Me at Tree!

Posted: April 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

Last summer I suddenly had a bunch of features lined up.

That may not sound like a big thing, but I don’t generally solicit features, so getting a bunch all at once was a bit of a treat. (The absolute BEST was the show in Vancouver in conjunction with the Vancouver Opera. That may have been my favourite show ever. Even after I forgot a poem…)

In the midst of this, I get a message from Margaret at the Tree Reading Series (the longest running series in Ottawa at 35 years… and MAYBE the longest in the country. At least one of the longest, certainly), asking me to feature… in April 2015. 🙂

At first I thought it was a typo. 🙂

But no, due to the vagaries of grants etc., they plan far in advance. They decided to bring in a Spoken Word poet for a little different feel and I was the one that got the nod.

Yay me!

Of course a lot has happened in the intervening time and I think it should be no surprise to anyone when I say that I needed this. Badly. It came at just the right time.

Then the night came and after a nice dinner with Margaret and Colin from Tree while Mia Morgan gave what sounded like a really interesting workshop before the show, it was over to Black Squirrel Books!

There were originally going to be two features but the other person had to cancel, but the open mic took up all the slack. There were a BUNCH of great poems – some by friends like Avonlea Fotheringham, Mia Morgan, Chris Johnson etc… – some by people I had never seen before, or only seen once, etc..

I quite enjoyed it.

Then came my set.

Planning for the show, I figured two things: one, if they went to the trouble of booking a spoken word artist, I had better give them some real, performance-style spoken word. Two, I probably should temper it with some quitter poems so I don’t overwhelm the audience. People who aren’t used to what we do can feel ‘yelled at’ sometimes, and I didn’t want that. (I was wrong.)

Then, when I arrived, I found the set-up a little different than I am used to. There was a big gap between the podium and the audience.

When Colin introduced me, rather than walking to the podium, I walked to that middle area and just launched straight into ‘Day One’, at (close to) full volume, but off mic. I figured that was a good way to introduce myself.

I think that went over pretty well.

I then told them not to worry… that I wouldn’t yell at them all night. 

Back to the podium (for one thing, they were videotaping it, and I probably screwed that up for the first piece.)

Some talking… including a thank you to Jeff Blackman (who wasn’t there, unfortunately). I was recently reminded of a Carleton class I spoke to last year, partly about the idea of poetry as activism, so I talked about how everything you write matters, if it is real for you. I used that to launch into ‘Angst’.

This is where I planned to slow things down a bit. I probably shouldn’t have. The crowd seemed to really like the energy I was putting out there, and switching to more personal, emotional poems didn’t work as well, I thought. Maybe it was the gap, making it a bit more impersonal.

Anyway, I mentioned that I sometimes deal with depression and gave them one of those poems, ‘Insomnia’.

I followed that with the debut I promised. It is called ‘Bair’ and came out of a writing prompt from the Spoken Word Workbook put together by Sheri-D Wilson. I am sure it will stick around for a bit. It was fun.

In his introduction, Colin mentioned that we sometimes do ‘team’ pieces in Spoken Word, which really made me regret not pulling out the ‘team’ version of ‘The Stranger’. Avonlea was there and I really want us to do more with it. Nevertheless, I did the solo version next, which didn’t have the impact that I think it has at our shows. Again, it seems that the extra energy of some of my pieces was what was called for, so the lower key stuff may have been a mistake.

I wrapped things up with ‘1968’ – the slightly changed version that turns it into a bookend with ‘Day One’. I really love that poem but hardly do it because it doesn’t always resonate with the slam crowd. I think the Sixties seem like they might as well be the forties to our relatively youthful audience.

It worked last night, though!

All in all, a great, enjoyable night.

And boy, did I need it.


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