Word Play - 2019 by Paul Strickland

Word Play - 2019 by Paul Strickland

On January 17th, 2019 Cafe Voltaire at Books & Co again hosted the Word Play event where poems exploring land-tenure and gender issues were central to the event. The theme for the evening was “Resolution and Reconciliation,” said Erin Bauman, emcee for the series of readings.

Bauman started the event with her poem, “Resolved,” about pipeline protests on Burnaby Mountain in 2018. She said she had spent a night sitting on the mountain as a ceremonial fire-keeper for protest participants:


          Apart from the sounds of the sacred fire

          An eerie silence envelops this section of the city

          And I begin to really wonder if this is the hill I’m going to die on . . . 

          The biggest battle to be seen so far by Burnaby Mountain

          Has probably been between two soccer teams

          Whose prize was only a trophy

          That eventually would do little more than gather dust


The next poem Bauman read was “Not Another Four-Letter Word”:


           Love is more than a four-letter word.


I read one of my own poems, “Free Trade, Free Movement of Capital,” about how free trade and free movement of capital erode national sovereignty:

          That’s enough

          We’ll have to ask you to leave now.

          We’ll see you.

          Move along.

          This is a closed-door session.

          Nothing but the economic sovereignty of your country

                  Will be discussed here

          Nothing that would be of interest to the public

          Nothing newsworthy, I assure you.


          Your farm has been sold out from under you.

          Get your protein from insects now.

          Don’t be a protectionist.

          Nobody gives a damn if your kids can’t find jobs.

          Nothing important, anyway

          Your country has bought the farm.

          Your country, dissolving like a sugar cube in a hot spring.


Bauman returned to the stage to read her poem, “Time to Stand Up,” about pipeline protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, and how spills from poorly designed pipelines can contaminate groundwater. Her next poem was “Dear Cigarette,” about the difficulty of quitting smoking when there is a continuing desire for one last cigarette before adopting a smoke-free lifestyle.

          “Patriarchy Rules” was about the disputes over Trump administration’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as U.S. Supreme Court justice last fall, despite allegations of attempted rape at a high school party:

          Anita Hill.

          Terribly repressive re-runs

           . . . patriarchal pyramid of oppression . . . . 


Baumann added hopefully, however:

          . . . Each of us can find our own inner goddesses . . . .


Bauman then read her poem “For Kinni Sandhar and So Many Other Beautifully Brave Women”. It centres on the concept of “penis people” and the “gender box.” Bauman said “penis people” is a term coined by Sandhar: “She runs #freethenipple. Kinni is a musician and makes many ‘Kinnisms’ like this one.”


Bruce Fader read his poem, “Glass Slipper If the Shoe Fits,” about the struggles of a ‘working girl.’ He also read “The Picture,” composed in early 1984. Fader is new to me but some information is available online. He has published an e-book in the UK, but it is no longer available. From 2003 to 2012 he was co-owner of cosmic poetry organization, an international website. I’m trying to get copies of the poems he read but so far have been unsuccessful; once I succeed, I’ll find some context to present them on this site.


Bauman subsequently read “Gathering Memories,” about gathering firewood with her father when she was a girl. Next she read “Change Can Happen in a Flash,” with references to Flash, the comic book hero. Bauman also read “Growing Pains,” about nightmares she experienced as a young girl growing up not fitting in: “My mom and I were a travelling folk duo.”


Bauman concluded the evening by reading her poem, “Carp and Crap.” “Many people have given up on dating and romance altogether,” she said, adding that they have had to deal with “waves of mansplaining.”


Author Bio

Paul Strickland

Paul, in his 28 years as a full-time journalist and 6.5 years as a freelance journalist, Paul has worked for newspapers in Nevada, Medicine Hat, and Prince George. Besides being an investigative reporter, he is a poet, a short story writer, and an essayist. He presently resides in Prince George and haunts all the literary scenes that appear in town.