Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Them Or Us, a little painting

Them Or Us, 2017 ©Brenda Clews, 9"x12", 22.9x30.5cm (actual size, this image is cropped on each side), Strathmore 140lb cold press, acid free watercolour paper.

An older drawing done with a bamboo dip pen - impossible to work with, they blot and won't draw, and you can only do crude drawings, nothing finely, which is why I like them - finished with some watercolour washes while watching a South Korean zombie flick on Netflix, Train to Busan, that was quite good. I like South Korean films because there is a hilarity, always (in this case the zombies, and they must have had so much fun making those scenes!), and also, the man or men who are the main characters are emotional and it spills out of that understated Oriental manner - and it is so refreshing. The ending always lifts a little so it's not completely tragic. I'll watch a South Korean flick anytime.

There isn't any relation between the film and the watercolour drawing, which is an entirely different story, or so it seems. At 3am, I'm calling it 'Them and Us," and I may delete in the morning, you know how things you do in the middle of the night are.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

May 2017 Poetry & Music Salon Fundraiser.

We raised $1,142.55 at a fantastically beautiful Poetry and Music Salon on May 27, 2017 and with on-line donations for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Not bad for a bunch of poets and Indie musicians wouldn't ya say?! We are a strong community of talented, caring people. I am so proud of everyone. ♥️

You can donate on-line - a tax receipt is issued instantly for any donations of $10. or above.

Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a medical relief organization who run medical projects in 70 countries worldwide and focus particularly on emergency medical and humanitarian relief. For 40 years, MSF has provided medical assistance to people affected by armed conflicts, natural disasters, disease epidemics, malnutrition crises and other emergencies. Of the donations, 82% go to a massive emergency relief fund used for projects in the field, 15% to fundraising and 3% to administration.

Thank you to all the features, who gave us everything, from their hearts, and to all those who came out to watch, enjoy, and to support a good cause. Many thanks to Janina for her help, Palmerston Library and to Bobby, our sound man.

Some photos:

A video of the whole, beautiful Salon:

Direct link to the May 2107 Poetry and Music Salon Fundraiser

In order of appearance:

1. Heather Babcock (poetry) 4:28
2. Neil Traynor (music) 11:29
3. Stanley Fefferman (poetry) 19:30
4. Jennifer Hosein (poetry) 25:53
5. Jeannine Pitas (poetry) 36:54
6. Tom Gannon Hamilton (poetry & music) 47:30
7. Michael Marian (music) 57:51
8. Jim McCuaig (music) 1:11:06
9. Tricia Postle (music) 1:20:17
10. Anna Gutmanis (music) 1:30:24
11. Karen Shenfeld (poetry) 1:36:47
12. Isabel Fryszberg (music) 1:42:39

Bios (and TBA):

ANNA GUTMANIS is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and entwines her brave, edgy lyrics with deep, blues-style vocals. Her songs have charted on iTunes, The Independent Music Network Top 30, Roots Music Report Top 100, OutVoice, and 3 different Australian Indie charts. She can hardly wait to get back into the studio to record some new songs!

HEATHER BABCOCK has had short fiction published in various literary magazines and journals including Descant Magazine, Front&Centre Magazine and The Toronto Quarterly. Heather has performed as a feature at the Beautiful & the Damned, the Plasticine Poetry reading series, Lizzie Violet's Cabaret Noir and WonderFest, among others. She has been a guest on the spoken word radio show HOWL (CIUT 89.5FM). Heather's chapbook Of Being Underground and Moving Backwards was published by DevilHousePress in 2015. She is currently working on a novel.



JENNIFER HOSEIN is a writer, visual artist, and teacher. Her poems, short fiction and a play have been published in magazines and an anthology. Her artwork has appeared on book covers, in magazines and in solo and group exhibitions in Toronto.

Ex roady, ex theatre tech, ex subway driver, JIM McCUAIG is now finding joy fingerpicking East Coast Blues and some originals.


MICHAEL MARIAN, Toronto-based Singer/Songwriter with his new album Big Wide Sky. Festivals and show dates are in the works for summer 2017. Toronto-born but raised in the countrysides of Maple, King City, and Aurora. Performed for several years at Wonderland, Elmocambo, Rivoli, Horseshoe. Went solo in 1996. In 2001 he and poet Norman Cristofoli founded Coffeehouse Arts and Culture where they ran shows for 8 years.

NEIL TRAYNOR is a Toronto born singer/songwriter guitarist/multi-instrumentalist. The nephew of legendary Traynor Amplifiers/Yorkville Sound founder Peter Traynor, he has been a staple of the Toronto scene for many years, first with L.S.Tea, and then The Toppermost (a band which also featured Chris Cunnane a.k.a "Starboy" of Robin Black), and currently with his group Neil Traynor & The Emergency Broadcast System, and also as a solo acoustic performer and session musician. His solo album "August Sun" was released a few years back to great acclaim from folk-rock/power-pop fans and picked up for international distribution by Los Angeles label Not Lame Records - one prominent admirer being Ebbot Lundberg, the leader/lead singer of The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. Neil wrote, produced, and played virtually all the instruments on this album - guitars, bass, organ, drums, as well as engineering the recording. He has performed in festivals in Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and has played on bills with The Gruesomes, Midge Ure, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, to name, well, three...Neil is currently working on a follow-up to "August Sun" which he hopes will be finished some time before the end of this century...

STANLEY FEFFERMAN is writer and educator. His publications include, Home Was Elsewhere (Quattro Books, 2017), Writing Space, Drugs and World Literature, The Healing Fiction, and My Andrea. CBC National Radio has aired his literary broadcasts. His essays on music appear in electronic media from Canada and the U.K. He taught at Naropa University’s Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and founded the Atkinson Creative Writing Program at York University where he is Professor Emeritus. Quattro Books will launch his first poetry collection, Home Was Elsewhere, in Spring, 2017. He preparing a collection of essays: My Resinous Heart.

THOMAS GANNON HAMILTON is a poet, violinist and producer. He wrote his Masters thesis on "dub poetry" (1985), before humanitarian work took him to Central America, where he joined the Salvadoran artist's cooperative "Tizon.” After relocating to Calgary, he completed a doctoral degree focused on the experiences and practices of high school poets. He has published two e-books of poetry, "Bellicose Veins" and "Deer Crossing.” He now lives in Toronto, where he performs regularly.

TRICIA POSTLE is a founding member of Pneuma Ensemble (pneumaensemble.com) a trio focusing on 12th and 13th century music on period-appropriate instruments. She performs most regularly as a vocalist and on psalteries.

Recent career highlights include performing as an actor-musician in the Poculi Ludique Societas touring production of the medieval farce Mankind (including at the Cloisters Museum, NYC) and a performance with Pneuma Ensemble of Marie de France’s Lai de Bisclaveret (Tale of the Werewolf) at the Colloquium of the Société Internationale pour l’étude du Théâtre Médiéval in Durham Castle, UK. A song cycle based on her poetry, Ash Roses, was recorded in 2014 through the Canadian Art Song Project.

Since 2005 she has been developing the Majlis Art Garden in Toronto’s Queen West as a venue for the performing arts (http://majlisarts.com/)


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Beautiful Fundraiser Today for Doctors Without Borders

So far, in total, we have raised $920. for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). We raised $470 at a fantastically beautiful Poetry and Music Salon this afternoon, plus the on-line donations are $450. Not bad for a bunch of poets and Indie musicians wouldn't ya say?! We are a strong community of talented, caring people. I am so proud of everyone.

You can donate to the Poetry and Music Fundraiser on-line here: May 2017 Poetry & Music Salon Fundraiser.

Thank you to all the features, who gave us everything, from their hearts, Anna Gutmanis, Janina La Papita, Neil Traynor, Stanley Fefferman, Tricia Postle, Michael Marian, Jennifer Hosein, Jim McCuaig, Karen Shenfeld, Heather Babcock and Isabel Fryszberg, and to all those who came out to watch, enjoy, and to support a good cause. Many thanks to Palmerston Library and to Bobby, our sound man.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

An Hour Performance from Tidal Fury

direct link: An Hour Performance from Tidal Fury

I can recite from Tidal Fury for about an hour. Why have I undertaken to memorize my poetry? Originally, I had intended to memorize the whole book to have full access for any readings or open mics, but haven't gotten there yet. Memorizing is a good exercise for an aging mind. Being able to perform poems lets me connect to the audience. I have no acting experience and have never studied acting and so I wing it. I have no idea if these performances work for people or not.

Memorizing remains hard work, especially as the poems have to be duplicated exactly in the mind and retrieved in their all their convoluted syntaxes and words. Being untrained, when my mind collides a little, and I can't get the line, I simply stop and wait for the words to click in and then I continue. This doesn't bother me a bit - it's part of the process of a live enactment. About the only impediment I've found is when I am nervous I might skip a line. I also switch words with synonyms occasionally, and these are unconscious replacements. I only know due to videoing my readings and find this an interesting quirk of the way the mind retains a list of synonyms to use if the exact word is not recalled quickly enough.

I love hearing poets read their writing and have always enjoyed going to poetry readings - in fact, I've run a poetry series for 3½ years. In my community, there are some poets who memorize and perform their poetry - they are not slam poets, which is a different genre and the poems have rhyme and tend follow a format with a set rhythm to the spoken word which makes it quite different to a literary poet performing a piece. The literary poets I know who perform are marvellous, and I find I 'hear' their poetry with perhaps more texture and depth when they offer it directly to us, but they either have acting backgrounds or studied acting in university.

Sometimes I'm not sure what I'm doing. Without the feedback loop a director or teacher would give, I send what I do out into the darkened fields of the audience. I like to dress the part too - mask, snaky wig, gauze sack, kimono, jingly belly dancing belt. It may be that performance gives me a way to inhabit the writing, to hide in it. As an introvert, performing forces me into my opposite. The next day I am exhausted - the act of performing publicly is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

And yet I keep exploring it and pushing myself to go deeper, to enter the writing, to give to those listening from fragile and open and honest places within. I feel that exploring memorization and performance is a fruitful endeavour and I will continue to expand my comfort zones in this regard.

A collusion of forces left me in a private place of extreme worry and tiredness the day that I did this feature and yet I strove to put aside my life, to step onto the stage as if it were a blank canvas, and create a poetry that carried itself through the air into the theatre and here, on the screen.

I hope I have done Tidal Fury justice. With the high quality video (see note below), I am happy with this recording.

Here is a webpage that has descriptions of Tidal Fury, and links to reviews and on-line booksellers: http://brendaclews.com/books/tidal-fury

I would like to thank Tom Gannon Hamilton who came and played his violin with sensitivity and beauty while I enacted the poems. He enters the poetry, its dramatic expression. His masterful playing becomes a collaborative dance of music that enters the words, uplifts them as the spirit that inhabits Tidal Fury is expressed.

Jeff Howard, as a thank you for all the videoing of everyone I've done at my Salons through the years, brought a professional camera from the television studio where he is a Technical Director. They were testing the Panasonic 4k camera that he brought. Matching the clips between my prosumer Sony and the professional Panasonic was challenging and I hope I've managed it somewhat. Mostly, I used his clips - he zoomed in and followed the performance with the camera, and the detail is excruciatingly amazing. Thank you, Jeff!

This feature was part of my Poetry and Music Salon series and took place at Palmerston Library Theatre on Saturday afternoon, April 29, 2017.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 27th Poetry & Music Salon Fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders

My next Poetry and Music Salon is a fundraiser. I chose Doctors Without Borders this year. You can donate on-line here. I set our contribution at $400., but maybe we can better that.* For any donations above $10. you get a tax credit. The list of features for this Salon is awesome: Isabel Fryszberg, Heather Babcock, Karen Shenfeld, Jim McCuaig, Jennifer Hosein, Michael Marian, Tricia Postle, Tom Hamilton, Stanley Fefferman, Neil Traynor, James Dewar and Anna Gutmanis! Put Saturday afternoon May 27th, 1:45-4pm, at Palmerston Library Theatre on your calendars. It'll be a GREAT show! Our donation will go to one massive emergency relief fund that is used where the need is most urgent in the world. Let's give whatever we can - no amount is too small.
*Last year we raised $405. for the Ft McMurray Fire Relief Fund, and the government doubled the contribution. Not bad for a bunch of poets and Indie musicians!

Dale Winslow of NeoPoeisis Press (beautiful publisher of poetry, fiction and non-fiction) has contributed to Poetry and Music Salons' Fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders! Thank you, Dale!

She wrote: "I am familiar with Doctors without Borders and I think it is wonderful that you are doing this event to help raise funds. It is always heartening to see artists using their gifts to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes. I hope this will bring you more donors 🙂 I will also share your event on the press facebook page - every bit of exposure can help! All my best to you 🙂 Dale ❤"

Monday, May 01, 2017

Dashing by to say, lovely Salon on Sat & some upcoming poetry readings

The Poetry and Music Salon last Saturday was wonderful, with Tricia Postle, Ian Burgham, Sean McDermott and Wolfgang Dios. Josef Hochleitner unexpectedly showed up and took photographs, I am so grateful. Jeff Howard videoed my performance, and Tricia's, with a professional 4K camera, and, again, I am so grateful. So... photos and video to come, though I have no idea when, I am so busy.

Here's a screen grab of my website with a photo Josef took on Saturday and a calendar listing of my upcoming readings. Sorry - just no time to double do the posts. Lol!


Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 29th, 2-4pm, Poetry & Music Salon @Palmerston Library Theatre!

So happy that Tricia Postle is our featured musician! And Ian Burgham our Guest Poet! It'll be an amazing afternoon. Hosted by Luciano Iacobelli. I'll be doing a longer performance from Tidal Fury accompanied by the maestro violinist, Tom Gannon Hamilton. Sat aft April 29th, 2-4pm, Palmerston Library, 560 Palmerston Ave. Light refreshments served.

Here is my Event Listing on the Home page of my new website. It'll be up until April 29th.

Click here for the Facebook Event Page

Monday, April 17, 2017

Finally, a website in the making...

Last summer I began the attempt to create a new website for my art and writing. Wordpress proved daunting as I purchased a portfolio template that I was not able to master. The months ticked by. At last, I somehow hit on the right search terms, and Google delivered a list of sites that offer website software that you can buy quite reasonably and download, as opposed to on-line sites, like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace, that charge (much higher) monthly fees for hosting and a domain name with a website. I already had a hosting company, 4goodhosting.com, located in Vancouver, with very reasonable rates, and I have a domain name through Google (US$10/yr). I was looking for a way to build my own site, but also integrate this blog of 14 years.

And I found everything with RapidWeaver, and the purchase of a few plug-ins! I am super excited. I have a lot of work ahead building this site, but it is begun, viable and live! After the struggle of trying to figure out how to do this and the endless searches, I feel like one lucky artiste.

It's here: http://brendaclews.com/. Go check it out.

Like wow, yowza!

And my blog page on my website instantly updated when I posted this blog post!!! Believe me when I say no platforms are much interested in Blogger these days and an integration like this is hard to find. Brilliantismo, YourHead Software, who made the RapidBlog plug-in and who offer it as a free download.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Birthday @ the Art Bar Poetry Series Carries Its Risks!

direct link: Happy Bday
Featuring at the Art Bar Poetry Series on your birthday carries its risks. Love ❤️ Love ❤️  Love ❤️  Many thanks for all the beautiful birthday wishes!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Open Book Interview on Tidal Fury

Somehow, I missed the publication of this Open Book interview with me on Tidal Fury last October. I just found it. Many thanks to Open Book!

As it was posted 5 months ago, I think to share the whole interview here.


The In Character interview, with Brenda Clews

Brenda Clews is the author of Tidal Fury (Guernica Editions), a narrative collection that is part love story, part examination of identity, and part exploration of power, mythology, and obsession. Illustrated by Brenda's original artwork, Tidal Fury was been called a "richly layered, challenging collection" by John Oughton, author of Time Slip.
We welcome Brenda to Open Book today as part of our In Character interview series, speaking to her about the nameless narrator of Tidal Fury. She tells us about Tidal Fury's unique structure, the mechanics of poetic internal dialogue, and the writerly self vs. the everyday social self.

Open Book:
Tell us about the main character in your new book. 

Brenda Clews:

The main character of Tidal Fury is the speaking voice, a narrator whose wild, untamed poetry and poetic utterances carve her existence into being. Does she exist outside the text in which she is embedded? She limns a coming-to-being, a poet in the process of creating a self that can speak the deeper poetries that compose and uncompose the self.


Some writers feel characters take on a "life of their own" during the writing process. Do you agree with this, or is a writer always in control?


Tidal Fury has a somewhat unique structure for a book of poetry. It has an almost hallucinated narrative structure. In these ‘memoirs of an imaginal life’ (Braille), interweaving stories of two fluid but recognizable characters appear: the Monsieur, and an aged woman with a white face, black hair and lurid red lipstick. One is an absent lover the narrator converses with – but we only hear her voice in the conversations with him. The other is an older narcissist woman the poet grapples with. Both characters develop through the text. They are each stories that unfold through the intertwining of styles of writing; neither appear as subjects with speaking voices. Both relationships undergo change in the book. Nothing is static in Tidal Fury. And there is the figure of the Medusa, who also undergoes transformation throughout the text – from a terrifying traditional mythic figure (Spectre), she becomes a powerful, if dangerous, symbol for creativity (Muse).
Tidal Fury explores subjectivity in the fluid self-portraits that emerge. The text suggests that we are speaking subjects who cannot look upon ourselves. We can only see our reflections in various mirrors, literal and symbolic. In an oceanic text, boundaries between self and other, self and the vast interior landscapes of thought and passion are intermeshed and fluid. The book is an interweaving of poetry, prose poetry, prose, letters, journal entries and theory. Drawings and paintings are also attached to various pieces and are interspersed throughout the book. In the subjectivity of the self-in-creation, a ‘style composed of styles’ emerged to embody the pulses of enfleshed thought, the utterance, the poetic that informs Tidal Fury.


How do you choose names for your characters?


All the characters in Tidal Fury are nameless. The poet or narrator who ultimately discovers a voice, a poetry, is envisioned as a self who “blossoms” even in the “night” (Night Blossom). The Monsieur, a figure “outside the writing for whom the writing” was written, was conceived as a literary device and then the narrator discovers she knows him intimately (Grammars). The figure who wears black with flashes of red the colour of blood, whose derision is a form of entrapment (Entrap) also remains nameless. Questions of power -- power under, power over, empowerment -- stalk the relationships the poet-narrator has with the characters.


What is your approach to crafting dialogue, particularly for your main character? Do you have any tips about writing dialogue for aspiring and emerging writers? 


As a book of poetry, of styles of poetries, the dialogue between characters in Tidal Fury is internal, expressions of the central life force of the writing voice. As a book of essentially lyric poetry, the dialogue is always with the self and the other. We are over-hearing deep psychic processes expressed in imageries and almost hallucinated events that occur on horizons everywhere. When there is dialogue, it is implied rather than overtly spoken. This is a different approach to character-building than would be found in novels or novellas, but as valid given the interior monologues that poetry inclines towards.


Do you have anything in common with your main character? What parts of yourself do you see in him or her, and what is particularly different?


The main character in Tidal Fury, the poet narrator, is certainly an aspect of myself, of a writerly self who is distinct from my everyday social self. Tidal Fury grapples, amid the complexity of what composes the self, with ‘who’ is writing when we create our poetries: “Who haunts us from within? / Who is writing? / Surely not our speaking voice.” (Writings of Who) 


Who are some of the most memorable characters you've come across as a reader?


A collage of characters appears when I face this question as it erupts in my memories of the continuum of the text. The poetic voice in Tidal Fury is composed of multiple approaches and separating them back out from the meshing trajectories would be almost impossible. How do you explain a gesture here, the glance of an eye there, a phrase from the totality of a book, a slight mannerism that found its way into a few words? Many fragments of characters slip like negatives through the imagery and its patterns in Tidal Fury, too obscure and too numerous to pin properly. 


What are you working on now?


Currently, I am working on a prose poetry novella.
Brenda Clews is an African-Canadian multi-media poet, artist and videographer whose approach broaches poetry, painting, theory, dance, recordings and video. Her oeuvre focuses on multiple callings, the obsessive muse. She has been a featured poet at a number of venues and organizes and hosts monthly Poetry & Music Salons in Toronto. LyricalMyrical published her chapbook, the luminist poems, in 2013. Born in a small mining town in Zimbabwe, Brenda currently lives in Toronto.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Tidal Fury Features this Year

Lovely to see Tidal Fury on the shelves at Indigo (Bloor and Bay)! I signed them. A bunch of features are lined up in Toronto this Spring and I am gearing up to perform from Tidal Fury for you and, I hope, to entertain, elevate and inspire you all!
  • March 21 @ Hot-Sauced Words, 7:30-10:00pm, The Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave., Kensington Market
  • April 29 @ Poetry and Music Salons, a longer, more intense set, 2-4pm, Palmerston Library Theatre, 260 Palmerston Ave
  • September 2nd @ Words and Music Salon, 1:30-4:30pm, location TBA.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Process: Close Up Portraits of Three Women

direct link: Close Up Portraits of Three Women: the process

During the months working on these small portraits, I took photos, and one video, along the way. Thought it would be fun to collect them in a single slideshow video.

From the sketches to the finished paintings, portraits I painted of Bänoo Zan (poet), Isabel Fryszberg (musician/painter) & a Self-Portrait. Each is 20"x16”x1.5”, oil on canvas. ©Brenda Clews 2017.

Music: Lena Selyanina.

Sidenote: I found this interesting. It is from Sep 20th, 2016, showing a photo of an early Autumn leaf by Dave Bonta and my portrait of Bänoo, which was almost finished. Bänoo is a fiery poet and the colours that arose in the shadows of her face echo a leaf on fire (these photographs a co-incidental pairing on Tweetdeck, the Twitter app I use).