Archive for the ‘Literary Arts’ Category

Sappho Blog 1015 x  276

Dear everyone,

Since moving to London over a year and a half ago, I managed to fall in with some wonderful theatre artists and ended up directing my first professional show titled ‘Sappho …in 9 fragments’. Since the show did quite well (check the reviews), I’ve decided to take it to Canada on tour.

Interested in getting involved? There are several options:



‘Sappho’ is playing in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal this June 2013. And you’ll love it, I promise. It’s got poetry (from Ancient Greece’s best love poet), storytelling, aerial choreography, ropes and scaffolding, phenomenal acting, killer soundtrack, ‘take your breath away’ visual moments, and the sexiest lesbian love story you’ll ever encounter. Seriously, bring the kids.

Toronto: June 14 & 15

Ottawa: June 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29

Montreal: June 27 & 28

For full tour information and to purchase advance tickets, please follow this link.



If you can’t make it to the performance, but you think your friends will love it, feel free to connect them with us via. social media.

Website/Blog: http://sappho9fragments.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/460578744012696/

Twitter: @sappho9fragment

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN2E8j5UfiE



Truth is, we need some money. We’re taking this show across the ocean from London to Ottawa, and plane tickets are expensive, yo. And you know how much I love handing out flyers, so we should probably print a few of those. Plus venue rental costs and hiring a fancy limo to drive around the lead actress… uh, forget that last bit.

All in all, we’re looking at spending just over $5000.00. Which is not bad for an international show. So if you’re willing and able to chip in a few, you know I would be forever grateful. And I’ll happily thank you publicly.

Donating is super easy: just visit the Jer’s Vision page (this charity is wonderful enough to be supporting and presenting our Canadian tour), click on ‘DONATE NOW’ and select ‘Arts: Sappho in Canada’ as the recipient.

Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions.

The show opens in just over two months! In the meantime, we’re making plans to remount the show in London (possibly in one of Shakespeare’s former theatres…) and present the play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. So much to look forward to.

I spent my last couple of years in university studying and shadowing Canadian theatre companies that toured their work in festivals nationally and internationally. I admired their perseverance and their belief that theatre work could have a life beyond its original presentation, even ten to fifteen years into the future. And I would love for ‘Sappho’ to enjoy a similarly lengthy existence. Here’s hoping!

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One of the powers of narrative is that it shows you that the world is invented. And that you can change the story because you are the story. I think that there’s a lot of power there. If you understand yourself as a narrative rather than as a list of facts, then you realize how much possibility there is and how much chance of change there is.

Jeanette Winterson from an interview in DIVA Magazine

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One sweet day in autumn, the leaves crunched beneath our feet. I walked double-time to catch up with his longer legs. I wished I’d brought mittens; I wished he would hold my chilled hand; I hoped we wouldn’t run into one of my mum’s friends or something. Farther we went along the pathway into the Rocket park, on our way to meet up with his street hockey friends;  talking about a movie he had just seen. Suddenly he changed the subject: “Have you ever been kissed by a boy before?” Our pace slowed. I watched my feet as I stumbled over a pebble in the road. My heart was pounding as I replied: “Um, you mean other than my family…?”


Do all adolescent kisses happen at the movies? Winona Ryder usually holds my attention on screen, but his face was just so close to mine, I could feel his warm, clean breath. Underneath the blanket, he took my hand and kissed my fingers one by one, pushing his firm lips against them. With my other hand I fingered his collared shirt, his smooth freckled neck. When we kissed I felt like, yes, this is how it’s supposed to be. I heard my friends giggle and didn’t really care.


Do you want to play?

What do you mean?

You know: play.

What about my…?

He doesn’t have to know.


Poker night. My first time, but we were playing for keeps. He looked over my shoulder once in awhile, checked my cards, smiled. Smiling back, I said: “I don’t need your help, thank you!” Playing footsy under the table. Making eyes between friends. Had we ever considered this before? Why did everything suddenly feel so cheeky and new?

He made an excuse and walked upstairs. I made another excuse and followed him. I think we must have enjoyed being so transparent.

I could make some lame analogy about the king of hearts, but suffice it to say, I stayed over.


Major’s Hill Park. Past midnight. We climbed the largest tree and balanced in the branches.

I stopped him mid tongue lashing and said ‘I thought you didn’t like me!’

He replied ‘I don’t, but this is fun.’


Jazz played on the radio while she painted and I scribbled. We were mostly silent, being conscious of each other’s close company was enough. My mind had been running restless ever since our last encounter at Cafe Nostalgica; those weekly visits of downing cups of coffee until past my curfew had been growing in intensity. All we had to do was look at each other to feel this buzz of electricity, this romance that until that point had been foreign to me. I found myself at her place, this small room – essentially an artist’s studio with a mattress – in a house where the tenants shared a kitchen and a bathroom. Wanting to be a good hostess, she cooked a pot of plain white rice and scattered spices and salt on top. It was delicious.

It was getting late. We crawled onto the mattress and she found one of her favourite childhood books about cannibalistic sheep. Lying on her back, she read it aloud to me, while I lay curled up in a fetal position close beside her, mere inches away from her body. When the story was finished she closed the book and placed it to the side. There was a comfortable silence. I ruined it quickly by rising up, pecking her on the lips, then diving face-down into the pillow.

When I looked up, she was still lying there motionless. Then she grinned, punched her fists in the air and proclaimed ‘woo hoo!’

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This is a day to celebrate being alive. Kick your legs up and grass stain your knees. Roll down a hill into your lover’s arms and eat crab apples from trees made for picking.

Somewhere between the mall and the bus station, there is a patch of green, and this is where I sit. Flower baskets wrapped like birds’ nests around street lamps. People scattered like toadstools amidst planted trees. Phone conversations as common as shrill bird calls. Couples strolling along the pathway, hands held sealed with sunshine. Clear blue endless. You appear on your orange bicycle. Perfect.

Time measured / Distance weathered / Feelings tethered / Passions pleasured

Late night verses feel like early morning kisses. Sun shattered and vibrant. New places retain familiarity with photographs and messages a mere click away. As long as this feeling holds, I’ll imagine you in my arms every restless night.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I kinda love you. And thanks to you, I’ve started thinking in poetry again.

This is where Virginia Woolf used to live, she said

Really?? I replied

And that’s where she used to write poetry, she said, pointing to the nearby park

I’m in heaven, I sighed

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My new favourite author is Japanese-British Kazuo Ishiguro. I read Never Let Me Go this summer, followed by a rather good film version of the same title, and I’ve just finished reading A Pale View of Hills. The latter is almost frustratingly abstract and odd, but such a lovely read that gives shivers at some parts. I was fascinated by the metanormal social interactions, the close attention that was given to seemingly ordinary moments and subtle suggestions of phenomena in the contemporary world. As for the former, imagine a sci-fi treatment of a classic boarding school story. Jarring, soothing, superb. Glad to be reading again.

Also recommended:

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips: coincidence? I think not… And you get to read Shakespeare’s lost play!

Room by Irish-Canadian Emma Donoghue: told from the point-of-view of a 5 year old who grows up confined to one room

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It also reminded me that no matter where I go, poetry is one of my homes – Megan Ann Ward

Bang Said the Gun was my saving grace last time I was in London, a consistent source of entertainment, inspiration and camaraderie with my fellow bangers. And yes, the innuendos are endless.

Affectionately referred to as the series for people “who don’t necessarily like poetry”, the event draws in stand-up poets (spoken word poets, performance poets, musical poets…) from across the country; I heard that people had traveled in from Oxford and Surrey, just for the evening. I had them beat because I came all the way from Canada, dontcha know.

Hosted by a waistcoated wood sprite named Daniel Cockrill, the evening is four-fold: it kicks off with recurring feature performances from co-organizers Martin Galton – known for his infamous books of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ – and Rob Auton – reputed for his impeccable comic timing -, followed by a 10-minute set from the winner of the previous week’s ‘Raw Meat Stew’ (more about that later), then an invited feature or two (usually someone who has made it ‘big’ on the UK scene), and finishes off with a raucously rushed open-mic that is called, you guessed it, the ‘Raw Meat Stew’.

With a set soundtrack and familiar jokes, the evenings progresses like a well-timed, well-loved radio show: the host gets his own introductory music and he riles up the crowd by holding up a handmade sign saying “Shake”. Quite happy to play along, everyone in the audience picks up their noise makers and hoots and hollers as loudly as they can. As the host notes, “it’s not a real poetry show until the neighbours come to complain!”

You’re welcome to a front-row seat on one of the sleek red couches for the perfect view, and if you enjoy being picked on. Daniel always chooses one person to wear a silly (I mean, supremely dignified) hat and lead the cheering. He always checks in first: “Do you have a lot of responsibility in your life? Married? Job? Kids? No…? Then this is the job for you!” Another person close to the front will be chosen to judge the ‘Raw Meat Stew’ poets later in the show.

This past Thursday the Bang audience was treated to a number of stellar features. The first was the series’ writer-in-residence (at least, that’s how she was introduced) Mel Jones, who had recently published a book of poetry called Fuck Me (If You Think You’re Hard Enough). And no, I’m not kidding.

You can see headliner Will Stopha’s performance in the video above: it was awfully sweet of him to do a ‘Welcome to London’ poem just for me!

And then there was headlining duo Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna. Wow wow wow. I had seen these two the last time I was in London (in fact, I was in the audience when Katie first performed at Bang back in August), and I knew they were great — but their performance was something truly original. Essentially, it was a narrative piece about a guy and a girl who become disillusioned by their friends’ respective stag and hen parties; they lock eyes at a club, and the night progresses from there. Simple enough story, but the poetry of the piece is gripping: the rhythm is suspenseful and playful, engaging and intelligent. You become acquainted with these complex characters very quickly and empathize with their growing frustration regarding the drunken company: “Oh, I love it,” repeats one particularly obnoxious hen. The duo told me afterward that they are hoping to expand this piece into a full-length performance. Theatre as poetry; poetry as theatre. This is a new trend (at least to my eyes and ears) that I’m sure will only increase in popularity, especially when the quality is this high.

We know it’s time for the ‘Raw Meat Stew’ when a hilarious, somewhat graphic cartoon appears on the projection screen. And this is how it works: there are 8 spots on the open-mic sign-up sheet; each performer gets 2 minutes to share a poem, a song, or some other type of performance. Influenced by round of applause, the randomly selected judge (and maybe some nearby friends) get to decide whose performance was the best and who wins the ‘golden gun’ award and a feature set the following week. This week’s winner was a striking-looking woman who shared an anecdotal poem about the violent things she would like to do to her former landlord; I’m sure many of us can relate.

And I performed the following short poem:

You stuck your tongue down my throat on Clarence Street

And I think it was the most beautiful thing that has ever happened

Tourists choked on their ice cream

Servers at the Hard Rock Cafe smashed their plates and cried ‘Opa!’

And motorcyclists revved their engines in approval

And after gorging ourselves on slabs of chocolate cake shaped like mud pies

We drove home in a pick-up truck made for two

Bang Said the Gun takes place every Thursday at The Roebuck, 50 Great Dover Street near Borough Station on the Northern Line. Start time: 8pm. Show up very early if you want to score a place on the open mic list.

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In Ottawa, poetry is everywhere. Our city boasts 14 poetry series and attracts up to 1000 participants and audience members every month. VERSe Ottawa has compiled a list of some of the upcoming poetry events for May. Enjoy!

LIPS Slam | CP Cinemas, 17 Albert Street in Carleton Place
Monday, May 2 at 6:30pm | featuring Ikenna Onyegbula aka OpenSecret
event listing on Facebook

Ottawa International Writers Festival – Ghazal Concert | Southminster United Church, 15 Aylmer Avenue
Monday, May 2 at 8pm | featuring Lorna Crozier, Rob Winger, Sandra Ridley and Robert Pinsky

The A B Series
Gallery 101, 301 ½ Bank Street, Unit 1
Friday, May 6 | Anne Simpson, Colin Morton and Susan Elmslie | 8:30pm | $7
NAC Fourth Stage, 54 Elgin Street
Wednesday, May 18 | featuring Koichi Makigami and Tokyo Taiga | 7:30pm | $20-30
Wednesday, May 25 | featuring Jaap Blonk with playback | 7:30pm |

Capital Slam | Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward Market Square | 6:30pm | $10
Saturday, May 7 | Semi-Finals featuring Ottawa’s top 12 slam poets
event listing on Facebook

Sasquatch Writers Performance Series | Royal Oak II, 161 Laurier Avenue East | 2pm | FREE
Sunday, May 8 | featuring Alastair Larwill
Sunday, May 22 | featuring Pearl Pirie
event listing on Facebook

Dusty Owl Reading Series
Carleton Tavern, 223 Armstrong Avenue | PWYC
Sunday, May 8 | featuring Ronnie R. Brown, John Lavery, and Phillip Victor Bova | 5pm
Elmdale House Tavern, 1084 Wellington Street West | PWYC
Sunday, May 22 | 15th Anniversary Family Reunion, Fundraiser for the Ottawa Food Bank | 2pm

Voices of Venus | Umi Cafe, 610 Somerset Street West | 7pm | $5 (PWYC)
Tuesday, May 10 | featuring Ghadeer Malek
event listing on Facebook

Tree Reading Series | Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue | 8pm | PWYC
Tuesday, May 10 | featuring Jeramy Dodds and Shane Rhodes
Tuesday, May 24 | featuring Kevin Matthews and Chris Jennings

Urban Legends Poetry Slam | Roosters Cafe at Carleton University | 6:30pm | $5-7
Friday, May 13 | featuring TBA
Friday, May 27 | featuring Oveous Maximus
event listing on Facebook

Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam | Ottawa Public Library, 120 Metcalfe Street | 6:30pm
Monday, May 16 | featuring Tanya Davis
event listing on Facebook

In/Words Reading Series | The Clocktower Pub, 575 Bank Street | 8pm
Wednesday, May 25 | featuring Claudia Coutu Radmore
event listing on Facebook

Bywords Launch of Quarterly Journal | The Manx Pub, 370 Elgin Street
Saturday, May 28 | Spring Issue and Cornerstone Fundraiser


Also, today is Election Day. Please VOTE CULTURE!


For more information on VERSe Ottawa and the listed events, please consult our website: VERSeFest.ca

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Since VERSeFest this past June, I had thought it would be a fun idea to cover all the poetry events that happen here in Ottawa. Not in ‘review’ format, exactly, but more like a sports ‘play-by-play’, just to let people know who is sharing their work at the poetry shows and what is new and different in the poetry community.

Alastair Larwill, local poet and poetry aficionado, decided to take me up on this idea and wrote a piece on poet Mike Blouin at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

Eventually, these pieces will be showcased on the VERSe Ottawa website. In the meantime, check back here for coverage of Ottawa poetry events.

On April 27th Mike Blouin not only kicked off the Ottawa International Writers Festival but also launched his new book Wore Down Trust to a packed Barley Mow. Usually there can be some issues with doing readings at bars, unreceptive audiences, bad acoustics, and the scurrying of waitresses, but none were present during the half hour reading.

Sean Wilson took his time introducing Mike to make sure the radio was fully turned down and the patrons fully settled in. It was one of those events where it paid to show up early, if you wanted to get a good seat and a view for that matter.

Mike took to the stage with ownership and settled in with a soft poke at himself as well as read the acknowledgments before he dove into his book. He attempted to read without his glasses, but found it too difficult, so on the glasses went with another joke at his own expense. The pieces he read had a defined style and for the most part were narrative in nature. Mike has constructed this book around himself as well as two artist which I infer had a large impact on him, Johnny Cash and Canadian poet Alden Nowlan. His poems dance on the line of reality and fiction which peaks curiosity about the contact he had with these two iconic figures and just where he feels that he fits in with them.

Most of the poems had heavy feel to them, sentences that hit home with impact: “in poverty the test comes early” “every time I came to the surface; surprise” spoken softly as if the world could be quietly over whelming. There were some moments of light humor, which was nicely placed to lighten the darkened room with laugher.

The set itself felt a little short, but it is always good to leave the audience wanting. There were no valleys in this reading, just a strong consistency to it. Mike used some very brief pauses in between poems as well as only using some slight introductions to select pieces, which kept the flow steady, consistent and relentless. For those of you who have missed it, you can check out the end of it in this video.

bUy LARWILL (alastair)

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Where are the poets?

Hiding between the pages of books

Mumbling loose phrases on street corners

Or wringing their hands behind the red curtain

I find it funny that a poem has to ‘hold up’ on the page in order to be considered successful. Would you say the same thing for a musical composition or a choreographed dance?

I watched her take off her shoes, her socks, her jewelry

Before approaching the microphone

Her words strung together like the Spanish guitar

Her hands flowed like a Flamenco dancer, vibrant

Music can be a literary art when it involves lyrics; poetry can be a musical art when it involves rhythm.

Speak the speech I pray you

Let not the instruments muffle the sound of your voice

Nor the awkward rhythm of language make music coarse

We are for each other

We are for each other

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VERSeFest kicks off in ONE WEEK. Who’s excited???!!!

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