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Cafeteria Poems

Cafeteria

Girls with wide smiles meet

for jugs of mojitos

their laughter vibrates

 

Martini remains resemble a subtle sip of water

garnish come and gone

trembling above the shake of the table

as the waiters pass

 

There’s a hint of pepper in the salt shaker

 

Earlier today I went to the New York Library

and saw an exhibit on where people have eaten in the city

Where writers wrote and what they ate while writing

A few pages from Jack Kerouac’s manuscript

Maybe he listed the ingredients in the classic burger meal

Or maybe that burger wrote the story – indirectly, of course

 

I’m sitting with my laptop

wondering if I should note where I am right now

As though people might one day read this poem and wonder

 

Then wishing I had a notebook to write by hand

Because no one’s going to put this word document in a museum

After all, you could so easily make copies.

 

Wasting food

That’s two couples so far

who have left half their meals on their plates

and walked off

 

I wonder if the waiters cry when they see that

Not right away, as they’re clearing up the remains

But in the storeroom, later

 

Wondering,

why the salad and potatos always take the hit.

 

999

Before the title of this poem

my word count was 999

 

Not anymore.

 

Tap Water

In North America

I don’t need to ask for tap water

I just ask for water

and they know what I’m talking about

 

So there, England.

 

Dating poets

At lunch today I told my friend

– now a sophisticated New Yorker –

about dating a poet we both know

 

Her reaction was an

ewwwwwwwwww

That lasted about a minute

 

Well, I could say the same thing about –

actually, the dish she ordered looked pretty good.

 

Being stood up

I don’t have an iPhone

Which means people can make excuses for standing me up

 

I couldn’t reach you by email

they say

Even though I had told them by email earlier that day

that I would only be reachable by phone, and here’s my number

 

I don’t have a clever ending for this one.

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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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101 items in 1001 days.
To be completed by October 12, 2013 at 27 years of age.

  1. host my own poetry series
  2. host my own radio show
  3. visit Paris
  4. visit my family in Spain
  5. visit another country in Europe (Italy)
  6. visit a country in Asia (Japan)
  7. visit a country in Africa (Morocco)
  8. visit a country in South America
  9. go to New York City with my mum (or somewhere equally cool)
  10. take a good photograph of A.L.bion
  11. take ‘little w’ to a play
  12. write a poem in French
  13. write a poem in Spanish
  14. write a poem about Ottawa
  15. write an out-of-character poem
  16. record my poems properly
  17. perform in a play
  18. direct a play
  19. write a play
  20. work alongside a stage director I admire (Andy McQuade – La Chunga Jan.Feb 2012)
  21. have sex in a tree
  22. buy an awesome girly bicycle
  23. bike in London without killing myself
  24. complete a long distance bike trip
  25. complete and defend my thesis
  26. get a job with a festival (Canadian Festival of Spoken Word cfsw.ca October 12-16, 2010)
  27. attempt some form of busking (played my flute in London and made £1.50!)
  28. practice good posture
  29. practice speaking slowly
  30. pick up an English accent
  31. watch foreign films in 10 different languages
  32. volunteer with a non-arts organization (SASC)
  33. go strawberry picking
  34. get a Brazilian wax
  35. tend a garden without killing anything
  36. go horse riding
  37. take a dance class
  38. take A.L.bion dancing
  39. work in a restaurant
  40. live with roommates  (3 of them, to be exact)
  41. live with a partner on equal terms
  42. take a beach vacation (Portugal with Jess)
  43. get my dad’s play Celestina produced in English
  44. read Don Quixote
  45. read all the works of Shakespeare
  46. memorize a monologue from Women Beware Women
  47. read 10 new books from the BBC list
  48. remember my parents’ 35th anniversary
  49. do my own taxes
  50. clean out my bedroom (my room at my parents’ house is now fit for guests, though a lot of my stuff is now in boxes in the basement)
  51. design my own jewelry
  52. order one of those duck dinners that requires 48 hours notice
  53. check out at least 5 new restaurants in Ottawa
  54. play mini golf (Arizona)
  55. buy an i-pod (Thanks, Dad!)
  56. hem my own jeans
  57. have a yard sale (with Bronwyn!)
  58. get a job with a theatre company in London (Second Skin Theatre)
  59. play tennis with my grandmother
  60. bake a delicious cake
  61. quit Facebook for at least one week
  62. write a blog entry every week
  63. comment on other blogs more frequently
  64. learn to use advanced ‘html’
  65. start up my haiku website again
  66. find my perfect working environment
  67. develop some photos and fill up a photo album
  68. do a political photo shoot
  69. buy a fish eye lens
  70. buy a video camera (my iPod touch has HD film – good enough)
  71. direct a short film
  72. go camping with friends
  73. don’t wear a watch for a day, on purpose
  74. tour the Canadian Fringe circuit
  75. paint something / create something large canvas-based
  76. buy a pair of ridiculously beautiful shoes that I may never wear
  77. walk across a pretty wooden bridge with Julie
  78. buy a yoga pass
  79. learn to do a proper cartwheel
  80. paint an apartment
  81. don’t get cable television
  82. own a pet fish
  83. donate a substantial amount of money to a local charity
  84. invent a holiday and celebrate it
  85. eventually stop wearing daily makeup
  86. try Ikebana
  87. attend a Cirque de Soleil performance
  88. memorize all possible Poker hands
  89. finish that Stratford Festival model
  90. visit Leah in Peterborough
  91. meet Simon Callow
  92. go outside everyday
  93. learn to drive on the left side of the road
  94. learn to fix my own bicycle (Thanks, James!)
  95. learn to jog without getting winded
  96. learn to dive into a pool
  97. give birthday cards to my friends and family
  98. get someone to take a really good headshot of me
  99. take part in a fashion show (Sassoon Academy – Oct 13, 2011)
  100. visit a Synagogue
  101. get caught…

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When she spoke Arabic, her eyes lit up and her face glowed and her arms swayed with the musicality of her words. The language, to my ear, combines the smooth rhythm of Italian, the guttural sounds of German, and the serpentine hum of soft-spoken Hindi. Her instructor, a strong-willed young woman, stops the actress mid-speech to give her feedback on her performance; they slide between Tunisian (an Arab dialect? its own language? there is some debate over that) and French seamlessly. This is not naturalism, she says. Let your body dance.

Hobb Story - members of the company

I picked them up from Heathrow airport only a few days ago. Ten Tunisians belonging to or associated with the company APA that created the show entitled “Hobb Story : Instructions for Arab Love” presented this month at the London International Festival of Theatre. Many of the company members were visiting London for the first time, and boy were they excited. I want to visit the Big Ben! one of them tells me in French, which they all speak fluently. I have been recruited as a volunteer interpreter, host, guide, liaison to the festival. Within minutes, I doubt my qualifications for the position: which place has the best exchange rate? where can we find food at 11pm on a Sunday night? how do we get a taxi in this city? why are your French language skills so poor?

They never vocalize that last question, but my neurotic self knows that is just what they’re thinking.

I am reminded of this poem that I saw performed recently, and it hurt me to realize that I am the same:

I, too, only speak English. And it hurts me because, for all intents and purposes, I am Canadian. Born and raised in Ottawa, a city that calls itself by bilingual, where one’s livelihood depends on being bilingual because that’s where the good jobs are. Sure, I can say on my resumé that I was in French immersion for 11 years, that I have taken a directing seminar in French, that I directed a “bilingual” play; and all that is true. I understand French, yes, but do I speak the language? Perfectly, fluently, comprehensibly. Could I write a spoken word poem in French? Could I participate in French debate without stumbling, searching for words every few seconds?

And what about Spanish. I am Canadian. I am English. I am Spanish. My father was born and raised in Spain and teaches Spanish, writes in Spanish, speaks Spanish for a living. I can say that I received a Spanish subject award in high school – but that says more about my tendency to complete my homework assignments than it does about my fluency in the language. And I could blame my parents for not teaching me a second language when I was younger. I could blame my bilingual friends for speaking English around me to make things easier. But I could – and should – just as easily blame myself for not putting in the effort.

I’m currently writing one of those lists of 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days. Two of those items are: write a poem in French and write a poem in Spanish. That may sound simple enough, but the idea behind it is that I must become acquainted with both languages well enough that I can fabricate a well-written poem in each language, not simply an anglicized version of each.

I want to be able to tell that strong-willed instructor (also an actress, a producer, and supportive partner to the playwright) that I think she is extraordinary, that I admire her ability to do interviews in English even though she insists she doesn’t speak the language very well. I also admire all the things that she and her company are trying to accomplish with this play: by touching on issues of love, sexuality, and relationships, they hope to show a different side of the Arabic culture, one that is not often seen in the Western world. This is documentary theatre that includes real testimonials from Tunisians, with hints of fantasy and lyrical theatre weaved in.

And the Arabic dialects really are beautiful.

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For perhaps the first time in the history of my poetry, I’m writing about something topical. You might have heard about this volcanic ash that is sweeping Europe right now and forcing airlines to cancel all flights to the surrounding areas. It’s chaos. Don’t expect anything but the busy signal when you try calling Air Canada.

As many of you know, I was supposed to leave for the United Kingdom on Thursday afternoon. Obviously, my flight was canceled. I have been feeling very sorry for myself over the last few days because this trip was important to me, and now everything feels very uncertain. I’ve also been thinking about the hundreds of thousands of people who are stuck in one place or another, who are unable to see their loved ones and have no idea when things will clear up. It’s frustrating because there’s nothing that can be done; there’s no one to blame; and there’s no knowing what will happen next.

That same evening when I should have been on a plane flying across the Atlantic, my friend Paul accompanied me to a poetry show. (You know someone is a good friend when they will spend time with you even when you’re in a destructive mood.) I was so inspired by the evening’s performances — especially some new poems by the incredible Kevin Matthews — that I felt the need to dash home and write something positive, perhaps even uplifting.

The next afternoon, I received a call from CBC Radio 1, asking if I would come in to the studio and talk about my experience on All in a Day with Alan Neal. Guess they had been following my Twitter updates. I had about 15 minutes to get from the Glebe to the top on Bank Street — during rush hour. Amazingly, I made it. On air, Alan and I conversed for a couple of minutes, and then I performed the (rather personal) poem I had written the night before.

And I used this opportunity to promote my upcoming poetry show with Nadine Thornhill with the Dusty Owl Reading Series on May 2. C’mon, I’m only human.

Anyway, here is the poem…

~~~

Dear Volcanic Ash

Dear Icelandic shards that clouded the European airspace

That forced Air Canada to cancel my trip to the UK

That prevented me from seeing that someone I love and adore

More than space never stopped us before

But now the price of distance is this

I’ve missed my chance to see her up close

When I yearned for her the most

And I’m not here to place blame

On any natural disaster

Even though this feels disastrous to me

On this hard-hearted day

I promise not to complain

I only wanted to say

Thank you

For teaching me patience

Because even though this hurts more than words can show

I know that when we finally come face to face

These feelings of hate will dissolve

And I will be so so grateful

That I will kiss her that much more fondly

And it will be as beautiful as a third kiss should be

Our embrace will be so steaming hot

That volcanic streaks will appear as mere brush strokes around us

Splashing blood orange vermillion between us

And I would repeat

Thank you

For teaching me patience

Because now I know what it means to be devoted

Because I have waited this long

And I will wait three thousand weeks longer

To be with you

And whether or not this makes us stronger

It will make us remember that we conquered volcanoes to be together

That we dove into burning hot lava

And reemerged untainted

Save for a splatter of colour

That remains a blush in your cheeks

That sustains a flush in my fingertips out of reach

Reaching toward you

No matter how far you might be

And I see

That this has taught me patience

So that if ever I forget to adore you every day

This foray into the power of staying

Will remind me

That you are worth waiting for

And for you I will wait

Till dawn breaks

Till my heavy heart breaks

Until the intensity of these trials

Breaks my weary back

Back to the beginning

I would start again for you

From the beginning

At the beginning of all things

When there are so many possibilities

And I can choose only one

I will choose to wait

For you

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After my poetry performance on Sunday evening at the Spoken Word Plot, people I didn’t know came up to me and thanked me.

Back in high school, we were assigned personal journals for drama class. I loved writing them because back then, like now, I was very analytical and enjoyed contemplation in isolation. One of my favourite comments from my teacher was: “Very honest. Thank you.” I took that as a compliment.

Those who have attended my poetry performances know that while my writing is undeniably personal and that I occasionally (understatement of the year) talk about my sex life, there is nothing that is written for shock value, nothing that would be considered “over share” or “too much information”, and nothing that is not completely accessible to the majority of adult audiences. Heck, I would be comfortable having my mother in the audience.

I’m just sharing my stories. And some people want to hear them. So that’s why I do it.

It’s impossible to describe exactly what happened Sunday night (though you could see Andrew Snowdon’s review on Ottawa Tonite for a pretty decent description AND video); even I’m not quite sure what happened. All I know is that I was onstage with my dear friend Nadine — who, by the way, was wearing an incredibly sexy purple dress — and it was magnificent. I have never seen her so vibrant, so full of feeling. Her poetry is heartfelt and it is very funny. I think we made a good team. Lauryn, Michelle, and Shu were fantastic on the open mic. And I loved watching people in the audience. I could see Danielle completely engaged in the performance, nodding her head whenever she felt she could relate to what was being said. I watched my new friend Stephanie in the front row, her eyes widening occasionally, and breaking into fits of laughter at the appropriate moments. Paul and Jesse were taking wonderful photos. Nadine’s devoted husband Phil was holding the video camera. Then there was Alix, my drama teacher from when I was only ten years old, smiling encouragingly. And near her were Jan and Jennifer, a couple of professional storytellers that I have adored from a young age.

I guess all I want to say is that I am very grateful. People that I admire actually took the time to come to my show. And then they actually took the time to tell me how it affected them. That means so so much to me, and I hope they know that.

On a related note…

On Thursday I am leaving on a two-week trip for the United Kingdom to figure things out for next year. I expect these next fourteen days to be life-changing, and I have never been so excited. There is the potential for romance, adventure, and new beginnings. I am 23 years old and I have so much more to experience. Let it begin.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The role of a lifetime

Jessica Ruano to play Nadine’s Thornhill’s clitoris in the Spoken Word Plot

Ottawa, April 6, 2010: Most female performers dream of playing Desdemona or Hedda Gabler or Blanche Dubois. But local arts enthusiast Jessica Ruano has much higher aspirations. Since meeting local playwright/actor Nadine Thornhill over four years ago, Jessica has yearned to play the role of Nadine’s clitoris. As astonishing as it may seem, Jessica will have that opportunity on Sunday, April 11, 2010 when she and Nadine perform as headliners at the Spoken Word Plot in JR’s Downstairs Pub, 385 Ottawa Street in Almonte, Ontario.

“It’s a dream come true” says Jessica, between tears. “I performed the coochie-snorcher piece in the Vagina Monologues back in second year university, but this… this is the role of a life time. I feel like my years of clitoral experience are finally paying off.”

The poem, Clitoral Protestation, was originally written and performed as a solo piece by Nadine for a local erotica series called Talented Tongues. However, after having seen Jessica perform at other poetry events in Ottawa, Nadine realized that the role was ideal for this cunning linguist.

“The subtlety of Jessica’s performance style is just right for playing the clitoris,” explains Nadine. “In order to do the role justice, the performer should have certain sensitivity in regards to the female body, and know how to push all the right buttons.

Jessica Ruano and Nadine Thornhill perform a collaborative set of their own poems and storytelling pieces and haikus at the Spoken Word Plot this Sunday in Almonte. For more information, please follow this link to view the official press release.

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Over the last five years, I have worked as a publicist for numerous theatre companies and arts organizations in Ottawa and beyond. While I have tended to develop strong attachments to these groups, I have always maintained a healthy degree of objectivity in working with them; able to view their work from an outsider’s point of view, to see through the eyes of the media and potential audiences in order to create relationships between the various parties.

This objectivity is much more difficult to maintain when promoting my own work. I often find myself straddling (ahem) the line between vanity and self-deprecation. Do I tell everyone how totally awesome I am, or do I let them formulate their own opinions by simply providing them with the facts? Since I don’t have that objective distance, I might not be my own most reliable judge of talent. So, to a certain extent, I have to rely on the favourable opinions of other people, and not only on my own sense of good taste.

Two such people – local poets Graeme Loh El O’Farrell and Sean O’Gorman – were sweet enough to create a short promotional video to advertise my upcoming feature show with fellow poet Nadine Thornhill at the Spoken Word Plot on April 11 . Here’s the clip:

This is where the self-deprecation comes in: even though I really like what these guys have done with the video, I still think I look like a total dork (or perhaps “adorkable”, as Nadine would say). But is that just because everyone finds it weird seeing themselves on screen? I’ve been told that my poetry (or perhaps more aptly named “poetic monologues”) works well in performance, but does it translate on screen? Heck, I don’t know.

I’ve heard that a promotional video can “make or break” a marketing campaign. So here’s my question: does this video inspire you to bring a truckload of friends and family to my show, or does it make you want to run screaming in the other direction? I would love to hear from people who have seen me perform, as well as from people who had no idea that I have a life outside my computer.

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The Newstalgica Poetry Series celebrates the autumn season with performance poet Jessica Ruano and the musicopoetic grooves of Poem de Terre. Hosted by Devin Zane Shaw and J. F. Lafleche.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Open Mic 8:30pm
Featured Performers 9:30pm

Cafe Nostalgica

603 Cumberland Street

Jessica Ruano is a writer of press releases, newspaper articles, romantic emails, blog entries, brochures, academic papers, and – occasionally – of short stories and poetry. She has performed with the Capital Poetry Collective, the Oneness Poetry Collective, Talented Tongues, at a Canteen Gallery Vernissage, and as the feature poet in the Voices of Venus series.

Poem de Terre is a multi-disciplinary ensemble melding live folk music and spoken word with contemporary and more established musical forms. Poem de Terre draws upon many influences to create music for the new millenium. As much as the music, words are central to Poem de Terre’s work, bringing stories and ideas to the community in the form of live performance.

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Steve Sauve

Steve Sauve

If you’ve ever attended a poetry slam, hung out at Cafe Nostalgica, or helped out at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, you’ve probably met Steve Sauve. An incredible poet and self-proclaimed geek, Steve has played an important role in the Ottawa arts community for a number of years now. So I think it’s important to let everyone know what happened to him last week.

Since New Years Eve, Steve has been in the hospital for a cerebral aneurysm in his right carotid artery. There is a 30-40% risk involved due to his already fragile condition with the endocarditis for which he was (and still is) being treated. The doctors think the bacteria from the endocarditis may have somehow branched off and travelled to his brain, weakening the arteries which could have caused the aneurysm.

Here is the wikipedia link on cerebral aneurysms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_aneurysm

For more about Steve, please visit: http://www.myspace.com/bwanageek

Steve appreciates any support, love, prayers, and good wishes sent to him at this time. If you would like to send him a message, please write to his friend Rusty Priske at rustypriske@rogers.com to reach Steve directly. Otherwise, emails and Facebook notes – for when he’s out of the hospital – would be wonderful.

—-

Steve Sauve passed away on January 17th at 1:50pm. His family and his girlfriend, Faye, were there with him at the hospital. He will be greatly missed. All my love.

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