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The 2005 Festival voix d’ameriques

part 2 of a 3-part review filed 15 March 2005 | Montreal
by Fortner Anderson

As the festival organizer D. Kimm warned us, with her halting English and attractive Quebecoise accent, the evenings at her festival are always vibrant and strong and beautiful, but too long. Just so, the "Body and Soul 2" show, February 16. The evening featured two accomplished performers; Lillian Allen, Sheri D-Wilson and a new voice Motion as well as a set of song with dance accompaniment by Karen Young and dancer, Lin Snelling.

The showcase position at a spoken word event is up front closer to the beginning of the show, before the ear of the audience has been pummelled by to much meaning and beauty. Lillian Allen went up last after Sheri D- Wilson, Motion and an inexcusably long set of art-song by Karen Young which could have closed the show and for many it did. Allens’s set suffered for it.

Lillian Allen is one of Canada’s foremost dub poets, playwrights, activists and lecturers. In a long career she has released several books of poems including "Rhythm An' Hardtimes" (1983), several albums "Condition Critical" (1988 and "Revolutionary Tea Party" (1986), and presented hundred’s of performances.

The poet Motion on stage.
(photo: Luc Vallières)

In 2004 she hosted a 14 part radio show out of Toronto on the CBC featuring spoken word, "WordBeat". Lillian soldiered through her short set with a few well known dub-poems from her albums and ended with a birth poem from her album "Condition Critical" as the room cleared. Her performance on Sunday with the Kalmunity Vibe Collective, a young group of Montreal griots, poets and free-stylers was her show to see.

Motion is a young woman from Toronto with a new CD "Motion in Poetry". She opened the evening and seduced the room with an understated stage presence that contrasted with her striking and powerful voice. She moved effortlessly from rap to spirituals to text. Her voice sailed into the room of the Salla Rossa telling the stories of a black woman growing up in Toronto. She warmed up the room for the highlight of the evening.

Sheri-D Wilson is a performance poet from Alberta, author of five poetry collections including "Girl’s Guide To Giving Head", "Swerve", "Between Lovers". In 2003 she won the Bumbershoot heavyweight bout in a match versus Andrei Codrescu. She’s a seasoned and compelling performer whose work is found here on the Book of Voices.

She walked on stage alone with a file folder and few papers and within moments she had captured the complete attention of the room. She held it through the set with nary a slip. Obviously very familiar with the material, she incarnated her poems and delivered them with a freshness and vigour that belied their age and repeated performance.


SheriD Wilson
Sheri-D Wilson "laments" her fate as a mature, single woman.
(photo: Luc Vallières)

She has been labelled a stand-up comic,and her work is, at times, desperately funny. "Lucky Number Seven" is the struggle of a young ballet dancer who wants to become a writer. One day the dancer realises that to become a writer she needs a proper table. The tale of her purchase of a table at the Salvation Army, its trip home, tied to her back, and the utter total humiliation that she must undergo before she can begin to write is very funny.

Sheri-D delivers the work in a arch, practiced tone that pulls out the rhythmic and rhyming structure. Her body and face counterpoint each phrase. As our ballerina trudges up the stairs of her slum, her new table tied to her back, with a powerful urge to piss coming-on, we see and feel each step.

She read another of her pieces from her album "sweet taste of lightning" that describes the wizened fruit that hangs from the dead branches of the family tree: spinster aunts. It also is funny. The room laughs and laughs as she describes our horror of the old maid, the ageing spinster, the solitary crone; and when she takes on the mantle of the spinster and tells of the revolutionary ways of the "neo-spinsters", we laugh again at the joy of crones donning bikinis, sipping martinis, flying Lear jets and refusing to wither.

Throughout the work of Wilson there is this recurring trope of utter humiliation followed by redemption. At times the humiliation is sexual, at others it is the shame of old-age or of youthful naivete revealed, or abject love spurned. Out of unrelenting some shame, the poet-performer recounts a redemption through the word.

Is her work poetry? "Is poetry, poetry?" , she asks. Wilson dismisses the question as beside the point, noting that if she were a stand-up comedian she’d be earning more money. Her five books and her CD can be found at her website

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