Feature Poet – Ben Freeland

New Orleans is Clawing at My Bones

I used to dream of New Orleans
the birthplace of jazz
the humid, sinewy underarm of America
that place where the tide rolled in
corralling with it all the Devil’s rejects
the flotsam of continents
each wave rolling over the previous
that place where the soft syllabary of the Natchez
learned sharpness in the wind
and still claws through the cold blasts from the Mississippi
still angry, still bitter as hell
dragging its nails through the delta
from its rusted chains in abandoned Haitian slave forts
I used to dream of New Orleans all the time
that place where Morton jellyrolled and Fats stacked dominoes
and Bonham beat down the buttresses till they busted open
that place where sea wall shadowmaps and Sazerac swizzle sticks
tell you what time it is, and when it’s time to go home
or not
and leave you on the same barstool the following morning
paralytic, trying to remember
where you left your bike
and what ward you live in
and why the delta conspired to make the air so sticky
and the ghosts so damn persistent
Don’t they know it’s past closing time?
Yeah, that’s the place I used to dream of
that is, of course, until the day it all got washed away
For ever, we all thought
No more Frenchmen Street
No more Preservation Hall
No more seductively mangled français
The Saints, we assumed, would not be coming back
not this time
in spite of the assurances of Irish rock stars and preprogrammed politicos
Is it not true that nothing is forever
even in this town?
But then the river receded
and the night watch came
not saints, just sinners with spray paint cans
mapping the city as they swarmed through the streets
tattooing the town
with the defiXiones
the X mark
haunted crosses everywhere that spoke with a thousand voices
We’re watching you.
We may be dispersed but we’re watching you.
We’re not done here.
 
Tonight New Orleans is clawing at my bones
she’s there in every neon-lit puddle
every misspelled word
every unapologetic wrong note in a pentatonic scale
she’s there in every empty glass
at the end of the long night
and she’s there in every X mark
no, nothing wrong, nothing incorrect
just a seething mass of humanity
wheezing like a Louisiana freighter
dragging us all back to life
even as we kick and scream for a safer, more logical abode
 
Yes, this is the place I used to dream of
the refuge of the reckless
the fortress of fools
where the city sees and the water saws
and Moldovan cabbies careen through Napoleonic alleyways
like they were somehow theirs to begin with
You’re not done with me yet, are you?
Sousaphones playing Pink Floyd – you’re not done with me yet
Scarlet corsets and scandalous bike rides – you’re not done with me yet
Tearful tunes percussed by distant freight trains – you’re definitely not done with me yet
Boys who fell asleep in the army only to wake up on a streetcorner with placards round their necks
selling jello shots and shitty advice – you’re not done with me yet either, are you?
Nope, the city with too many exes and not enough whys
haunts my dreams now more than ever.
 
And I have no reason to think she’ll stop
so I might as well get comfortable
Nouvelle Orléans, Bayou Sauvage
prends ce que tu veux de moi.
For unlike you
I truly am defenceless.

Why did you write this poem?
I attended a professional conference in New Orleans in February of this year, and was completely transfixed by the place. As a historian by background, I’ve always been fascinated by the city’s long and complicated history, but I hadn’t realized how truly haunted the place is. In New Orleans the ghosts don’t merely lurk – they sing and dance and keep you up all night. One of the sights that made the biggest impression on me is the X marks on houses left over from Hurricane Katrina, marks that most residents have kept visible (and even painted around) as badges of survival. I wrote this poem a couple of days after returning from my trip, after several nights of vivid dreams about a place I was sad to leave.

About Ben Freeland
Ben grew up on Vancouver Island and began his writing career while in grad school at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. A Pushcart Prize nominee for non-fiction, Ben’s historical and travel essays have been published on both sides of the Pacific, in publications ranging from the Globe and Mail to Asia-Pacific airline in-flight magazines. A relative newcomer to poetry, Ben has written plays, short stories, song lyrics and even film subtitles, and once copy-edited a letter from the Japan Financial Services Agency addressed to Colonel Gaddafi. You can read more of his handiwork at www.brushtalk.blogspot.ca.

Feature Poet – Medgine Mathurin

Man Crush Monday

I wonder what it looked like when the creator of the universe formed you.

Did he speak with a voice so tender that it kissed your skin into softness?
Or did He shout with a voice so aggressive that it ricochet to trace your jawline?
There must have been passion in the frequency of which He spoke to cause craters to land on your cheeks.
Him, being so sly, would only allow you to expose them when you smile.
I don’t know what led God to sneeze greatness over your face,
But I’m thankful for the itch that caused Him to propel constellations all over your skin.
O What would I have given to be moon!
Audience in galaxy
Witnessing wonder being planted on your mind.
His breath must’ve been warm, more welcoming than a onesie on a cold Friday night for you to always be down to earth.
Our conversations are always so easy.
Stream-like refreshing
Enough to enjoy every time I take sips.
I’d like to think that I am your avid connoisseur
But my speech becomes slurred by my awkward
I hope to one day sober past insecurities and take a full shot of you.

Why did you write this poem? 
I’ve always loved freckles and dimples I just think that anybody that have been stamped with either or both features have this beautiful peculiarity that can’t be reciprocated. Last April, I was invited to take part of a poetry challenge to write a poem a day. The day 1 challenge was to write a poem about your past/present crush. Since I don’t typically write love poems I challenged myself to write a poem about those physical features I like. This may or may not have been based in a true story.

About Medgine Mathurin
Born and raised in Haiti, Medgine spent her teenage years in Calgary and now calls Edmonton, her 3rd home. Her story is infused with English, French & Créole. Having recently graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor in Biological Science, she finds joy in poetry and creative writing. Medgine’s aim through her poetry is to uplift and enlighten those who hear it. With 3 years of writing under her pen, she has gotten the opportunity to perform in various cities across Canada including Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, and even overseas in Trinidad. She was part of the 2012 Edmonton Slam Team, and the edmonton representative in the 2013 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam, held in Vancouver last year. Recently has gotten the opportunity to present her spoken word at the inaugural launch of the Michaëlle Jean Canadian Caribbean, African Diasporic Studies Lecture Series at the University of Alberta.

Twitter: medgeemedge
Instagram: medgeemedge

Feature Poet – Joy Ashmore

 

People. they’re upset.
Cus they know they’re not doing what they want in life
Though they don’t really know what they want of life
though they’re doing what they’re doing what they thought was right,
they’re pursuing through the doings and the don’ts in life
Persuing and ensuing, the things that they’re doing and not really cluing into the fact what they’re doing is all an act
they know and go and glow and grow although its just artificial reality.
You the type just coast through life never seeing the light and never knowing whats right for them
if only they could see she he me and we for the things that they could be and the things that we are

Look at this guy, day after day the only thing in his way is…
well its him.
Its him and the things that he brings to his home so he feels like he wont be alone but he is you know why
because he makes it that way, You make i that way everyday everyday everyday everyday
but Dont be that way you don Have to be upset
People, Live your lives live your love just don’t give it up
because one day you know, you know you wont have it
You know you wont have it you know you just wont have enough of it…
…til its gone.
Til its done.

Til its out of your hands and out of your life
til one day one, one day there’ll be no way to say
i dont have the time
i dont have the money
i dont have the energy to make it my way.

I dont have the time
i dont have the money
I dont have the effort, to make it. Okay?
well no its not ok, you make it that way.
You sit here today because you made it that way
you are where you are because you make it that way

The troubles, the joys that you live everyday
You make it that way, You make it that way, You make it that way
You make it that way… okay?
and realize they dont have to live the typical, One way that were expected to live.
(Once something becomes a lecture, people tend to tune it out.)

Why Did You Write This Poem?
Usually when I write a poem; I like to try to make people think about their lives (and be funny if i can)
without beating them over the head with “Society is wrong” and “You’re being manipulated by the system”.
So trying to do that in a way that’s perceived as presenting information, rather than just being negative, can help the listener feel
like they’re not being attacked with the poem. That’s The feeling im trying to present with this.

About Joy Ashmore
Joy mainly works as a Visual artist based in Edmonton.
Website: www.acryliclight.webs.com
Instagram: acrylic_light
Email: the_edmonton_painters@hotmail.com

Feature Poet – Megan Dart

Long Day

I wake to the sound of wind rushing through leaves of centuries old trees and am
reminded of the shore pulling ocean toward her, the comforting crash of water kissing
rock outside my childhood bedroom door.

I pull your dream damp body into the cave of my arms, your breath stirring the small
hairs on the back my neck, a sweet surrender.

The sun has been rolling on high for hours now, but I can’t bring myself to rouse you
with soft whispered words. I watch eyes dance beneath draped lids, the safe space
where comfort and imagination spin a careful 1-2-side-step slow dance around the room
where, night after night, you lay me down, head on chest, a private concert starring the
hypnotic tic-toc of your generous heart.

From the series Abyss of the Disheartened by LA based photographer Heather Landis

I am grateful for the long reach of the sun’s outstretched arms, fingers curling into
palm beckoning a full day of play where skin is reddened, screens forgotten, freckles
uncovered.

(you will connect those sun-kissed dots with salt-wetted lips later, each salutation a
hushed thank you.)

I beg the moon to return just one minute more so I might relive the moment when night
gave way to day and new light fell soft against the imperfect lines of your slack face, the
worries of wake washed away by waves of summer breeze lapping the hem of bedroom
window curtain.

I collect this moment like the seashells I plunked into buckets of water, and sand dollars
and crabs discovered under rocks in the recesses of memory, knowing love is the sum
of quiet happenings gone unnoticed by anyone but me and you, the sun and the moon,
the coming and going of foam to shore, the way the rock and the water kiss ever so
gently again and again without greed, without expectation, without need of wanting
anything more.

Why did you write this poem?
I woke up on the morning of summer solstice next to my love and thought, for a sleepy dreamy moment, the wind blowing through the trees was actually the sound of the ocean – the nostalgic sound of the west coast beaches I explored as a child.

About Megan Dart
Megan is the co-Artistic Producer of Catch the Keys Productions, Edmonton’s go-to indie arts event and production company. Catch the Keys is equal parts party starter, community activator and multidisciplinary creator. Megan holds her Bachelor of Communications in Professional Writing from Grant MacEwan University, and is a playwright, spoken word artist and freelance arts publicist. Megan is the artist liaison and publicity manager for Nextfest; the publicity manager for The Expanse Festival; a Street Team member with the Arts Touring Alliance of Alberta; the President of The Good Women Dance Collective; and a committee member with Theatre Network and the Theatre Edmonton Project. Megan was named one of the Top 100 Women in Business by The Wanderer Online, and is a 2014 Grant MacEwan University Distinguished Alumni.

Feature Poet – Titilope Sonuga

Becoming

When the world unravels before you
and even your dreams are crumbling stones
when everything you dare to touch is set on fire
and all around you is ash and smoke
remember this

rock bottom is a perfect place for rebuilding

Titilope_Becoming

remember that you are your mother’s daughter
your grandmother’s answered prayers
a whole bloodline of women
who bend in response to raging winds

there is nothing broken here
nothing damaged or discarded
each scar is a badge of honor
your smile is an act of defiance against the sun
every misstep is a victory dance waiting to happen

You are a woman becoming
learning the complicated language of forgiveness
the intricate lessons of the universe

Your heart is just a muscle waiting for exercise
and you were born for this sort of heavy lifting
You were born one part saint
one part warrior woman

Loving yourself without shame
is the most important thing
you will ever have to fight for

Why did you write this poem? 
I wrote this poem long before I ever needed to hear the words in it. It’s amazing how it became a kind of self fulfilling prophecy. Months later when I was going through what felt like my own personal hell, it was my own words mirrored back to me that helped me get out of bed in the mornings. Words heal.

About Titilope Sonuga
Titilope Sonuga is a Nigerian born poet, performer and Civil Engineer. She was the winner of the 2011 Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award, as well as the 2013 RISE Award and 2014 NBCC Fil Fraser Award for achievement in the arts. She performed at the 2011 Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa, and her writing was selected from over 200 applicants to meet acclaimed poet, Maya Angelou. She is the creator of Breath In Poetry and a founding member of the Breath In Poetry Collective.

 

www.titilope.ca
twitter: @deartitilope
instagram: titilope , deartitilope
info@titilope.ca

 

Feature Poet – Medgine Mathurin

 

Mes Mémoires d’enfance

There are chalk stains
Pasted on the concrete grounds of my current adulthood
Pigments of a time when television was a privilege only afforded by those with electricity generators.
When imagination became primetime entertainment
And little brothers and sisters were power rangers and Mortal Kombat assassins fighting air-shaped nemesis.
Battles often won by the stabbing of tree branches

When the sound of rain
Drumming
on metal rooftops
Were concert bass sounds
We found ourselves yelling over to hear each other

Memories of playing street vendor
Where rocks became produce
Strategically arranged in pyramids
Hustling any known visitor to buy them
In exchange for enough money to buy
Tablette candy, douce, glass bottled coca-colas

Innocence
Mimicking hustles of Haitian Markets
Blinded to the men and women hustling to make enough money for their children to become our classmates

Sketches of faded childhood ambition
Now stand before me
Along with the cracks reality often brings if you are alive long enough to see it.

 

Why did you write this poem?
Most of my childhood memories stem from growing up in Haiti. I remember cradling myself under these memories, getting drunk in the nostalgia of my childhood thoughts… Not wanting to sober myself to the realities of being a first nation immigrant. The struggle re identify myself as a teenager growing up in Calgary. I’m thankful for the privilege afforded to me to learn English and to go to university and to see different parts of the world, but I don’t ever want to forget where I came from.


About Medgine
Born and raised in Haiti, Medgine spent her teenage years in Calgary and now calls Edmonton, her 3rd home. Her story is infused with English, French & Créole. Having recently graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor in Biological Science, she finds joy in poetry and creative writing. Medgine‘s aim through her poetry is to uplift and enlighten those who hear it. With 3 years of writing under her pen, she has gotten the opportunity to perform in various cities across Canada including Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, and even overseas in Trinidad. She was part of the 2012 Edmonton Slam Team, and the edmonton representative in the 2013 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam, held in Vancouver last year. Recently has gotten the opportunity to present her spoken word at the inaugural launch of the Michaëlle Jean Canadian Caribbean, African Diasporic Studies Lecture Series at the University of Alberta.

Twitter: medgeemedge
Instagram: medgeemedge
Facebook Page: Medgine

 

 

Feature Poet — Nasra Adem

Saturday

Saturday

There is never a warning.

In seconds control is lost

Breath no longer your own

a servant to anxiety 

making orders, sending heat and hurt 

through out

In minutes images you’ve long erased, names that no longer sting and 

three word phrases that have lost all meaning

flood back up from the depths of where they’ve been buried

past your chest and shoulders and lips and eyelashes

And you wring your hands so much

that you have to remind yourself you’ve already 

drip drop puddled your way on to the floor

there is nothing left

just look at you

Liquified pity and pills and pathetic

Sometimes all you have left is the tangible

the sponge soaked skin of your cheeks and railroad tracks on wrists to remind you 

you are not invincible

when time turns in to scab and scar and sympathy 

when your blood boils

scorching

blistering

there is only one way out

you’ve got to let it out

a river of red drumming life in and out of you

out of you

out of you

you’ve got to get it out of you 

this is not a poem about self harm

it is about wishing your soul had a face 

so that people would stop fucking asking what you’re always so happy about 

it is about not knowing a single person on the planet you haven’t kept secrets from

it is about being ashamed and guilty and not knowing why

or knowing why and being so hyper aware of every single reason why

that people become lake water reflections

distorted disappointments

you can see all the beautiful ways you will hurt them 

like you hurt you

I will drown you

I warned you

I have projected every shade of broken your way

I will drown you

I don’t know how not to

and why is it they never talk about how impatient loneliness can be?

how it doesn’t wait for you to leave a room full of people before it starts clawing at your ankles to

stay! stay and feel nothing around all these people that feel everything

can you taste their powder sugar spirits?

are you breathing in their stability? 

does their stench of vivacity make you dizzy?

And why, in a room of wall to wall lake water reflections…am I struggling to recognize even a droplet of myself?

I have been reduced to salt water on the floor of my bedroom

careful you might slip

careful i will drown you

don’t say i didn’t warn you

and all this because they never talked about the kids with powdered sugar smiles.

Why did you write this poem?

I wrote this piece because I needed to. For myself and for the integrity of my art. I wanted to prove that my darkness deserved as much recognition as my light, that it’s all important and valuable and that I am still growing through it all.

Photo: Visual artist: Paula K Volker

About Nasra Adem

Nasra Adem is a 20 year old poet, dancer, singer and actress. She is currently studying musical theatre at Grant MacEwan University and aspires to take her passion for all performance art to New York City in the years to come.

facebook.com/nasraadempage

youtube.com/nasraadem