Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Making Change with Seven Dollar Bill!

Chris Gilpin and Sean McGarragle are Seven Dollar Bill and also our feature performers at Tongues of Fire this Thursday May 13! You should know that both fellahs have sexy telephone voices. Here's a little interview action ta whet yer whistles...

Chris, Sean. "Seven Dollar Bill". No such monetary unit exists, please explain yourselves...

CG: Incorrect!

Gah! Foiled!

CG: Actually the Molson Bank of Canada distributed seven dollar bills in the 1850s. If you're asking why in the province of Canada before Confederation our master brewer was also our monetary steward, my answer is: those were heady days.

You've both been a huge part of the Vancouver poetry landscape for quite a while. What changes have you seen? Speak to us of evolution; personally, professionally, artistically...

SM: As the community (both audience and poet base) we've gotten a lot more diverse and Grown in numbers. The first poet I saw do spoken word well was Shane Koyczan and I think along with C.R. Avery, Cass King, Babara Adler et all poets now see spoken word as a viable art form to invest their time in. I think our audience has grown also confident in spoken word as an art form and thus worth their time and money.

CG: I went to my first poetry slam at Café Deux Soleils in September 2005. The first poet I ever saw slam was Mike McGee. I was immediately hooked. There's a silly human tendency to always think things werE better back in the day, but I think the scene has only become richer, in poetic talent and diversity. And Mike remains an awesome fixture, sort of like Norm on Cheers, only with more rock star radness.

How did you feel the first time you stepped up a mic to read what you had written? How long ago was that?

SM: I think I started reading my work at open mics back in 2004 but didn't migrate to our rather infamous poetry slam until the next year. Even then I only performed on occasion. I guess I really started to get into it in 2006 when I ended up being the alternate on the Van Slam team and got a chance to perform in Austin Texas for the National Poetry Slam down there. Those first times, much like today, I felt nervous...which I think is healthy.

CG: After seeing Mike in '05, I immediately turned to the other writers at my table and said "Two months from now, we have to do this!". They chickened out, but in December 2005, I slammed for the first time and came in third.

Chris, can you tell us a little bit about your WordPlay program?

Sure thing. It's our poetry in schools program, which was started as a pilot project back in 2004, and grown greatly since. We have a team of the best spoken word poets in Vancouver that we draw upon, sending poets in pairs to do workshops and performances in schools. We've worked with every grade level from one through twelve, sending poets from Squamish to Chilliwack and all points in-between.

The goal of the program is to make poetry come alive for students. Too often they have preconception of poetry being boring, but one good spoken word poet can change all that, real fast.

You can find out more by going to our website at:

What's the next poetry-related goal you want to fulfill? As individual artists? As Seven Dollar Bill?

CG: I want to build a yacht out of haiku.

SM: I would really like to tour Europe next summer and put on The Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Championships in April or 2011. That... and breathe...

Can you tell us about the poem you haven't written yet?

CG: Yes, of course, it's a found poem, composed out of dirty Latin limericks passed between archbishops when the Pope is droning on and on.

SM: I would like to write a poem about our cat Zani... from Zani's perspective but thus far I am determined not to have it in translation... which makes it rather difficult.

What are the subjects that really engage you?

CG: Canadian identity. The absurdity of existence. Cheese.

SM: I'll echo Chris's statement here. Canadian identity, politics, interpersonal relationships.

Are y'all sick of Victoria yet?

Not by a long shot!!!

We run your poetry through the ice-cream machine: what flavour are we enjoying once the smoke clears?

Marmalade Benzine!

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