All posts by Heather Haley

“A Temporary Stranger” launch

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Sadly missed, I’ve been a friend and associate of Jamie Reid’s since 1994 after returning to Vancouver from an expatriate stint in Los Angeles, having gone down there with my band to become a rock star. Obviously, that didn’t pan out but all in all, it was a marvelous experience.

Eight months pregnant, I founded the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre, a literary arts organization whose mandate was to utilize and develop what was then new media and technology for the language arts. We published a multimedia online zine, used videophones to link poets and audiences site to site and provided a venue for videopoetry. Michael Turner helped plug me back into CanLit and told me about Jamie so I contacted him along with Neil Eustache, Sheri-D Wilson and Alexandra Oliver to invite them to read at our debut Telepoetics link-up at the Western Front. To say Jamie was adventurous would be understatement. He agreed, participated enthusiastically and was always a big booster, not just for me and the Edgewise but for pretty much everyone involved in Vancouver’s literary arts scene. For your information, The Edgewise ElectroLit Centre archive is now housed at Simon Fraser University Library Special Collections in Burnaby. It is open to the public and contains several videos of Jamie in action, as well as many other esteemed Canadian poets and artists.

On Thursday I will be reading and helping to launch Anvil Press and Jamie’s posthumous collection, A Temporary Stranger at The Cottage Bistro on Thursday May 25th at 7 PM. Jami Macarty will host a full roster of readers including: Carol Reid, Patrick Friesen, Karl Siegler, Dennis E. Bolen, Stephen Roxborough, Donato Mancini, Heidi Greco, Eve Jospeh, Joanne Arnott, George Bowering, Chris Turnbull, George Stanley, Renee Rodin, Lary Bremner, Mike Barnholden, Maria Hindmarch and moi. “This is sure to be a packed event, celebrating not just the new book, but everything Jamie, so arrive early to secure a seat.” Hope to see you there.

 

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My mother Corona Haley

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My dearly long-departed French/Irish mother Corona Haley grew up on the banks of the Matapédia River. She’d endured a hard life, was charming, feisty, sexy, funny and a consummate storyteller.

Family lore has it that she was born in the convent because her mother was only 15 years old when she got pregnant and for some strange reason the nuns took my mother’s name off a Smith Corona typewriter. Reginald Haley came to get Genora when they reached the age of consent to marry her and they had four more children. Sadly, he died a prisoner of war and my grandmother contracted cancer. Corona quit school when she was only 12 to care for her and her younger brothers and sisters. Don’t you love family lore? In any case, seriously damaged, my mother certainly had issues and our relationship was tumultuous but I loved her deeply and still miss her every day.

Happy Mothers Day Mom!

 

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Liar, Liar

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“Families First.” What a crock. Christy Clark will say anything to get re-elected. That is for certain, as is the case with most politicians, but Clark takes dishonesty and hypocrisy to new levels. The Liberals-such a misnomer-are very good at coming up with snazzy sound bites though. As the parent of a child on the spectrum I know that autism funding is a huge political football. The same with MSP fees, which have doubled, which no other province pays. BC Liberals effectively do nothing as people struggle with constantly rising costs of living including food, hydro, daycare and housing. Clark is very helpful to her wealthy donors by providing tax breaks while our wages remain low and jobs part-time. Anything below $15. an hour is a poverty level wage, especially in Vancouver. I will vote this spring but as usual there is not much choice. I doubt the NDP have the ability to oust her and the Liberals. We will be stuck with more lies and subterfuge.

 

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Please Vote

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This bears repeating…Christy Clark is a liar!

“Families First.” What a crock. Christy Clark will say anything to get re-elected. That is for certain, as is the case with most politicians, but Clark takes dishonesty and hypocrisy to new levels. The Liberals-such a misnomer-are very good at coming up with snazzy sound bites though. As the parent of a child on the spectrum I know that autism funding is a huge political football. The same with MSP fees, which have doubled, which no other province pays. BC Liberals effectively do nothing as people struggle with constantly rising costs of living including food, hydro, daycare and housing. Clark is very helpful to her wealthy donors by providing tax breaks while our wages remain low and jobs part-time. Anything below $15. an hour is a poverty level wage, especially in Vancouver. I will vote this spring but as usual there is not much choice. I doubt the NDP have the ability to oust her and the Liberals. We will be stuck with more lies and subterfuge.

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In Between Porcelain Thrones

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There is no money in poetry. There is no poetry in money either but that provides little solace when it’s time to pay the rent.

Seven toilet day! Six too many. Perhaps seven. First cleaning job/condo had four, two on the second floor, then one on each of the other floors. Is this really necessary I’m thinking as I scrub away? Second condo had three, one on each floor. The worst thing about bathrooms is their size. Or lack of space, crammed with fixtures the way they are.

I’m trying to find a way to get through this work, a way not to feel miserable because I have to work. Pay the bills. Survive. Listening to music-when I can-helps a bit. Mostly I daydream. Plot, scheme. Feel like Cinderella. Feel trapped. I’m glad that I’m able to earn a living, be my own boss-blah, blah, blah-grateful that these beat up old hands, body still function but I am seriously weary of it all and really hoping that a well-earned vacation will provide some perspective, help me to feel better, even rejuvenated. Dare I hope?

Interesting how many times my fortunes have turned. Along with the men in my life? Screw Prince Charming. I was happiest living alone, working at the LA Weekly. Unfortunately that didn’t last. Fortunately I can adapt. I was also happy living with a partner as part of a family. I love child rearing, being a mother. It’s just time to return to myself. Be the artist I fought so hard to become. I have been called pretentious but my art is the most important thing in the world, after my son. One of my most talented friends refuses to write unless he’s being paid. Oh it would be lovely to be a professional again but I have to write regardless of circumstances. It’s in me to do. Who I am. So, I write in between jobs. Toilets. Sadly, along with more than a few former journalists.

C’est la vie though the Catholic in me suspects I’m being punished for my sins. The illustration above is by dear friend Victor Bonderoff, for a poem I wrote long ago called Where Sins are More Sinful. My mother used to hide her beer from her brothers in the toilet tank. What is this affinity with the porcelain throne? In any case, I miss collaborating too.  Mark Neys AKA Swoon Bildos of Belgium adapted it to video and Roderick Shoolbraid composed the music.

 

WHERE SINS ARE MORE SINFUL

A river flows down to the Atlantic-

the Matapédia-

Irish and cathedral

on one side,

Québécois and cathedral

on the other.

They all know sin.

 

Jeanette walked to the pier

every day to buy a lobster,

hid the quarts of beer

from brothers Ed and Reggie

in the toilet tank.

Hung a rosary there,

to atone for the bastard

she nourished

with lobster and beer.

 

Tiny filligree iron cross

laced with lines of rust.

 

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Something to look forward to

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Swamped! I’ve been expanding my business and with spring finally here, find myself overwhelmed, but too much work is better than not enough, right? I like being my own boss but I’m seriously burning out. Fortunately my best friend Cathy is kindly taking me to London and Barcelona with her to celebrate her birthday in early May. We’ve been close since meeting as teenagers, she is my son’s godmother and very good to both of us. I knew from the moment Cathy walked into my life that she was an exceptional human being and I’m lucky to know her. In any case, I’m scrambling to prepare to leave town. Thankfully, my inner optimist has kept my passport current.

Also, today is your last chance to win a copy of my novel, The Town Slut’s Daughter at Goodreads. “Haley has the gift of writing to suit her subject in all its raddled variety, from wired and jarring to lyrical and tragic.”-Vancouver Sun

 

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“Bushwhack” @ Versogramas

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I received an email from Spanish poet, producer Celia Parra inviting me to participate in Versogramas, a “a transmedia project about the international videopoetry scene. It will include a documentary, a book, DVD, exhibition and webdoc.” They would like to feature Bushwhack, a videopoem I made a few years back with Tina Schliessler and Chris Coon, an official selection at various festivals including the Haida Gwaii Film Festival and the Vancouver Women in Film Festival. “Adapted from the provocative book and unique collaboration by visual artist Tina Schliessler and poet Heather Susan Haley, Bushwhack compels the viewer to see—and hear—the forest in an entirely new way.”

Nice to have one’s work recognized. Some days I forget that I’m an artist.

 

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“May you live in interesting times.”

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But, this is getting ridiculous! Well, it is a curse. And the shit has hit the fan. My mind is having difficulty assimilating recent events. It’s Canada First in my book but a Trump presidency is impossible to ignore. People are just getting over the shock of his victory and still arguing about how it happened. I keep thinking, the emperor has no clothes! Surely it’s obvious yet he gets away with corruption, despicable acts and unfathomable hubris, though I suppose we should be used to it by now. I realize I am not alone. Many people are having a difficult time, personal or political or both.

Perhaps 08 was the year all this crap started. My family lost our home and most of our savings. We’ve been forced to downsize three times since and are preparing to move yet again in an attempt to further cut living expenses. But, we persist. Somehow. Despite feeling discouraged or demoralized. Sometimes I think we all deserve a medal, for remaining civil, for refraining from conflict, for getting out of bed in the morning.

So, I think I will host an 80s themed party for my upcoming birthday March 8. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the 80s were some of the happiest years of my life. I wrote verse and songs while fronting my band, articles and reviews for the LA Weekly while surrounded by the most loving, supportive, kooky and brilliant friends. Fortunately that hasn’t changed. (That’s me in the photo above with Suzy Gardner of L7 in her Silverlake bungalow, straight out of Day of the Locust.) I will take Polaroids with my beat up Sun 600 camera and remaining film while blasting 80s Underground on Soma FM in a valiant attempt to escape the present. Reality. Don’t the 80s seem innocent by contrast?

Rock on my pretties! Really, what choice is there?

 

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Why Can’t Things Be Better?

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I’m not leaving. I hope! Holding on, hanging in, so far. Esteemed filmmaker friends Charles Wilkinson and Tina Schliessler are currently working on No Fixed Address, a documentary about Vancouver’s housing crisis, though they refer to it as a “housing situation.” Call it what you will, I’m determined to remain in my beloved Vancouver, though I’m not sure how. My son and I are paying $1250. a month for a one-bedroom apartment in East Vancouver, just off Commercial Drive, reasonable apparently, though I wish I could reduce our living expenses. Even with some help and while working my ass off, we are barely scraping by. Because the cost of living is high too. If only we could quit eating.  Sharing such a small space is getting old as well but at least Junior has an exit plan. I don’t.

I love this neighbourhood. It’s where I launched as an artist, sharing a funky, rambling house with band mate and Zellots drummer Conny Nowe near 34th and Victoria.  $400. a month bought us a yard, driveway, fireplace, kitchen, dining room, pantry and four bedrooms. The scene of many festivities, we converted the basement into a rehearsal space. My boy was born in another funky East Van pad near 1st and Victoria 22 years ago. I’ve lived in this city most of my adult life, resent the fact that I might be forced out. The property management company that runs my building insists that tenants sign a new lease each year wherein they raise the rent to whatever  amount they like. At the rate of $50. per lease renewal I won’t be able to afford to stay. I’d like to settle, focus on work and writing but will need to move again in the not-too-distant future.

Many friends have already left, for the suburbs or even the prairies, especially if they want to own a home. I could go back to the suburbs-grew up in Cloverdale-but I’d be going back. I need to be near the ocean, the wild and fantastic ocean. Perhaps I could move to Horseshoe Bay, or Lions Bay, clean houses in West Van and North Van. But, of course, finding anything cheaper will be a major challenge, perhaps impossible.

We shall see. There’s always a trade-off. Can’t have it all, etc. “Things could be worse.” Sure I’ve endured tough times, times when I had no place to live or enough food to eat but I’ve always responded with, “Why can’t things be better?”

I am trapped but cannot stay. Can I? It’s a huge dilemma. I know I’m not alone and Vancouver is just the latest city to be affected. The problem is global in scale. No solace in that, nor solution. Which obviously, is what I need. Gawd help us all. Maybe none of it matters. These are the end times, I am told, and if so constitute a whole other can o’ worms/blog entry.

 

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Girls with Guitars…

…the emphasis on “girls.”

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Working on the Zellots record with Jason Flower of Supreme Echo I’ve had to consider time’s inexorable march, how it treads upon our minds and bodies until nothing of us remains. Also, the folly of youth, the hubris of youth. We were so cavalier about the demo tape we were making, about the band we’d created and the songs we’d composed, cavalier to the point of losing the master and most cassette copies. Oh, and breaking up. We didn’t-perhaps couldn’t-appreciate what we had. The late Peter Draper did a stellar job, recording we fools in the basement of our house/rehearsal space near the corner of 34th and Victoria. I can’t recall where or how he mixed it but lucky for us Peter was a very talented guy. Also fortunately, Jason Flower is a hardcore music nerd, driven in fact to seeking us out and resurrecting our group despite scant traces of its existence. I get the impression it’s like a treasure hunt for Jason. In that spirit and though likely a long shot, we’re going to try to track down a copy of the Lenore Herb video for the launch party. No date yet but the new master is currently in the Czech Republic being pressed. I’m as excited as a teenager about to play her first gig!

 

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