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 – 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 — Marina Hale

Seventeen Things You Left Me With When Our Relationship Ended

 

Seventeen

A Time Turner necklace
Silly and nerdy and beautiful and perfect
The best birthday gift for a Harry Potter girl
Stuck in the struggle to control her world

 

Sixteen

Two Speed Racer bobblehead dolls
Remnants of a childhood gone but not forgottenTimeTurnerNecklace
Speed and Racer X still sit above my bed
Wobbling, bobbling guardians in the dark
Nodding me off to sleep each night

 

Fifteen

Three stuffed owls
Will, Oscar, and Jane
Named for my favourite authors
Bought for no particular reason
Bought because you saw them and thought of me
Bought because you knew I loved owls and I loved collecting things
And you thought this could be our thing you buying me owls

 

You never bought me any more owls

 

Fourteen

Books
So many books
Countless books
So that I can no longer remember which books come from you
Every page potentially infused with memories of summer afternoons spent side by side in dusty bookstores fingers trailing across spines

 

Thirteen

Memories of the weird face you make right before you come

 

Twelve

A skinny waist
Because
As it turns out
The very best weight loss plan is heartbreak

 

Eleven

A lingering sense of unimportance
A pervasive feeling of profound unworth
Just a tiny little thing
Always creeping in the corners of my vision
Whispering words of “not good enough”
In a voice that sounds like yours

 

Ten

Months of therapy
I don’t want to talk about it

 

Nine

Superhero comic books
A world of spandex tights and capes
Rediscovered amid the boxes
And boxes
And boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of meticulously organized superhero comic books crammed into every available nook and cranny of your basement suite
Lost amid your maze of boxes
I found for myself a world I hadn’t seen since I was small
Fantasies of power
And justice
Good
Versus evil
Fierce warriors
Who fought for a cause bigger than their lonely selves

 

Eight

Shame

 

Seven

Okay I’ll talk about it
Because you gave me the opportunity to beg for help
To sit across the desk from a clipboard and a pair of bored eyes
To uncover every ugly scar
And be judged for them
To sit across a desk
Drowning in myself
While a clipboard decided if I was broken enough to be worth the effort of rebuilding

 

Six

My very own sonic screwdriver
With real extending, light flashing, sound blasting action
Perfect for chasing scary shadows out from closet corners and under beds
A toy from Doctor Who
A show you also gave me
A show that still reminds me every day that
The world is amazing
And
People are incredible
And
Some days
Some very special days
Everybody lives

 

Sometimes in the darkest hours of the night
I clutch the sonic screwdriver to my chest
Hold on and don’t let go
Until the markings on its handle are scored into my palm
Hold on and don’t let go trying to remember that some days
Some days
Everybody lives

 

Five

A new identity that didn’t fit quite right
A second skin wound so tight in you that it didn’t quite cover all of the vulnerable bits of me
So that when you walked away
You tore it away
And left me full of nothing

 

Four

A Ravenclaw house banner
Stolen from your place of work
Just because you knew it was my favourite House
Just to see me smile

 

Three

Access to the darkest corners of my mind
The shadowy recesses where the monsters hide
I could have lived my whole life without knowing about the monsters in my head
But you opened the cage
Let them run free to tear apart my psyche
Let them strangle my appetite in my throat
Reject every bite of food
And hand me bottles to lose myself in
Let them point out every edge sharp enough to carve the hurt out from under my skin
Let them whisper words of false comfort as they place clawed hands over mine try to turn the steering wheel towards anything large enough to shatter me
I didn’t know I was so easy to break

 

Two

Almost two years of happiness
Because
Despite everything
We were happy, weren’t we?

 

One

A Time Turner necklace

 

Why did you write this poem? 

I was wearing my Time Turner necklace one day, and when someone complimented me and asked where I got it, I told them it was the only good thing to come out of my relationship with my ex. We all got a good laugh, but thinking about it later, I realized I was being unfair. Relationships are complicated, especially when they’ve ended. I wanted to explore that confusing mess of happy and painful stuff that’s left behind after the breakup. If the Time Turner really worked, would you go back?

 

About Marina Hale

Marina can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a writer (with the notable exception of a week in grade two when she wanted to live on a houseboat and be adopted by dolphins). A University of Alberta grad with a BA in English and Creative Writing, Marina enjoys punctuation, wearing plaid, and open mic nights. Her writing has been featured in the inaugural edition of Glass Buffalo, and she has co-written a number of plays for NextFest, KidsFringe, and local youth theatre company OverActing Imaginations. She once won a trophy for her terrible, angsty teen poetry, and it remains one of her proudest moments.

Twitter: @Mrimm

Rise Up: Take Back the Mic Call for Poets

Rise Up: Take Back the Mic
Call for Poets

Your revolution starts now. Your revolution is the what-if, the could-be, the should-be, the will-be. Your revolution is politics, semantics and artistics. Gather up the critics, the cynics, the mystics, the mavericks, the beatnicks: this is your manifesto, so manifest your destiny.

Rise up, and take back the mic.

NextfestBreath In Poetry and Catch the Keys Productions present:

Take Back the Mic
The Nextfest Slam
Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 9pm
as part of the Rise Up! Nextfest Nite Club
Artery Edmonton (9535 Jasper Avenue)

Twelve emerging poets compete in a three-round elimination for a $500 top prize.

TO PARTICIPATE: 

The twelve participating poets will be announced Tuesday, May 20 at Breath In Poetry’s Rouge Poetry Night (located at Rouge Lounge on 117 Street and Jasper Avenue).

Please send the following information to bdart@catchthekeys.ca by 12Noon Tuesday, May 20:

  • Name (include your legal name and performance name if applicable)
  • Email address
  • Twitter handle
  • Applicable links (website, youtube etc).

Please note: Each participating poet will receive a small honorarium, an all access festival pass and a festival t-shirt. In the case of Nextfest, emerging refers to artists under the age of 30 who are not professionally represented.

Questions? Contact bdart@catchthekeys.ca

Want to do more with Nextfest? We’re still accepting submissions for the Nextfest Nite Clubs. Submit!