Body Language

Posted: April 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

Someone at work informed me that he had been asked, “So, is Rusty just quiet? He never seems to talk.”

It reminded me of something I realized recently when I was strolling through old photos on Facebook… the incredible difference in my body language based on where I am standing.

This is me in most of my life…

meek1

Do you notice the body language? Shoulders dropped, slouching. Part of that comes from getting tall early… I was much taller than all my friends until I was 14 or 15. Part of it comes from a self-confidence deficit. Part of it from… well, you could probably do a full analysis of my life and discover why someone as physically large as I am would try to make himself physically small so often in his life.

Even in a group…

meek 2

Group of people… I am on the outside. This is self-imposed. I try to stay out of the way. That is just my natural inclination.

At least it was.

Nine years ago, I discovered slam and spoken word. Now this is what I look like on stage…

NotMeek1

On stage I am big. Larger than life and just as pretty. :)

On stage I feel like I am in control. I feel like I belong.

These are things that do not often come into play when I am off stage.

So, what should I learn from that? Should I learn that I can adopt this persona that allows me to command attention? That I can be the confident person that I ‘play on tv’?

Well, it COULD be the lesson I learn, but I prefer this one.

There is nothing wrong with that other person. There is nothing wrong with being someone who feels less comfortable in large groups and really values alone time. There is nothing wrong with being the person who goes back to his hotel room during CFSW in order to charge his own batteries.

And there is especially nothing wrong with a person who realizes that having an audience (whether on stage or, to a lesser extent, through these blogs etc.) is a privilege and stepping aside to avoid taking ALL the space can be a worthwhile cause.

Be who you are. Be who you want to be.

Don’t be who they want just because they want it… or because it is easier.

Semi-Finals 2015

Posted: April 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

I thought I was done.

Earlier this year I had decided to stop going out for the team. It would have been nice to get my name on the belt, but after being on six teams, some of the joy had gone out of it.

The thing that I really valued out of those teams were the bonds formed with many other poets. These are people who I would not have been friends with in most circumstances, yet there it was.

I really value that.

But then things changed… there is so much negativity floating around my life that I decided to sit this one out and deal with that. I would still be going to the festival, of course, as National Slam Master, so I decided I would slam less, step aside and…

Well, the ‘and’ is that never happened. We kept needing more poets at our shows. I kept slamming and wonder of wonders, as soon as I stopped caring about my results, I started winning.

I won a lot this year, but all the way through I kept saying that I wasn’t going out for the team. I told Daniel that he would have the top seed in the semi-finals because even if I finished ahead of him, I would be stepping aside.

In the end I WAS the top ranked poet this season, which was nice. Then I DID step aside.

And then I stepped back in.

As I was trying to fill the spots for our semis, I was getting some friendly and well-meant pressure from friends who wanted me to do it.

I guess, deep down, I still wanted it, because I caved and put myself back on the list.

Then I figured that if I was going to do it, I was going all in. No messing around… get my name on the belt.

I prepared for semi-finals and ‘expected’ to win it. (I put ‘expected’ in quotes because I don’t mean it in an arrogant way. I just mean I put myself in that mind-set. I was there to win.)

I had prepared nothing new, though. I mean, normally I start prepping for semis and finals around February. This time I had a week. That’s okay, I figured. That was what I had been doing all year, and it kept working.

I came third.

I couldn’t have been happier.

I am serious. I don’t know if anybody in the place was cheering as loudly as Brad (who came fourth) and I when Nina was announced as the winner.

Now, third is still enough to get me into the Finals, but it was hardly the slam-dunk performance that I had been ‘expecting’. So why was I happy?

In the first round, I finished second, tied with Nina Vuleta behind Sarah Ruszala. In the second round I fell back, with Nina passing Sarah for the win.

I am not going to indulge in revisionist history and claim that the reason I run CapSlam shows is to create a stage for the youth. It isn’t true. I volunteered to help run the show to ensure there was a place for me. Does that sound selfish and self-centered? Sure. But this was back in 2006 and I was fresh on the scene.

And then I kept running the show. I am on my third Collective Director and I am still here… even after I am questioning what I am getting out of slam, I still love running the show.

Because I look at what that show has done for people who have crossed the stage.

I mean, even if you just look at my teammates over the years.

Danielle K.L. Gregoire, Nathanael Larochette, Mehdi Hamdad, Free Will, Ikenna Inyegbula, Komi Olaf, Suhaib Agial, Ian Keteku, Brandon Wint, Sean O’Gorman, Sense-Say, Bruce Narbaitz, Graeme O’Farrell, V, Brad Morden, Gavin Russell, Avonlea Fotheringham, Candice Bruchhaeuser, Artemysia…

That says nothing of the incredibly talented people who have graced our stage who I didn’t get the opportunity to work with like PrufRock, Jamaal Rogers, Steve Sauve, Festrell…

(I would say Kevin Matthews, but we worked together in the Copper Conundrum with Danielle Gregoire)

So what did I see Saturday night?

The next generation rising to the top. Nina Vuleta is FOURTEEN! Sarah Ruszala isn’t much older (you know, compared to me, anyway…)

This has been fun and YES, I would like to get my name on the belt, but if I instead spend my time helping people like this grow as artists and people… that is time very well spent.

Another semi-final to go to see who the other four finalists are. I am pretty sure Daniel Patterson will have something to say about this becoming an all-youth team, but there you go.

No matter what happens, I am happy.

The CFSW ‘ALT’ Rule

Posted: March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

The ‘ALT’ Rule

It has come to my attention that not all scenes know about the changes to the ‘ALT’ Rule for CFSW.

The new rule is that there is no ‘ALT’ Rule.

Instead, each team can be made up of 4 or 5 poets, at the choice of the team. The bouts remain the same so there are still four spots for the team to fill and an individual poet cannot be assigned more than one spot in a bout.

Other than that, it is up to you.

Remember, that if you bring only four poets then you have nobody to fill in if one of your poets drops out during the event… but that is a risk that it is up to each team to manage.

Clear?

Haiku

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

I wrote a bunch of haiku when getting ready for a Haiku Death Match a couple of years ago.

It was fun. I was knocked out by Sean O’Gorman.

I am going to put the haiku up one at a time, but all in this post. (Edits, not new posts) as I share them on FB.

Here is the first one…

The first Haiku I wrote when planning to do a Haiku Deathmatch…

(picture me reading it reeeeeaaaaallllllllly slooooooooowwwwwwwlllllly)

The… best… part… of… this
No…. chance… of… time… penalty
For… talking… too… slow

My favourite one… and the best received one.

Your seven is weak!
Sandwiched between sloppy fives!
‘Haiku trash-talking’

I knew that ‘dirty’ haiku won haiku death matches. I also knew that I wasn’t any good at them. So I made fun of myself…

Splashed by mud puddle
All over your new white pants.
My dirty haiku

Brevity or wit?
Sometimes a contradiction
When dealing with slam

Computers are great.
They help with so many things…
UNTIL SKYNET COMES!

Who is nerdier?
Those who write geeky haiku
Or those who listen?

Five, seven, then five
My full worth as a poet
Comes down to three lines

Shameless Haiku death match pandering

So, what will it take
To give me the win, judges?
‘Ain’t too proud to beg!’

All I ask is this:
Get me where I need to go.
OCTranspo sucks

This is one I wrote trying to adapt a saying, and then realized that it ended up as a copy, not an adaptation. Haiku fail.

Don’t get it messed up:
You are not stuck in traffic,
You ARE the traffic

Here is my slam history for the first chunk of years that I was in the thick of it…

The alt once again.
All my work behind the scenes.
Still have the trophy!

Non-slam lingo folk sometimes act impressed at my title.

Uh, it doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means…

I’m called SlamMaster
That must mean I’m really good,
Or maybe anal

Judging my self-worth
By listening to slam scores.
Healthy? You decide.

This one I wrote to advertise the Haiku Death Match. I said it on stage at a CapSlam when Brad was the host.

Correlation check.
Beards: Poetic excellence.
Perfect match! Right Brad?

By day, a G-man.
By night, throws down poetry.
Slam superhero

To win a death match
Tried to write dirty haiku.
I feel so naughty

Everyone joneses
My addiction can hit hard
Mainlining baseball

A trio on a theme…

Welcome to our home,
Ottawa’s Mercury Lounge​
Spoken Word Lives Here

Anyone hungry?
Once we have picked a winner
Let’s all go to Zak’s!

You’ve heard my pitches.
I’m ready to start shilling.
Poetry as ads!

Stepping on landmines,
Palms sweating, mind has gone blank,
Snapping doesn’t help

In case of zombies
Send them to parliament,
see if they notice

Judging poems, like
Dancing about calculus:
Perfectly valid

There is nothing that
Cannot be graphed and measured…
Not that it’s useful.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX!
And now that you’re listening
SUPPORT ARTS FUNDING!

Two on and two out.
The game is on the line.
Casey’s a choker.

(The next one is for Jeremy Loveday)

Time for election?
If you don’t like candidates
You should run yourself.

Poetry is hard.
Trying to fit the format…

Poetry is hard.

For Rusty

Posted: March 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

This is a poem post, but it isn’t a poem written by me.

Consider this a ‘guest appearance’ by poet, comedian, and all-around super-person, Danielle K.L. Gregoire.

CONTEXT: March, 2012

I reached this poem… tucked into my book… and I asked Danielle permission to post it.

So, there was this surprise party… Danielle organized it with Ruthanne co-conspiring to keep it a secret. I went and was regaled with covers of my poems and pieces written FOR me.

The story behind that party is way bigger but I have already blogged about it, back at the time, so go and read that.

I’ll wait.

I used a lot of smiley faces in there. :)

Yeah, so this is the poem written and performed by Danielle that night. It is kind of a mini history lesson of our relationship and is just the kind of positivity that I could use right about now.

(I just remembered a funny bit when Danielle said the line about me becoming the treasurer. Lukayo called out, “Oh sure! Once you need him for something!” A good laugh was had.)

Take it away Danielle!

For Rusty
by Danielle K.L. Gregoire

I remember thinking
Of you, in 2006
As Ruthanne’s husband
A quiet, reticent man
With bright flowing beard
But not a potential friend

That all changed
When you agreed
To become treasurer
Of the CPC
We were thrown into
A swirling whirlpool
Of organizing poetry slams
Sink or swim
I wasn’t sure we would
Make it
Turns out you
Were more than
Just Ruthanne’s husband
(Aren’t we all more than we appear)
You were my
Orange kisby ring
You were poet
Writer
Gamer, music lover, book publisher
Full of solid, humble
Support
Full of deep thoughts
Raging concerns
Big hurts
But energetic joy
You spilled into my life
Copper coloured
Wind of change
Bringing your constant strength
Tempered with sensitivity
Without you there would be
No Capital Slam
No Lanark County Spoken Word
You never asked for thank yous
You and I shared stories
Travelled to Halifax
Have been teammates
Co-conspirators
Are best friends & Conundrum-ites
You are fairy godparent
To my daughter
Uncle to both my children
Sometimes I watch the weight
Of the world
Bearing down on you
But like Atlas, you bear it
I didn’t want to wait
To appreciate
All the things you do
The person that you are
Happy 44th, Rusty
You are still a rising star

Thanks Danielle. I love you too.

Lower Case g

Posted: February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

I debuted a poem on Saturday at Capital Slam… well performance debut, anyway. It already appeared (in a slightly different form) in my second Book, ‘Day One’.

CONTEXT: October, 2012

I have spoken about my relationship – or lack thereof – with religion here and there. One of the things I tried to get across in a previous post is my complete lack of understanding. I have found myself many times shaking my head wondering how someone can believe in that stuff.

And I KNOW this is going to come across as insulting but I don’t mean it that way. I really mean it as a total lack of comprehension. HOW can you believe it?

But then, one day, I had as close to an epiphany on the subject as I am likely to get. I sat in the Dominion-Chalmers (which IS a church but I was not there for church), listening to the Ottawa Classical Choir, and I had that moment where I GOT it. I could feel how it could be that someone could sit in that space, listen to the music, feel the energy and BELIEVE.

For me it instead made me in awe of the people who make great things. The people who made the building. The person who wrote the music. The people who sang.

(The cynic in me also remarked that this is WHY they built the building… to create an artificial feeling divinity… but as I say… cynic…)

This poem is what I wrote about it.

NOTE: I did change a bit from the book version because the book version has a section which is kind of insulting to believers. Since that isn’t the POINT of the poem, I changed it.

Lower Case g

I looked upon the face of god
With a lower case g.
Divinity within humanity
Masquerading as humility
Dropping wisdom like a
Times Square big apple,
Exploding in light.

I met a man of gods,
Jesus Dialo Akira Fitzpatrick,
A lower class g
Looking for a little melt,
Pot shotted casualty of
A war on the uncontrolled,
Living on the wrong side
Of every track –
Tracked down, arms
Fall parallel
As he just wanted a
Glimpse of that light
That never goes out.

I heard the voice of god
Beamed at the speed of neurons,
Hard-wired digital message
Of beat-up guitar and
Beat down gravel ripped across
Mic as ear
Translates life into
Something close to
Understanding.
Bic lighters up
To HEAR instead of
Just listening
When poetry means more
That Laureate literati.

I felt the presence of god
As passed through belief
So this unbeliever
Could understand why
So many could toss aside
Logical thought
And believe in
What they can’t see.
I sat on pews made of guilt
And sub-flagellation
Wondering why worship has
To be uncomfortable
When the choir sliced the
Air of mob civility
With the first strains of
Carmina Burana.
A synesthesiac painting
Of notes pinned to intricately
Cut paper planes
Leaving blue fire contrails
As eyes pull up to
Stone walls and tattooed
Glass stains.
Static leaps away
From carrier waves and
Charges skin as hair
Tries to stand at
Attention out of respect
For the divine.
And I finally understand
How stories come to life
And the other-worldly seems
The only explanation.
The birth of faith
Filling me with thanks
But not to the god of
Thunderbolts or Apollo’s
Flaming chariot.
My thanks are to Carl Orff,
The architects, artisans
And masons of the
Dominion-Chalmers
And each beautiful voice
Of the Ottawa Classical
Choir.
My faith is strong
As the unreal becomes real
And the mystical is the
Physical and meta can
Barely keep up.
I am gripped in wonder
As I remember
That all things are possible
When keeping faith in
One another
As we are the
Power and the glory,
For ever and ever,
Human

Speed Dial

Posted: January 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

Poem post time!

This has been a very… off year for me. With all the other things that have been going on, whether dealing with Safe Space issues or the fallout from that, including mediation issues and threats of lawsuits, I have hardly written anything. It is also very unlikely that I am going to go out for the Slam team… which would be only the second time in nine years that I have done that. (The other being 2010 when I was Slam Master at CFSW instead.)

I really would like to get my name on the belt but I just don’t know if I could give me all to another team at this point and I don’t believe in committing to something without COMMITTING to something, if you know what I am saying.

I do have a poem backlog, though! I did this poem at CapSlam this week (and won). Prior to that, I did it at a CapSlam Semi-Final… in 2013, I think.

CONTEXT: July, 2012

Well, here is the story.

I wasn’t always the mountain of a man you see now. In fact, all the way through high school, I was pretty darned skinny. By the time I graduated I had started to fill out, but only catching up with my wide shoulders and ribcage.

I didn’t grow up with the stigma of extra weight. (I had various other stigma, but that is a different point.)

I was actually somewhat of an athlete. Not a top athlete or a jock type, but I played soccer for five years (which followed four years of baseball). I actually got somewhat good at it. I was invited to try out for the Under-16 provincial team at one point (thought I didn’t make the team). I also used to so some long distance running.

I also had the metabolism to match. I ate a lot. I remember when my friend Shawn and I would head out on a Friday night, driving around, and come back to our house to order two-for-one extra-large pizzas. That was one each. I used to buy McCain chocolate cakes to have as a snack. I used to eat poptarts by the box… straight out of the box.

But I never put on weight. I just kept getting taller… though that levelled out.

Then I moved to Ottawa. I had started putting on weight before that, but nothing too extreme. When IO moved to Ottawa, I kept jogging since that was my only real source of exercise since I stopped playing soccer.

Then winter hit. I had planned to give jogging through winter. The cold didn’t bother me too much. I figured I could tough it out. The first time I tried to jog after it snowed, I got about a block before I slipped on some ice and twisted my knee. It wasn’t really bad, but it was enough to stop my jogging for the winter.

You know what they say about good habits, right? How they are easier to break than to create? Well, winter ended and jogging didn’t come back. I was also dealing with some pretty major depression, which didn’t help.

By the time I moved to Calgary, I realized that the way I saw myself was no longer accurate. (To give frame of reference, I once performed in a musical version of the Wizard of Oz. I played a Kansas famer who was – more or less – the analog for the Scarecrow. That is how I saw myself. Gangly.)

Calgary wasn’t good for me, generally. I did start going to a gym but I just got stronger. (That is one thing I can say about being the size that I am… I am pretty strong, physically.)

Have I tried to change things at times? Can I honestly answer yes? I mean, I have tried somewhat, but I have never really put a full effort into it. There is just too much tied in with it for me.

When I am happy, I eat.

When I am unhappy, I eat. (And with the depression I have been dealing with, the latter is much more common.)

The only time this works in my favour is when I am ‘in balance’, but that is not a place I have been very successful at spending much time.

I am who I am.

I once read a comic that was otherwise unremarkable. It was an Annual for the late-80s Justice League. In the regular comic, Blue Beetle was going through a story where he was gaining weight. He is an ‘athletic’ hero, with no actual powers and teaming up with people like Green Lantern had meant he wasn’t actually DOING very much other than flying their plane.

The Annuals that year were flashing ten years into the future. In it Beetle had bottomed out, sold his costumed identity and just couldn’t get himself back on track. There was a scene where he gave himself a little speech about how things were going to turn around and today he was going to start a new life. He then ordered a pizza.

Shitty comic but that scene really hit home.

I am NOT telling you this to ask for pity or help. In fact, if you read the poem you will see how I react to that sort of thing. I am just telling you this so you can know who I am. If I get anything out of poetry it is that… going through life feeling like nobody understands you is not a good thing, at least for me. I did that for a very, very long time.

So, here is the poem. It is a performance piece so when I get to the point where I talk about pizza, picture me taking an invisible phone out of my pocket to place the order.

Speed Dial

They say good things come in threes
So you can enjoy that
First blessing more than the
Last knowing you have
Two more lining up for you.
Ignore triple sixes and call on
Triple A to hit that triple axel
Of roadside assistance.
Then there is Triple X,
Either on a cask of over-powered
Illicit hooch, or brown-papered
Adult entertainment, but
What about when Triple X means
Extra, extra, extra
With an extra L hanging
Around my neck, with an
Abandon hope all ye who
Don’t fit into the ‘standard’
Size of merch shirts.
My Triple X comes with different
Judgements than hardcore videos
But it is still a hard chore to
Walk past that mirror and not
Recognize who is
Looking back.
When your mential image
Remembers the high school
Stick fig where those Xs
Stood for xylophone as you
Could tap out a tune on
Nature’s musical ribcage of lean
Athletics and hyper-metabolisitc
Swing.
But that teenager learned
Mitosis without the fission
As two of me stand
Stuffed into one sun-sheltered
Membrane.

The life of the
Above-average man leads
To awkward pauses and the
Search for corners to fit in.
But when the 3 stands for
300?
No CGI ab-enhancement
Can make more – or less –
Of an army of spartan swinging
Scales that flash back the
Weighted truth and
‘Tonight, we dine on…”
Hey, I could go for pizza.
Hold on a sec.

“Yeah, it’s me – give me the
Usual – an extra-large with
Everything.”

What? Doesn’t everyone have
The pizza place on speed dial?
Sometimes a guy has a whole
That CAN be filled-
Or at least glossed over.
And now I tell you this,
Which is dangerous as now
When I place my order
I will see that look of
Well-meaning judgement
And pity, “Did he forget he
Is unhappy? Why would he do
That to himself? Does he really
Need that extra Coke?”

Well FUCK YOU
And your eyes that say
More than your mouth
Ever will, thinking you
Can change me by
Telling me how to live.
As if it were SOOOO easy
To… just… change…

But the eyes are not yours.
The incriminating looks are
Not yours. The scrambling
For excuses like maybe my
Father didn’t love me enough
Or the babysitters loved me
Too much – searching for
A release or excuse that
Can be repaired or forgiven
As no look of repulsion
Could match the anger and
Disgust that coats the
Inside of my skin.
The black clouds that
Shutter my three eyes
And convince me that
Beauty is skin deep
And a reflection of your worth.

But when I get down like this
There is always a cure that
Pretends to be my friend,
Hiding hate behind a smile.
So you don’t need to worry about me.
I keep the number on speed dial.