Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

First off, thanks to Sterling Lynch and the Ottawa Arts Newsletter for calling a recent post of mine “the best Ottawa arts blog post of the last two weeks”. It is nice to see people are reading! (Well, I actually get stats the show how many people are reading, but still…).

Thanks Sterling!

CONTEXT: February 2011

February is always a turning point month with Capital Slam as it is the first month where we create priority lists to ensure that everyone who needs to slam to qualify for the CapSlam semi-finals is able to do so. That also generally means a temporary hiatus from slamming for me. I have already slammed enough to qualify and I am pretty much guaranteed a slot in the semis, so my attention turns to writing new poems and running the show.

This year there is asomething a little different for me though… self-imposed pressure.

In 2007, I had only one goal: qualify for the semis so I could get a track on the CD. So, when I finished the semis in 4th (and duplicated it during the finals and made the team), I was floating on air. I never expected it.

In 2008, I now knew what it was like to be on a team and I really wanted to do it again. There was a bunch of new poets (do names like OpenSecret, Poetic Speed and Marcus Jameel ring a bell?), so I tried not to hold out too much hope.

I made the team again (as team alternate).

In 2009, I was in about the same position. The semi-finals didn’t go well, but the finals went VERY well so I was lucky enough to be part of the team (as alternate) when Capital Slam won the CFSW Slam Championships (then that team became the Recipe).

In 2010, the festival was coming to Ottawa and I was Slam Master. That meant I pulled myself out of the semi-finals since I couldn’t be on a team anyway. I question whether I WOULD have made the team, since I would have to have scored better than Brandon Wint to do so.

That brings us to this year. I have yet to not be part of the CapSlam team, other than the year I stepped aside. So, is there pressure for me to make the team? You can’t be on it every year, right?

Of course not… but man, I really want to make it. Do I tie an unhealthy level of self-worth to my slam scores? Yeah, I’ll wear that. I don’t need to win every time (in fact, I rarely win), but I feel the need to be in the ‘conversation’. Yet I think when people try to guess who will be on the team, they never think of me. This goes for every year.

They think of me as the Slam Master.

I am okay with that because I LIKE being the Slam Master and I think I do a damned good job of it.

But I am still a poet first and once again, I want to prove that to everyone. (And by everyone, I really mean me.)

So, I am writing like mad, trying to make sure I have good poems to choose from for the semis and (hopefully) the finals. I prefer doing it this way so I am not just writing for the competition, which leads to ‘dishonest’ writing. I write a lot and then (again, hopefully) some pieces will rise out to be the obvious choices to compete with.

Well, they don’t all ‘make the cut’.

This piece came from an odd place. Ruthanne and I were watching an episode of Mad Men that ended with the song ’16 Tons’ by Tennessee Ernie Ford, and I started singing along.

Now, I can’t sing. At all. I did some musical theatre back int he day, but I was strictly background, doing parts that sat in my ‘meagre’ range. When I sang ’16 Tons’ though, it was RIGHT in my range.

So I started thinking about writing a poem where I could include the chorus. This is that poem.

I don’t think it is a bad poem, but it doesn’t have that little extra something…

    The Company Store

The alarm goes off
And a nation rubs its eyes
And stumbles out of bed
Leaving the arms of spouse/
Lover/sanctum of peace and
Harmony, stripping off
Secret identity to reveal
Our true selves, as defined by
Career.
No? You don’t define yourself
As Waiter, Plumber, Gas Jockey,
Code Monkey, Butcher, Baker,
Candlestick maker?
If not, why do we let
Our work rule our lives?
Our schedule from morning
Alarm off to morning alarm on
Revolves around the time
That is NOT our own
Where you willingly, or
Semi-willingly, or barely
Willingly slice off sections
Of your self
And sautee them in a
Liberal helping of Want and Need
And all of the grey area in between.
Then those pieces are sold off
To benefit someone else’s
Bottom line.

If you think assigning
Scores to poetry is crazy
Realize that we assign scores
To your very existence
Every payday.
Punchclock to punchclock
Takes the bulk of the day.
Punchclock to punchclock
Where we are commidified
And prostituted as completely
As any Mustang Ranch
Lady in waiting.
The saddle is cinched in
And they ride you until
You are good for nothing
But glue.

“But I LIKE my job”
You say – some of you,
And good for you,
Though ask yourself if you
Would be doing the same thing
If you weren’t trading it for
Hearth and home?
What would you do if you
Weren’t valued in terms of
Dollars and cents,
Groceries and rents,
Graded and valued by your
Economic impact
Instead of humanity extract.

And why is it that the more
You are paid, the better you
Are treated?
It is like the price of
Self-respect has been reversed.
As you move up the pay scale you
Hand in the short-handled
Shovels and coloured
Paper hats.
Trade a life of stressing
About money for a life of
Stressing about money
And the illusion of
Freedom as the golden
Handcuffs can hold as tightly
As the iron shackles of
Desperation
And any bird can tell you
That a cage lined with
Gold and silk still won’t
Let you fly free.

When love and art
And friendship and
Parenting and joy and
ANYTHING motivated by
Who you are instead of
What you are worth
Is relegated to your
SPARE TIME
We know that we have
Created a life that
Is prioritized for you
And that we might as well
Hang a sign around our necks
With a price per pound
Because true intrinsic value
Has become a myth
But like any good myth it is
Worth holding on tightly
To remind us that maybe,
MAYBE, we can be something
More.
But in the meantime:
“You load 16 tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
St.Peter don’t you call me cuz I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the company store.”

““““““““““““““““`
Still writing… more to come…

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A Year in Blogging

Posted: December 29, 2010 in Poetry
Tags: , , ,

I started this blog on Jan. 5th, 2010.

In some ways it has been less a blog and more a chronicle of my poetry career… but that is what it was always meant to be, so it’s all good. 🙂

As 2010 winds down I thought I would take a stroll through the blog and find some factoids… a year in review, as it were.

Total # of views (Not including my own) : 2,741
Busiest day: June 9th, 2010 – 74 views

Not exactly Wil Wheaton…

Top Referrer: Facebook and rpriske.livejournal.com get the nods, but that is almost unfair since that (along with Twitter) is where I announce a new entry.

Top Referrer that wasn’t directly from one of my pages: monkeypudding.livejournal.com/friends

That is the one and only R.C.Weslowski!

Top Search Engine Terms that led to this blog: “Ian Keteku”

Hey, a guy becomes World Slam Champion and suddenly gets important.

I just tried to look at which post had the most subscribers…. but it is a big tie…

The biggest Click Through FROM this blog (after the links to my Live Journal and the JRSW blog I share with some friends) is a tie between:

Ian Keteku and Song for an Ancient City by Amal El-Mohtar.

Before I get to the TOP POST of the year, what about it’s poor cousin, the BOTTOM POST of the year…

Which post got the least hits? (Not counting one line posts that just give an update on my weekend poetry plans. Only entries with actual content are eligible):

What is Art?

A poem that was a sequal of sorts to Why Art? that I wrote to perform at the National Art Gallery.

It isn’t the worst poem I ever wrote, but neither does it deserve great fanfare.

So, which post is the TOP POST of the year?

Amal El-Mohtar

That says more about Amal’s fans that my blog. She linked to the post I gave me a cavalcade of hits.

The POEM that received the most hits was Moving to Arizona.

Interesting. That isn’t my most popular poem, but it seemed to strike a chord on-line.

So, my poetry career, crammed into a year, with some interesting side tangents along the way.

Not a bad year. 🙂

Anyway… here is 2011… and the new poem I will be debuting on January 3rd!

This past Saturday was the last Capital Slam of 2010 and it was a great show! PrufRock won with Loh El, Amal el-Mohtar, Brad Morden and Sepideh rounding out the final round.

What I want to talk about here is Amal… well, kind of.

Anyone who reads this blog should already know that I think she is an amazing poet.

When I found out she was coming to the show I immediately started trying to talk her into slamming. She has never slammed before. In face, she had never BEEN to a slam before.

Why did I want her to slam so badly? Not for her gratification, to be honest. She is already a very well-regarded writer and poet. She isn’t going to become a slammer (she doesn’t live in Ottawa currently, or damn straight I would be trying to turn her into a slammer…) No.

I wanted to prove a point.

I have always heard that to be a successful slammer you need to perform a certain style of poetry. I have heard that well-thought out and well-written pieces do not do well. If you are primarily a page poet, there is no point in even trying.

I call bullshit.

Amal is a page poet. Unlike many (not all by any means) page poets, she is able to present her poetry well orally.

That is it.

Write good poetry and present it well. That is all slam audiences ask for.

There is a place for railing against the establishment. There is also a place for a ‘song’ for a beautiful old city.

Write good poetry and present it well. The audiences will eat it up.

(It just so happens that my new poem, not yet performed, deals with similar topic…)

CONTEXT: October, 2010

Sometimes poems just come to you.

This one came from an odd source. I was reading an on-line forum where somebody starting talking about the difference between the mind and the brain. They were using love as an example. Another person came in and started explaining how love was a chemical reaction in the brain. They made a statement that isn’t EXACTLY the opening for the poem, but it is pretty close.

The poem starting falling into place almost immediately.

Amusing side note. I was featuring with Kevin Matthews out in Carleton Place at a LiPS Slam. As is my habit when I perform out there, I gave this poem a trial run. (I have probably debuted more poems out there than anywhere… short of Capital Slam.)

As I got to those early lines in the piece, Emily Kwissa and her friends started laughing. Apparently they had just had an exam in school on that exact thing. 🙂

    Chemical Love

I recently heard that
There is a scientific basis
For love.
As people fall in love
The brain releases a certain set of chemicals
Including pheremones, dopamine,
Norepenephrine and seretonin,
Which act in a manner similar to
Amphetemines, stimulating the
Brain’s pleasure center and
Leading to side effects such as
Increased heart rate,
Loss of appetite and sleep,
And an intense feeling of excitement.
So now I can honestly say,
Baby, you are my drug.
You started as just a taste –
First smile is free
But after that it’s gonna cost ya.
Sliding into my veins
On an hallucinagenic
Power slide.
Footing is treacherous
When you can’t even find
Your feet because
You’ve been knocked heels
Over head.
Lay it out in little lines
As we pretend love is orderly
Then blast my brain with
A near fatal dose
Directly to the cerebral
Cortex
Hollowing out my Common Sense
Center
Until I find myself humming
For no reason.
The effect multiplies with
Repeated doses leaving a
Product of less environment
And more desironment
As the language can’t contain my
Blisstophony.
Like any dealer of
Deadly substances
You ask for payment once
The hook sinks its oh-so-soft
Barbs into my fleshy parts –
The price is my heart
And I turn it over
Without hesitation
Because, let’s face it,
I’m addicted to you.

You inject into me
And I inject into you
As I triple up this entendre
And we disprove the
Impenetrability Principle
As two bodies
Occupy the same space
At the same time.

You have me tripping
The light fandango
As my heart turns
Cartwheels across the floor
Yelling out ‘Look at me!
Look at me!’
Like a five year old
Desperate for attention.

When we are apart
I go through withdrawl.
I get the shakes and
The bakes while
The fakes say
‘What’s up with him?’
But I know I’m jonesing
So bad that only
Another hit of that what
Makes me feel good will do.

I freebase you because
With you as my base
I feel free.
We love hard until
I realize we have made
Poetry
Out of every day.
You don’t stimulate only my
Brain’s pleasure center
But all of my brain
As you layer a knowledge-high
Over the sizzle from
Eyes to thighs
And… oh my.
I think I need a glass of water
Before I overheat
Or overdose.
I throw precautions to
The wind
Mixing you with gin
Because you are all the tonic
I need.
I’m hooked on phonics
Because all the words start
With U.
The mathematics of fanatics
As all equations have
You adding to me and
Solving for X
Where X equals infinity
Because our love knows
No limits.
You blow my mind, baby
Because you are my drug
And I can’t wait
For another dose
Of you.

“““““““““`

Next… is likely a poem I just wrote today. 🙂

Oh, if you see this in time, don’t forget that Once Upon A Slam is tonight! Mercury Lounge! 7pm!

Friday night the Copper Conundrum performed as part the Vernacular Spectacular show at the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. It went very well and we received a lot of very positive feedback. Danielle, Kevin and I had a great time and we really appreciate Caitlyn Paxson for inviting us to perform.

Speaking of the Storytelling Festival, if given the opportunity you NEED to go out and see Tim Tingle perform. The man is brilliant. It was as emotionally moving as any performance I have ever seen.

Saturday night was Capital Slam. The features were an amalgam of Urban Legends and Wild Card team members from CFSW. It was fun. There was a surprising dearth of performers… maybe because six of them were featuring. 🙂
I wasn’t planning to sign up, but since we only had seven slammers I added my name to make it eight.

Because I hadn’t really prepared, I did a couple of poems I had been working on with the Copper Conundrum. It is fun to do older stuff sometimes. I did Library and The Stranger. They went over well and I ended up third (improving my season score a little and keeping me in first overall… until Chris Tse performs again. 🙂

We had a first time winner… Sepideh! She wowed ’em at CFSW and now has a Capital Slam victory under her belt! Well done!

The final rankings were:

1. Sepideh
2. PrufRock (making his season debut)
3. Rusty Priske
4. Talia
5. Loh El
6. Ronsense (Ron Langton now has a stage name!)
7. Marco Lobo
8. Kheim Possible

On Sunday, Ruthanne Edward held a Story Slam at the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. It was a lot of fun. It was a more ‘pure’ storytelling lineup (as opposed to the Once Upon a Slam crowd which has a mix of storytellers and narrative poetry). There were a lot of time penalties (including two people who racked up 6 point penalties each), but in the end the top scorer wasn’t decided by the stop watch.

1. David Hickey (Montreal)
2. Kim Kilpatrick (Ottawa) – (two slams, two 2nds for Kim)
3. Phil Nagy (Ottawa)

One item of note was Kate Hunt of the Kymeras, who is a great poet, but had never slammed. She took Ruthanne’s workshop and made her slam AND storytelling debut! She ended up with a very good score, but picked up one of those 6 point time penalties. Nobody cared. It was awesome.

This Friday is the return of Once Upon A Slam at the Mercury Underground. Story Slam is rising fast and looks to be the Next Big Thing! Get in on the ground floor (pun intended…)

Out of context: The Copper Conundrum is performing at the Venacular Spectacular show at the Ottawa Storytelling festival on Friday. St. Brigid’s at 10pm. The show is hosted by Ivan E. Coyote and also features some cool local storytellers.

CONTEXT: September, 2010

Memory is a funny thing. I have always had problems with memory, whether it is memorizing my poems or other, more important things. EVERYTHING in this poem is something I have faced or wondered about or agonized about.

Recently something came up which made me think about it more and this poem came out.

    Sometimes I Can’t Remember

Sometimes I can’t remember my poetry.
Words whipping away like
Leaves in an Autumn breeze
Upgraded to a cyclone.
Ideas imprinted on my mind
Yet dancing past the
Tip of my tongue
Leaving me grasping for words
That are as important to me
As a whisper
But are as ephemeral
As a whisper
Flitting past my ear
When my attention is taken.
So I grip my paper
And hope that the words
Don’t slide off and leave me
With a page as blank as
My memory – looking to remind
Myself that I have something to say.
Even as the drip-drop water spout
Drowns out any thoughts
Except survival
As I try to stay afloat
And remember the words
That will remind me
Why I am alive.

Sometimes I can’t remember
My dreams.
Not the nighttime images that
Give us our fantasy stories
And secret adventures –
I never remember those.
I mean the dreams of a life
Fulfilled.
The man I never was, standing
Astride the world, leaving a
Mark that would never be
Washed clean
By the drip-drop flood
Of time and entropy.
Who did I want to be?
Did that person exist at all
In some parallel world that
I could only glimpse in my
Dreams? And I never remember those.
I think of my grandfather
Whose memory became fluid
Like the reverse memories
We have when looking to the future.
I never knew if he knew me
Or how much of me was the
Me that he knew
And now I know that the me
He knew may be no less the me
Than the me that I think I know.
Did I know who I wanted to be?
Whoever it was
I’m sure it isn’t me.
If only I could remember
Each daydream and musing
And far-reaching fantasy.
Did I dream of poetry?
Would I be proud of what I’d see
If that old me could see
What he would eventually be?

I remember being called genius
As I watched the worlds
Flow from the page
As I reached to hold onto
The simplest trivia.
A genius with a mind
Like a fishing net where
The holes outnumber the fish.

I remember staring at the phone
With no idea of my number.
Sweat pouring down my cheeks
As I grasped for any clue of
The digits I’d punched daily
For years.
I lose my way, I lose dates,
I lose names and faces
Hurting feelings of poets I had
Heard five times before.
The drip-drop of a rushing river
Of time, leaving me behind
In a wake of brine
Looking for my anchor.

Sometimes I can’t remember
Why you love me
And I desperately hope that
You can and I have not just
Become a habit that begs
To be broken.
What was it that drew you to me?
There must have been something
That I couldn’t see –
Or if I could it has been lost
To my drifting memory.
Can you remember?
And if so, can you tell me
Because I need to know
Who the person was that
Turned into me.

So I write poetry
Getting my thoughts down
In a way that shows more truth
Than simple statements ever can.
A record of my brain
Ready for translation.
But how can I remember me
When sometimes I can’t even
Remember my poetry?

““““““““““““““

Next is a fun version of a love poem.

Serve and Protect

Posted: November 15, 2010 in Poetry
Tags:

CONTEXT: September, 2010

This poem grew out of my reaction to the disgusting actions of the authorities around the G20 in Toronto.

The poem really sums up my feelings so I am not going to ramble on here.

I WILL say that I am not really happy with the poem in the end. It gets my thoughts across but it is stylistically rough. I have never performed it.

    SERVE AND PROTECT

When I was a boy
I was taught the police
Are our friends.
They deserve our respect
As they serve and protect
All that we hold dear.
They keep the streets
From becoming a
Wretched hive of
Scum and villainy. They keep
The wolves from the door
And make sure our cozy lives
Remain so.
They deserve respect
As they serve and protect
Each of us.
That made sense, when I was a boy.
But then I saw the police
Arrest someone for growing
Plants that made them feel good.
I saw them arrest someone
For having no home
And another for
Wearing only skin.
Do I need protecting from them?
Now the police weren’t
About protecting me
But about vague
Standards of the community.
So we can determine
Our definition of
What it means to be free
So the police deserve our respect
As they serve and protect
Our community, and I suppose
By extension me,
As my mind is connected,
Borg-like, into the will of the WE.

But then I saw the police
Try to be sneaky and incite
Thier fellows
Protesting in Montebello,
Trying to find an excuse
To cut them short.
Protestors who only wished to exhort
Citizens into speaking
Thier mind.
So what did I find?
If a community wished to speak
Neither thier standards
Or safety threats were peaked
So where is the respect
And who do they
Serve and protect?
It is the interest of the
Government who are threatened
By dissidents and
Questioning of power.
So the police guard the tower
For the Lords who sit on high
Counting the ballots.
Ah… ballots.
So the police deserve our respect
As they serve and protect
The government
Who represent each of us
As an embodiment of our will.
So if they work for those
Who represent the people
Are they not serving me,
By extension?
But I am not a boy
And lets not be coy
About whose interests
Are represented when the
G20 gather.
They do not discuss Social Justice
Or human rights, rather
It is the economy
That sits #1 on the agenda.
They work out new ways
Of protecting the assets
Of the upper classes
And hiding behind talk
Of employment and
Standards of living.
And when the hidden talks
Are exposed, the police
Jump to the rescue
And work hand in hand with
The media world
To turn peaceful protests
Into a circus of flames,
Lies and violence.
So where is the respect
For those who thought
Themselves served?
As the veil falls away
And I can surely say
That who is served is Mammon
And what is protected
Is the bottom line
And community be damned,
And by extension, me.

““““““““““““““`

The next piece I wrote is about memory and my fears surrounding it.