Posted: March 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

The surprise isn’t just the obvious…

So, it is my birthday today, but this post isn’t about today. It is about yesterday, but really it goes back further than that. A lot further.

I have been the slam master at Capital Slam for a long time. I have been involved in the scene here in Ottawa for longer. Through that I have a bit (a BIT) of a name on the national scene, but not always for the best reasons. I let my passions get involved when I think it is the right thing to do and that can ruffle some feathers.

That won’t change.

But, here in Ottawa I have become… I don’t know, a fixture maybe. That isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes I feel like a fixture in the same way a lamp or a sofa is a fixture. Just there. I feel like I am known as the guy with the clipboard more than I am known for my poetry. That isn’t why I started doing this, but I do love being slam master so…

I don’t know.

I have been on the CapSlam team four times… more than anyone else. Why? because people cycle in and out. Don’t you think that Ian or Ikenna or John or whoever couldn’t have done that if they kept slamming year after year after year?

Of course they could have… and would have. I am always here because I never leave. As I said, a fixture.

But I love it. It is an often thankless job, but I love it. I love running Capital Slam. I loved working with Danielle. I loved working with Nathanael. I love working with Brad.

But I also love writing and performing my poetry. I love working with Danielle and Kevin there as well. (Not to mention the teams…)

Do you know how many poems I wrote in the first five years? You can see by reading this blog or my book. The answer is a lot.

Do you known how many I have written in the past year?

Four. That’s it. Nothing really exciting either.

So… what is happening? Is the fire going away? Is the desire going away? I still feel all the emotions that led me to write in the first place, so what is it?

To be brief… it felt like I didn’t matter. The world was not a better place when I was writing. I wasn’t changing anybody’s view of the world. Everything seems to just be getting worse and worse all around us. I mean look at the bullshit going on down in the U.S.! I see a systematic attack on everything that I hold as important.

Overly radical religious nutjobs taken seriously as presidential candidates. States bringing in purely racist laws and completely ANTI-WOMAN laws. People being shot in the streets for the ‘crime’ of being black in a white neighbourhood and the police do NOTHING.

So… there seems to be lots to write about, so why aren’t I writing?

Because nobody needs me to write. Everything I can say is said better by somebody else. The talent in this community is amazing… so amazing that I don’t think I add anything.

I had a show on Sunday. Nobody from Capital Slam’s family came. There were some people there. It was a fun show. I was happy by the end… but nobody from CapSlam came.

Don’t think for a second that I am complaining. There are lots of amazing shows in town. You can’t go to all of them.

But… yeah. When you are already feeling like you don’t matter… yeah.

So, then, what happened yesterday?

I came home from work yesterday planning to go with Ruthanne over to Nadine and Phil’s for our bi-weekylish game of poker. We had been told the game was going to start a bit late. That’s okay because Ruthanne offered to deliver a couple of cakes to the Mercury Lounge for Jennilee from Jeanette.

Something about an event that Jennilee had or the like.
(Think that should have tipped me off? It didn’t. Probably because it was yesterday instead of today.)

We got there and took the cakes upstairs… and found an empty room. Ruthanne starting looking around for Jennilee and almost went back downstairs before she decided to look on the upper level upstairs. She went and looked and then called me over to ‘see what they had done upstairs’.

I went and looked only to find the upstairs full of people yelling out “Surprise!” Then they sang happy birthday.

Danielle was first down the stairs to give me a hug. I found out soon after that this was all her doing, with Ruthanne and others as co-conspirators.

So many hugs. So many wonderful people.

But that wasn’t all. They were putting on a show for me.

I am going to try and follow Danielle’s ‘set-list’, but if I forget someone or if the order is wrong, I am so sorry.

It started with Ian Keteku (with John Akpata joining in on sax). Ian talked about our time together on the ’09 championship team and how nobody ever remembers the other members of the Recipe, just me. (In case it was unclear… he was lying through his teeth). He then said that he had a poem he wanted to do, despite disagreeing totally with the premise.

He did The Fifth Beatle.

Along the way he interrupted himself to talk about things like how he didn’t know who Pete Best was and maybe he should have changed it to the Jackson Five, and I could be Tito. 🙂 Ian is in a class by himself.

Throughout Danielle read some messages sent from ‘away’: Dave Silverberg, Rick Kwissa, Tammy Mackenzie and Jessica Ruano (more on her later).

Next was Ray Guillermo (ArRay-of-WoRds). He did The Real Story of Icarus and apparently he asked for it specifically because he taught that piece to a class full of kids when he was teaching in the Philippines. Nice.

Next was Doretta Charles (Stargazer) who mixed a song in with some of her own poetry. It was beautiful. This was the first moment that stunned me. I had no idea that I had made any impact on Doretta. She was around before I was and other than being the person currently taking names at CapSlam… but apparently not. Incredibly moving.

Next was Leigh Gibson (Poeticleigh Speaking – if you haven’t noticed, I tend to not use poetry names when I talk about people, because they aren’t ‘personas’ to me. They are people.) She did a poem she wrote for me. She spoke about how much I have supported their community out in Lanark County, but her poem was about my poetry. The power of my words and performance. (She also told a story about our time in Calgary.) 🙂

Then came Mia Morgan performing Library, which she says is her favourite. Lovely.

Next was Inez Dekker but first Danielle talked about my influence on her and the Lanark scene. I knew… but it is something to hear it.

Inez did a poem she had written for me that involved the audience calling out ‘Praise Rusty!’ at periodic intervals.

Yeah. That was embarrassing. But awesome.

She called me the ‘O-Town Buddha’. 🙂

Ray came up again, but this time to read a poem sent in by Bruce Narbaitz. That dude is straight up funny. According to him, I am Optimus Prime. 🙂

Then came Ruthanne. First she did Moving to Arizona, trying to do it ‘like me’. Of course that is impossible, because there is nobody ‘like me’. 🙂
Then she got all sappy-awesome and did The Great Adventure, a poem I wrote for her for our 17th wedding anniversary. 🙂

Yeah. Love.

Next was Danielle. She wrote a thing for me. Moving in that absolutely dead-on personal way she has. I still can’t really believe that she is leaving. 😦

Then on to Ikenna Onyegbula (OpenSecret). In a night full of emotions and surprises, here was the next one. I never really knew how I affected Ikenna. He spoke soem beautiful words… then moved on to one of my mine. 🙂 Ikenna did Why Art? and did it great justice. Ikenna is one of my heroes.

Nathanael Larochette (Sir Realist) came up next. First he told the story of my standing ovation in Halifax. That was one of the earliest high points and it was nice to hear about it from someone else. Then he finally did the poem he has been threatening to do. He wrote a full length parody or Why Art? that was pitch-perfect. Ruthanne filmed it and I hope Nate says it is okay to post it, because holy crap, it was amazing. It is called Why Farts? Watch for it.

Next came Jessica Ruano! But how can that be when she is all the way in England? Well, it seems that Jessica recorded herself reading Insomnia and then made a video to go with it! It is wonderful! We couldn’t really see the video at the show, but we heard the poem and I watched it when I got home. As soon as I can, I will post a link to the video on You Tube. Make it go viral! Hearing how a piece that was written when I was feeling a lot of pain can help others, well… yeah.

Kevin Matthews went up next and first talked about how important I was to him and how much he enjoys the opportunity to work with me. Hearing that from my first poetry idol and such a good friend was mind-blowing. Then he read a poem sent all the way from B.C., written just for me, by R.C. Weslowski.

Talk about mind blowing. Wow.

That makes two poets on our Slam Gods painting represented that night.

John Akpata came up, accompanied by Brad Morden on ukelele. John talked about meeting me and some of the experiences we shared and then did a poem that he picked called When I’m Gone. That really surprised me because it is not famous in the least… but it is one that means something to me. It was perfect for the night. He finished by saying, “No Rusty. You will never be forgotten.” (I also have to say that John OWNED that poem. He did it way better than I ever have.)

Brad stayed up there and did Stroll On, which was cool, but it was the other words he said that really stayed with me. He said he was listening to what everyone was saying and it seemed to him that EVERYONE who comes up those stairs and into CapSlam is met by the same person. I am the welcoming figure that brings everyone into our world.

I almost started to cry earlier when I remembered the last time I had been at a gathering that was similar to this in any way. Brad almost had me again there.

I DID cry when Nadine spoke about how much I had impacted her life. She went up and hit me with Just Start, telling the story of how much in meant to her and how it has helped her get through some tough times. Danielle also had told the story of Rick Kwissa who was moved by the same poem.

What was I saying about not mattering?

Then came Faye Estrella (Festrell). She did Angst. Even if I didn’t know it, I would be able to guess which piece Faye would call her favourite. 🙂

There was only six minutes left and we had to be out so the Merc could bring on their night programming. (Oh THANK YOU MERCURY LOUNGE!!!! You are my second home!) I wanted to thank everyone, but how could mere words say what I had to say.

They couldn’t, BUT… in my pocket I had two poems. One was one that I am thinking of doing for the CapSlam semis this year. The other was one I wrote a year ago but is ‘next’ in my book to memorize. It is called Heaven.

I think I am going to leave that for the people in the room for now (I am getting tired of typing), but trust me when I say it sums up my feelings better than any off the cuff remarks could have. It will be up soon. (And thanks to all the amazing people who came out in addition to those on stage! If I start naming them, I’ll forget some, but I CAN say that other than Ruthanne only one, Wayne Beaton, knew me BEFORE poetry. Thanks Wayne, for remaining my friend. (Well, Nadine, kind of knew me before… but just barely)

So… is the world different than it was before yesterday? It is to me. I don’t know how I can explain how all of this makes me feel. I feel loved, sure. Appreciated, definitely.

I feel needed.

Maybe it is time to start writing again.

  1. nadinethornhill says:

    I’m glad you feel needed, because you are. Needed, respected, admired and very, very loved.

    Happy Birthday!

  2. Tammy MacKenzie says:

    What Nadine said.
    And yes, PLEASE write! 🙂
    Love and hugs.

  3. jessicaruano says:

    I loved reading this. Thank you for writing it. Looking forward to your second book xx

  4. Robin Le William-North says:

    So glad to read how good the night was. Glad for you, Rusty, so glad…

    I cannot say I’ve known you for long. But this seems obvious – you’re needed, you are.

    Looking forward to new poems when they come. I’m ready to wait, it’ll be worth!

  5. Leigh says:

    Thank you for writing this. I hope the night stays with you, because you are a very important person in our lives, even if we don’t always say it. Hugs.
    – Leigh

  6. […] Playlist for Mar…Terry McDermott on DJ Rusty Playlist for Mar…Leigh on SURPRISE!!!!Robin Le William-Nor… on SURPRISE!!!! Top TagsAmal El-Mohtar Arizona Bill Brown Brandon Wint […]

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

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