Hot Damn, it’s season 2 of Queer Slam!

queer slamBetter late than never. Due to the nature of this event, I need to confirm with the organizers that it’s okay to publish participants’ names. So, without further ado…

Hot damn, that was another fine Queer Slam at Supermarket on Wednesday night! I had the pleasure of attending back in December, when I was also invited to be a judge; I was asked to be on the judging panel again, and decided to focus on listening and taking notes – so no pics this time (except for the fabulous event poster image above).

Host Cathy Petch kicked off season two of the annual LGBTQ poetry slam with a whole lotta of love, support and energy – and played the queer national anthem “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the saw. Queer Slam will tour various locales across Ontario, and winners from each event will compete in the finals in the spring at Buddies in Bad Times – and the ultimate slam champ will win a spot at the annual Capturing Fire slam event in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday night’s slammin’ festivities included two sets of open mic performances, two rounds of slam competition and feature performer Johnny Trinh. Queer Slam attracts an incredible pool of talented folks – and open mic performers were no exception, including fellow judge, Duncan Armstrong aka – socially aware, bold, funny and moving, these poets inform, inspire and entertain.

Slam competitors included Vanessa McGowan, Georgia Wilder and Shawna Dimitry, with judges calibrating their scores with the work of the evening’s sacrificial slam poet Kay Kassirer. Kassirer set the bar high, with some timely, astute and poetic observational call-outs about trans rights and how Hollywood fucked up the Stonewall movie; and personal experiences of pain and frustration as a person who identifies as genderless, and their struggle to navigate others’ assumptions of their sex/gender – building up a protective “wall as shield” to confront and just live in the world.

The three slam participants didn’t make it easy for us either, each with a very distinct style, voice and tone. McGowan’s work is beautifully raw, irreverent and moving – from her piece on a violation of consent, to “On Other Chunks” (from her collection Divine Cockeyed Genius). Wilder’s work went from lyrical, gothic and visceral in her first piece, to playfully erotic and comical in her final piece on desire and donuts. Shawna’s pieces were heartfelt, bittersweet renderings of childhood/teenage memories – and the complex relationship dynamics between BFFs, and coming to terms with the nature of attraction and object of desire. In the end, McGowan took first place, with Wilder coming in second and Shawna third.

Feature slam poet Johnny Trinh charmed, moved and informed with works that touch on the personal and the political. A meditation on the honesty of the breath segues into a reflection on the meaning of “home.” The first of two multidisciplinary collaborations was a longing, aching piece about the long distance relationships (featuring the work of a singer, dancer and actor), with Trinh speaking over a soundscape collage of lovers’ conversations with an R&B love song layered underneath brought to the fore in words and song: “you cannot edit my heart,” “call my name, invoke all of me, see me.” A rhythmic indictment of systemic abusive power, racism, oppression and slavery (from his new chapbook We Are Weary) – followed by an insightful reminder, as he addressed the audience afterwards, to not give our present-day bigots, haters and trolls more media time and space by referencing them. A poetic activist, Trinh also takes aim at the 1% and the outcome of income inequality and unemployment, raging against social injustice “knowing that life, let love alone, is a battlefield.” And a final collaboration with recorded acoustic guitar and cello accompaniment was a heartfelt, heartbreaking piece from the POV of the Chinese lover of a white man – a lyrical, dysfunctional love poem full of hurt, as racism presents as a dynamic otherness, stereotyped exoticism and servitude. You can also follow Trinh on Twitter.

Keep an eye out for these remarkable artists. Queer Slam goes back and forth between Toronto (at its home at Supermarket) and the other cities – check The Circuit page for details; next Toronto show was confirmed as November 18 today.

Beautiful, brave & brilliant words @ WonderFest Poetry Series

WonderFest 2014 festivities continued last Thursday night at Habits Gastropub with their Poetry Series event.

Host Arlene Paculan ushered us through the evening, and treated us to some of her music as well. It was a night of beautiful, brave and brilliant words and music from guests Dan Curtis Thompson, Lizzie Violet and Vanessa McGowan – who shared passionate works, full of insight, emotion and humour. Keep an eye out for these talented writers/performers.

I was able to catch the first set – here are some snaps I took that night:

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Women’s words inspire @ WordSpell

I was back at Free Times Café last night for WordSpell – a bi-monthly women’s poetry/spoken word event, featuring an established poet, an emerging poet and open mic performances.

Features Vanessa McGowan and Jill Battson wove magic with their words for a packed room – and the positive, engaged energy was palpable throughout the evening.

I’d heard Vanessa McGowan perform her work before – and I’m always amazed at the powerful combination of sharp frankness, vulnerability and heart – and sly humour – that she brings to her pieces. Speaking of the marginalized in society – the homeless, the disabled, LGBTQ – McGowan’s words weave the personal into the political, the individual into the universal. I can’t recall the title of the piece, but it starts with a verse and chorus from “Angel from Montgomery” – the line “And remember that our deepest human desire is to matter” resonates in a big way. Her published works appear in a recently reprint run of Divine Cock-eyed Genius. Check out this vid of “On Other Chunks”, performed in front of the Toronto AIDS memorial in Cawthra Park.

Jill Battson wordsmiths with visceral, evocative language – observational and sometimes irreverently funny – from treasures stolen from a storage locker to being unwittingly hooked on Martha Stewart Living to the subtly erotic, a pleasure to hear and see perform.

I wasn’t able to stay for the open mic performances, but I will definitely be back. The sense of community and support among the audience and artists makes for a lovely, casual and comfortable space – and I especially love how we all shared in a reading of Margaret Atwood’s “Spelling” at the beginning of the evening, the inspiration for WordSpell’s name.

Look out for next WordSpell event in November.

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Vanessa McGowan
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Jill Battson

Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir launch @ Q Space – fun, sexy & smart

Writer/poet/horror aficionado/editor Lizzie Violet launched her brand new monthly cabaret – Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir – at Q Space last night. And what a fun, sexy and thought-provoking night it was.

The cabaret premiere included feature performers Mullet the Clown, David Bateman and Kat Leonard, as well as a very talented line-up of open mic folks. Music, comedy, spoken word, poetry, a zombie clown telling stories and performing card tricks – it was a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime, visceral and cerebral, personal and political, as these talented artists took the stage. Q Space is a casual, intimate, welcoming storefront place, with a cool, eclectic and creative group of folks – and it’s the perfect home for the cabaret as friends, fellow artists and neighbourhood peeps gather to support some incredible local talent.

Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir will be a monthly event, the second Sunday of the month, and will feature music, vaudeville, comedy, burlesque, poetry and open mic performances. The next cabaret is set for Sunday, April 14 (7 – 10 p.m) – with feature artists author/poet Brandon Pitts, music by Cry Wolf (Jess McAvoy and Nelson Sobral from Melting Pot), and burlesque performer Bella Fox. Come on by, get yourself a beer or a latte – and enjoy.

Because this is Cabaret Noir, I decided to do this batch of pics in black and white.

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Tash Jolly (aka Super Tash) performs some spoken word
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Duncan Armstrong
Cabaret Noir launch Mar 10 008
Brenda Clews
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Vanessa McGowan performs “On other Chunks” from her book Divine Cockeyed Genius
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Feature performer Mullet the Clown tells us a story
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Host Lizzie Violet reads “Chlamydia is not a Flower!”
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Feature performer Kat Leonard performed 3 new songs, as well as some Depper Love favourites
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Feature performer David Bateman reads some short creative non-fiction
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Philip Cairns
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Norman Allen
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Brandon Pitts
Cabaret Noir launch Mar 10 045
Feature performers (left – right) Mullet the Clown, David Bateman, Kat Leonard & host Lizzie Violet

Get Your Groove On brings passion, fun & sexy good times

I normally would have posted this on Thursday, the day after the actual event, but Wednesday night had so much cookin’ with the sculpture exhibit and all, that I wanted to do both events justice and post separate blogs.

Singer/songwriter Ellie Anderson ( organized Get Your Groove On – and had her organizer chops really put to the test when she discovered the original venue, Jang Bang Bar, was in the dark and had to quickly relocate the event. And relocate it she did: to the upstairs front room at The Central.

Just like Wonder Women IV featured four hot women, you could just as well say Get Your Groove On featured three hot women and three hot guys. Anderson and the three guys did round robin acoustic sets – showcasing an amazing variety of sounds, all with distinctive voices. As I write this post, I’m feeling inspired to try something new and do a little free association word riff…

Ellie Anderson: sexy, bluesy, melancholy ballads that belie a bright, bubbly personality and quick smile, wicked sense of humour and sparkling eyes.

Rex: insightful comic edge, sexy fun lyrics, Johnny Cash flippin’ the bird on his black t-shirt and in evidence in the hot hair do, digs sexy skinny white boys.

Bob Ryder: boxcar blues, with a slide running along the neck of his guitar, wailin’ stories of love and hurt, bit of a Buddy Holly thing with those glasses, which is kinda hot, actually.

Ento: a long way from his home in France, adorable in that hat, poppin’ out upbeat tunes on guitar, ukulele and some middling hybrid instrument, boyish energy and good looks.

In between music sets, the other two hot ladies brought their spoken wordsmithery. First up was Vanessa McGowan (, who I saw perform at The Beautiful and the Damned at Zelda’s last month: Opening with an a cappella version of Angel from Montgomery sliding into a spoken word piece about homelessness “and our deepest human desire is to matter” cutting socio-political awareness; no punches held on sexuality, body image and eating disorder issues; power of words overcoming the terror of speaking them; super hero big sister; intense and dark subject matter but a warm, friendly and open soul.

Then there was my good friend Lizzie Violet ( My Mother Thinks I’m a Serial Killer, the girl freaks out the librarian asking for books on Jack the Ripper and buries her little brother under stuffed animals; late night slasher/horror movies with Dad planted the seed for a career as horror aficionado; Ravaged Soul zombie chase and evil exes are killed on the page, often by zombies; non-love love poem; imaginary friend Sid; Men in Suits is sexy fun, as are the erotic haikus – but my favourite poem will always be Chlamydia Is Not A Flower! especially because her mom has it on her fridge.

Don’t have all the full names and/or co-ordinates for these folks, but I’ll try to update asap.

Tonight: Kat Leonard opens for Dawna J. Wightman’s one-woman show Life As A Pomegranate at Lazy Daisy’s Cafe at 8 p.m. Tomorrow night: Heather Hill launches her Leuty Station CD at the Drake Underground at 8 p.m. (Scroll down a few posts for the full details on these.)

Vanessa McGowan
Lizzie Violet
Ellie Anderson
Bob Ryder

Passion & play @ Zelda’s The Beautiful & the Damned

What an incredible evening of poetry, spoken word, readings, music and friends at Zelda’s The Beautiful and the Damned last night!

The evening’s festivities were hosted by the very cool (and fellow recovering Irish Catholic) poet and radio personality Nik Beat (, who introduced the feature and open mic performers, and shared some of his own work. Nik has a book signing/talk for his collection of poems The Tyranny of Love – coming up on Friday, April 27 @ 6:30 p.m. at Origo Books (49 Lower Jarvis St., Toronto).

Nik Beat

Featured performers included writer/poet/editor/horror aficionado Lizzie Violet (, who read a selection of poems, giving us a great, eerie fun mix of horror, sex and haiku with frankness, art and wryness of wit (my fave is Chlamydia is Not a Flower!, about her mum’s avoidance of the sex talk – and which her mum has stuck on her fridge).



Lizzie Violet


Poet Helen Posno ( shared some beautiful, raw, lyrical pieces, including one recited as a monologue by actor Peter Lynch.

Helen Posno

Singer/songwriter/performer/Johnny Depp-lovin’ gal Kat Leonard ( made us laugh and cry with some tracks from her one-woman show A Depper Kind of Love, as well as her songwriter workshop piece F**K Cancer (to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah), incredibly moving lyrics that brought tears streaming down my face (and a few others in the audience as well). Kat also made excellent use of the onstage stripper pole. 🙂



Kat Leonard

In between the featured folks, Nik asked trivia questions about the dead celeb of the month: Joan of Arc (put together by co-organizer Diane) – and open mic folks came up to perform, including (thanks to Lizzie Violet, who also organized the event and put some great trivia prizes together, for sending this list, along with web co-ordinates, as available):

Tom Smarda
Susan Monroe
All this amazing talent – and it was great to hear so many local poets recite their work. Stand-outs among the open mic folks, for me, were Vanessa McGowan (Lucky) and Ellie Anderson, who both did intensely personal – and poignant, funny and kickass – autobiographical spoken word pieces; and Brandon Pitts, who read an excerpt from a novel, the title of which escapes me. I also can’t recall what Ellie called her piece, but I like to think of it as A Song of Ellie.
Also in attendance to support our gals Kat, Lizzie and Ellie was singer/songwriter Arlene Paculan, who is organizing and performing in the upcoming Wonder Women IV fundraising event for Red Door on Wednesday, April 25 at The Central (603 Markham St., Toronto). This event also features Lizzie Violet, Kat Leonard and Cathy Petch. Here’s Kat with Arlene:
The next edition of The Beautiful and the Damned is May 10.

In the meantime, I’ll be off to Alumnae Theatre tonight (with pals Kerri, Lizzie and Ty) to see the opening night of Così.