National Poetry Month 2022
The Electric City Culture Council (EC3) launches a series of performance videos by local poets and spoken word artists honouring National Poetry Month this April, including work by Peterborough Poet Laureate, Sarah Lewis, as well as celebrated local artists Justin Million and ziysah.
EC3 presents this series to celebrate Peterborough’s acclaimed and highly active poetry scene, which includes artists in both page/print poetry and spoken word. The featured poets include Sarah Lewis, who was named last year as Peterborough’s first-ever Poet Laureate and has since appeared at over 20 events, including 2 official City events; as well as Justin Million and ziysah, the two runners-up in the 2021 Poet Laureate competition.
National Poetry Month provides an important moment to remember and reflect on the power, beauty, and grace of poetry as a literary artform, and how it can shape the way we see the world and understand our lives.
The videos, each featuring a performance of 1-2 poems along with a short statement from the artist, are being shared on EC3’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and will be archived on EC3’s website. Audiences can access them any time, at no cost.
"You're at Home with Justin Million"
by Justin Million
Artist statement: The pandemic prompted many artists to move their creativity online, especially poets, as live readings and poetry events were next to impossible to put together. In the last couple of years, when I started to take on digital poetry or performance projects, I knew I wanted to present my work differently, in an attempt to bring the kind of energy to my work that one might find at live events. Thankfully my partner Elisha Rubacha is willing to help me put videos like this together, and help me stay active and create work for digital spaces. I think it's more important than ever for poets to try to present their work in unique ways, as poets tend to have the ability to distill complicated or sophisticated information to its salient points, and in this age of misinformation and unmeaning, I think we need all the clarification we can get. Please buy, listen to, and participate in all things poetry; you may need it more than you think.
Justin Million is a print and digital media poet, a performance artist, the founder of the Show and Tell Poetry Series, a co-founder and poetry editor at bird, buried press, and is the author of EJECTA: The Uncollected KEYBOARDS! Poems (2020) from Ottawa’s Apt. 9 Press.
"More Than a Poem"
by Sarah Lewis
Artist statement: I feel this poem is fitting for National Poetry Month as it encompasses why I write, and how continuing to speak my truth while encouraging our community members and youth to do the same has the ability to revolutionize minds. Spoken word poetry can alter perceptions by highlighting the issues we are passionate about while demanding socio-political change. To me, art is activism, and this is what spoken word poetry is all about :)!
Sarah Lewis (she/her/kwe) is an Ojibwe and Cree spoken word artist from Curve Lake First Nation, Ontario. She is a proud member of the 2019 Peterborough Poetry Slam Team, a national semi-finalist at the 2019 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and finalist at the 2021 Toronto International Festival of Authors Poetry Slam. Sarah was also selected as the first Poet Laureate of Peterborough, Ontario. She has been featured on Global News, CBC radio as well as CBC Arts’ ongoing video series: Poetic License. Her poetry uncovers the ongoing effects of colonization but more importantly, how Indigenous communities are reclaiming their identities, culture, strength and sovereignty.
I have been practicing slowing down for years now. The pandemic has accelerated the process. I wrote this poem on new year's eve when it felt like everyone I knew was discouraged, depleted, and just... done. I recorded it this week as my household is living through COVID. A friend gifted his old camera to my kid, who immediately suggested filming for this project. This video is his first time filming, using his own camera. It's often dizzying and blurry, as these past few years have been. It also offers glimpses into his way of seeing the world, and opens the question of where and how we offer the intimate gift of our attention.
ziysah is a parent, poet, editor, community cultivator, and unsettled settler who works to connect us to our imaginations, our responsibilities, and each other. ziy's writing has appeared in various magazines and anthologies as well as the newly released collection consents+/=/- severances. As a slam champ, they have also competed, performed and facilitated workshops across Turtle Island. ziysah is grateful to their queer, genderqueer, activist and Ashkenazi Jewish lineages, and to the Indigenous Elders, teachers, friends, and more-than-human life who have profoundly re-shaped their worldview. ziysah lives here in Nogojiwanong on Michi Saagiig Anishinaabe territory.
Guest appearance: Rudy
Director of Photography: Marvin
Produced for: EC3, Poetry Month, 2022
Please don’t give up now. Don’t let them shock you.
Don’t lose your footing, don’t feed your nerves to the goons.
We knew how this would play out from jump.
That it would get worse, far worse.
If it’s true you didn’t sign up for this,
Then I have a hunch you were recruited.
I don’t mean to imply a grand scheme, I’m not saying you’re the next of Joan of Arc.
You don’t have to paint a masterpiece or lead a march.
Heck, maybe your job is to fall apart.
Crack open like Leonard said, get lost like Bayo says.
I wish I had some specific instruction for you.
A 1, 2, 3, pandemic waltz pick-me-up, a quick and easy save the world recipe,
But this story we are telling is beyond Hollywood’s grasp.
It’s one no single writer can write,
No celebrity could ever act.
If you raise your hand and smooth your brow,
If you lay your head down and get some rest now,
If you step outside and draw the chill of the air into the intimacy of your throat,
If you think, if you feel, if you weep, if you steel yourself,
If you can choose just one next right step,
Then I swear to you , the next right step will follow.
And I’ll be here alongside you.
No news conference can change that.
No president can shake it.
So let’s stay true to whatever we have always sworn we would stay true to.
Care for those we have pledged to care for.
Keep on sounding, keep on ringing, so when I’m stranded on an island,
Just cuz your voice can’t fix everything, don’t you dare stop it from singing me back.
And I know nothing of the conclusion.
Maybe this story never ends or perhaps it ends too soon.
It could end in crescendoing cacophony, or infinite harmony.
But we won’t ever hear the symphony if we’re just listening for the ending.
So all we have is now.
And I actually love now.
I love the miracle of breath, the faithfulness of grief,
the hundred tiny mountains my skin sprouts beneath your hand’s reach.
I love satire and sincerity.
I love the inchworm in my compost and the spider in the hall.
I love the vastness of space and the ocean’s thrall.
I love the in-between on the radio dial, how it crackles like fire.
I love fire, tree unfolding desire.
I love drawing new constellations and the flashes of illumination when lightning strikes.
I love how the stars are always there but you only see them at night.
I love the random things that cause delight.
I love mint chocolate ice ream, I love old cheddar cheese,
I love every single sunset sky I’ve ever seen.
I love how everyone waves on country roads.
I love the sound of your voice on the phone.
I love putting you to sleep with poetry.
I love a good apology.
I love a snug-fitting toque, I love colourful shoes.
I love reading books right up till the minute their due.
I love bicycles and diva cups and neighbourhood skating rinks.
I love parasols and overalls, succulents and honeybees,
juicy scabs on summer knees,
and that dapper black-capped chickadee.
I love whispers and screams,
I love guts and fists,
I love lists and I love love,
and I love you!
I love you, friend.
So look here.
Look away from the villains, the screens and the smoke,
grab hold of what you already know,
anchor in the darkness behind your eyes,
and as you let your next bold move arise,
remember what Ram Das told us:
This. All of this. All it is
Is us, walking each other home.