Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

there’s a point in the creative process where it clicks.

where I find my way in.

and when I do I realize that it’s been right there all along.

I just hadn’t found the phrase, motif, chord or tiny fragment of an idea that opens the flood gates.

sometimes it takes weeks. sometimes days. sometimes years.

sometimes I need to put it away for a while.

but I think that it’s important to remember that if I hang in there I will eventually find it.

because that is what I’m looking for. I’m always searching for my way in.


every new arrangement is born of this process

of trial and error of frustration of nearly giving up.

and I have to go through it in order to really appreciate when the germ of an idea just appears.

and I know it’s right because it’s so simple, so elegant and so deeply resonant.

and I feel like skipping around the room or whispering,

thank you.

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commission me

ring my rotary
vibrate my cell
RIM me an SMS
(save my soul)
facebook, twitter –
the writing’s on the wall.
blog my space
shout from rooftops
send up a smoke signal.
semaphore me
send it in code.

give me a project
to put my creative juices
through the blender.
tell me like you told Bach:
we need a cantata for next Sunday
and hey, we only have three sopranos
(and one of them doesn’t sing very well.)

but don’t patronize me.
never, ever, ask me to sound like someone else.

tell me to research
settle on a score.
Buster my guts for a cabaret on halloween
or valentines at christmas on mother’s day.
give me a world series send-off
with hockey night in canada
played one hundred ways.
tell me to boogie my way through Mary Lou’s swing
or jazz my way
through a world music series.

a capella, tin whistle chase scenes
turn “turn of the century”
on Turner classics tracks
with Keaton as conductor.

give me a deadline
put a gun to my head.
tell me how many, when and where
and I’ll do the rest.

stimulate my economy of means
with a bulk-head of
leg room to stretch my imagination.
I’ll dissolve my limits
in the ether of jet stream.

give me a challenge
calculate the risks.
give me a slate to work on
a leg to stand on
commission me.

in return I’ll create,
imagine, dream,
learn, grow and entertain
the idea…
go to the ends of the earth
to begin.

and when it’s done
I’ll tweet, blog, facebook
video, newsletter, interview
press my release
plug you into my stream
of consciousness,
invite all my friends
and write you this poem.

dedicated to Ontario Contact and Ken Coulter (who asked the question)

Last October I attended Ontario Contact. The conference presents an opportunity for touring artists, presenters, agents and workshop presenters to get together. It consists of showcases, pitch sessions, a trade show, formal talks and informal round table discussions. At one of those discussions about investing in the arts, there was a heated discussion about whether or not you are compromising an artist’s integrity by “asking” them to do something – perhaps in addition to a performance that may be “riskier” to present.  I immediately began to think about Bach and Mozart and how integral the patronage system was to the history of music. This poem came out of those thoughts.

Some of my best work and most incredible musical discoveries have come out of commissions.

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Scat singing is about syllables. It’s also about words.

and being a word-o-phile, I like them.

Norma Winstone knows how to scat words

or just vowel sounds.

you don’t need a lot of boobops and shabaps.
The question is, how much of those words are worked out?

how much is totally improvised?

I suspect that there is a bit of both.
Or maybe a pool of ideas taken from the pool of words of each song and developed over time.

The thing is, you develop your own vocabulary.

of words, sounds, things that feel good and sound good.
So here’s what I did:

I recorded myself singing I Thought About You
and sang a bunch of choruses.

some just scatting to hear the sounds I like-
and some improvising words.

I’d already come up with a few from previous performances.

like clickety-clack clickety-clack

something about the train going down the track

and something about the whistle.


Much of what I improvised was clumsy, but in the clumsiness were particles of good ideas. You need to record yourself to hear them.

that way you’re not judging and dismissing as you do it.

rather listen with an ear to distill, extract and go mining.

I then took out my notebook and wrote down phrases, words, sounds.

how many ways can I put the words together?

One of my favorite scenes in the Scorcese film about Dylan is of Bob reading a sign. It’s a bunch of rules and conditions and stuff.

he takes each word and puts it with other words  from a different part of the sign, creating coherent absurd phrases.

It’s a beautiful insight into his creative process

It’s how you put it all together that counts.

words are just, well, words.

and in the context of a song you have the actual words and melody, and

having stated that, you can then have the story you create about the song.

there’s no whistle, no clickety-clack

in Johnny Mercer’s lyrics

but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be one

in mine.

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