Posts Tagged ‘Copper Conundrum’

CONTEXT: February, 2011

Recently a colleague (Gary Gates) retired after working for the Gov for 39 years.

I was 3 when he started here… and I’m not a young guy.

Anyway, a couple of other co-workers, while planning a celebration for him, asked if I would be willing to write him a poem. They appealled to my ego (“we know how accomplished you are, so it would be a great honour…”), which will always work. Besides, I really like Gary. He was one of the better managers I have had here. He really seemed to want to help you out.

Still, I don’t really write the ‘what a great guy’ kind of poetry. I told them I would think about it and see what I could do. Inspiration hit and I wrote the poem below. I still wasn’t sure if that is what they wanted, but it went over pretty big.

I couldn’t actually go to the celebration, due to prior commitments, so I video taped it. It seemed to have gone over very well. (Gary’s wife asked for a copy of the video…)

Anyway… here it is:

    Fast Forward

We live our lives in fast forward
Scanning through as fast as we can
In order to find out
Who gets the ruby slippers
Or what is waiting at the
End of the rainbow.
We don our track shoes
As everybody wants to win
The human race,
To prove we aren’t
Just another rat
In a maze looking
For that big prize.
Sorry to get cheesy
But it amazes me
That once
Retirement meant
You were done.
A society deemed you
Superfluos – don’t let the
Door hit you on the way out!

Thankfully, things have changed.
Someone realized that
People are not defined
By their jobs
And work owes you,
You don’t owe it.
And there is a time
To shift from meetings
Of the board
To power chords
And from release worries
To fish stories.

“You should have seen the one…”

Because there is always another rainbow.
The race isn’t a sprint –
It’s a marathon
Where nobody wins or loses
And every stage is just
Prelude to the next.
You’ve earned your
‘Government of Canada’ merit badge
So it’s time to tackle
The next challenge.

Bob Dylan said, “You’re gonna
Have to serve somebody”
And maybe that’s true,
And he can sing it until his face is blue
But he’ll have to admit what I am saying to you,
From now on
You will be serving somebody
Who has earned it…


Next up for me is the Champion’s Cup this Sunday at the Rainbow Room. 16 competitors head-to-head, including all three members of the Copper Conundrum. (I hope we don’t face each other in the first round…)

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
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.

CONTEXT: June, 2010

Working on material for the first Copper Conundrum shows, we got into a discussion about what it was like to grow up with red hair.

The thing is – it wasn’t until I was an adult that I even HEARD of the idea that red-heads were treated badly. That wasn’t what I experienced. (Though I do HATE the term ginger.)

Now being named RUSTY on the other hand… 🙂

But really, it isn’t that I LIKE having red hair, it is more that I couldn’t picture NOT having it. It is who I am.

So I wrote a silly little poem.

Note: When I was coming up with alternate names if I wasn’t called Rusty I picked Ricky and Randy. Then I decided to switch Randy as a tribute to the one and only RC Weslowski.


Red isn’t just a colour to me.
Red is my identity.
More times than I can count
I have been asked
“Why do they call you Rusty?”
Accompanied by a wry smile
Or knowing glance –
Really an unknowing glance
Since their rhetorical
Question has led them astray.
They assume my name followed
My curly red locks –
Once perched atop
Of my head – now migrated
But NO!
On the fateful day in
March, 1968, a brand-new
Pasty white beach-ball
Bounced into the world
As bald as Picard.
Birth certificate says Russell
But I’ve been called Rusty
Since my hair was
Nothing more than a
But I have grown into my hair colour
As my hair colour has grown into me.

Would I still be me
If I was a blonde named Ricky?
Or a dark haired
RC Priskowski?
But alas, that we will never see
For I am red
And red is me.


Next is a fairly new, fairly popular piece about angst.

CONTEXT: May, 2010

When Danielle Gregoire, Kevin Matthews and I got together to work out our first Copper Conundrum sets, we decided to see if we could riff off each others work… using it as a springboard for new writing.

Danielle has a poem called ‘Pre-pubescent Genius’ which some people may know as ‘We Never Kissed’. I decided to write my own section to that, telling a different story of young {ahem} love. 🙂

    We Never Kissed (after ‘Pre-pubescent Genius’ by Danielle K.L. Gregoire)

We never kissed.
Sitting two rows over
In second period algebra
Trying to calculate the
Difference between actually
Asking you on a date
And solving for X.
Even my teenaged brain
Recognized I may be valuing
You for the length of your
Skirt rather than the
Quality of your mind –
But what else did I have
To go on, since we had
Never actually spoken.

We travelled in different circles.
Yours was the popular crowd
And mine… wasn’t,
But if John Hughes movies
Taught me anything,
Those are just roadblocks
That can be eventually overcome
By perserverence and
Comedic co-incidence.

I knew we were fated
For mutual infatuation,
Hand-holding, plus possibly the
Sorts of things that run
Through the mind of a
Puberty-riddled boy way more
Often than we will ever admit.

You were my one-and-only love
… For about a week
Until I fell head over heels
For yet another girl that
I would never kiss.


Next is another piece that came out of the Recipe’s Ingredients workshop.

You may have seen mention of it here and there, but let me tell you about the majesty and awe of the Copper Conundrum.

A while back Danielle Gregoire came up with the idea of gathering a couple of fellow redheaded poets and going on a mini-tour of Ontario. We were all for it, but it fell through, for a variety of reasons. Then an opportunity came up for us to perform at the up-coming Ottawa Fringe Festival so we brought the idea back and here we are!

One thing I am pretty sure about is that this is not a one-off thing. So far it seems that we enjoy working together (if I can speak for my fellow Copperites), so expect to see this grouping move forward and do more gigs in the future.

For now what we have scheduled is a Toronto Poetry Slam feature followed by three shows at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

So, who are the Copper Conundrum?


Danielle is the former Director and Slammaster of Capital Slam as well as the founder of the Lanark County Slam (the first ‘rural’ team to ever compete at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word). Danielle has won positions on two slam teams and is currently working on her third. She has performed in MANY places and has a CD collecting all of her live recordings from Capital Slam over the years called Optimism is a Constant Struggle.

Oh, and she is a mom and her daughter is awesome.


Kevin is the person I have most heard referred to as ‘the best poet in Ottawa’. He may argue that, but I am writing this so TOO BAD! Kevin was one of the trifecta of peots I heard when I first started listening to spoken word that combined to make me want to be a poet myself (along with John Akpata and Steve Sauve). Like Danielle, Kevin has made Slam teams from more than one community – once with Winnipeg and twice with Capital Slam. He has performed everywhere and has taken to adding music to his poetry to highten the audience’s enjoyment of his performances even more. Kevin is awesome.


That’s me, eh?

Current Slammaster for Capital Slam… the Slammaster for the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word 2010 in Ottawa… a member of three Capital Slam teams, including the 2009 National Championship team.

And stuff….

Anyway… soon we will have a Facebook group so you can follow our exploits.

Make sure you come and see the Copper Conundrum wherever you can!