Born in Matapedia, Quebec, Heather Haley was drawing, singing and composing songs and stories by the age of six. She attended church in order to participate in the choir—usually catching a well-deserved nap during mass—and read voraciously, often under the covers. Thusly, the night has always been her friend and she has grown weary of people characterizing her work as dark. "If you don't laugh, you'll cry. . ."
Heather Haley is an accomplished performer, both as a spoken word artist and a musician and toured internationally. She has shared her poetry with audiences at the Vancouver International Writers Festival, Kootenay School of Writing, Vancouver Public Library, Word on the Street Festival, the Western Front, Thundering Word Heard, Bukowski's, West Coast Poetry Festival, the Fearless Festival and Vancouver City Hall. She has been featured on CBC Radio and Book Television. Haley sang and wrote songs for a series of groups, including an all-girl punk band, then the .45s (with Randy Rampage of DOA, Brad Kent of the Avengers and Karla Duplantier, ex-Controllers ) and HHZ—Heather Haley & the Zellots—praised by music critic Craig Lee as one of "Ten Great LA Bands". She has played the Smiling Buddha Cabaret, Mabuhay Gardens and Geary Street Theatre (People's Temple) in San Francisco, the Hong Kong Cafe, the Palomino Club, Blackies, Club 88, Club Lingerie and the John Anson Ford Theatre in Los Angeles. Upon her return to Vancouver, Haley worked the streets as an official BC Transit busker. In 2004, she teamed up with guitarist/sound designer and dj Roderick Shoolbraid to produce a series of live shows • RECORDING ARTIST • and an audio CD of song and spoken word called Surfing Season. She has also appeared at Crush Champagne Lounge, the Lamplighter pub, Rime on Commercial Drive, Telling Tales on Bowen Island, the Red Schoolhouse Poetry Festival in Kingston, the Art Bar in Toronto, Words & Music in Montreal, the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Las Vegas, Red Sky Poetry Theatre in Seattle and Shakespeare & Sons in Prague.
During a decade-long stint as an expatriate, Haley was employed as a staff writer, editor and arts reviewer for the LA Weekly. Spoken word was her beat and she published many of the city's finest poets in her own section of the popular, alternative journal. Haley's poetry has appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies: the Antigonish Review, the Vancouver Review, Geist, Northern Lights, the Literary Storefront, On The Bus, Heresies, High Performance, Medusa, Verb, Arts Vancouver and anthologies ROCKsalt: Contemporary BC Poetry, The Verse Map of Vancouver and The Verdict Is In. Anvil Press published a collection of verse entitled Sideways in 2003 and Three Blocks West of Wonderland came out on Ekstasis Editions in 2009.
"Heather Haley's poetry is tough, irreverent, and in-your-face. She asks all the questions that a nice girl's not supposed to ask. Down back roads and highways, her characters long to possess the past and harness the future. Cowboys, car accidents, broken hearts, dead lovers-and potential violence-hover like heat on the horizon. Whether they're gangsta girls or riot grrrls, roaming the range or pacing the mall, Haley's women are always in the forefront, in the driver's seat, crankin' the wheel in their direction. Like wild horses bustin' loose, or an explosion in the kitchen, Haley's women know how heady power is, how it lathers beneath a mount. Her characters bite life on the neck and take what they need, and just when they think it's gone, meaning happens. This is brawny and uncompromising language from a voice that demands to be reckoned with."-Brian Kaufman. The BC Publishers Association selected the book's Europa for their Poetry in Transit program.
Digital publications include e-poets.net, the University of Manitoba's e-zine, Treeline, Tales of Slacker Bonding, Assemblage-The Women's New Media Gallery, Cahoots, 30 in 30 at SeenReading.com, Authors Aloud.com, Tonopah Review, the Smoking Poet, About.Com/Poetry and AucklandPoetry.com. In 2006 she completed a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts' Wired Writing Studio working with Karen Solie under the directorship of Greg Hollingsheand and Fred Stenson. She wrote much of her new book Window Seat which is currently under consideration by several publishers. Poems from the manuscript have been published in the Vancouver Review, Collared Peccary, the Undercurrent, in Pooka Press’s photo booth broadside series and exhibited at the 2006 World Poetry Gala at the Vancouver Public Library. Whore in the Eddy was part of the Beast Poems Project at the Chicago Calling Arts Festival, Oct. 2007 and has been selected for inclusion in Rocksalt: Anthology of BC Poetry, the first in over thirty years.
Haley tutors young poets and writers through several programs and facilitates a workshop of poetry video called See The Voice for elementary schools, universities and symposiums that include ReFrame: Video at the Crossroads at Malaspina University College, the Canadian Authors Association conference at UBC and Modern Fuel artist-run centre in Kingston, Ontario.
Haley has served on numerous juries and panels including the Canada Council for the Arts, Digital Arts and Culture in Atlanta, Georgia, Illume: An Alchemy of Text and Image in Chicago and she led the inaugural e-poets Geo-conference, also in Chicago.
Haley is a member of the Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture, the BC Federation of Writers, Women in Film & Video, Bowen Island Arts Council, the League of Canadian Poets and ISEA (International Symposium of Electronic Arts).
In 2003, Haley's videopoem, Dying for the Pleasure, premiered at Pacific Cinematheque. Employing a poem-as-script strategy, it is a blackly humorous, kaleidoscopic trip down Memory Lane, the car a metaphor for power, an extension of desire. Once behind the wheel, we are transformed into cyborgs, driven to deliverance. Set at the intersection of flesh and metal, beyond road rage and autoeroticism, Dying for the Pleasure explores a woman's dread of, and terrible infatuation with, the car and car culture. Lyle Neff, in a review for The Westender, characterized it as "suitably hair raising. One of Haley's themes is the high price we eagerly pay for technological advances. She locates this idea where it really belongs, which is not in the malleable, debatable imagery of cyberspace, but in the mundanely high-impact world of automobiles. That's where we really pay the price for our cool machines."
In 2005, Dying for the Pleasure screened at the International ArtExpo in Milan, Italy, the National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Kalingrad, Russia and the Gene Siskal Film Centre/Chicago Art Institute. Her new videopoem, Purple Lipstick, is touring the festival circuit and has garnered many kudos, having been selected by VideoBardo Festival in Buenos Aires, the Zebra International Poetry Film Festival in Berlin and the NFB sponsored Female Eye Festival in Toronto, a memorial of the Montreal/École Polytechnique Massacre.
Stimulating and directing cultural fulmination is as natural to Heather as manipulating media. She is an innovative programmer with a history of staunch commitment to the arts community and cultural awareness. With a strongly held conviction that artists, especially poets, needed to be represented on the World Wide Web, she founded The Edgewise Café in 1994, one of Canada's first electronic literary magazines, along with the non-profit arts organization, the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre. The EEC facilitated the Vancouver Videopoem Festival and Telepoetics, a videoconferenced reading series founded by Merilene M. Murphy. The Edgewise ElectroLit Centre's populist mandate and innovative programs effectively made poetry accessible to all and assisted Canadian poets and artists in expanding both their audience and potential.
Heather is the host and • CURATOR • of SEE THE VOICE: Visible Verse, North America's sustaining venue for the presentation of new and artistically significant poetry film and video. Haley is a well-established presenter of poetry video. An instigator of poetry video production and appreciation in Canada, Haley and the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre convened the original Vancouver Videopoem Festival in 1999. That festival became critically regarded owing to its progressive regard for spoken word in cinema. The 2000 festival, for example, presented many poets both in performance and on the big screen. The audience could see for themselves the merits and distinctions of poetry rendered in time in these two forms, stage versus screen. The festival then built upon that critical base, with widened explorations into poetry cinema across national frontiers. It presented significant new works from Europe and the Americas, and continued to offer Canadian audiences a remarkably broad selection of new videopoems from their own country. And owing to Vancouver's strength in the film and television production industries, Haley has been able to cultivate critical interest between filmmakers and poets, with positive consequences for both.