Category: spoken word

With a nod to Mr. Cohen (new MP3 recording)

unknownI’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen a lot lately—the poetry, that voice

Inspired and, at the same time, still feeling his loss, I dug out some some lyrics I wrote a number of years ago, added musical accompaniment and ended up with “Alias”.

Here’s the the version I recorded…what do you think, do you detect a little Lenny in this piece?

Is it a suitable homage to a beloved troubadour?

“The Boy Eternal” (Post #450)

boyIt’s my 450th blog post and, frankly, you deserve a bonus.

All the times you’ve dropped by my strange, little site and found yourself confronted with yet another rant, a venting of spleen directed toward my latest bugbear. Middle of the road, milquetoast, liberal democrats are my current obsession. I despise them, down to the last strand of DNA. Don’t get me started on that.

I reported previously that I was “de-commissioning” an old notebook. I salvaged some poems, ideas…and a few bits and pieces that coalesced into a spoken word piece I’ve recorded and titled “The Boy Eternal”.

It’s personal, to some extent, but I’m never one to let facts get in the way of a good tale.

I present it to you, with my compliments. The music adds a nice, dramatic element.

Have a listen and let me know what you think:

 

  • To listen to more of my spoken word or ambient recordings go to my Other Media page.

A few words from the author

ImageI recently recorded three brief podcasts, each about two or three minutes in length.

I comment on different topics:  “The Writing Life”, “Inspired by Fear”, “Why I Love Science Fiction”.

Hope you find something worthwhile in these monologues, insights into the way I approach my craft, the psychology behind some of my best known stories.

Something new in the works

100_0750I can hardly fathom it, but this is blog post #299.

Wow.

When I consider the amount of writing that represents, the amount of words, I’m more than a little taken aback.

I find it fascinating how much the blog has morphed in the past six years. It started out as a platform for an angry-not-so-young man venting about the stupidity of traditional publishing and now it’s pretty much anything goes.  A couple of years ago I started adding music and short films and recorded spoken word pieces—that was exciting. New technologies put film-making, the creation of music and visual art, into the hands of more of us and while that’s led to an explosion of amateurism and incompetence, it has also allowed a few bright lights to shine as they try out new disciplines (and make some rather brilliant beginner’s mistakes).

But the absolute best part of having this blog is that it puts me in person-to-person contact with my readers. I was somewhat slow getting on the whole blogging bandwagon but now I can’t tell you how thrilled I am at how many people have written and reached out to me through this site. I soon came to realize I have readers from virtually every part of the world—I recall one chap who wrote to me from a university classroom in Melbourne, Australia. Bored with his instructor, wanting to talk about writing. Still makes me smile.

I’m also pleased that Beautiful Desolation has put me in touch with fellow indie artists, writers and musicians who have little truck with the corporate scene and want to express themselves without interference or compromise. I think after close to 30 years in this biz, I’m seen as some kind of “grand old man” of indie writing/publishing. Occasionally, I’ll get calls or e-mails from someone in the press, a reporter seeking my views on independent publishing, e-books, the state of writing in general, and I have to smile. As a prognosticator, my record isn’t exactly stellar. I think I’m on record as saying a few years back that e-readers were mere gadgets and people would eventually tire of them and return to physical books.

Ahem…

Let’s face it, life ain’t easy for us indie types. Most publications refuse to take us seriously or review our work so it’s very hard to get any “buzz” going when we release new material. On top of that, there’s the absolutely unprecedented amount of writing being released these days (see my last blog post), and that flood of material, that deluge of (mostly) offal, renders it well-nigh impossible to draw readers to excellent, literate, world-class writing. Who wants to pick through a reeking dung pile in the faint hope you might find a glistening pearl?

But I’ve stuck it out for nearly three decades, refusing to be cowed by idiotic editors and scumbag agents. Yeah, the money is lousy and the rewards few and far between but, y’know what? My strange little imprint has released some really fine titles over the years and there isn’t one of them I’m not honored to call mine. No hackwork, no sharecropping, no selling out. Every one of my books, right from the first, is original, innovative, literary, intelligent. How does that compare with the shite polluting the last box store you browsed?

* * * *

A couple of weeks since my previous post and you know what that means:

25,000 words on paper in the last ten days. A new project in a new “genre” I’ve never tried before. Good Lord. Sometimes even longtime readers must just throw up their hands and wonder what possesses me. I wish I knew. All I can do is follow my Muse, wherever she leads me. And often that’s taken me into some mighty strange territories. I mean, a western, for heaven’s sake?

I’m quite encouraged by this new project (still unnamed) but it’s going to involve a lot of research at some point. As soon as this rough draft is completed, I’ll be Googling like a sumbitch, trying to find out all about—well, never mind. Think I’ll wait a bit, hold off until this piece is further along before I open up about it. Even my wife is in the dark as to what I’m up to.

Not much time for leisure and entertainment in the past while, but my sons and I did manage to zip in to Saskatoon to see Nicholas Winding Refn’s latest flick, “Only God Forgives”. My review appears over on my film blog.

One last thing:  three hundred blog posts deserves some kind of special recognition. So I’ve prepared a treat for #300, a little freebie for everyone who’s dropped in out of curiosity and came back because they liked what they saw.

My thanks to you, one and all.

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“Feed the Artist” (Issue #2 launched)

feed2I was one of the invited guests at the launch of the second installment of the Battlefords’ only homegrown arts magazine, Feed the Artist. I contributed a brief essay to this latest issue and was impressed by the quality of the work (prose and visuals) I found throughout. It’s quite gorgeous; make sure you check it out.

Congratulations to everyone involved with Feed the Artist, the editors and artists who worked so hard to bring a dedicated arts and culture publication to the citizens of this region.

Here’s what I said to the sixty or so people who assembled at Crandleberry’s to give the magazine a grand send-off.

Thanks to everyone who attended. It was a magical evening.

* * * * *

I think it’s appropriate that we’re launching the new issue of “Feed the Artist” here, in a very public venue as opposed to a more formal setting.  While there might be benefits to holding events in clean, well-lighted places, featuring all the latest bells and whistles, there’s also something cold and antiseptic and, let’s face it, increasingly corporate about these fancy-shmancy new galleries and performing arts centers.

Some of you either participated in or were witnesses to the “Tree” piece that was conceived and created around a locale in Battleford. The natural setting became an important element within the performance. I’m also thinking about the “Flash Mobs” that have broken out in this region of late, people congregating in public places and singing and dancing while startled spectators try to take everything in.

All of this is happening outside the rarefied air of institutions and brick and mortar facilities. Because art, after all, is portable, not confined to designated areas and “safe” zones. Why not utilize non-traditional locations to tell stories and highlight the rich history and culture of this region?

Time for artists to escape museums and galleries and theaters and bookstores and re-enter public spaces, remind the citizens of our communities that we have something to say about life, the universe…and the human condition. Something essential, something they need to know if they’re to stay sane in an increasingly frantic and chaotic world.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Populist Manifesto” addressed some of these points nearly forty years ago, so I’ll conclude by reading an excerpt from that work (what’s an arts gathering without a manifesto?).

Populist Manifesto (Excerpt)

Poets, come out of your closets, 
Open your windows, open your doors, 
You have been holed-up too long 
in your closed worlds. 
Come down, come down 
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills, 
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills, 
your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses, 
down from your foothills and mountains, 
out of your teepees and domes. 
The trees are still falling 
and we’ll to the woods no more. 
No time now for sitting in them 
As man burns down his own house 
to roast his pig 
No more chanting Hare Krishna 
while Rome burns. 
San Francisco’s burning, 
Mayakovsky’s Moscow’s burning 
the fossil-fuels of life. 
Night & the Horse approaches 
eating light, heat & power, 
and the clouds have trousers. 
No time now for the artist to hide 
above, beyond, behind the scenes, 
indifferent, paring his fingernails, 
refining himself out of existence. 
No time now for our little literary games, 
no time now for our paranoias & hypochondrias, 
no time now for fear & loathing, 
time now only for light & love.

-Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Copyright, 1974)

Cliff Burns: In Performance

At long last it’s done.

My son Sam completed final edits on the film he shot of my reading back in October, 2012.  The official launch of New & Selected Poems (1984-2011) and Stromata: Prose Works (1992-2011).

It was a huge file and he had to combine footage from a couple of cameras, synch sound, touch-up glitches and try to make an author reading as visually interesting as possible. No mean feat. But he’s done a fantastic job. The kid has an amazing eye and even if you don’t think much of the prose (or performer), I think you’ll agree that this effort is striking to look at, cut and trimmed and shaped with precision. All credit to my son, Sam Burns.

Here’s the reading, in its entirety.

Sit back and hit that play button…

“’76 Corral” (the audio version)

Some time ago I posted a poem I wrote while Sherron and I were in Grasslands National Park.  Received some lovely feedback from folks and I rather liked the poem, so…

I’m now posting an audio version of “’76 Corral”.

The vocal part was recorded on location (as it were), just outside a giant metal storage shed in Val Marie that could’ve comfortably housed the Hindenberg (fully inflated).  There’s also a looped track I grabbed as we stood in some tall grass inside the park, keeping one eye out for rattlers.

So there’s an authentic feel to this one, an attempt to reproduce the atmosphere of the place…but also the thoughts and emotions that beautiful southwestern Saskatchewan landscape inspired.

Have a listen:

’76 Corral (MP3)