Happy Throwback Thursday-Sean Cranbury speech

With absolutely no time or the wherewithal to write I’m going back in time today, to 2012 when I was awarded a Pandora’s Collective Literary Award presented by the inimitable Sean Cranbury, a precious memory indeed.

“As the recipient of the same award in 2011, I presented the 2012 Pandora’s Collective Literary Organizer/Promoter Award Presenting Speech to Heather Haley.
Heather Haley is old school in the very finest sense. She embraces a vigorous DIY spirit in all the work that she does. Whether that’s recording music and touring the coast in seminal Vancouver punk bands like the .45’s and Heather Haley and the Zellots, through publishing her poetry with independent presses like Anvil Press and Ekstasis Editions, creating indie music videos, or organizing literary and cinematic events that even after twenty years still seem to be ahead of their/our time.

Heather embraces multimedia and technology as valuable vehicles for ideas, energy, poetry and beauty. And it’s not a selfish pursuit, it’s the work and vision of someone who cares deeply about her community and wants to experience and support the creative work of others.

Heather doesn’t wait for permission to create the space necessary for artists and writers to work but simply does it because – I believe – that her instincts compel her to act. Because it would be impossible for her not to act, not to bring her vision into reality.
She is an innovative cultural programmer with a strongly held conviction that artists, especially poets, should be represented on the World Wide Web. Heather 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 Murphy. The Edgewise ElectroLit Centre’s populist mandate and innovative programs effectively made poetry accessible to all and assisted Canadian artists in expanding both their audience and potential. Since 2004, Haley has been the host and curator of the Visible Verse Festival, North America’s sustaining venue for the presentation of new and artistically significant poetry film and video.

As a literary event programmer myself I look at Heather’s track record with no small amount of wonder. Her work confirms for me something that I think about all the time – that if we want to build great things like literary culture or communities, then we need to get off our asses and respond to the creative instincts that tell us: “DO THE WORK. JUST FRICKING DO IT.”

The DIY spirit that I admire in Heather is based on ACTION, on DOING THE WORK.
(We are among that spirit here tonight.) Creating a better world to live in by helping artists and writers to share their work locally and around the world.

It is my honour to present the 2012 Pandora’s Collective Literary Organizer/Promoter Award to Heather Haley.”

 

Hanging in. On.

Can’t seem to wrap my mind around writing anymore. At all. Can’t seem to get any music off the ground either. I always reassure friends with “fallow doesn’t mean finished.” Should take my own advice, but my lack of focus is dismaying. Too much work! Drudgery. Too many financial woes. Worries.

I don’t feel like myself sans a creative outlet. Still, I’ve had a lively 2018 thus far. I get bogged down, can’t see beyond the banalities of every day life sometimes. I flew out to Toronto with my son to meet our long lost kin, the Fergusons, enjoyed a fabulous birthday celebration and read at the Dead Poets Reading Series, sang with SLOW and just returned from a wonderful northern BC jaunt in Smithers, BC. I will count my blessings, soldier on. Rock on.

 

Snake, Rattle & Roll: Raising funds to finance the zine

Photo: Gary Leonard
Spoofing National Geographic

The Benefits. Wow. In addition to editing and publishing Peter Haskell and I produced myriad events in order to finance Rattler. We were fortunate to have the support of many esteemed Los Angeles poets, artists, performers and musicians: Choir Invisible, The Shrews, Lawndale, John Doe, Excene Cervenka, Minutemen, Dred Scott, Seditionaries, Henry Rollins, Cheri Gaulke, Marisela Norte, Doug Knott, Taquila Mockingbird, Perry Farrell, Jane Cantillon, Thea Other, Terry Dorn, Greg Burk, The Fiends, Vagina Dentata, Thelonius Monster, The Debbies, Sacred Antenna, Kathe Burkhart, De De Troit, Dave Alvin, Robin Carr, Chuck Dukowski, Louis Lista, Victor Noel, Christine Papalexis, Candye Kane, Carlos Guitarlos, OFF, Barry McBride, Aromatic Prawn Experience, Craig Lee, Louis Lista, Jane’s Addiction, Malocchio,  and naturally I pulled in my band, Heather Haley & the Zellots. That’s a lot of hats! And the possibilities, endless.

 

A Snake in the Grass: publishing ventures “Rattler” and “The Edgewise Cafe”

Rattler2

I lived and worked in Los Angeles for many years and along with Peter Haskell published Rattler. Four issues of the zine, from 1982-87 feature many prominent LA artists and writers including Henry Rollins, John Doe, Excene Cervenka, Lydia Lunch, Dave Alvin, Mark Mothersbaugh, Linda Giurbino, Michael Hyatt, Georganne Deen, Jeff Isaak, Doug Knott, Ed Colver, S.A. Griffin, Deborah F. Lawrence, Marisela Norte, Rocky Schenck, Michael Mollett, Victor Noel, Kathe Burkhard, Jonathan Rosen, Elena RyyannaKathi Norklun, Ewa Wojciak, Margaret Von Biesen, Lori Black, Greg Burk, Suzanne Gardner, Kari Lee Krome. I hope to find a home for Rattler, boxes currently stored in an attic on Bowen Island. I hope. Venturing over on Wednesday to retrieve them. (I think that’s where I put them? Gawd I hate moving.)

Later I founded the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre and we published The Edgewise Cafe, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines. This was the early 90s when a lack of bandwidth created a major challenge. Its archive is housed in Simon Fraser University Library’s Special Collection, along with the Edgewise videos and files. We also produced the Telepoetics reading series employing videophones and the Vancouver Videopoem Festival. Check out this list of events that included many outstanding Canadian poets:
• October 4, 1994: First Telepoetics link with Los Angeles: Alexandra Oliver, Jamie Reid, Neil Eustache, Sheri-D Wilson
• April 9, 1995: Verse volley with Chicago’s U-Lab.
• June 4, 1995: Telepoetics Salon with Camden, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Chicago.
• July 29,1995: Launch Party for the Edgewise OnLine and Telepoetics link with Calgary.
• August 15, 1995: Telepoetics reading live from the Glass Slipper with Toronto.
• September 24, 1995: Chicago and Vancouver journalists read poetry, live from their respective Press Clubs.
• October 22, 1995: Telepoetics from the Grind and Gallery help Toronto celebrate their annual Spoken Word Festival.
• November 19, 1995: Telepoetics from Bowen Island with San Francisco.
• May 17, 1996: CU SeeMe link up with Brisbane, Australia from Edgewise Salon in Vancouver.
• June15-22, 1996: Telepoetics link with Los Angeles and Chicago from the Gastown Theatre.
• August 29, 1996: Telepoetics link with San Francisco, at the Edgewise Salon: Lyle Neff, Gerry Gilbert
• February 16, 1997: Telepoetics Web Cafe’ Link Site: Los Angeles Features: Mercedes, Baines, David Campbell, Kedrick James, Evelyn Lau.
• March 16, 1997: Telepoetics The Web Cafe’, Link Site: Calgary. Features: Sheri-D Wilson, Gregory Scofield, Cass King, Rick Keating
• April 20, 1997: Telepoetics Web Cafe’ Netcast: Over World Wide Web via The Web Cafe’. Features: Larissa Lai, Roger Blenman, J McLaughlin, Hilary Peach, Adeena Karasick, Mohammed Ahmed.
• May 24, 1997: Telepoetics The Western Front, Electronic Cabaret, (Part of the Body Electric Electronic Arts Festival at The Western Front Link Site: Chicago. Features: James P McAuliffe, Andrea Thompson.
• May 11-25, 1997: Telepoetics at The Web Cafe’. Link Site: Chicago
• July 29, 1997: Telepoetics @ The Web Cafe’ Link Site: Auburn, Washington. Features: Kate Braid, Wayde Compton, Kimberly Klaas, Jamie Reid, Justin McGrail.
• October 17, 1997: Edgewise Poetics Virgin Megastore Unplugged. (Part of Bravo Vancouver! The Vancouver Cultural Alliance’s celebration of the arts. Features: SR Duncan, James P. McAuliffe, MC Exu, J McLaughlin, Rob McGreggor, Cassandra Onyejikwe.
• October 26, 1997: Telepoetics @ The Web Cafe’, (Part of The Vancouver International Writer’s Festival’s 10th Anniversary) Link Site: Chicago. Features: bill bissett, Sheri-D Wilson, Jill Battson, Kazuko Shiraishi, Adeena Karasick.
• December 15, 1997: Telepoetics: She Words The Vancouver Press Club Link Site: San Francisco, Features: Abby Wenner, Terrie Hamazaki, Jen Lam, Hilary Peach, Christine Taylor.
• July 13, 1998: E-zine launch Vancouver Press Club, Features: Bud Osborne, Miranda Pearson, Jamie Reid, Phinder Dulai, Loranne Brown.
• January 30, 1999: First Nations Telepoetics from the Liliget Feasthouse. Link Site: Alert Bay. Features: Mahara Allbrett, Marilyn Dumont, Marie Annharte Baker, David Campbell.
• February 11, 1999: Love and Lust Telepoetics Style. Link site: Chicago. Features: Leanne Averbach, Billeh Nickerson, Mahara Allbrett.
• May 17, 18, 22, 29, 1999: Telepoetics from Video In. Link site: Chicago Features: Ana Bella,
Host Anna Wagner, Poet, Justin McMillan, Vanessa Engle. Tech: Vanessa Larouchelle, Dickson Chow.
• September 6, 1999: Labor Day Picnic & Lone Star Linkup. Link site: San Antonio, Texas. Live from Spanish Banks in Vancouver featuring Carmen Rodriquez, Susan Mullen and Verbomotorhead.
• October 2, 1999: EEC Web Site and Virtual Workshop Launch featuring readings by the Seven Sisters Writing Collective and our revamped site/zine.
• November 7, 1999: The Vancouver Videopoem Festival featuring works by Adeena Karasick, Tom Konyves, Zaffi Gousopolous, Jason da Silva, Jannie Edwards, Bob Sherrin, Jill Battson, Alyson Vishnovska and Annabelle Chvostek, Bud Osborn, bill bisset, Jason LeHeup, Kurt Heintz, Patricia Smith and others.
• January 19, 2000: Bravo Arts Channel and Book Television Linkup with e-poets.net Director Kurt Heintz from Atlanta, Georgia, and EEC Executive Director, Heather Haley.
• May 7, 2000: Telepoetics with Chicago Authors, hosted by Vanessa Larouchelle. Participants included Glen Sutherland, Mohammad_reza Mohseni, Katrina Lim, Gabrielle Martin, and Hayley Crittenden.
• Saturday, May 27, 2000: “TWO MOMENTS” Interactive Event as part of Asian Heritage Month: featuring Kyle Hawke, Jen Lam, and Henry Mah in Vancouver and Tetsuro Shigematsu in Montreal.

•Vancouver Videopoem Festival 1999-Video In
•VVF 2000 Heather Haley and Raquel Alvaro-Pacific Cinematheque
• VVF 2001 Raquel Alvaro
• VVF2002 Warren Dean Fulton

 

 

Running with SLOW

HHSlow
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

Gabor,jpg

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…

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…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
Release
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.

 

Orphaned

Dad

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.

 

 

I AM A FERGUSON

Ferguson

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

Me&Pete

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.