and her addition to the ranks of the honoured is well deserved.

When it was time to introduce Danielle Gregoire, it was my pleasure to do so. I went off script just a little to say how wonderful it was to induct one of my best friends and got a little choked up.In many ways, it was Danielle that made the community into a home for me. She isn’t who got me writing, but of course, the mark I have left is hardly about my writing and it was Danielle who asked me to be Collective Treasurer and it is working with her that I gradually turned into the Slam Master.

Sometimes she doesn’t get the credit she deserves AND our community tends to have a very short memory. It was wonderful… and just wonderful to have her back in Ottawa!

(Now it is time to start looking towards NEXT year…)

But, I was still busy.

Still on theme… some months ago I was contacted by Sophie Tamas about coming into her class at Carleton University as a guest lecturer.

The class: Canadian Feminism.

Of course my first question was… why me?

I had done nothing to show myself as being any sort of expert in feminism, that is for certain.

The thing is, I do consider myself a feminist.

There was a time that I would have made some claim about being interested in equality rather than feminism, in the same way people will claim that there is such a thing as ‘reverse racism’.

It is here that I am grateful for my years. As long as you keep your eyes, ears and brain open, as the years pass you learn things. I learn things all the time and plan to keep doing so in the future.

One of the biggest things I learned was the concept of privilege. And I don’t mean that I was TOLD about it… it was that I LEARNED about it. Recognized it.

The number of advantages I have in my life due to a complete accident of birth have been innumerable. It is like being born in a caste system and being marked as ‘better’ for reasons completely removed from my actual actions and words.

I have also learned to not take that personally. I am not a bad person for being a white, hetero-sexual, able-bodied, middle class male. But while that is nothing to be ashamed of, refusing to acknowledge those advantages (or worse, to actively argue against it) is extremely insulting to those who society has not deigned to give those advantages.

So… here I was… being invited to speak in a class on Canadian feminism.

Of course the ‘why’ was not because I was an expert on feminism. In reality, Sophie asked me to talk about spoken word, my background, its link to activism. They had been talking about body image and male platonic touch (which has inspired a poem… that I am not quite ready to unleash).

I was honoured to be asked. That class was last night.

I was SO nervous. I talked about going to my first slam and ‘hearing the call’. I talked about my story and becoming entrenched in the community. I talked about inspiration of different sorts and about choosing what messages you want to address.

I talked about how you can have a positive-activist mind-set without being an ‘activist’. I talked about using that stage to learn and teach.

I told them about the Kwissas and how changing how one person views the world can be every bit as important as changing things on a grand scale.

In there, at Sophie’s request, I performed a poem. I chose Angst as a reflection of why I do what I do.

Then I took questions. There was some great ones! We talked about honest emotion on stage. We talked about gender balance and inherent inequality in slam. We talked about the difference between expressing something you had WORKED through and something you were WORKING through.

Afterwards, Sophie had them doing a writing exercise, which I won’t get into here, because for some, it may have been quite personal. I was honoured again to listen to some of the student’s writing and to take part in their group discussions.

So, now what?

It was a number of interestingly timed events that has gotten my mind working, but what does it change? It doesn’t turn me into a crusader but my general thought for all of this stuff has for a long time been defined as “what you call politically correct, I call not being an asshole”.

But, one thing is certain, I WILL keep calling people out, when I think it is warranted. That isn’t ‘Rusty the Slam Master’, but ‘Rusty the Human Being’. When I think it is people who are making a mistake, I will talk to them instead. As I said before, life is a learning process. Sometimes we need to learn.

But not everyone is open to learning.

This week is VERSeFest and we are half way through. I have seen some amazing poetry, picked up some books (so far, Lenelle Moïse’s Haiti Glass, Sue Goyette’s Ocean, and Karen Connelly’s Come Cold River), witnessed the power of Ian Ferrier and Body & Light… and found myself fighting the urge to go find a corner and break down completely.

David McFadden.

I was not familiar with him coming into the festival, but that is not a surprise. One of the things I have done as part of the VERSeFest Organzing Committee over the years is keep my mouth firmly shut when ‘page poets’ are suggested as features, knowing that my knowledge in that field is extremely limited. Then I come to the festival and have my eyes opened by some incredible talent. I learn and grow. My library has expanded as I have left myself open to poetry… always a worthwhile feat. In previous years, it was Phillip Levine and Rob Winger who leapt onto my reading list. This year, as shown above, there have already been… four.

I say four while I only bought three books because the tome by David McFadden that I really want to get isn’t out yet. It is due soon and is called Shouting Your Name Down a Well. I will be buying it once available.

I wasn’t prepared for David McFadden.

As he was introduced, we were told that this prolific writer – author of 35 books and counting – was diagnosed two years ago with a form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

He continues to write and live with the help of his partner, Merlin Homer. His poetry was captivating and while some of his problems were apparent as he read, he fought through them and gave a masterful reading.

If you know me or have been reading this blog for a while you will know that my Father died last year after battling Alzheimer’s. You might also know that I have been dealing with anxiety about my swiss cheese memory. I have been assured that I am NOT facing any early signs, but that doesn’t change my fears.

It felt like I was watching my future.

Now this isn’t a despair thing, because I also watched how he was DEALING with it. Masterfully and with good humour and style. Also with the knowledge that it will get worse.

Yes… all the feels ‘as the kids say…’

Tonight is the Urban Legends SLam which shoudl be fun. Poetry is all things…

Well… where to start.

Let’s start with this one… this is my blog. This is different from the Capital Slam blog or the Capital Poetry Collective blog.

When I write the recap, I stay pretty neutral. I don’t talk about content very much and just give the scores etc. This time it was a bit different because it didn’t seem right to report on the night without commenting on the crowd reaction. Usually that means the big crowd pops. Tonight it meant hissing.

But there was more to the night than that… much more. I will walk through it as always… but if you don’t want to read what I think – full-out, unedited, then maybe you should turn back now. Free speech works both ways. I have informed the people I come down on pretty hard that this blog post is coming. This is not to open a debate (though if they want to, they can do so), but to make sure these statements are not ‘behind the back’ gossiping.

In a cartoonized expression – {in Hulk voice} RUSTY MAD!

““““““““`

So, this was a pretty big slam. This was the final slam of the regular season… of our TENTH regular season. I was going to be hosting and DJing.

An interesting thing happened right away. Normally at the last slam there is a mad dash to try and get the last performance in to qualify for the CapSlam semis. This year that didn’t happen. The poets who wanted to compete, already had and felt comfortable in their spots. Nobody was going to catch PrufRock for top spot (the only one who could have caught him mathematically was me, and I would have had to score a 29.7 to do so).

The sign-up list was light while the venue was getting packed! It was one of our best turnouts for the year, and we only had SIX slammers!!

PrufRock had signed up. Billie the Kid. Avonlea (who needed that third slam). Brainstorm, Playto and Omar (AKA Obnoxious). That was it.

Obviously that wasn’t what we wanted, so I rushed around and tried to figure out how to switch things up. So, Michel volunteered to host… but he had to leave early. DMP (who was one of our features) would also be the sac poet… AND take over as host after his feature so Michel could bounce. That opened up me to slam, giving us seven. Bruce Narbaitz showed up at the last minute and agreed to slam as well, so we got eight. Eight is good. By having each poet go through to the second round, we still had a full show for the audience. Good stuff.

Of course that meant I had to get ready to perform. Fast.

I decided to do Why Art? I ran through it… and stumbled a bit, but I got it back and figured I was good to go. I wasn’t concerned about winning… just representing myself well and having a good show.

The open mic had a nice highlight when a poet from K-W Slam named Julianna Gomez did a poem dedicated to slam in general and us in particular as CapSlam was the fist event of its kind she had been to. That was nice. (I wonder, was the K-W presence what triggered our first ever – to my knowledge – hissing reaction? If so, THANK YOU even more for being there!)

Then came the slam. Good poems. Good poem after good poem… but then, about half-way through, Omar came up.

I was trying to make sure I had my piece, while also listening to the poets and running the DJ board. Things seemed okay, so I was able to listen to Omar… and it was a very angry poem. That’s okay. I have a number of very angry poems myself. But then it turned.

He started ranting about the evils of women. I caught some stuff about porn and he seemed to be blaming women for his problems in life. Then (with what I would call hatred in his voice) said “feminists’ with venom… then he caught himself and went back to say “fucking feminists” with a real sneer.

There was a clear and audible hiss from people in the room. I have never heard that at CapSlam before but I know what it means. It is a strong way to express displeasure with a poem (traditionally but not exclusively a sexist poem) without disrupting then performance. I like that. You can say what you think while still respecting the poet’s right to say their words.

That is in retrospect, though. At the time, I was just mad. Listening to hate speech on our stage, which I hold as close to sacred as I get, had me seeing red. I try not to show my emotions during other people’s poems, because I AM standing on stage, as DJ… but I was fuming and anyone who could see me probably could tell.

I have heard things I didn’t agree with on that stage before, and I have spoken about them in this blog before. There was one occurrence where a poet said some things that were racist, but I honestly believed that he didn’t understand what he had done, so I spoke to him afterwards. He thanked me, seemed to have learned, and went on to become a strong part of our community, never performing that poem again. We had a case where somebody said something racist at our finals (which I didn’t actually hear at the time because I was prepping to do my own poem… and a really tough one for me as well), and we had fall-out from that. (I wish people then knew they could do something like hiss, so they could have their voices heard as well.) We had an incident where a poet said something that was homophobic on stage… he was doing on alder poem and forgot it was in there until he got to that line and clearly felt bad about it once he had done it…

In other words, these things will happen occasionally. The difference between some cases and other cases to me is when the poet understands what they did. That young poet who thought context made racist speech okay… he was wrong but didn’t know he was wrong, He now knows and has moved forward. But here was have a case where a poet was saying things that were specifically trying to insult and damage women. There was no misunderstanding here. He said his words in a spit of anger and vehemence. It was ugly. If any woman told me after (and there was more than a couple who DID) that they felt threatened by his tone and felt unsafe in his presence at that moment, I completely understand.

So then what?

I knew I could get called up at any moment. I tried to refocus and get my poem down. I couldn’t get through it. At all.

I decided to with to The Stranger. It is on a different topic but connected enough that it would make me feel a little better.

I tried to run through it, but nope. I still couldn’t keep my mind on the poem.

This could have been a big land-mine disaster for me. Not the most important thing in the night, but it still matters.

It turned out I got drawn last.

Right before me went Brainstorm. That was interesting because there was a certain tone to his poem. The basic content was very solid and positive about him standing on his own and refusing offers of help… purely his voice and good for him. Part way through, though, this repetition about being a ‘Real Man’ felt a little off… but I dismissed it because I thought my brain was being coloured by the previous problematic poem. I am actually not sure. Maybe I would have to hear it again.

Then it was my turn. What was I going to do? I wasn’t sure I could get through any of my poems cleanly and I wasn’t sure I wanted to let this go by without saying anything.

In my pocket were two poems that I was thinking of memorizing for semi-finals. One was the poem I decided to do, and the other was the full length version of Merchant of Salt.

I have never performed the three-minute version. I have done both the one-minute and two-minute versions but the big thing they leave out to get down to time was a section about men telling women had to act, live, dress etc. What I am talking about in the poem is men who do so with so-called good intentions, though misguided, but still…

As I approached the mic, I pulled it out my pocket, said “last second change” into the mic and started reading.

I never read at slams. I am not opposed to people who do, but memorizing is a big thing for me. I find it really important.

The crowd reacted strongly. Afterwards I had people come up and thank me for the poem and said they realized what I had done and why I had done it. That was nice. The scores were mostly good, but I didn’t really check them out. (There was one low one. I also got one low one in the second round. I guess one judge didn’t like what I was throwing down. That’s cool.)

I felt a little better.

(I felt WAAAY better after the feature. Sir Realist added music to his poetry in an EPIC fashion! Mind blowing. DMP was also awesome (though I wish he would throw more humour in when doing a set. His serious stuff is really good, but his funny stuff is as well! Let’s see some of both!)

With my mind settled a little bit, I focused on the second round. I took a look at the scoresheet and saw I was in second, behind PrufRock. (In fact, I just noticed that we were actually tied. My score was added up incorrectly. It didn’t change anything in the end.)

I still had another poem to do. With a calmed mind, I ran through The Stranger and had it down.

This time Pruf went first and did his Douchebag poem. Funny stuff. I was next. I started really quiet, which I find really effective on a loud night and following the highly energetic and entertaining Pruf, it worked well. I did my poem. People listened. It went very well.

Again, mostly good scores with one low one. I hadn’t done the math, but I figured Pruf still had it, which was all good.

The rest of the second round went down without a hitch. Omar did not repeat the tone of his first poem. Everything was good.

Well, it turned out that I won, by the narrowest of margins (we thought) with Pruf and Bruce behind me by .1 (actually it was .5… and Pruf had received a .5 time penalty in round 1).

That was cool. It was nice to pick up the win (and the cash prize) but it didn’t change my spot in the rankings. It was still Pruf #1, me #2.

Semi-finalists would be sent out later, but first we had our post-show Zak’s socialization and debrief. I stood outside talking to Brad and Nathanael for a bit so when I got there we already had a group of four at the table. I fit myself in between Jenica and Chris (Brainstorm) and Chris IMMEDIATELY wanted to take umbrage with… my second poem. That caught me off guard a little bit, because I thought he was calling em out for calling Omar out, if you get what I am saying.

Nope.

There is a certain set of phrases that he disagreed with. I linked to the poem above (I’ll do it again.. because you should really know what it says to understand this next bit) but the passage is “nobody wants to be accused of a crime or threat of a crime just for existing. To be judged based on your chromosomes with no possibility of retort. But this is a small loss compared to going through life as a walking target…”

Now to be VERY clear, I have no problem with someone disagreeing with what I say in my poetry. But the discussion wasn’t about my poem… it was about the idea that men should be aware of their effect on women around them, especially those they don’t know, compared to his assertion that it is unfair for men to be “seen as criminals”.

I pointed out to him in that it my story, I was never persecuted in any way. I was never treated poorly. I was never accused of anything. I just saw someone who was concerned and acted accordingly to allay that concern.

I don’t consider this some grand gesture. I call it “not being an asshole”.

He was having none of it. He said that by doing that I was somehow perpetuating the idea that men are dangerous. I see that as a crock. What I was doing was using my awareness to try to make things better for another person.

This is pretty much text-book privilege. Men don’t know what it is like to be worried about walking alone with someone they don’t know walking behind them. This is why my poem is structured the way it is… because my memory of how scared I was the night after I was mugged made me realize what that must be like.

Jenica (as the only woman at the table) tried to explain that feeling of fear and why it happens. Again, as far as I was concerned, he wasn’t listening. He seems to think that his right to go through life unimpeded is more important than hers (this hypothetical him and her). So, I told the story about why my story became A story. It wasn’t because of women who appreciated the sentiment. Not at all. It was because after it happened, certain men that I knew who I mentioned it to reacted with, “Why should I have to do that? She is the one with the problem.”

I was appalled. Keep in mind that this was more than twenty years ago. I am still appalled.

Let me make this clear. Nobody forced me to cross the street. Nobody ASKED me to cross the street. I did so to try and make somebody feel a little more comfortable. Chris thinks that this is a bad thing because it is somehow making men guilty. The logic is just messed up AND it just oozing with male privilege.

He insisted that we ‘agree to disagree’.

To quote a Shane Koyczan poem, “And you can’t agree to disagree, because they’re fucking wrong!”

We moved on. A little bit. Briefly.

Somehow we got on the topic of something someone else had said on Facebook. This person had said something that I found kind of bizarre, about women, and I engaged him in conversation. (I don’t want to say that what he said was offensive, but it certainly could be taken that way… well, I think it is, but when you are including religion in the mix… anyway… that isn’t the topic) But I mentioned that I inadvertently opened a can of worms because then some women saw the comment because it now appeared on MY wall, and reacted accordingly.

Suddenly Chris said, “That was your mistake. You should never defend women because they will never defend you.”

All right now… this was a whole different ballgame. Before he was arguing about my chosen behaviour. (Ridiculously, in my opinion, but hey… it’s my blog…) This time he was disparaging all women in a sweeping, insulting generalization. Jenica was mad, and I didn’t blame her one bit. What an blatantly insultingly sexist thing to say. So we called him on it. He started saying that his experience said that women will never help you when you need it, blah blah blah. This was pure, 100% misogyny. We argued with him for a bit and then just shut it down. We weren’t there to fight. This was supposed to be downtime.

The conversation changed but it was soon clear that Jenica was very upset. (Again, I do not blame her at all. I wanted to tell Chris to get the fuck out of there… but that isn’t my way.) She told Bruce and I, quietly, that she thought she wanted to leave. She was looking up her bus schedule. We supported her. Bruce offered to pay for her food (that hadn’t arrived yet). I told her that I could give her a ride home, but I had to wait until Ruthanne got there with the car (she was at a friend’s in Lanark County). Either way, we supported her decision. Very quickly she smiled and said that she felt okay and would stay. She said afterwords that the fact that we supported her made her feel better. (And I wouldn’t even be mentioning these things at all, except she already shared as much on Facebook and I feel okay that I am not divulging anything she would not want revealed.)

I turned my body, kind of cutting the booth in half, and Jenica, Bruce and I went on having a nice conversation and enjoying what was left of the evening, without having to put up with an assault on her gender. (I felt kind of bad for Daniel, who was left out in the same manner, but there wasn’t a whole lot we could do at that point, due to the geography of the situation.

Eventually Daniel and Chris left to catch the bus. We waited until Ruthanne got there so we could give Jenica that promised ride home and that was that.

Now, some people are going to be unhappy that I wrote all this. Maybe Omar and Chris for two, but also other people. Well here is the thing… I believe in free speech, including THEIR free speech. Go ahead and say what you want to say. The thing is, some people think free speech means speech with no consequences. That is where we disagree. Say what you want to to say and then be prepared for people to judge you for it. If people are going to say things that are misogynistic, then I am going to judge you by the words you say. Period. Now you can do the same to me. Am I a bleeding-heart, small-L liberal who is overly judgemental? I can live with that.

What a weekend…

Rollercoaster doesn’t begin to describe it…

Okay, let’s start with the CIPS Qualifier…

Last year, I chose to not compete. I hosted the show and it was a lot of fun. I just didn’t have the shorter poems available and I was really focused on the CapSlam post-season so I wasn’t prepared for it…

…but what an incredibly exciting and fun show!

So this year, I wanted to do it. I knew that I had a good one minute poem (Merchant of Salt), and I knew I had good three minute poems, so the challenge was filling the other two spots.

The first of those spots that I filled was the four-minute spot. I thought about taking an exisiting poem and expanding it. The first thing that popped into mind was 1968. Near the end, I quote an Otis Redding song and I decided to expand on that a little and actually sing a few lines.

The thing is, I don’t tend to go a full three minutes in my poems, so when I timed it, it was still 3:09. I practiced giving it a little space and it turned into about 3:20 or so.

Then came the New Shirt Slam. I had an inspiration for that and wrote a new one-minute poem (‘The Itsy-Bitsy Spider’). I decided that I would rather oo that piece than Merchant of Salt.

I still needed a two-minute poem. I tried a couple of times to write something from scratch, but they kept wanting to be longer.

Finally, I remembered something… Merchant of Salt wasn’t a one-minute poem originally. It was a three-minute poem that didn’t go exactly the way I wanted so I cut it down. What if I were to go back and see what else from the three-minute version could be salvaged. I did, and there was quite a bit of good stuff in there. Some judicious rewriting and bam, a two-minute poem.

I just had to pick a three-minute piece. I went back to my infamous spreadsheet and grabbed my current best-performing poem – Blue, Black or Red. I think Angst is a better poem but I held that one for that potential play-off like happened last year when Nate and Kay’la were tied after Round four.

I practiced. I did a dry run out at Lanark County’s 1-2-3 Slam. That went very well.

I was ready.

Then last week happened.

I can’t and won’t go into any details, but last week became a big stress ball, for reasons that had nothing directly to do with the slam on Saturday. That carried over to Saturday itself and by the time I was past the initial stressors (but not the on-going effects of them), I barely had time to go home, grab some food, and Ruthanne and I had to get to the venue for the show.

I had been very prepared, but that wa shot. I was emotionally vulnerable, tired, drained, and not in the best mind-set for the slam.

Then came the slam. The first thing that happened was that the judges started out very harsh. While score-creep was not huge THROUGHOUT the show, it was certainly a big factor for whomever came out of that hat first.

It was Kay’la. She got straight up robbed in the first round. She did a great poem and the audience loved it… and I think the judges did too, but score creep nearly did her in.

I went up 6th out of 12… a pretty good spot. I had been wavering on which poem to do in the first round. I considered switching to Angst, but in the end I stuck with Blue, Black or Red. It went… well enough. It did what it had to do. For this slam, each round was fresh scores, so I only needed to make top 9 in the first round. I think I was 5th or 6th. (Side note: Brad kicked ass in the first round. Nate was the top scorer… but he was the top score in all four rounds. He was a monster that night.)

We had a break and discovered that due to a tie between Kay’la and Kay Kassirer for ninth, ten poets would go on to the one-minute round.

That made things tougher as four poets would be eliminated from the one-minute round.

Now, I need to be honest about what my goals had been for this slam. I wasn’t sure I wanted to win. I was going to do my best to win and if I won, I was going to put my all into CIPS… but that probably meant NOT putting my all into making the CapSlam team. That was the issue.
However, I had worked hard on four poems, so I really wanted to make the last round, so I could do them all. As I got closer to the show and tried to have a completely honest appraisal, considering the talent competing that night, I realized that I couldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t make it right through. The two-minute round was going to be tough. Really tough.

But I also had to admit that I would be disappointed if I got knocked out in either of the first two rounds.

One down.

I listened to the poets that went before me, and I started to get a bit of a sinking feeling. My one-minute poem was fun. Lots of fun, I think… but what if that isn’t what the judges wanted? Some of the poets going before me were bringing really solid, albeit short, pieces.

I needn’t have worried.

I launched into ‘Itsy-Bitsy Spider’ and people started laughing IMMEDIATELY. I really enjoyed being up there and it was infectious. It went over big. In the end I scored somewhere around third, I think, when six poets were moving on.

Now it was time for the two-minute round. The poets still in there were really amazing and I knew that I couldn’t get too upset if I didn’t make it through… but I wanted to nail the poem.

We still had Sir Realist, who won last year and was dominating the night. PrufRock, who was a finalist last year and leading our season this year. Marz seemed to really spark something with the audience on the night and I was starting to think he would be one of the final three. Sarah Ruszala and Gavin Russell were both really solid poets who have had a lot of success on our stage.
I realized that based on what I had seen on stage, if I had to guess, I would say it was Nate, Pruf and Marz who would move on.

Well, first off Marz kind of got screwed by fate. He had drawn last in the one-minute round and with no more than a couple of minutes break, he drew first in the two-minute round.

Then he did a poem about telling his truth.

I was called next.

Oops.

I was NOT trying to call out Marz in ANY way, but my poem just happened to be saying that poets are full of shit and try to claim they are spouting TRUTH and betraying their audience when claiming to have all the answers.

Yeah. Well, that helped me, as it turned out. I scored really well.

It turned out that the round had a clear first and a clear sixth but spots two through five were REALLY tight, with only two of those poets moving on.

Gavin was second. I was behind him by .1

PrufRock was behind me by .1

Sarah was behind him by .1

That meant Pruf and Sarah (and Marz) were eliminated. Wow. That was tough. It was so close.

Now it was down to Gavin, Nate (Sir Realist) and myself.

I had done what I had hoped… I made it to the last round but I also believed that Nate was going to win.

I was right.

I was called up first. I had my poem down but the singing part made me nervous and when I got there, it wa a bit overwhelming. My voices quavered quite a bit, but it was nerves, and stress , and everything all in one. Ruthanne told me it really worked. It came across as emotions rather than fear (it was a bit of both, honestly).

My scores were good, but I also knew that Nate would crush them.

It turns out that Gavin did, too. Gavin did my favourite poem of his (though he still yells a lot. :) ) He got really strong scores… but again, Nate was still to come, and I just KNEW.

Nate owned it. The entire night felt like he was building up to THIS moment. TENS were flying everywhere. He won. He deserved to won.

I didn’t win, but I couldn’t be more happy about how it went for me. I feel like I have some momentum and it is time to gear up to go for that team… and maybe the belt.

But the weekend wasn’t over.

Still drained on so many levels, something happened on Sunday… which again, I can’t really talk about, but which also took a bit of a toll. It wasn’t too much in and of itself, and I was glad to help, but I was losing my reserves. The tank was… EMPTY.

Then, back home, and I had a lot of physical work to do. We had finished our flooring last week and I had carpet and underlay to take out to the trash. It was awkward. It was heavy. Trash mean sat the end of the road, so there was a lot of hauling. Four trips and by the time I was finished, I was absolutely beat. I had tweaked my knee, with small slip on the ice a few days ago and now my knees were screaming at me. My arms felt like dead weights.

I was done for the night.

Well, first I had some laundry to do. No big deal.

Sigh. No such luck.

I forgot to mention that earlier in the day, I had painted the ceiling of our office. Yet more physical strain, but it was done. When I was finished, Ruthanne volunteered to wash out the roller and paint tray etc.

We have one of those washers that has a drain hose that goes into the basement sink.

She had taken the host out and not put it back in. I didn’t look to see if the hose was there or not. (To be clear, this is both of our faults. She should have put the hose back. I should have checked before I ran the machine.)

I didn’t go back downstairs until the wash was done. The full laundry cycle of water was dumped on our basement floor. With the work we have been doing, that meant the water was dumped where a bunch of boxes were sitting… including my comic boxes.

In the end, the damage was minimal, but I spent the next hour+ moving heavy boxes and mopping water into the drain and trying to find out of any of our stuff was wrecked. (Believe it or not, it seems that all that was ruined was some leftover Christmas wrapping paper and some BOXES, while the contents were okay.

But I was doing this when already exhausted, physically and emotionally.

Today, I am shot. I hurt all over. I don’t have the strength for anything.

This too shall pass.

Good Weekend… Until Last Night

Posted: February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

CapSlam was on Saturday, I considered slamming and considered not slamming and considered slamming again.

I set a goal for myself to write three poems this weekend… and I did. I wrote two on Saturday and… well, they aren’t very good. This was me putting my rhetoric where my mouth was… no such thing as writer’s block! Just fear of writing badly.

So I did.

Anyway, come Saturday night I signed up and then waffled. Dan Murray and Bassam came from out of town. DMP came back to town… and as we approached 7pm, he was on the verge of being bumped, if one more ‘priority list’ poet showed up. I decided that I would bump myself instead.

It didn’t happen, so suddenly I was slamming.

I had a new arrangement of a poem I wanted to try out… but the last time I times it, it went 3:06 so I decided to save it for the second round, when a time penalty wouldn’t bother me as much.

So I went with Blue, Black or Red for round one.

I was in a discussion about this pome recently. There was a question whether the poem was ‘legitimite’ since it isn’t about my actual experience. I don’t agree with that. I beleive it is okay to write about things that you haven’t experienced, as long as you don’t CLAIM to have experienced them. Listen to the poem. It is always ‘he’ and ‘she’, never ‘I’ or ‘me’.

It went quite well. The audience reacted in a very positive manner. I was in third by both Dan Murray and DMP KILLED it in the first round, so that was no slight.

So in the second round I do my new arrangement for 1968. It went even better, and I had been nervous about it, so that was nice. I finished third again, but only .1 behind Dan and Kay’la Fraser.

Overall I came second, despite coming third in each round. Dan Murray won, then me then Kay’la, Basaam and DMP.

BUT, I had a headache all night. I pushed it aside for the show but the time I got home, it was pounding. In the morning there was no headache, but then I had a sore throat.

I settled in for a semi-miserable day.

I actually wasn’t THAT sick, but it hit me kind hard, emotionally, for some reason. Ruthanne was away and I just went into a funk. By evening it was a full-on ‘depressive episode’ (which is a term I just made up on the spot).

Nothing was good. I wrote another poem during the day, and while it is better than what I wrote the previous day, it all felt like crap to me. I thought of some other ideas and just dismissed them, because “I won’t be able to make them good anyway.”

Then I couldn’t sleep, despite being exhausted. It didn’t go to full insomnia, but I didn’t get to sleep until 1, when I had to get up at 6.

Today seemed… better, I guess. I still feel out of sorts. Not depressed as much as a ‘depression hangover’ (another new term), I think.

I will be fine. It wasn’t that bad. I have had much worse.

Maybe I will go look at those poems again and see if I can salvage any of it.

NEW SHIRT SLAM

Posted: January 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

I slammed on Tuesday.

That’s right… Tuesday.

But this one was a little different…

Flash back two years…

Greg Frankson and Tomy Bewick decided to create an event called Slamtario. It would be a slam that invited teams from around Ontario to have a mini-tournament. For some it was a practice run for CFSW. For others it was an opportunity to put a team together for the first time. They wanted us to send a team from Capital Slam.

I said no.

Well, to be more accurate, I said it would have to be up to the team, but that was effectively no, since our team didn’t form until June and the event was in July. A team made up of competitive minded people aren’t generally going to want to throw themselves into an event with such little preperation and face teams who have been practicing for a while… in one case, a team forms in January.

I still gave the team the option… they said no.

Greg asked me to come down and act as Slam Master for the event. I did. It was a fun event.

One year later, they wanted us to send a team again. (Honestly, they are trying to bill it as a provincial championship, and not including Ottawa makes that seem a little off, despite how many great teams there are in the Toronto area. Ottawa isn’t any ‘better’ – especially after Toronto teams have won CFSW for the past two years – but we should be part of the conversation.) We didn’t again. Same reason.

When you go out for the CapSlam team, you are committing to all the work etc. that takes the team to CFSW. That’s it. Other places want to do more (NPS, Slamtario, whatever) that is fine for them, but that’s just not what we are signing people up for.

But this year Brad Morden came up with a different idea. What if the Capital Poetry Collective were to run a DIFFERENT slam to send a team to Slamtario? And what if the slam was very different than what we do at CapSlam? What if we made more about pure fun and craziness instead of hard-core competition… and then if the team was not as polished as some of the Southern Ontario teams, well so what? We would just be going down there to have some fun!

The New ShiRt Slam was born.

The first thing Brad did was chuck out the rules.

New ShiRt Slam RULE #1 – All poems performed at the New ShiRt Slam would have to be ones NEVER performed in a public setting.

Time for some new stuff!

New ShiRt Slam RULE #2 – Our judges go to 11.

I think that tells you what you need to know.

For each event, the rules will change (other than the two above). Each event will crown a member of the New ShiRt Slam team going down to Slamtario.

I was on-board, in full support of this venture.

Then he announced the rules of the first slam.

ROUND 1 – Each poet would perform a poem that MUST refer to their shirt in some fashion.

ROUND 2 – Each poet would bring a poem written out and then would perform somebody else’s, randomly. Both the writer and performer would get the score for that round.

So, I wasn’t going to compete. I was just going to support… but then I thought of a poem. I had hardly written anything for myself since joining last year’s team, but I had recently been asked what the rules were about clothing for a slam. The example I made up on the spot was, “Say I am wearing my Spider jersey and I do a poem about spiders and refer to my jersey… that would be illegal.”

So I decided to write that poem.

So now, I was slamming.

It was a weird event… a whole lot of fun. We were the poets and the judges. There were seven poets plus one extra audience member, with Brad riding herd.

There were some great uses of shirts in the first round. I specificlaly remember Bruce Narbaitz’s note-perfect reference to his graphic T and Panos’ use of shirt as Alien chest-burster.

In the second round, I got Abby’s break-up poem. Abby was laughing at the idea that any of the guy sat my table would get their poem, and it was me. Unfortunately, I decided to take that laughter and kind of ham-up my performance a bit, which ended up feeling not so great for Abby. That kind of sucked. Sorry Abby.

Gavin read my Post Secret poem.

We also had to try and guess who wrote each piece. I only got 3 out of 7. Bruce was the only perfect score.

In the end, I won. While I was having such a good time, I kind of forgot that one of the reasons Brad was doing this was to get some different people on a team. Oops. Instead he got the person who has been on the most teams.

Well, I hearby swear that I will NOT get all slam-competitive with this team. Whomever else gets on the team… we are going to have some fun.

I may not even choose my own poems to perform and do some sort of team choice thing… we’ll see.

Oh, one other thing that Brad implimented was a post-show debrief and talkback session. I really dug that. (That is where I found out that Abby was not really cool with the way I had performed their poem. As I said, I am truly sorry about that. I would never have done that if I thought it could be seen as disrespectful.)

Slamtario, here I come… and I can’t wait to find out who I am going there with!

CFSW – Angst

Posted: January 24, 2014 in Uncategorized