Posts Tagged ‘The Recipe’

Tough weekend, for a lot of reasons. Regrouping now.

CONTEXT: February, 2011

This poem has a double context – what was going on in my head and the reasoning behind writing it, and what happened when I shared it.

The roots of this poem go all the way back to 2009, ironically in a similar situation to where I sit right now. I had performed at the Capital Slam Semi-Finals and scored… okay. I had no real designs that year, beyond ‘doing my best’, and I came out of the Semi-Finals tied in 7th, with Brandon Wint. I looked at the list for the finals and understood that the likelihood of making the team were slim… very slim.

Then, independently of my slam prep, I wrote Conspiracy of Shame. I’m not going to get into the whole argument of using personal tragedy for slam scores, because I know that’s not what I did, but regardless it scored well, as did my other poem.

In the end I had pulled up enough to become the team alternate.

Who were the rest of the poets on the team?

Ian Keteku, OpenSecret, Poetic Speed and Brandon Wint.

Do those names ring a bell at all?

Yeah, we went to CFSW in Victoria and my guys absolutely rocked the event. They were so amazing and dominant that my only real question is whether they are the best team EVER. (Tough competition with the first Vancouver team: Shane Koyczan, C.R.Avery, Brendan McLeod and Barbara Adler)

By the time the team had returned to Ottawa Ian had hatched a plan about keeping them together and not letting the team be a one-off thing.

Thus The Recipe was born.

I wasn’t there when they discussed it, as Ruthanne and I stayed in Victoria for an extra week after the festival, but once I was home, Ian gave me a call. We talked about their goals and where I fit in. I was told I was very much welcome to be part of the group, but that they were planning to do it full time.

Ian knew, quite correctly, that I was not ready to be a full time poet. I am in a different life-place than they are. We agreed that I would be part of the group when it worked out but they shouldn’t worry about trying to include me when it didn’t.

Time passed and they got to work. By the time they were getting serious gigs it was February, and they were Black History Month gigs. Needless to say, I didn’t try to get myself in there. We did some other things – a photo shoot – a tour of Southern Ontario which was a GREAT time – a fun feature in Montreal. For the Ontario tour I even joined in on the team action as we ‘wrote me into’ Art Applied Alphabetically.

Then they had a western Canada tour… and I bowed out.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the show in Montreal was the last time I performed with The Recipe – and it was a solo piece that had me more on stage as their guest than a member.

All along I told the guys that this didn’t bother me. They were really starting to take off and I didn’t want to hold them back. I started feeling like a fraud when I mentioned I was part of the group. They had their fit, and I wasn’t part of it.

To make it clear, I love these guys. I am over the moon at how well they have done. They deserve every scrap of accolades they have received.

Finally, I formed a different group with my good friends Danielle Gregoire and Kevin Matthews, called the Copper Conundrum. It is much lower key (though I wish we would perform more, sometimes), and I still have Capital Slam.

But The Recipe…

What finally tipped into this poem?

When they opened for k-Os.

I felt like a sat back and watched my big opportunity slip past and did nothing about it… in fact, I actively messed it up because I was more worried about the time off from work I would have to take then living the life of my dreams.

What a long way I have come, from scribbling my first poem in 2007, that this is even a discussion.

The rest of my feelings are in the poem.

A week ago, the first Recipe member heard the poem. We drove Ikenna (OpenSecret) out to his feature in Carleton Place. I signed up to slam in order to try out a couple of pieces that I was thinking of doing at the CapSlam semi-finals.

As it turned out, he was one of the judges.

He didn’t talk about the poem much, after, other than saying he thought it was good, but two other people told me of his reaction during it.

Then I performed in this past Saturday at the semis, and it did okay. Fifth in the round. All of the Recipe was there. I don’t think I spoke to Brandon, except in passing. Ian didn’t say much but Komi (PoeticSpeed), sought me out and told me it meant something to him…

It is the people that matter, you know?


    The Fifth Beatle

What can you do when you
See your dreams slip by you
Just out of reach?
Attempts to grab them
End in wisps of smoke
Trailing off your fingers
Like mercury through a spider-web.
And what if your dreams slip by
And you just stand there?
Fists clenched and jaw set
Like a Hannibal Lector inaction figure
With a straightjacket
Woven out of fear and insecurity.
And what if you don’t recognize them
Until they are past?
Fading in the distance
But the memory remains
Outlined in vivid neon tubing
As unsubtle as New Year’s in Times Square
Or Las Vegas anytime,
Complete with the slipping strains of hope
Giving way to undercurrents of desperation
Arguing which is worse,
Wagering everything on one throw of the dice
Or refusing to step to the line at all.

I’ve been the poster child for ‘giving it a go’.
I am the Uncle Sam pointing outwards
Asking you to find what makes you, you.
But where is the Just Start
For the just missed.
As the mists of time pull tighter
And youth seems wasted
On practicality and level-headedness.
Where were MY wild days,
Living out of a suitcase and
Willing to sing for my supper,
Or at least recite for my repast.

I’ve said that poetry makes me feel young
But sometimes I feel like the tortoise,
Hunkering down and then
Wondering where everyone has run off to.

The greatest dish comes from the greatest Recipe,
But you mix all the ingredients,
Leaving off the final garnish
Only to discover
You never needed it in the first place.
And that’s the hardest blow,
To realize you are unnecessary.

“But I couldn’t possibly!
I’ve got a job, a family, and a show to run!”
Lying that any of this makes the straightjacket
More than my own mental construct
As I kept jabbing the self-destruct button
Over and over
And acting surprised when it does what it says.

And the gold handcuffs are only gold painted
And I lie that I haven’t sold my soul
Because I do poetry on the weekends!
And I have excelled at ensuring I’d be
Exactly what I swore wasn’t me –

Does Pete Best ever turn on Sgt. Pepper’s
And wonder what the hell went wrong?
But some of us weren’t meant to be Beatles.

Those that won’t do, preach
And encourage others to do
What I was to cowardly to do.
But what do you do when you treated
Opportunity knocking like
A door-to-door solicitor
Better ignored then acknowledged.
You took the path MORE taken
But found yourself more lost than ever
And have run out of people to blame.

What do you do
When you watched your dreams pass you by?
You start watching for the next one,
It’s never too late
To dream

One Petal

Posted: July 13, 2010 in Poetry, The Recipe
Tags: ,

CONTEXT: May, 2010

Well, I WROTE it in May, but the real context is in February. That is when the Recipe went on a tour of Southern Ontario. We did three nights in London – Burlington – London (opening for C.R. Avery one night then featuring at Slams the next nights), then it was back to Ottawa for a workshop and show, then back for shows in Mississauga and Toronto, finishing with a workshop and performance at a school in Markham.

The tour was fun but it was the school show in Markham that set my brain spinning. The format was a workshop first followed by a quick set from us and a set by some of the students. Then we shifted to the cafetorium 🙂 for more from students and another set of ours.

The students blew my mind, end to end. The ability to open up like they did… well, just let me say that I certainly couldn’t have done that when I was their age.

Who really blew my mind was a kid after the workshop. There isn’t a whole lot to tell that I didn’t put in the poem. I should say, however, that I am attributed a lot of stuff to him that might say more about me than him. The poem line is his, though, and as inspiration goes, it was a doozy.

    One Petal

Students, teenagers, poets –
One after another
Stepping up to roll out their
Words – no judges but
All judged by a jury of their
Peers, peering into the hidden
Places, normally protected by
Fire and stone – flint and steel.
A name is called and up steps
A shadow, melting out of the
Crowd, edges sharpening
Under the flourescent gaze
Of laser eyes.
He was slight and stooped,
Curved in on himself like a
Question mark looking for answers
Without knowing what to ask.
His eyes were ellipses, looking
For their third, staring resolutely
Into the industrial carpet, trod
Thin by those such as him.
His voice creaked under the strain
Of forcing words past his teeth.
He said, “This flower only has
one petal and I always start with
‘She loves me not’.”
The student-poets applauded while
The poet-students buckled under
The weight of his words.
Peeling off a single layer of
Secrets, peeking into a soul,
Raw – fresh and tender –
Kicked aside – unnoticed.

Here is the greatest tragedies
Of our times – writ large,
Yet unread.
This 21st century Tommy
Looking for anyone to reach
Out to. ‘See me’, he cries.
‘Touch me’.

The smallest affection, well meant,
Can sooth the deepest affliction.
Descartes replaced by
‘I feel, therefore I am’
But his eyes, when you can
Catch them, show that he
Has learned that feeling
Means feeling pain and
Feeling nothing feels worse
Than not feeling.

He moves back to his seat
And the next Saul, Shane or Ursula
Steps up.
He vanishes back into himself –
Into safely hidden nooks of quiet screaming.
The door slams behind him
As even this small glimpse
Could expose him.
He sits – still
But shaking. Terrified but

No one can understand the
Singularity of the walls
When looking at legions of
The girl in the bathroom
Convinced that people will notice her
If she can find another pound
To lose.
The boy who tests the sharp
Edge, looking for the thin
Red line that tells him to
Drinking into the sensation of
Nightmare-dripping pain –
Wondering where bravery lies –
Cutting deeper or putting down
The knife.

But this isn’t darkness.
It is light sneaking through
Clasped fingers,
Venetian blinds glued into place,
And a question mark looking
For answers, in a garden
Of his own making.
He absent-mindedly plucks petals,
“I love me. I love me not.”
Losing count when he forgets
What there is for him to love.

He leaves one petal,
Waiting for a reason to start
At a different place –
Someone who can find her way
Past his iron wrought gates
Threaded through with barbed wire and chain link.
Someone with a bag of seeds
To plant his garden with
Daisies, Roses, Ivy.
He has his own watering can
And she brings the sunshine.
Then we can sit back
And just watch them grow.


Next is a riff on a poem by Danielle Gregoire.

The Stranger

Posted: May 20, 2010 in Poetry
Tags: ,

Busy few poetry days…

I think I mentioned that I had a new poem called Moving to Arizona. I performed it at the Urban Legends ad hoc Anti-Slam… but messed it up pretty bad. I then spent the next couple of days trying to get it down. Monday night I went out to the LiPS Slam in Carleton Place (the Lanark County crew) so that I could give it another go.

The love and support I get out there is above and beyond…

I did it in the first round, but I messed it up AGAIN! Purely psychological. I was crawling into my own head.

Oh, I still got 29.9. Fair? As I said, they love my stuff out there. I guess you could argue that they can’t punish me for having memorization problems when I was one of only a couple of poets who didn’t read off paper, and they weren’t ‘punished’. The is debatable.

Where I think it gets sticky is that I don’t see how it was possible that I didn’t get a time penalty.

Anyway, in the second round I did The Stranger, which happens to be today’s entry. I got a 29.8 for that one and won the Slam.

Tuesday night I drove up to Montreal with the Recipe to feature at the Throw Slam finals. I practiced all day again.

This time I absolutely nailed it. The crowd response was HUGE! It felt like the room elevated in that moment, and just kept going. By the time Ikenna was talking about Marc Lepine, the Recipe had won a new city’s worth of fans. 🙂

CONTEXT: March, 2010

This poem is a true story. In fact, it is a true story within a true story.

The time I was walking down the darkened street and suddenly realizes that I was scary the hell out of someone came back when I lived in Calgary, in my early 20’s.

The time I was mugged came when I was working at a Mac’s in Victoria, just after high school.

I have heard guys say ‘why should I have to go out of my way when they are the one’s with the problem?’

I answer, ‘it is called being a decent human being.’ Sometimes I despair at how few of those there are.

After I wrote this, Nadine Thornhill (without having heard it) reacted to my mention of it saying that it would go well with Danielle Gregoire’s Kent & Gladstone. She meant they were complimentary, but after hearing that I realized how well they went together structurally as well. I talked to Danielle and then arranged the two together as one piece. We performed it as a duo at the Capital Slam Semi-Finals.

The first ‘Copper Conundrum’ piece, which is something you will hear more about in the future. Watch for it!

    The Stranger

Sneakered feet fall heavy
On wet sidewalk, kicking
Aside fallen leaves from
Thier atumnal suicide ritual.
I step under a street light,
Shadows scurry for cover
Until I move past.
The young woman walking ahead
Turns her head, furtively,
Like and amateur spy dropped
Into cold war East Berlin.
She looks again
Then hastens her pace.
The gap stays steady as I
Top her by a full foot
So her quicked walk only
Matches my casual one.

Then I realize –
She is afraid of me.
How could anyone be afraid
Of me?
I am willfully gentle.
I’m more a threat to an
Unattended buffet than I am to
A fellow pedestrian –
Despite the late night gloom
And chill of seminal horror movies,
Or worse, city crime pages.

Then I remember the night I
Was mugged.
Two assailants and a wrench to the
Back of the head.
They wanted my bank deposit
And a parting kick to the temple.
It was over so fast – I was numb,
In shock, when I called the police.
The fear came on the next night.
Walking home from work at 1am,
My heart jack-hammering so loud
It drowns out the
Approach of my attacker
The I KNEW was coming.
I jerked and shuddered at
every sound or movement.
I felt the blow from the
Swung wrench a full day
After impact.
But nothing happened.
Nor the next night.
The fear abated.

But I am me and my non-consensual
Walking companion is half my size.
I learned that people are not
Carrying back pocket mechanic’s tools
In order to stage random
But what if they were?
To the young woman walking ahead
Every man might as well be packing
A Dirty Harry Peacemaker
With the intent to use it.

And mentally preparing against
Every innocent is better than
Being unprepared against the one
Who isn’t.

She looks again at her
Poetential attacker – the one
Who could show up as an artist’s
Sketch, if she is able to muster
Any description.

No one wants to be accused
Of a crime or the threat
Of a crime just for existing.
To be judged for your chromosomes
With no possibility of retort.
But that is a small loss
Compared to goign through life
As a walking target
As the world tries to thrust
The label of victim upon you,
By force of necessary.

I look at her
And do the only thing I can do.
I cross the street
Because nobody should have to
Live thier life in fear.


Next is about having a well intentioned, but culturally sheltered upbringing.