All posts by Heather Haley

Running with SLOW

Photo: Bob Hanham

SLOW were in town recently for ten nights at the Penthouse, a concept as bold as their sound, stance. The shows were upstairs in, not exactly a secret space-warmed by neon glow-but certainly rarely used. I and others were invited to perform, a thrill for I admire this fabled group and was glad to get to know them a little. I was impressed not only with their talent and musicianship but each of them as individuals. Christian Thorvaldson, Ziggy Sigmund, Stephen Hamm and Terry Russell are friendly, enthusiastic stand-up guys and Thom (Thomas Anselmi) an exceptional band leader. Dennis Mills and I had one rehearsal and though a little hairy, pulled it off; he delivering a scintillating Success by Iggy Pop and I, a pithy little Pretenders tune, The Adultress, despite its heavy weight of irony.  In fact, we blew the roof off the Penthouse while providing an incredible cap to their run which Grant Lawrence summed up nicely in the Courier.

I never got to see them back in the day as I was living in Los Angeles but later Thom and I wound up residing there at the same time. Playing music together is a bonding experience but there was always less than six degrees separation between us and turns out, an easy rapport. We revel in discussing writing, performing and life in general. They’re currently, touring Eastern Canada, get out to see them. As the reports report, they’re better than ever.


All my Fabulous Friends: Gabor Gasztonyi, photographer, author, filmmaker, activist


I am privileged to run with wild pack of exceptional writers and artists and have known award-winning photographer Gabor Gasztonyi since 2011. I’m not sure who introduced us but as we’re Anvil Press stable mates, it might have been writer Dennis Bolen. In any case, I’m grateful to whomever as we hit it off and have been pals ever since. We share interests-like fishing-sensibilities, gossip and a wicked sense of humour. He bases his myriad operations from a studio/gallery in New Westminster and is currently featuring his favourite black and white portraits taken over a ten year period at the Plasket Gallery until the end of March.

Seriously intrepid despite being afflicted with polio as a child, Gabor is the author of gritty, unflinching and intimate A Room in the City. He plays wheelchair basketball, traveled to Africa last fall for Ethiopia National Immunization Days, working with Rotarians to eradicate polio, and to London’s  International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in February where his documentary No Way Out was an official selection, nominated for several awards and won Best Editing.

Most importantly, he makes me laugh.

I admire him greatly.

Rock on Gabor!



Poets die, poetry persists…


…because we resurrect it. Well, nerds do. I will be reading Anne Wilkinson’s works at the Dead Poets Reading Series Sun, March 11 at the Vancouver Public Library at 3 PM.  Thanks to Kevin Spenst, Diane Tucker and all the organizers of the series.

“Anne Cochran Wilkinson (September 21, 1910 – May 10, 1961) was a Canadian poet. She was part of the modernist movement in Canadian poetry in the 1940s and 1950s, one of only a few prominent women poets of the time, along with Dorothy Livesay and P. K. Page.”

I had heard of Wilkinson but rediscovered her in the comprehensive, fascinating Poetry by Canadian Women anthology edited by Rosemary Sullivan (Oxford University Press, 1989). As I told a friend, it’s dangerous for me to enter a used book store. I invariably emerge only after having blown 50-100 buck on various volumes of verse. But, some days it’s required.

This is my favourite so far:

In June and Gentle Oven

In June and gentle oven
Summer kingdoms simmer
As they come
And through flower and leaf and love
Their sweetest juice.

No wind at all
On the wide green world
Where fields go stroll-
ing by
And in and out
An adder of a stream
Parts the daisies
On a small Ontario farm.

And where, in the curve of meadow,
Lovers, touching, lie,
A church of grass stands up
And walls them, holy, in.

Fabulous the insects
Stud the air
Or walk on running water,
Klee-drawn saints
And bright as angels are.

Honeysuckle here
Is more than bees can bear
And time turns pale
And stops to catch the breath
And lovers slip their flesh
And light as pollen
Play on treble water
Till bodies reappear
And a shower of sun
To dry their langour.

Then two in one the lovers lie
And peel the skin of summer
With their teeth
And suck its marrow from a kiss
So charged with grace
The tongue, all knowing
Holds the sap of June
Aloof from seasons, flowing.




Again. My long lost father has died.

Just before Christmas and mere weeks before my son and I were to fly out to meet him.

One morning I placed Robert Guy Ferguson’s memorial card directly beneath the brass holy water font I uncovered amidst the ruins of my mother’s childhood home in Matapédia and couldn’t help but think of all that I’ve lost, been denied. I went there to search so many times, in vain, the truth so close, yet so far. The extent of her betrayal continues to baffle and astound, its fallout relentless. There is no why but still I cry and rail at the universe knowing my anger is futile.

I struggle with guilt, regrets. Perhaps I should have left for Ontario immediately upon locating him. There was a time in my life when I could have dropped everything and gone out there but these days I’m chained to a small business. If only…

I won’t allow myself to dwell on the pain or bitterness but must work hard to assimilate all these feelings.

I dreamed a visceral dream. Though I can’t recall his exact words, Dad spoke kindly in a deep voice and said, “I’m fine.” Observing his white hair, I felt his presence strongly and woke feeling melancholy, but more, calm and peaceful.

I don’t believe in the supernatural or ghosts-realize that the dream is all my mind’s doing-but feel I am getting to know the man-his spirit-through all those who loved him. For that I am grateful. Their big hearts, welcoming arms, warmth and unconditional love undoubtedly model our father and the way he was.

I am proud to be his daughter, part of his legacy. I may not have had the privilege of knowing him but find solace knowing I’ve inherited some of his traits, that he lives on in me, in all of us.





My arduous 25 year quest to find my father is over at last. I am a Ferguson. I have four sisters, plus 12 or 13 nieces and nephews. I am elated, reeling from these recent developments and working hard to assimilate the news. It proves my theory that the truth always surfaces, like a law of nature and no matter how long it may take.

In 1992 my mother Corona blurted out on her death bed, “Danny is not your father.” I dismissed it as she was suffering from dementia, weaving in and out of lucidity. Most unnerving, but her declaration slowly sunk in and began to make sense, explain many things, like a certain tension between my mother and Danny’s family and people often asking if I was adopted. I do not resemble my mother nor my two younger sisters and certainly not my alleged father. I believe that’s the legal term. These days it’s called paternity fraud. Those questions, that scrutiny must have panicked my mother, that is, if she knowingly lied. I have a feeling, knowing capable-of-delusion Corona that she’d convinced herself Danny-the man she married, the man who raised me-was my father, though I can only speculate. I suspect she had every intention of taking the secret to her grave.

My biological father is 87. We don’t have much opportunity for a relationship at this late date but with no name or leads I had given up hope of ever finding him and certainly didn’t expect him to be alive. It would be lovely if I’ve inherited his longevity genes along with his red hair.

It’s all so bittersweet and I wince every time I hear what a great guy he is. Danny was a decent fellow but cold, remote and often surly. He did instil in me an affinity with nature. I think the only time he was happy was when he was in his element, in the woods with us hunting, fishing, hiking. Danny was a feminist, didn’t condescend or expect us to be ladies. He worked us hard-mowing lawns, chopping and stacking wood-while encouraging my sisters and I to be strong and competent. We had to be.

I asked Danny to take a DNA test. He consented and the results ruled him out as my biological father. He was shocked and said, “I never would have married her if I’d known,” which rather stung but I understood his feelings. Corona betrayed both of us. All of us.

Over the ensuing years I made several trips to Matapedia to interview Mom’s remaining relatives. No one could recall who she may have been dating way back when. I found no answers, not even one tiny clue.

I gave birth to my son in 1994 and though focused on child rearing was determined for his sake as well as mine to uncover our genetic makeup though I had no idea how. Eventually I registered my DNA through Family Tree DNA, which provided more distractions than answers. I didn’t have the time or finesse to pursue resulting genealogical matches. Then about a year ago I signed up for a new program called Family Finder and discovered Amy, a cousin, who happens to be a professional genealogist. She put my profile up at GedMatch which identified Valerie as my first cousin. Then we found another first cousin, Kathy. Valerie had been adopted but knew the name of her father who turned out to be my uncle. One of my father’s daughters kindly took a DNA test which after an excruciating wait revealed her to be my half-sister. Hallelujah!

It occurs to me that dear old Ma effectively deprived us of the Beliveaus and Haleys as well. I might have been bilingual but she became entirely assimilated after moving west. Growing up, my sisters and I were isolated. Dad had one brother who lived on Vancouver Island hence there were no cousins around, aside from an occasional visit. We moved nearly every two years, in and around Winnipeg until I was ten, then spent two years in the Kooteneys because the Plymouth station wagon broke down at the top of Rogers Pass and Dad had to get a job in order to pay the motel room and wound up working on the Duncan dam as a welder. We finally settled in the Fraser Valley when I was twelve.

My parents were miserable together. I will spare you the gory details but our home life was harrowing, rife with neglect and abuse. My parents did not belong together, could not provide their children with stability or security.

There is much discussion around Corona’s motivations. Perhaps she wanted to leave small town Quebec, the past. I know she’d endured a terrible upbringing. And being Catholic, no doubt there was enormous pressure not to bear a child out of wedlock, though her mother first suggested an abortion. I wrote a poem about it, Where Sins Are More Sinful. “Sins are more sinful when the whole town knows.” In any case,  surely Corona had her reasons but there’s not much point dwelling on that along with what might have been.

I was appalled when someone once asked, “Why do you care?” “Likely the same reason you do.” Of course I want to know. No one asks to be born, we are entitled to our heritage. Close proximity to our roots facilitates establishing one’s identity which surely anchors us through life’s tempests. I never had that sense for it turns out  I was a changeling. Foisted.

My son and I are flying out to Toronto in January to meet the clan.  The Fergusons have only been kind, warm and welcoming, another huge relief.

I find it poignant and fitting that a bee rests atop a thistle in the Ferguson family crest, that we are, “Sweeter After Difficulties.”


My Friend Peter


Sadly, Peter Trower has died. I met the legendary west coast poet in 2008 at a launch party for ROCKsalt, the Mother Tongue Press anthology of contemporary BC verse. Afterwards we convened at a local pub with Rob Taylor and Zach Wells. A consummate raconteur, Peter regaled us with stories including the time he got high with Leonard Cohen at a party in Kits. Kindred spirits, we became fast friends. I had a lot more time and resources then so was able to squire him around to various events and the readings we performed together, often meeting at his favourite watering hole, Sailor Hagar’s. Pete liked to imagine I was his agent, that we were a couple and could get extremely jealous and possessive. But he was lonely after losing his long-time companion Yvonne. Outwardly tough and gruff, Pete was an utter romantic softie.

He was passionate about music as well, especially jazz and blues, often idly whistling or humming, which could drive me me nuts. Naturally Pete knew all the words and delighted in singing together. He performed on several CDs including Kisses In the Whiskey with Greg Potter at the producer helm.

He asked me to be his literary executor and though I knew that wouldn’t pan out happily assisted with errands, packing up his house in Gibsons and acting as go-between for Pete and Where the Nights are Twice as Long/Love Letters of Canadian Poets editor David Eso.  I did love the old scoundrel, miss him and his voices, both the sandpaper speaking and the distinctive poetic.




I feel compelled to pay homage to artist Richard Hambleton. It seemed odd that the man I met in Vancouver repeatedly reappeared in shadows during my brief Lower Manhattan sojourn. Spooked, I kept looking over my shoulder wondering why. How. How did we wind up in New York? At the same time. I remembered seeing his jarring Dick Trace-It faux crime scenes back home. Home seemed so very far away. As I told mutual friend Lincoln Clarkes, we weren’t exactly close. Richard was rather hostile in fact but I tried not to take it personally. I knew he was weird and I was too preoccupied to worry about it. I was in survival mode, working at the Baby Doll Lounge, struggling to play music despite New York’s high temperatures, crime rate and cost of living. I admired his work though. It was powerful, fascinating, seminal. Certainly he deserved more recognition but sadly that’s the way with so much art and so many artists. R.I.P. Richard Hambleton. Here’s the New York Times obituary with some exceptional video links.


Some of the bands I’ve shared billing with…

Just for fun and because the subject came up more than once during our recent interview with Nardwuar; a list of some of the bands I’ve shared billing with during my oh so illustrious career, a time capsule of sorts as well.  And as Bill Thomson pointed out, “you could create an urban poem or a musical chant with the band names.” ZELLOTS-Vancouver-DOA, Rabid, Subhumans, K-Tels, AKA, Tunnel Canary, Modernettes, Devices, Perfect Stranger, Private School, Rude Norton, The Visitors. THE 45s-X, The Braineaters, No Exit, The Gears, The Weirdos, B People. HEATHER HALEY & THE ZELLOTS-Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Thelonious Monster, Jane’s Addiction, Beat Farmers, L7, Henry Rollins, Legal Weapon, Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, Firehose, Precious Metal,The Pandoras, Lucinda Williams, Candye Kane, Bobby Brat, Babylon Warriors, Chris D & The Divine Horsemen, Rik L Rik, Jim Lauderdale, Craig Lee, Giant Sand, Marvin Etzione, Poison Ivy, What Is This, Peter Case & Victoria Williams, Screamin’ Sirens, Rosie Flores, Double Freak, Sacred Antennae, Crowbar, Bay of Pigs, Divine Weeks, Donner Party, Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada, Mary’s Danish, Snake Farm, Milo Bender, Tupelo Joe, Fifteen Minutes, The Raunch Hands, New Flesh, The Bel-Fires, Downy Mildew, Ringling Sisters, Zoogz Rift, Leaving Trains, Saqqarea Dogs, Miracle Legion, Aromatic Prawn Experience, Rhino 39, The Beginners, Dust Poets, Black Bambi, A Band Called Horse, To Damascus, Lunchbox, Cold September, Shredders.


Oh What Zeal!


Everything’s coming up ZELLOTS!  Deliverance! At last. Years of hard work-Jason of Supreme Echo and mine’s-is paying off. “Old (school) punk rockers never die, they just get reissued” but the Zellots have been “unearthed” in an archival recording.  The three carefully mined and refurbished Zellots songs are getting quite a lot of press including a piece in Exclaim! and a story by Allan MacInnis for the Georgia Straight. We also had a blast at an interview at CiTR with Nardwuar the Human Serviette.

I can’t thank Jason enough! As I said in the liner notes, I am grateful to him for his dedication, indeed zeal for music, bands and history. I am also indebted to the original demo producer Peter Draper for his stellar work, vital contribution.

Saturday, Sept 23 is the big day! We will be making a series of in-record store appearances and then celebrating at a launch party at What’s Up? Hot Dog! at 8 PM.  Free admission, a great DJ-Jeffrey McCloy-and videos. Hope to see you there!

Day-time In-Stores:



Hello Dad?


It appears there might be some progress on the paternity search! My cousin Amy, the genealogist found my 1st cousin Valerie through GedMatch. We have my father narrowed down to one of two brothers. I’m not going to name names until we receive the results of a DNA test my potential half-sister is taking. Said brothers live in Ontario but are from New Brunswick where I was born. Valerie’s origins were nearly as obscured as mine but her adopted mother revealed her father’s name. I never had a name.

In any case, I am a Scot! Ironic that my Ukrainian alleged father gave me a Scottish name. Mom wanted to call me Debbie. So I’m cautiously optimistic and pinching myself, can’t believe this is happening! I had given up hope of ever finding my kin. Our kin, mine and my son’s.  It will be interesting to see what develops.