Creatures of myth & memory in the playful, pointed, evocative Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory

Cover art from Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory by Dee Sparling     

dee original smallDee Sparling is a local Toronto poet/spoken word artist and singer. We’ve been friends for about 16 years, and folks who frequented Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir, either at Q Space or The Central, will recognize Sparling, who performed poetry and a cappella songs during the open mic spots. She’s previously self-published two poetry collections, Sol Believers: Prose-Poetry from the Orion Spur and Freedom Codes: Prose-Poetry from Empires Within, and has recently published Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory.

In the Author’s Note, Sparling describes Cryptids as playing “upon the concept of nostalgia and the role it takes in shaping personal and societal narratives,” as well as featuring “various types of mythical beasts and conjurings.” Cryptids as pieces of memory, and also as mythical creatures and monsters.

Cryptids is a magical, evocative collection of 16 poems, woven with rich, textured language that includes ancient biblical (“Ecce Venus” and “Gethsemane”) and mythological (the nod to the Kraken in “Fimbulwinter”), as well as political and natural, references. Reading these poems, one gets the feeling of being gathered around a campfire, hearing tales both fictional and non-fictional—especially “Credit Valley Cryptids (A Final Goodbye),” which conjures up reminiscences of a different time and place with its compass-eye view of ghosts, shades of history and natural landmarks.

Some of the pieces are playful in their observations, taking the point of view of the creatures themselves (“The Underground” and “Memory and the Moray Eel”) or ponder the situation of a creature (“Sparrow without a Care”). And “Painted Desert” portrays the otherworldly, deadly beauty of a landscape with a cheeky, Wild West flavour—the High Noon of the cacti—while drawing a metaphor for the will to thrive and live, coupled with warnings of more parched earth on the horizon.

The cautionary tone continues into space with “Centaurus Loves Cassiopeia,” highlighting humanity’s sense of entitlement with the line “Earth, thy vanity begins… with the licking of your lips;” into the digital realm in “Troll Bytes” and the perception of power in a world of ongoing obsolescence.

Creatures of politics aren’t spared in the pointed and sharply funny “A Day in the Counter-Revolution,” a satirical evolution of man as political animal. Or was it all a dream? And ruminations on the younger generation and nature take on an introspective, speculative tone in “Millennial Breeze” and “Nature Remembers You.”

Words that paint pictures, reminding us of how tricky memory and perception can be—and how these combine to create our own mythology.

Creatures of myth and memory in the playful, pointed, evocative Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory.

Keep an eye out for Dee Sparling at Toronto poetry/spoken word events.

Toronto Fringe: Waiting for Godot meets Brazil – in space – in bizarro, quirky fun Waiting for Alonzo

waiting_for_alonzo_18-250x250Buckle your seatbelts, kids, ‘cuz it’s going to be a bumpy ride. In space. Post-apocalyptic satire in Empty Box Theatre Company’s [link] production of Waiting for Alonzo, written and directed by Keavy Lynch – running at the Theatre Passe Muraille (TPM) Mainspace for Toronto Fringe.

In a post-apocalyptic time in the near future, a lone ship floats through space. The ship’s captain and all-around bossy boots Doctor Zanita (Victoria Urquhart) has seen a single life form reading scurry across their monitor and is convinced that Alonzo is coming. The anticipation of his arrival throws her into a right tizzy, and she wants everything to be perfect. Beside herself, she bursts into a flurry of activity, ordering her faithful assistant Bielke (Hayley Malouin) around, and pestering her hunky talking computer man statue Andre (Kevin Chew) for assessments of her appearance. Of course, it’s all futile. And all for a man!

Victoria Urquhart & Hayley Malouin in Waiting for Alonzo
Victoria Urquhart & Hayley Malouin in Waiting for Alonzo

Urquhart’s Doctor Zanita is a mean girl with a PhD, obsessed with body modification (with comic results) in her efforts to become a perfect ‘10’ – a pathetic mess underneath the arrogant attitude and gorgeous, Barbie doll body. Malouin is a delight as the adorably sweet (or is she?), put-upon Bielke; mistreated by her employer, but cheerfully sharing some comically maudlin advice on the bright side of death with the audience when she has a moment to herself. Chew’s Andre is a calm and static observer, a highly sophisticated computer programmed to respond honestly to Zanita’s personal questions; he has a particularly fun moment, which I won’t spoil here.

The futility of Doctor Zanita’s efforts at “beauty” is particularly pathetic in light of her education and brilliance as a scientist (she built the damn ship, after all); choosing to spend her time and energy on plastic surgery (highlighted in a particular grotesquely hilarious scene) as she awaits the arrival of a man instead of – oh, I don’t know – searching for an inhabitable planet, or finding and rescuing other survivors.

With shouts to designer Nicole Titus for the wacky, spacy set, props and costumes.
Waiting for Alonzo is Waiting for Godot meets Brazil – in space – in this bizarro, quirky fun post-apocalyptic tale.

Waiting for Alonzo has two more performances at the TPM Mainspace: July 10 at 7:30 p.m. and July 11 at 5:45 p.m.