a cork board

Before I Was Born

I have been quietly working on the biggest art project my little hand has ever attempted. I’ve been pulling late-night shifts hunched over my desk, with pencil, eraser and pen in hand trying to create a face on paper that would somehow manage to come to life. I am very happy to say I feel like I accomplished bringing that girl to life. Her name is Eden, she was created by Dwayne Morgan of Up From The Roots. Our project is a book that celebrates the love a father has for his daughter.


Dwayne approached me about working on this book in the Fall of last year. My initial reaction?…jump at the opportunity! My secondary reaction?…doubt, fear and worry that I wasn’t capable of pulling it off. I drew a comic character named Shi when I was 14yo, I colored the entire thing in colored pencils and submitted it to Wizard Comic Book Price Guide magazine. But they didn’t publish my artwork. I felt like I failed and convinced myself that working with color was not my forté. As a result, I have predominantly stuck to black and white as an artist. I found my style in doing this, but in the back of my mind I was never content with limiting myself the way I was. So this was a chance I couldn’t pass up. It felt like a door to the world of working artists that I’ve always dreamed of. So I invested in believing in myself. I told myself that I knew I could pull it off. Even as the project pressed on through drafts, character design and finalizing an overall style, Dwayne kept saying to me “I would love to see this in color.”


The evolution of Eden`s design.

I worked harder on these 15 drawings than anything I’ve ever done. I am very proud of my work here and sincerely hope that when you look at Eden and her Papa that you can see and feel 2 characters that are real. My constant motivator was my 2yo daughter and 5yo son. I read him the story, showed him all of the sketches every step of the way! I found ways to inject her smile into the artwork. There are little references to our life that they have immediately recognized. It was truly a labor of love for both Dwayne and myself. That love was always a reflection of the love we have for our little girls. We wanted to share that love with everyone.

BIWBPageDraft1 Princess Eden

Some early color drafts

You can pre-order a copy of the book signed by both of us or simply support the project by visiting our Indiegogo at: http://igg.me/at/beforeiwasborn/x/9696057 You can order packages that include tickets to some of Dwayne Morgan’s marquee poetry events taking place this year as well. Please take the time to visit our page and have a look at the project. If you feel inclined to support, donate or pre-order then that is greatly appreciated (more than you know). If not, then I still thank you for taking the time to invest your thoughts and feelings into something that involved so much of our hearts.

We are planning a launch event in Toronto on the weekend of Family Day. I’ll be posting details to that event shortly. Thank you for reading, for your interest and for being awesome. Your support remains humbling.


Day 1/Poem 1 – NaPoWriMo
PMpTue, 03 Apr 2012 22:44:52 +000044Tuesday 1, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: events, poems | Tags: , , ,


She said to me

set me free


In her eyes, lived a sadness

no man could ever know.

The frailty of her eyes

sat like a wounded animal

too far gone to

lick her wounds.


She turned her palms to the sky

and exposed a railroad map

of arteries and veins

crossing one another

like tire marks of getaway cars.


The sides of her elbows

protruded from beneath her skin

as if an overflowing grocery bag.


Her gaze met mine,

in emptiness.

With this, exhaled and closed her eyes.

She became a tree before my very eyes.

The wind whispered and

asked me to climb her bones.


So I pulled myself

over the very first branch.

My shoulders ached like

a weary soul not meant for this life.


I painstakingly used my legs

to push myself up

to the next branch.

My knees cracked

the way bumpers on cars

break on impact.


The next branch brought migraines.

The next one coated my lungs

in layers of ash weighing on me like regret.

When I reached the top,

my body was failing me.

I pulled on the last branch.

My heart collapsed as if

it had been stepped on.

My fingers lost grip.

I drifted back.

I fell like the wind until

my body crashed onto the earth.


When I looked up.

The tree was gone.

She stood as she stood before…

palms exposed, eyes tired,

ribs peaking from behind curtains of skin.


She winced when she said,

do you see now? I am broken. You must set me free.


I looked into her eyes and I felt it.

The tired bones.

The ragged heart.

Her body was a testament

to the cancer that ravaged her spirit.


Naught three children, one husband

or countless family members could

carry her away from this monster.


Now nothing mattered,

except release.

What was I to do?

I understood.

She had placed

her own shoes

upon my feet and,

I too, had become broken.


I breathed a sigh of responsibility,

mouthed The Lord’s Prayer,

mouthed the word Amen

and the words I love you too.

Placed a pillow over her sullen face,

held tightly until her wrist fell limp.


She did not kick.

She did no tremble.

She only gripped my wrist

as a sign of gratitude and

let go when she was gone.

The moment I’d set her free.


And now,

I still find myself

climbing trees to see

if, maybe, I might find her there.

A Poem a Day for 30days – The National Poetry Month Writing Challenge
PMpTue, 03 Apr 2012 22:11:28 +000011Tuesday 1, 2010, 10:11 pm
Filed under: events

Okay, so National Poetry Month happens during all of April. There are a lot of things happening related to poetry from the 1st to the 30th. If you want to attend events or hear some readings then this month there should be something happening every day of the month at various places around where you live. Just find a website for National Poetry Month and some events are bound to be found.

The reason why I am writing about this, is that there is a challenge that a poet may or may not choose to take on. That’s writing brand new poem every day of the month. I don’t know how official it is as a challenge, but I know that for years I have watched fellow poets and friends try it. It’s an awesome challenge because we get to test our range when it comes to writing and really push ourselves and how we think of writing while exploring different styles. And this year I have finally decided to take on the challenge. I missed April 1st and 2nd, but I’ve decided to get rockin’ and rollin’ on April 3rd with an attempt to write 3 poems. I got 1 in progress and 1 completed.


My goal here is to post atleast 1 poem every single day….which also means more regularly scheduled posting from me. I hope you enjoy reading along because I’m really looking forward to testing myself and exploring different ideas and seeing what comes out of me…the first one is on it’s way.

A Wedding Fit for 2 Poets
AMpWed, 17 Aug 2011 11:37:01 +000037Wednesday 1, 2010, 11:37 am
Filed under: events, the ether | Tags: , , , , ,

When two people are meant for each other, you just know it. Not because they are exactly the same or because they’re radically different, but because of what they bring out in one another. You get flustered when you meet that person. All of the smooth demeanor goes right out the window because that person just makes you lose your cool. It’s pretty awesome actually.

I still remember when Truth Is… first told me about Beth Anne. She was in awe of this woman and what she was doing to her. She didn’t know exactly what was happening, but it was love in its purest of forms. Truth said to me “I can’t bullshit her man!” and even if she was able to, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Beth Anne made Truth look in the mirror and see so many things about herself and let her know in absolutely no uncertain terms that she was loved without condition, but truly, made & deeply (yes, that was a Savage Garden reference!). When I saw them together they looked like extensions of one another, it was completely natural and organic and lovely.

Then Truth told me she was getting married. When you hear that one of your best friend’s is tying the knot , it doesn’t really sink in until the details start unfolding. A few months later Truth gave me the honor of asking me to be in her bridal party. And voila, I was a bridesman 🙂

So this past weekend carloads of poets and people from around the country and the world converged onto Leamington, Ontarios’ Point Pelee National Park to celebrate the joy of marriage. We filled our bellies and our hearts with laughter and love under a tent and surrounded by wilderness. The MC of the night was Greg “Ritallin” Frankson and he was sharp, endearing and witty. There were a lot of speeches, some teary, some funny, some short and some long. When Best Man Made Wade got up to make his speech a lot of us thought he was gonna rap it, but he didn’t. He did close off his love tribute in true hip-hop fashion with a call and response, “when I say ‘Truth and,’ ya’ll say Beth Anne!’”….”Truth and” “BETH ANNE!”, “Truth and” “BETH ANNE!” and it was awesome. Maid of Honor Carla Henderson got up and delivered a very personal and touching homage to her everlasting friendship with Beth Anne while letting Truth know that she had her most sincere of blessings. Denise Collins’ speech kinda floored me. She talked about knowing Truth for 20+ years with tears in her eyes and it was very moving. Tomy Bewick gave us a poem tinged with humor and heart about friendship and love. We heard from Beth Anne’s super-awesome parents about how happy they were. Then we all made our way to the beach for a sunset wedding ceremony.

The ceremony was simple, quiet and elegant. We made our way onto the beach and the sounds of small waves gently washing against the sand was our backdrop. A cool breeze blew and Beth Anne’s folks paced down the aisle arm in arm after the 2 bridal parties criss-crossed into our places. I will never forget the image of Truth Is… and Beth Anne slowly walking down the aisle and over the sand (Truth in her white pants and lavender shirt with white vest and Beth Anne in her simple and stunning white wedding dress) soaking in every lovely moment. Their smiles were like light. There was a massive, light grey storm cloud sitting atop the lake that gave off a light show of flashing lightning during the ceremony. It seemed that Mother Earth was showing her support too. Their vows were inspiring and the love was so thick in the air it was sappy. But a good sappy.

After the vows and informal formalities DJ Who set up shop at the hotel and began spinning some serious tunes. MC Ritallin re-convened his duties on the mic. We all watched their first dance as a married couple, such a nice and beautiful moment. Truth spun Beth Anne, and the few times Beth Anne tried to spin Truth we all laughed. Greg opened up the floor for more speeches and I went gun-shy and totally missed the chance to give my speech. That’s what happens when you want to give a speech after getting inebriated, lol. The reception/after-party was very fun, we danced and partied and toasted and cheered for love, for Truth Is… and Beth Anne. We meandered through the halls of the hotel from one room to the next until the early hours of the morning. We quietly woke up and said our goodbyes and scattered on towards our homes.

Now I’m reeling from an exhilarating weekend full of love and friendship and family. I’ve got this great feeling of trying to relive everything just to grasp onto the unforgettable moments. Somebody asked me what time I went to sleep on Saturday night, and I wish I knew. I thought I went to sleep at about 4:30am, then somebody said they were talking to me at about 6:30am outside, lol. So I don’t even have the faintest of clues. All I know is that 2 friends that are near and dear to me are a portrait of a loving and giving relationship/marriage. The reason they match so well is because they balance each other out. Each individual involved in a union has something to learn from their partner as well as something to teach. In embracing this understanding and embodying its sentiments, a marriage will be blessed with long years, strong legs and a healthy heart, not to mention a level head. So I know that they’ll be okay and I wish 2 of my favorite people a lifetime of admiring each other and basking in one another’s love.

let your words live through you


The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word is Canada’s National Poetry Slam (or Spoken Word Olympics). For seven years now, cities from across Canada put together their best spoken word artists and we all get together to throw beautiful words at each other in eloquent word wars. The festival travels like a carnival, but only once a year. It’s been in Ottawa (2004 & 2010), Vancouver (2005), Toronto (2006), Halifax (2007), Calgary (2008) and Victoria (2009). This year there was a record 18 teams from across Canada competing (Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa Capital Slam, Ottawa Urban Legends, Lanark County, Peterborough, Toronto Poetry Slam, Toronto Up From The Roots, Burlington Slam Project, Guelph, London, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and Wild Card Team).

 This was my very first CFSW. I’ve heard for years from my fellow poets how amazing of an experience it is. How it feels like a family and it’s all love. I was looking forward to it needless to say. On October 12th 90+ poets converged onto Canada’s Capital City. It was a groundbreaking festival, not only because of the record-setting 18 teams, or because it marked the first time the Festival would return to a city, but also because it marked the first time the Festival was marred with protest.

 And thus, a group of well-to-do poets who volunteer their time and hearts to be part of Spoken Word Canada (SpoCan) along with the Festival Organizing Committee, were turned into politicians. The Festival was accused of supporting white supremacy. Some ill-thought-out comments made by my very own teammate (Team Burlington) were in-turn taken out of context. The entire community across Canada got involved and a big, blatant race line was drawn right through the middle of the scene. It was a division (you’re either with us or against us type of the thought). People kept saying things like I support A or I support B, if you supported a different letter (or color) you got glares from the other. Because I share a team with the subject of protest I found myself getting luke-warm, tepid shoulders from the same poets who used to give me hugs, because I apparently refused to take action.

 The problem with these things is it becomes like a game of telephone, the message gets skewed with each par of lips it passes through. The issue got so big, it was out of the hands of the two individuals it began with. It was like this monster that was threatening to eat everything we’ve worked so hard to build. But the beast was set at bay by the wonderful poets turned politicians thanks to closed door meetings and motions and sheer frankness. Our poetry community still has scars on it’s face from this. Lines are still drawn and people still murmur in corners.

 While all this was happening, we still had the poetry to worry about. We locked ourselves into our hotel room and took every ounce of energy surrounding us and we practiced. We practiced with stopwatch in hand. We ran our poems into the ground and learned to hang our hearts on our shoulders. We were there for poetry…and that was it. Poets get together and the words are supposed to do the talking. We had crafted work before and after the fiasco, but the frustration from the situation pushed our passion into a fervor. We made the Finals Stage. One of the top four teams in the country! We came last of the night, but I know we showed something great that night. Win or lose…it’s how you play the game. And we played it like we had nothing to hide. It was a fantastic ride and I think Team Burlington (Myself, Tomy Bewick, Truth Is …, Made Wade & Lishai) displayed utmost solidarity and cohesion in the face of skepticism and even slander. Our words spoke for themselves…which is what should happen when poets gather to sling eloquence.

 When the dust settled Ottawa Capital Slam came out on top (National Slam Champion 2 years in a row!). Huge Congrats John Akapata, Open Secret, Prufrock & Chris Tse!!! Ottawa Urban Legends (Marcus Jameel, Hyfidelik, Hodan Ibrahim & Synonymous, you guys slayed it!) came second. Team Montreal (Alessandra Naccarato, Queen KA, D-Na & Caytey Lush, thank you for your words) came third. And Team Burlington came fourth. Finals Night was everything you would expect it to be…a night full of humor, brave honesty, spitfire politics and reflection from the voices of our generation. We speak so the voices of tomorrow can hear us and be brave enough to speak for themselves. We can be as loud as our hearts will let us. As a community we should never feel threatened in providing or receiving feedback, we should be open and ready to discuss the inner workings of our work. We are poets, and we have to stand for something. But we also have to be tolerant of others, forthcoming with our intentions and willing to not only accept criticism but to deliver it in a way that is not destructive. Let’s learn from this, poets. If you’re from the outside looking in, let’s learn from this as well.

 A part of me hopes to get warm hugs from those tepid shoulders in Ottawa…and if I don’t then I know that they just don’t get it. And I don’t have to expend my energy opening my arms to stone faces. We can love each other and move forward. I write not only to express myself but in the hopes that words actually can bring us closer as a people and not divide us further. We should all try to be so noble as to live our words rather than turn ourselves into hypocrites by being bigots. Let’s live AND write poetry. I will sign off of this message with a quote from Matisyahu’s Two Child One Drop:

I don’t run.I don’t flee. I don’t fight
I don’t make fun but don’t flex my might
I don’t act dumb but don’t shine my light
I sit down on the ground till the time is right

They seek my demise and rely on my dark side to give into the night
All those desperate ghosts, stuck souls trapped in black holes
became werewolves, stolen souls wanna see me bleed

So tread lightly no need to fight me
No need to be right it’s so frightening
Soul like dust and flash like lightning
I slip through your grip cause you hold so tightly
I didn’t stop nah I’m just becoming
I’m not finished nah I’m just arriving
I’m not done don’t know where I’m going
Not afraid not to know and keep growing
Once you know you’re dead and not living
and that’s the wisdom to know while your breathing

c.r. avery & baton rouge
PMpFri, 16 Apr 2010 12:49:26 +000049Friday 1, 2010, 12:49 pm
Filed under: events, music, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

the background hum of the office is ever-the-same. light key-punching and muted conversations humming like public transit. I drift like Magic Hour Sailor Songs and dwindle down the Mississippi River back to Baton Rouge. I miss those muddy waters. I used to glaze them over with my eyes from the window of a courthouse in the city. I saw C.R. Avery last night at the Burlington Slam Project. the man is a beast. the man is the wheels on busses and bicycles and coincidence. it was the first time I saw him perform without a mic. his harmonica-beatboxing persona was not lost in the quiet room at The Black Bull. the crowd fell to a hush when he began performing. the waitresses lined the outskirts of the room and there was not even the sound of glass clinking from the bar. C.R. was brilliantly simple without one of his three bands and only two of his family of instruments. there were no electronics, but it worked. the bass from his throat shook our ear drums and we ate it up. I finally got to see him do his “Boxer” piece and the beat was bouncing off of the wood. like I said, the man is a beast. the highways and road-maps he’s travelled are etched on his face; his clothes are weather-worn wonderfully extended from his self-proclaimed hobo caricature; his voice is worn and weary and woefully whimsical in its eloquent story-telling mannerism; and his smile is as genuine as Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s handshake. I beat-box his songs into sleep, into work and throughout the day. and today…the background hum of keyboards and head-set-held customer service phone-calls takes a backseat to C.R.’s greyhound shenanigans. the hobo has me horribly hooked and I am blessed to call this man my friend. everytime I hear him play…I miss Baton Rouge. last night he asked me “have you been back since Katrina?” and all I could say was “not since ’97.” now I’m thinking about The Great Canadian Novel and Magnolia Trees and Pelicans and gumbo and crawfish…over the background hum of keyboards and phone calls and generic office ramblings. it starts to sound the same after a while…so tune out and tune in and “take a bus to Baton Rouge.”