66 Years in the Making!
3 Plays for a Quarter!
Yes, it’s true!
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On my Sacred Places page there are 25 written and video reports of personal visits to sacred sites on the prairies. Rather than feature one site I suggest you scan the list and select one or two interest. The picture above is of Castle Butte. Additionally five essays explore aspects of the sacred as manifest in these sites. I am grateful to Ken Wilber for bringing his insight to some of my experiences. When visiting sacred sites it is beneficial to you and to the spirits if you practise safeguards.
The six Frequently Asked Questions on my blog all deal with some aspect of my personal spiritual practise – shamanism.
What is shamanism?
Personally, shamanism provides a method for me to experience life beyond the rational mind and its limitations. Ever since I was a young child I knew there was a place where imagination began, where great powers and incredible beings existed to help us and heal us. I spent forty years trying to find a way to get there. In 1994, I discovered a little book called The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner. He laid out the core elements of shamanism as it had been practiced for over 50,000 years, adapted the techniques and technology for modern people and, suddenly, I had access to the spirit world. I had found my way!
Using a sonic driver, in my case drumming on CD, the daily mind is distracted. Then, having access to that mythical 90% of the brain we don’t use, the psychic and subtle worlds are revealed. I enter these worlds with powerful intent behind each of my journeys there. Intent, while a good list filler in ordinary reality, in non-ordinary reality becomes an enormously powerful tool. The shaman’s work is to apply the intent and watch for the intentional and unintentional to occur and discern their meanings. Power animals and spirit helpers act as guides, protectors, companions and teachers. More often than not, my clarity results from their explanations of events.
Mircea Eliade, the historian and philosopher who wrote the seminal work on the topic called Shamanism, subtitled it Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. What the shaman knows that few others know is the secret of the trance, which is: the trance plus intent opens access to the scene of freedom, to the source of creativity and to sheer ecstasy, all achieved simply, safely and without drugs. Ecstasy is a major factor in all the reports in this series. I spend a lot of time there.
You find my FAQ page here.
After years of negotiations the New Zealand Documentary Board was granted safe access to the secretive world of modern-day vampires. What We Do in the Shadows follows the daily lives of four vampires who live together in a ramshackle old house and confront the realities of 21st century life: paying the rent, keeping peace among roomies, getting into nightclubs and doing five years worth of dishes while maintaining the sanguine requirements of being a vampire. It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years.
This fresh take on vampires is the creation of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark, Boy), two young New Zealand filmmakers. Clement and Waititi play Viago and Valdislav to the hilt as older vampires while Jonathan Brugh is Deacon, a younger less responsible vampire. In a vault in the catacombs of the house lives Peter who is thousands of years old and represents a traditional view of vampires as simply bloodthirsty. Add in all the classic abilities of vampires – flying, hypnotism, silver allergy, etc – and the result is tumultuous fun.
Of course it’s not a documentary; it’s a full-blown comedy, one of the best indies in recent years and a darling at recent film festivals. The screenplay is wonderful, keenly written with a natural comic eye as the men try to explain their lives and deal with each other, various undead and humanity. The lead actors construct characters who are consistently absurd yet possess enough human qualities to create empathy for their modern dilemmas which aren’t that different from us non-vampires. Their encounter with the werewolves made me howl – “We’re werewolves, not swearwolves.”
Watch the trailer and decide if What We Do in the Shadows appeals to you. I found the movie on icefilms.com. Thanks to my friend Kevin for making me aware of it.
To end the week of slam poets I’ll feature two Winnipeg poets, Kayla Fraser and Steve Currie, info on local slam events in 2015 and finish with Andrea Gibson who was the inspiration for this series.
Click her pic for Kayla Fraser to perform The Poetry Game.
Winnipeg Poetry Slam has a new home at the Winnipeg Poetry Project which will hold the second of four events to determine the local slam poets that go to the nationals. The event is Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at the West End Cultural Centre. Sign-in 7:15. Slam 8:00. Details are available. You can see a tally of the top slam poets and their point totals on the site, videos and audio tracks of poets performing and an application form if you want to prowl the stage and share your wisdom.
Another event under the auspices of the Winnipeg Poetry Project is the annual Winnipeg Spoken Word Festival, June 10 to 13, 2015 at the Gas Station Theatre. Details as they emerge.
A collaborative project called F-Wordz combining performing poets and filmmakers is evolving to its May 3, 2015 competition at the Park Theatre. The Winnipeg Film Group offers info.
Steve Currie is vying for a spot on Winnipeg’s Slam Team this year and reads a work pulled from today’s headlines about Manitoba’s 10,000 foster children. Click his pic to watch Steve perform To Whom It May Concern.
I recently discovered the performance poetry of Andrea Gibson and posted about her. Her work inspired my explorations of current slam poetry resulting in this series. To end off, two poems by Andrea Gibson. Click pic to watch her perform Prism
Click pic for her performance of Panic Button Collector
A trio of slam poems today. Jeanann Verlee, whom I featured earlier in this series, and Carlos Andres Gomez, each performing separately and together.
Click her pic to watch Jeanann Verlee perform 40 Love Letters.
Click their pic to watch Jeanann Verlee and Carlos Andres Gomez perform Wait.
Click his pic to see Carlos Andres Gomez perform What’s Genocide?
Today’s poets are Shane Koyczan from Penticton, B.C. and Rudy Francisco.
Click his pic to watch Shane Koyczan perform his story poem Why Does This Man’s Grandfather Fight Monsters? Shane is performing in Winnipeg at the West End Cultural Centre on April 5, 2015.
Click his pic to watch Rudy Francisco perform his poem Complainers.
Two youthful voices on today’s slam.
Click her pic to watch Megan Maughan perform Five Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder.
Click his pic to watch Noah St. John perform his poem Capoeira.
We live in a time when words have been reduced to a series of abbreviations on tiny text screens, when clarity and truth are drained daily from language replaced by doublespeak that supports an agenda, when the inability to form a complete sentence results in the inability to think critically, when powerful voices that promote sanity and goodness are routinely silenced. But words still work. They can still tell the truth when employed by active minds and engaged imaginations. In this case, I mean slam poetry. Click the pic below for a poet slam primer under 60 seconds.
This is the first of six or seven posts featuring contemporary slam poets performing their work. Each one of these voices offers his or her unique perspective on life in the 21st century, usually personal, sometimes cringingly so, frequently funny, always pertinent and inspirational. Instead of writing about each poet’s background I have included links to their websites. Most of these slam poets have won awards for their performance poetry.
Click her pic to watch Jeanann Verlee perform Communion.
Click his pic to watch Josh Healey perform Coming Out Straight.
UPDATE: Andrea Gibson is performing in Winnipeg on Saturday June 27, 2015 at the Good Will Social Club, 625 Portage Ave. Tickets are $20.
I wish I was a photograph
tucked into the corners of your wallet
I wish I was a photograph
you carried like a future in your back pocket
I wish I was that face you show to strangers
when they ask you where you come from
I wish I was that someone that you come from
every time you get there
And when you get there
I wish I was that someone who got phone calls
And postcards saying
Wish you were here
That is how Andrea Gibson’s poem Photograph begins. Listen to her read the whole thing.
From her website: Andrea Gibson is not gentle with her truths. It is this raw fearlessness that has led her to the forefront of the spoken word movement – the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam – Gibson has headlined prestigious performance venues coast to coast with powerful readings on war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality.
I came across Andrea’s work recently while downloading some sound poetry. Her written words are provocative but it’s her inspiring spoken performances that give them vivid freshness. Her thoughts bombard you with a stimulating flurry of intelligence and awareness, as effective poetry should. Listen to her poem Stay.
YouTube has many videos of Andrea’s performances. This one is called Jellyfish. Click pic.
Andrea is currently on a North American tour which moves to Europe in the spring.
Andrea’s website is http://www.andreagibson.org/
Two more readings by Andrea to finish off: Asking Too Much and Say Yes.
We moved to Shoal Lake in 1957 when I was eight and I left for the city at nineteen. Those are formative years when one grows from an egocentric to sociocentric worldview, taking the role of the Other, starting to think about thinking and finally feeling like a citizen of the planet. Just before I left home, my father said that no matter where I roamed or what I accomplished in my life, I would always think of Shoal Lake as my hometown. He was right.
My cathedrals were somewhat more humble than the stone behemoths the word usually conjures. Though it was a town of 800 with five spired churches (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, Anglican, United), my cathedrals were the movie theatre, the town hall, the high school, the ice rink, the train bridge and the spruce grove by the lake.
The only cathedral left standing today in 2015 is the grove of spruce trees that decorate a slow incline up and away from the water’s edge at the north end of the lake. They were planted in 1928 as part of the village landscaping. The trees wrap around the closest thing the lake ever had to a beach, vulnerable to the prevailing, often harsh, northwest winds. During their eighty-seven years, the trees have adopted a slight lean away from the wind. It’s not a thick grove but an airy and light stand with sky at the top end and water at the bottom. Underfoot lies decades of brown needles thatched in slow decay.
By the 1960s the spruce were at their most verdant, early maturity brought a luscious deep green to the shore when viewed in perfect morning light. It was under these sheltering branches that many rites of passage and epiphanal moments occurred for my friends and me. Here bonding moments so serene, proving moments so intense and our love for the whole wide world, created new beings out of us. Boundless expressions of song sang with spruce gum and lake water in the hot sizzle of the metal camp stove, our incense and laughter echoing beyond the trees into the starry night. Acoustic guitars strummed to bleeding during long rambling confessions of angst, love and guilt, inspired by the Doors’ The End. In this confessional, the trees listened patiently, ever returning each of us to sanctity, to grace.
Today the trees are past maturity; their trunks three-quarters bare of branches, the foliage now a rickety umbrella high overhead. The bare overripe spruce are easy pickings for wind; they creak now even in small breezes. Crushing windstorms from the northwest break off the old trees regularly. Yet they remain my one cathedral, still bending in the wind, becoming more majestic in their age and decline.
To walk among them now is to hear the echoes of old friend’s young voices and see them splashing in the shiny water; it is to hear the blues played on a harmonica at the edge of a prairie lake by a farm boy whose father works him like slave. During spring break-up on the lake there are a few days when tinkling needles of ice produce the sound of delicate wind chimes as they float in the cold water, playing counterpoint to the trees combing sighs from a passing breeze. When I walk among these trees today I am among friends, closer to the wisdom of age and experience that we intuited as youth but only recognize now as we grow long in the tooth.
How we worshiped with vigor and hope at that church of green timber! Confusing, hormone-befuddled days turned into evenings of comradeship, peace and caring, of understandings that curious youth bring only to each other. Spirit lived in my cathedrals then and still does today. The link we share with our past when using the local knowledge of a place and its landmarks allows us to discover Spirit in yet another form.
Even though today grass grows thick over my parent’s graves in Shoal Lake Cemetery and I have few friends left in the town and fewer reasons to return, Shoal Lake is still home in the sense of it being the repository of my growing and changing. It is where memories reside. It will always be home to the cathedrals that played significant roles in my youth, cathedrals that time and progress have taken away. When I left Shoal Lake, I forfeited the right to own my cathedrals anywhere but in memory. As it should be.
“Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now. And to generate heat not light is the intention. To keep everybody in the helpless state engendered by prolonged mental rutting is the effect of many ads and much entertainment alike.” Opening paragraph of Preface to The Mechanical Bride, Marshall McLuhan, 1951.
In April 1977 Marshall McLuhan visited Brandon as part of Mosaic Massey, an event arranged by Vincent Massey High School. The Brandon Sun published a lifestyle article about McLuhan’s visit written by Wayne Boyce. The feature begins, “One doesn’t interview Marshall McLuhan. One merely shakes his hand, sits and listens.” The second paragraph begins, “It simply doesn’t matter if a listener agrees or not… McLuhan has not come to argue. He has come to think out loud.”
While being driven around Brandon, McLuhan suggests the city could become an international city because, “It isn’t overburdened with 19th century hardware and doesn’t have a stake in the old.”
Personal Aside: However, Brandon isn’t an international city despite its delusions of pretending to be something it isn’t: a big city. Brandon succumbed to big city woes: a gutted downtown, urban sprawl, congested traffic, homelessness, no-brainers like a shopping mall on a frequent flood plain and the location of their new fire hall between the river and railroad tracks. Urban sprawl is so rampant Brandon should be renamed Mortgage Heights. Brandon has lost its identity as a rural hub.
Back to 1977: McLuhan rejects the claim he’s a seer or futurist. “I make observations, not theories. They call me the prophet of the electronic age but I’m merely an observer. My work predicts what has already happened.”
Boyce ends the article with this observation, “The total effect is to stimulate thinking. He does that well. McLuhan’s thoughts help us find the freedom to do that.”
Both photographs were taken during McLuhan’s Brandon visit by Stu Philips.
Watch my McLuhan Mash-Up called “Everybody Is With It.” It’s a minute twenty.
“A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake; to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out; it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.” – John Keats
“No such thing as the world becoming an easy place to save your soul in.” – John Keats
“Life is divine Chaos. It’s messy, and it’s supposed to be that way.” – John Keats
I have blogged before – here and here – about Kevin Richardson and his rapport with wild beasts, specifically lions and hyenas. His other videos and his book, Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa, are inspirational and soul-building. In a match made in marketing heaven, Go Pro cameras and Kevin teamed up and created a 15 minute video that gives you a Kevin’s-eye-view of the experience of physically playing with lions and hyenas. At one point the critters even chew on the camera. Click the pic and join 15+ million others who have watched the big cats play!