Being Offensive

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There are standout moments in my life as a community engaged creative being. Most are good. Some are, well, not.

For example, I try to be like water off a duck’s back when it comes to rejection letters from publishers. I thank some publishers because their rejection letters are kind, and personal. Others I skim read and move on. There are so many flavours in rejection letters that can be condensed down to one word: NO! It’s all part of the game of writing and putting yourself out there. You won’t always land favourably.

Being a poetry busker for a few years, I’ve also experienced being called out, and I don’t mean for a standing ovation! Still the positive far outweighs the nay sayers, and though I don’t busk anymore, it was a formational experience for me and I think of those times fondly.

Since 2012, I’ve played in the communities I live in and visit. I say “play” because Pop-Up Poetry installation is that to me (if playing is being brave.) Sometimes I hear back from folk who’ve found a little poem bit and liked it. You’ll find some comments here on this website that speak to what has resonated, what has touched someone’s heart specifically and meaningfully, what has been a bright spark. I feel lucky when that happens. I feel privileged too.

Mostly I follow my heart, and trust I’m doing something for the common good. PUP isn’t a money maker, an ego builder, an advertisement…it’s a gift. A small gift of words on a tiny slip of paper for taking…if you find one, please keep it!

So this might sound altruistic and wonderful, but it’s also complex. Truth is I don’t know what reception I’ll get if any, or who might be offended:

Kindly remove all the pieces of litter and metal from wherever you placed them in Tofino.
It is totally disrespectful to do such a thing.
If I find any more of them you will be reported to bylaws for littering.
We work so hard to keep this place natural and then you come along and put out garbage.
Clean it up please.

When I received this email last night upon returning home, I was initially hurt. Then I was gobsmacked when I found out the author was a local artist! But I do see their perspective. Who am I to presume my art is appealing, or fitting, or nothing more than trash? One human’s treasure…

Back to the play (bravery) part. And the cost. I will bear the cost of these words because that’s who I am, and I will also continue to play.

I just want to be honest and say Pop-Up Poetry is not all happy shiny creative fun. It can be disheartening, and adds to the angst of being me: an artist/poet who is never entirely sure, never brave enough to put myself out there, is sometimes offensive, and does it anyway.

Cue the bylaw officer. Cue the poem I write in response.

Onward,

Lesley-Anne

Don’t fence me in

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We knew it was coming, first the move out, then the move on, then the moving in of the hazmat team, proceeded by fences and followed by bulldozers. We knew it. We prepared. We celebrated. We left our mark on the building face like it has made a mark in our hearts.

So, today wasn’t a surprise, but still it felt surprising to see the doorway fenced off, the new art and words from a distance, and my heart feeling a little heave-ho because this was it. We have not gone anywhere, and we are determined to stay close and hold out hope to the homeless and vulnerable and disenfranchised for as long as it takes. Still, this was our home of several years. This is where people dropped in and stayed and sat around a little table and wrote poems and then shared them. This is where first words were uttered, where he finally spoke to me, where she smiled and invited me into a conversation.

All I can do today is continue to remember, take a few more pictures, and then, because they were already waiting in the back of my truck and because I was recently told to “do what I can” and I brought what I had…a pop-up happened. A few of my poems hanging like little prayer flags on the moduloc fence, waving goodbye.

Believing in what is to come…what can never be fenced in,

Lesley-Anne

p.s. and just so I have to chuckle rather than cry, I notice in one of the pictures a typo on a poem…and recognize even in a simple little installation there is room to be imperfect and humbled.

p.p.s. soon we will be launching our Metro HOLDINGOUTHOPE campaign. And the stories, oh the stories…

 

How the poems felt about it…

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It was a blue bird day, and the poems were alert in their lively cling to the wire, their flutter of twos and threes. The wind cleared their heads of winter, and they soon realized the grape vines clinging beside them were similarly inspired, weathered arms held up to the sun, green ideas budding out in the warmth and light. And then the moment came when a woman reached out and touched one of the poems. How it felt to be chosen and held like that, the woman’s eyes intent on each lettered scar, the nakedness of lines. How the women read, gently, to last letter of last word. DSC_0040 DSC_0041 DSC_0039 DSC_0037 DSC_0036 DSC_0035