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Butterfly Tongue

For a link to a video of the full show, go to the See & Hear page!

And just like that, the show is put to bed till August. This is my bouncing 14-lb baby, birthed after a 10 month gestation. 10 months of daily work -- I can in all honesty say that I did in fact work on this piece every single day for almost a year, from inception to performance.

Poet David Stones got me thinking that a fringe show would be a good idea. The next step was to work out a story. Well, that was obvious. My own experiences with the remarkable Jennifer Reimer in 2011 have haunted me forever. I knew they would work when set against the backdrop of the early 70s -- a decade of smoke-filled donut shops and acid trips in graveyards. So I went about combing through my existing corpus of poems for applicable material to assemble a monologue.

But then I thought, why stop there? Why not a monologue with music? It didn't take much digging for me to find a slew of Deep Blue Honey songs that worked well -- that indeed integrated perfectly into the story. So I enlisted Dave Hawkins, as the balladeer (kind of like Waylon Jennings on Dukes of Hazzard). "The Angels Have Assembled" of course cried out for a choral treatment, and so I roped Louise Jarvis and she did yeoman service creating choral arrangements for three songs. I rapidly realized that doing the show as a monologue wasn't going to cut it. So I got together with Jennifer Burak who initially started as an acting coach but who very quickly became the director. We worked out props and blocking and the tricky situation of scene transitions.

And we worked. And worked. And worked. To take my mind off the near daily rehearsals in Meaford and Owen Sound, I painted the story out on old repurposed canvases, thinking that wherever I did the show there would be some way to project them. I figured I could work out that detail closer to the day.

But then there came the serious business of looking for a venue. I figured I could pull about 50-100 people for the show, which meant that the Roxy and the big room at the Harmony Centre were out: better to fill a small hall than to have empty seats in a big hall. That left me with few options. We don't have a black box theatre like Collingwood's Simcoe Street Theatre, which would have been perfect. The closest thing we have is... Grey Roots! Dave Hawkins worked out that it was viable, and a few discussions with Doug Cleverley made it clear that we could pull it off. I was honoured to be part of Doug's campaign to host more cultural events at Grey Roots. The only drawback is the location, for which I apologize. I know many people had to improvise to get out there, and there were some who found it inaccessible. (At this point I'd really like to give props to Doug, who wound up being the sound and lighting tech, in addition to doing a million things on site and behind the scenes to get the show going.)

 

There was no question that there would be a book, and that Maryann Thomas was going to publish it. And there was no question that it would be large format and full colour to make it a bit of a prestige piece. There was also no doubt that it would include the texts of other, more deliberately theatrical pieces -- including one I'm negotiating for a potential performance in 2024 or 25. Thanks as always goes out to Shelley Jackson who does the Ginger Press's layouts, and who has to deal with finicky authors like me.

And so we worked and worked and worked. We assembled a choir of slumming angels: Spencer Bristow, Jennifer Culpeper, Jessica Gracey Gellner, Frank Greaves, Mary Little (soloist), Barry Randall, Debbie Randall, Christine Sebesta, Heather Wiebe, and Jessie Wilson. They sang and sang and sang and had me beaming.

And so that's it for laureateship legacy projects from me. From here on in it'll be occasional readings at events, hosting one final Oh!Sound show, and working on Words Aloud. I'll have a book coming out this fall with Mansfield Press (A Current Through the Flesh), and I'm still trying to flog my Don Gutteridge Award-winning book with Wet Ink Books (Wait, What?). And of course I'll be doing Butterfly Tongue at the Kingston and London fringes in August.

Yes, I would like to mount the show locally at least one more time. That couldn't possibly be till spring, however, and it might be in Meaford.

As always, big thanks to Tim Nicholls Harrison and the OSNGUPL, and the poet laureate committee and the program's private sponsors.

Thank you all for coming and making my dream a reality.

Poems in Response to Peril


Canadian poets Penn Kemp and Richard-Yves Sitoski co-edited Poems in Response to Peril, an anthology which brings together 61 poems by 48 of Canada’s most prominent poets in response to the current crisis in Ukraine and other perils afflicting our troubled times. Profits from the book, some $6000, were directed toward the Canada-Ukraine’s Foundation's efforts to provide the Ukrainian cultural community with evacuation and resettlement help.
 

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A poem is not a mirror

but a stone in hand

ready

to be flung at one

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