A few weeks back I took a train to Seattle for the Cascadia Poetry Festival, a four day smorgasbord of readings, speakers, and expert panels.
Now, for those of you who think attending a poetry festival would be about as exciting as filing a callus, restrain your clicking impulse for a second. Poetry is the dope bomb shiznit. Seriously. And the Cascadia Poetry Festival was three days of creative hedonism that included parties, a beer slam (with free beer!), and a living room reading series. Yes, there were some serious readings and discussions of pedagogy, but they were offset with poems that eulogized the end of smoking culture and readers who began with the invocation,
“Oh Lord, if I have but one life to live… I hope this ain’t it.” -George Bowering
There were poems that glorified bumper stickers, oral sex, bar fights, and roadside fruit stands.
It was, in other words, not boring.
Over the course of the weekend I read a few times and had some very flattering feedback from people I respect, which is always nice. But, for me, the very best part of attending a festival of poetry was simply hanging out with people who get high on creativity. We’re all human. We all live within the contours of one small life, but sharing our perceptions of that experience is liberating because it opens up new landscapes and new possibilities. When we see through other people’s eyes, our own vision is enhanced.
Hobnobbing with creatives is inspiring too. In a hallway of the Spring Street Centre I overheard someone use the phrase “situational rhyming.” …Ok, so I’m still not sure what that might mean, but it feels loaded with possibility. Some phrases seems to catch fire in my brain, burning the way a pine branch does – with sizzling smoke and sparks, too wild to control. One speaker talked about an “activism of the ethical imagination” and I was off again… remembering that there’s a point to all these sentences we write. Art, and poetry in particular, can be used to unpack important issues – poverty, climate change, sustainability, social justice. The pen really is mightier than the sword. Writers can change the world – and, bloody hell, the world needs some changing.
The next Cascadia Poetry Festival happens in Nanaimo, BC April 30-May3, 2015
It was a very long Monday this week. I’d been out of town for four days and had come home to a mess of work and household chores. By the time I had supper in the oven and the kids practicing their instruments, I was ready to either a) go to bed, b) get drunk, c) collapse where I was or, d) get drunk. Then I remembered I had some texts I needed to send. Sigh. The idea of coordinating my stubby thumbs with my “smart”phone was exhausting (no, my name is not Chaos Rink Jones). But then I remembered the handy voice dictation feature. Just push the microphone icon and start talking.
I prattled on, composing my thoughts while trying to remember to say “comma” and “period.” After a while I paused to see how my techretary had done. The results were spectacular. If spectacular means not even remotely close. Evidently, my hand had been over the microphone.
I was quickly getting annoyed but as I continued to read the phone’s version of what I’d said, I began laughing. This was fantastic. It was like a whole new language had been invented! Some some sentences were so comprehensively mangled I couldn’t tell what they were supposed to say. “You drunk the help of my long gone stone they have a min interval on a police vehicle thinking of us.”
Another sentence read “Lead skating listen to him so then be on a date for the bold bold for the outlets what is going to be for that is good please put it in a can.”
I most certainly will put it in a can.
I might even put it on a t-shirt.
Here’s a sample 3:15 from August 2013 (see previous posts for an explanation).
The idea that the dishes
of our mind
be laid out
elegant as swans
I would rather be a dog
barking at my reflection
I see balls
I chase them
wag at inopportune moments
and live ever expecting
A measured imagination
is too shy to yodel
in the pancake house
lest the patrons disapprove
stiffen newspaper spines
create a space
safe from poets,
calmed by the pleasant geometry
of plate, spoon, fork, mug
– another refill please –
two packets of saccharine, two creams.