Thomas King, Vancouver Poetry Slam, and my health


The past four or five days have been interesting. I had an adverse reaction to some belladonna applied topically on Thursday night, and since then the ache in my left shoulder has intensified to the point of my arm being pretty much out of commission. Advil helps, but there’s still pain. I plan on seeing a doctor this week — I may have wrenched the shoulder out of alignment during Galactica’s bid to murder me.

Despite all this sturm und drang surrounding my physical health, I’m alive, and was feeling well enough on Monday to leave the house for an opportunity to see Thomas King speak.

If you don’t know who Thomas King is, then get the fuck out you are missing out on part of life.

Seriously, though, Thomas King is brilliant, and funny, and an amazing writer, and incredibly patient with babbling star-struck First Nations Studies graduates.

I embarrassed myself.

I got my copy of The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative signed, and spent time during the presentation basking in the wisdom of Mr. King.

Favorite quotes of the evening (paraphrased):

Writing fiction is like buttering toast. Writing non-fiction is like herding porcupines with your elbows.

[On writing style]: I like to use humor to get close to people, so I can strangle them.

People always ask ‘what Indians want’. But really, that question has always been more ‘what do whites want?’. …assume for the purposes of this conversation that ‘whites’ and ‘Indians’ are neutral terms.

If you haven’t read any of King’s work, then get thee to a nunnery library. Stat. I highly recommend Green Grass, Running Water.

I went to the event with a friend of mine, and as King’s talk ended earlier than we expected, we decided to catch the last half of the Vancouver Poetry Slam.

I think this may have been my first actual slam attendance since leaving Maui. (I’m not counting any of the ones I tried to start in Powell River, for reasons that will have me ranting.) I missed it.

You may or may not know, but I was a figure in starting up the Maui Slam. The first one was held at Gallerie Ha, but it didn’t catch on. A bunch of us Maui poets got together to put that one up, and it was a lot of fun. Later, slams became a regular part of Maui arts landscape, hosted at Maui Booksellers — where I used to work. I ended up winning one slam with my poem WRITER’S BLOCK. Since then I’ve written one other poem that I consider a slam poem, though several of mine could be read that way I suppose.

I admit, I got burned out on slam politics and Russian judges, and started to feel bitter about what the Maui arts community considered “real” poetry. Apparently only stuff that works to make the audience feel guilty for breathing. (Hence why WRITER’S BLOCK won.)

It’s different here in Vancouver. That much was obvious last night. I only caught the last half of the night, but the poems that got the highest scores and best responses from the audience were definitely not about making the audience feel guilty for being human. They were about love and identity and things we can all relate to. All the poets were skilled, and each poem was a pleasure to listen to. You can watch them at the slam’s YouTube channel.

The MC is amazing and funny and feminist, and continued to make jokes about International Men’s Day, which it happened to be.

If you don’t know why International Men’s Day is a joke, I’ll give you a hint: because in a patriarchal kyriarchy, every day is International Men’s Day. Even on March 8th, because people don’t stop being sexist asshats on days designated to give a nod to the oppressed and marginalized.

Though it does have one purpose: it helped me decide when International Genderqueer Day* should be held. (July 14th, if you’re interested. Midpoint between March 8th and November 19th.)

After the Slam I got to hang out with a bunch of people who put it on, because the friend that I went with is buddies with all of them. I will probably be going to the Slam as often as I can from now on. I had a ton of fun, and I got creatively inspired.

When I got home, I tried to go to sleep after doing some reading on the internet. My brain wouldn’t let me, though the painkillers were fast making me fall asleep. I had a poem to write.

It’s called Blood Candle, and it may be ready for an upcoming slam. I think I have to tweak it a bit, not least because I wrote it on my phone while half-asleep and loggy from painkillers, so autocorrect has had a field day with it. Still, I think it’s good, and I think when polished it could be great.

I’m still on the mend from my illness, but I should be right as rain by next week. Expect fewer posts from me in the coming days, however. It’s hard to type with a wrecked shoulder.


*Note on the blog I’ve linked to: Fierce Femme’s Black Market was created with the intention of being a place for me to write about feminist stuff, but since I’ve decided to just write about that here at Bacon and Whiskey and at Innocence and Immanence, I’m not really sure what to do with that blog. It sits as an archive, because I don’t want to delete it or some of the comments…but I’m not sure as to what its future will be.