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.

Stand-up & sing – inspired by Tracey Erin Smith’s The Burning Bush

As some of you know, I started doing stand-up comedy this past spring, starting with Dawn Whitwell’s Comedy Girl class at Comedy Bar. Since performing in our class show on June 18, I’ve been back on stage a few times, including open mic at Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir, a guest spot on Whitwell’s weekly show Dawn Patrol and a feature spot at the WonderFest Comedy Series.

As I’ve been expanding my set and working on new material – I decided to incorporate something else I love a lot into my performance: singing. In this case, funny songs. And it occurred to me the other day that I should include “Rabbi School Washout.” Inspired by Tracey Erin Smith’s The Burning Bush one-woman shows, I wrote the lyrics (7 years ago) to the tune of “Beauty School Drop-out” from Grease; I sent it to Tracey and she posted it on The Burning Blog.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tracey Erin Smith, SoulOTheatre or The Burning Bush, take a look at this awesome promo/interview vid. Even if you are familiar, check it out anyway – if you’re like me, it will remind you why you love Tracey and her work so much. (Toronto Fringe fans will also recall Smith’s most recent one-woman show Memento Mori, which she mounted at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival.)

Here are the lyrics to “Rabbi School Washout.” If there was a movie version of The Burning Bush, I picture Jackie Mason singing this to Tracey’s main character Barbara. Tracey Erin Smith, this one’s for you. xo

RABBI SCHOOL WASHOUT

Your story’s sad to tell,
Yeshiva ne’er do well,
Most mixed up shayna maidel in the school!
Your future’s so unclear now,
What’s left of your career now?
You’ll never get a job down at the shul!

Dancers: (La lalala lalala lalala…)

Rabbi school washout,
No graduation day for you.
Rabbi school washout,
Terrified seniors, what’cha do?
Well at least you could have taken time to sit and have a chat, now.
But instead it’s: “Death, just deal with it.” You think that will impress, now?

Baby get movin’ (Baby get movin’),
Just keep your feeble hope alive.
Know you can do it! (Know you can do it!)
You’ve got the dream, now show the drive!

If you go for it, go do the strip, you won’t feel like a fool.
Go shake your booty, don’t just sit there on that stool.

Rabbi school washout (Rabbi school washout),
Hanging ‘round the peeler bar.
Rabbi school washout (Rabbi school washout),
It’s about time you were the star.

Well they couldn’t teach you anything,
You think you’ve got such chutzpah
But no congregant would go to you unless they were meshuga!

Baby don’t sweat it (Don’t sweat it),
Preaching at temple’s not for you.
Better forget it (Forget it),
You’ve got a chance here, take it – nu?

Now your Torah’s learned, Kabbalah’s earned, babe you’re on a roll.
Come on, just be a mensch, and go straddle that pole!

Baby don’t blow it,
Don’t put my good advice to shame.
Baby you know it,
Even Dear Abby’d say the same!

Now I’ve called the shot, get off the pot, I really gotta go!
Just get up there and dance now – don’t you be a schmo!

Rabbi school washout, (Rabbi school washout)
Get up and dance now.
Rabbi school washout, (Rabbi school washout)
Get up and dance now.
Rabbi school washout, (Rabbi school washout)
Get up and dance now.

Who – and who’s work – inspires you?

Let this also serve as a teaser for my upcoming stand-up gigs:

Thurs, Oct 23: WonderFest Comedy Series @ Habits Gastropub (928 College St., near Dovercourt) – doors at 8 p.m.
Sun, Nov 9: Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir @ The Central (603 Markham St., around the corner from Honest Ed’s) – doors at 7 p.m.

Smokin’ hot & rockin’ out @ The Central – Jessica Speziale CMW2014 gig

Last weekend was about theatre, this weekend is about music. It’s Canadian Music Week, and I was out at The Central to see Jessica Speziale play with her band last night.

Speziale is a sultry-voiced, rockin’ music force, performing with heart, soul and drive. If you haven’t had a chance to see her play live, get yourself out there – you won’t be sorry.

In the meantime, you can check out her recent video release of “Brace Yourself,” a song from her Dear Reverie CD. You can also take a gander at the interview I did recently with Speziale about the video and launch.

Playing in Speziale’s band at The Central last night was: Matt Makarenko (guitar), Iliya Vee (bass and backup vocals) and Dave Sufrin (drums).

Here are some pix from last night’s gig:

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Interview with writer/poet/cabaret mistress Lizzie Violet

img_1052Lizzie Violet is a Toronto-based writer, editor, poet, blogger, cabaret organizer/host and horror aficionado. She is a huge fan of zombies. She’s also an awesome person and a great friend.

Lizzie hosts Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (LVCN), which features music, poetry/spoken word, vaudeville and burlesque performers, as well as open mic artists, at The Central. She recently launched Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic at Amsterdam Bicycle Club, and has ongoing shared organizing and hosting duties for The Beautiful and the Damned poetry and music cabaret at The Central. All this in addition to performing at a variety of other poetry/arts events throughout the City – including WordSpell and Songwriters Circle of Jerks at Free Times Café – and writing (poetry/spoken word, fiction, blogging, music video story and playwriting). I interviewed Lizzie via email about her various projects – and got a peek at what the New Year will bring.

LWMC: So, wow, you’re a very busy gal and I was having a bit of a challenge coming up with what to ask – given your multidisciplined work – so let me first ask about LVCN. You launched it almost a year ago at the former Q Space before moving it to The Central in the fall, and it’s developed quite a following. Tell us a bit about the format and what made you want to launch a cabaret format show.

LV: I certainly do have my fingers in a lot of pies and even with everything I was involved in, I decided to scratch an itch I had for many years. I’ve been obsessed since I was a child, with Vaudeville its history and that entire era (Edwardian/Flappers/1920s). When others find it to be just entertainment, I see the complete beauty in this wonderful art form of performance.

Currently, I only have three features and a true Vaudeville show has anywhere from 12 or more acts per night. Keeping in mind they have an intermission. My dream is to do a full Vaudeville show with a Lizzie Violet twist. There is a lot of preparation that comes with this type of show and I am working to bring that dream to fruition.

LWMC: What’s in store for LVCN in 2014?

LV: In 2013, LVCN grew very quickly into a wonderful night of entertainment. 2014 is about making it bigger and taking it on the road. I absolutely adore our current home at The Central and plan to remain there, but I also want to start taking the event around to other venues in Toronto and eventually other cities in Southern Ontario.

LWMC: This past summer, you wrote the music video script for Toronto band I Hate Todd’s debut single “Zombie Love,” then worked crew for the video shoot. (And I had a blast working crew with you guys that weekend.) Tell us about that experience. What was it like combining your love of writing, zombies and music?

LV: It’s like sitting at a table with all my favourite people, eating all my favourite foods, watching all my favourite movies and laughing till your belly hurts. The whole process from beginning to end, though long hours, was a total blast and I can’t wait to do it again. On top of it all, I got to work with my favourite band and spend three very long and fun filled days with my favourite zombies and friends (both old and new).

LWMC: Your work was published in several poetry/art magazines/collections in 2013 alone, including Carousel, Big Art Book 2, NorthWord and Nest. What can you tell us about the importance of getting published on paper, as opposed to digitally online?

LV: Even in this day and age of digital, publishers and anyone giving out grants to the literary arts, want you published on good ole paper. Plus, there is something about being able to pick up a physical book or magazine and see your words in ink. It’s euphoric. Plus, it’s easier for my Mom to put on her fridge.

LWMC: 🙂 You’ve also been working on a TV pilot script and a stage play. What inspired you to write these? What have been the challenges and delights as you tell stories in these very different formats?

LV: Both the TV pilot and the play have been inspired by real life and the people in it. The most recent project is the play. A really dear friend of mine Nelson Sobral wrote a song called “Arsenic & Turmeric,” and something about this song grabbed at me and this story formed in my head. I wrote the first draft of the play in one evening. I haven’t been this excited about writing something in a long time. At this moment, I have finished the second draft and am hoping to do a reading in the spring.

The TV series is based loosely on the antics of my single life. My dating life has been like a bad sitcom, so I figured, why not turn it into a TV script. It will be true dark comedy. I have changed names to protect the not so innocent.

My current challenges right now are finding the time to sit and be able to write. The bug has bitten me in the ass again, I’ve been writing like I’m on a mission. This all started right before Yule.

LWMC: Writing is a very solitary pursuit, while performing as cabaret host and feature poet is very public. What’s it like being in front of a live audience with your work after spending so much time crafting it in solitude? Does the prospect of performance influence your writing – and, if so, how?

LV: When writing poetry and spoken word, I keep the page and performance pieces separate in my writing process. Though everything can be read to an audience, I have only been performing pieces that I specifically have written to perform. Oddly, those are the pieces that have been published in print.

LWMC: What else is coming up for you in 2014? (See January events here.)

LV: I have a few features coming up. The next one is January 22nd for the Queer Snow Ball, and a few more that will be happening over the next few months. Currently, I am putting a lot of my energy into the Cabaret and Poetry Open mic. I’m hoping to build on the Cabaret and at some point in the near future have a full Vaudeville show.

Other than performing, finish the play and a full season of the TV series and get them produced.

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?

LV: Well, firstly, a great big thank you for interviewing me. You truly are an inspiration to me. I’m looking forward to 2014. There is a lot of amazing stuff happening and I can’t wait to find out what else is waiting around the corner for me.

LWMC: Thanks, Lizzie!

The January edition of Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir is tomorrow night (Sun, Jan 12) at The Central with featured artists Brock Hessel, David Bateman, and Cap & Kev (who are both also in the band I Hate Todd) 7 p.m. open mic sign-up. PWYC – $5 suggested.

Happy holidays!

2013-12-15 18.06.03
My wee Xmas tree, lit up in the dark.

Hi all –

It’s full-on holiday hustle and bustle, with gatherings and errands galore! Wanted to send out a quick note to say that I’m still here, I just needed to take care of a few things, which left me no time to post over the past little while. Hope you’ve been enjoying the reblogging of some other fabulous bloggers in the meantime.

Here’s what I’ve been up to (in addition to the f/t office job as a copy editor, which has been super busy the past couple of weeks, and some fabulous holiday gatherings, and arts and culture):

Rehearsing and reading in Siobhán Dungan’s radio comedy The Receptionist, which featured 8 actors reading 120 characters, and a violinist – we did that on Dec 6 at Innis Town Hall and had a blast!

Auditioning for the Village Players’ upcoming production of Daniel MacIvor’s Marion Bridge (directed by Greg Nowlan, running Feb 28 – Mar 22). I made it to callbacks and didn’t get cast, but really looking forward to seeing this.

I’ve been working as a scenic artist with set designer Ed Rosing on Alumnae Theatre’s upcoming production of Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not For Burning (directed by Jane Carnwath, running Jan 24 – Feb 8 on the mainstage).

Seeing amazing arts events like The Gay Heritage Project (Buddies In Bad Times), Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (The Central) and Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic (Amsterdam Bicycle Club).

Coming up soon:

The great pleasure of a photo shoot with Lisa MacIntosh on Saturday.

I’ll also finally be doing an interview with writer/poet/editor/horror aficionado and cabaret mistress extraordinaire Lizzie Violet.

And, of course, we’re now a week away from Christmas Eve, so the countdown is on!

Happy holidays, all! xo

Coming up Oct 5: Brooklyn Doran Played At Your Fundraiser – Fundraiser

Brooklyn 1So, we’re well into the fall season now, kids – and, as usual, there’s so much to see. And this Saturday, October 5 is especially full of arts and culture goodness.

For instance, Brooklyn Doran Played At Your Fundraiser – Fundraiser. Join Brooklyn Doran and guest performers Rebecca Perry, Domanique Grant, Jeff Insell and Elliot Loran, Stevie Joffe and the Bayonets, and DjRay Ruby on Saturday, October 5 at The Central for an evening of music and good times. Cover is $10 and all proceeds go towards producing Doran’s debut EP, which will be released online free of charge early in 2014. Doors at 9:00pm, music at 9:30.

This fundraising event comes at the end of Doran’s indiegogo campaign, which ends today (September 30). Special perk for donations of $60 or more: Doran will write an original song about the subject of your choice!

You can also check Ms. Doran out on Facebook and on her YouTube channel.

Photos by Adrienne Callan Photography. Brooklyn 2

Upcoming music, theatre & spoken word awesomeness

It was some big fun, not to mention a great pleasure, as I worked the door at Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (LVCN) last night, with feature artists Andrea Thompson, Frenchie Fatale and Hugh Wilson. It was LVCN’s first night at its new home at The Central – and the place was packed, with an incredibly engaged audience.

There’s still all kinds of awesome goodness coming up in T.O. this month, my friends. Here is just a small sample of what’s happening on the small stage and indie scene:

David Hustler & the Trustworthy EP release – Wed, Sept 11 @ Horseshoe Tavern @ 8:30 p.m. – $5 cover

Songwriters Circle of Jerks – Thurs, Sept 12 @ 8:30 p.m. @ Free Times Café, featuring Hugh Wilson and Nick Verona from Big Name Actors (among others), Nelson Sobral from Melting Pot and I Hate Todd, and David Hustler of David Hustler & The Trustworthy, with guest Meghan Morrison – PWYC

Eclectic – September Group Exhibit – opening Thurs, Sept 12 from 6-8 p.m. and running till Sept 29 @ Fran Hill Gallery

Jeff Cottrill’s tour fundraiser show Keep Calm & Get Rid of Jeff – Sun, Sept 15 @ 7:00 p.m. @ Black Swan, with a whole line-up of music & spoken word guests – $10 cover

Studio BLR punk rock production of A Streetcar Named Desire – The House Show – Sept 19 – Oct 5 @ 8:00 p.m. – show starts in Dragon Alley at the northwest corner of College/Dufferin

Alumnae Theatre production of The Underpants – Sept 20 – Oct 5 on the Alumnae Theatre main stage

Anglewalk Theatre production of tick, tick… BOOM! – Sept 21 – Oct 6 @ Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio

The Beautiful & the Damned – Thurs, Sept 26 @ 7:00 p.m. @ The Central, hosted by Duncan Armstrong, and featuring Heather Babcock, Brock Hessel & Nelson Sobral

Matt Gerber CD release – Sat, Sept 28 @ Tranzac, doors @ 7:00 p.m. – $15 cover

Look out for Big Name Actors and I Hate Todd as the play various dates and venues around the city.