Fighting To Remain

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I wrote a darkly funny poem called How To Remain for my last collection Three Blocks West of Wonderland that was largely about how to preserve one’s body and thus life but lately it applies to our fight to remain in the city we love-and love to hate at times-Vancouver.

And oh how I love waking to the irritating and now familiar sound of suitcase spinner wheels rattling down the sidewalk. Thanks Air BnB. I harbour ambivalent feelings about this pervasisve sharing economy. Several friends use Air BnB to help pay their rent, and with Vancouver’s astronomical cost of living, who can blame them? But, of course, that makes it difficult for people to find places to live, people like my son and I. We lucked into this tiny, cockroach infested 1 bdrm after nearly a year of looking and Junior’s been trying to find an apartment for the past eight months. Craigslist is a wasteland so thanks to word-of-mouth he is now waiting for a family friend to move out so he can move into her place. Anyone who has lucked into affordable rents can’t afford to move as one is unlikely to find a better deal, if any deal at all. I’m desperately trying to get into a co-op, can’t see how I’ll be able to remain here in the long term any other way.

I recently took in friends Charles Wilksinson and Tina Schliesser’s documentary No Fixed Address which handily documents the crisis and is beautifully shot, by the way. Several things I took away; British Columbia’s main industry, which at one time variously used to be lumber, mining or fishing, is now condos. The problem is global, and, I’m determined to stay and fight. Why should I-or anyone- be forced out of our beloved home? But like one of the film’s subjects I find myself contemplating a move to Mexico. Despite my skepticism I can’t help but hope this new government will actually do something about the problem, specifically the fixed term lease loophole, the type of lease we felt we had no choice but to sign. I was even spurred to action, wrote my MLA. I received an automated response of course, let’s see if I get a real message or any action.

 

The Town Slut’s Daughter Live! Stage adaptation in the works

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A rock opera perhaps? A spoken word song/performance poetry piece as in one-woman show, is a possibility as well.  Maybe it’s a multimedia fusion of song and verse extravaganza with a full cast. In any case I’m working toward adapting my novel, The Town Slut’s Daughter to the stage.  At this point the project is embryonic but I may have found a director and a composer. Fingers crossed! I need a creative outlet, a break from scrubbing toilets. Whatever form it takes, the production will fuse rock and verse in the vein of my spoken word song project AURAL Heather. More details soon.

 

London Calling & My Son the Digital Native

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I was dismayed and heartbroken to hear of the recent attacks on London. Truly one of the world’s great cities, I love London Town, had the privilege of visiting this past May, which I still haven’t posted about as I’ve been too busy to blog, but I wasn’t surprised to hear that pub patrons hurled chairs and pints at the murderers. Carry on. Remain calm. That is the British way, but what choice do people have except to fight back? Resist terror. Sadly, extremists cannot see that their attempts at destruction are epic fails, as my gamer son would say,  my son being a much more cheery topic. His YouTube channel, RAYCEVICK,  just reached 100,000 subscribers!

A digital native, my media savvy, technically adroit son has been on the Internet since he can remember. Lucas started his first YouTube channel and taught himself how to edit video at the tender age of ten, which is not really surprising as he’s been surrounded by musicians, poets and artists all his life. We did limit screen time and monitor his online activities, including video gaming, and I worry that he isolates himself at times, but he’s carving out a niche, and it appears able to make living doing what his loves. In other words, he’s blowing me out of the water. I am one proud mama.

 

“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.

 

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!

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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

 

“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.