Posted: January 13, 2010 in Poetry

First just let me say that I went to a great show last night. It was ‘Voices of Venus’ and it featured the amazingly talented Nadine Thornhill (she can be found over in my links section under ‘Adorkable Thespian’). Not only was her set great, but there were many amazing open-micers which included a Reisling Award winning poem by Amal al-Mohtar, a GREAT new Festrell poem, Caitlin Paxson playing her harp, one of my favourite Ruthanne Edward stories and more.

This was my first VoV, but it won’t be my last.

CONTEXT: May 2006

This poem has a story that involves a bunch of different poets who I now consider friends, but barely knew back then. It started after we went to our first slam and wanted to hear more. It may seem odd to those in Ottawa now, but back then, there weren’t three poetry shows every week! Shocking! (I was at one last night, and I had to choose between that and the Brendan McLeod Poetry and Potluck show in Almonte, I am helping run the Ingredients Workshop at Umi tonight, Bill Brown 1-2-3 featuring Kevin Matthews is Thursday, Capital Slam featuring Tomy Bewick is Saturday…)

Anyway, Jessica Ruano had set up a show featuring Kevin Matthews (who became and remains my favourite spoken word poet). Ruthanne and I went. During the open mic Danielle Gregoire performed ‘Grey Day’ (which anyone who has ever heard knows is amazing). Next up was Mosha Folger who talked about leaving his cushy job to become a full-time writer. A poem started building in my head.

Next, Ruthanne spotted a workshop being held about Slam Poetry, run by Greg ‘Ritallin’ Frankson. I signed up like a shot. That workshop was in May and during it I wrote the poem below, called ‘Doing’. I read it at the workshop, but I have never performed it publicly.

Jump forward about a year. By this point I am the Capital Poetry Collective treasurer and I have become friends with Danielle (who was the CPC Director then). We were at her home for a collective meeting but nobody else was there yet. I had my book handy and I found this poem and told her I wanted to read it to her. Half-way through, the doorbell rings and a couple of more people come in. The net result was that she heard the first half and not the second half.

That leaves the poem as kind of insulting to her. I later got to read her the rest so that she would forgive me for being such a jerk. πŸ™‚

Still in the simple rhyming phase. :/


One night I heard a young woman
Make a convincing argument, done
In a song. Asking us why we are doing
What we are doing
Instead of what we love
As a concept it doesn’t rank above
Any thoughts I, myself, have raised
Though it was stated with a lovely turn of phrase

I grumbled to myself like a grumpy old crank
That I remembered being that naive as I ranked
Possible life and career choices
I studied literature, ignoring the voices
That told me it would lead to no job
I ended up dropping out to be a retail slob

I went back to school years later
Majoring in something much greater
When using it to move a few places
I studied Econ & Business cases
And learned how to make rich people richer
The whole time I watched as the picture
Became clearer and I despised the system
My brain just wouldn’t listen

I got a job with the gov in the end
Analyzing systems and trying to lend
My brain to a cause greater than me
Reporting on something or other to see
How efficient the gov is becoming
And yes, it really is that mind-numbing

So I write on the side and I have fans
Reading my adventures in fictional lands
A creative outlet to stimulate my mind
And give me respite from the daily grind

This is what I love, but not what I’m doing
So I sit here with dreams that are a’brewing
Of chucking it all in, giving up the cheque
The benefits, vacation days, and nooseless neck

And the young woman sat down
And a new poet rose to throw down
And told us he had done what she sang
He quit his office, tossed the computer with a bang
And became a full-time writer
Sure, it could be a nail-biter
But what courage to do… what you love

So was the young woman naive?
Or could it be
It is my defense to scorn
Scary ideas that are born

Is it logic that is spared?
Or am I just scared?


Just to note: I am still working for the government. Apparently I am still scared.

  1. nadinethornhill says:

    Thank you, both for the compliment and for coming out last night. And YES Amal and Festrell were finger-lickin’ great, as were others. A fabulous night at VoV.

    Can I also tell you, how much I’m enjoying reading these early pieces? I had no idea you were writing so much behind the scenes. Thank god you’re doing what you love!

  2. rpriske says:

    I’m glad you are enjoying it, because it is almost painful for me. πŸ™‚

    Not really, but the point is to see how I have changed and developed, but wen you only see these ones, well… I don’t think you are getting a good picture of what I now do.

    You already know because you have heard my more ‘modern’s tuff too. πŸ™‚

    Oh well, I believe in the goal so the journey is well worth it.

    The next poem will be another ‘never-before-seen’ piece.

  3. Danielle says:

    I’m glad that you came to the conclusion that I’m not as naive as you originally thought. πŸ™‚ Infernal optimist maybe…but look at me now…2010 with 4 poetry jobs and getting the chance to raise my little girl. I respect that you take home your bi-monthly government grant. A lot of great poems have come out of that. I think living a full life informs your writing. You still get to do a lot of what you love. hug. I am also loving this evolutionary series. I kind of felt the same way when I put out my CD. My style has changed a lot since my first spoken word piece. I’m hoping to do a CD in 2011 called Dedication. Which reminds me, I have a favour to ask…

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