Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Warmest Heart in a Cold City... Mary Pinkoski

Alright ToF fans! While we were grooving to the last show's open mic and feature performance, Mary Pinkoski was busy becoming the 2011 Grand Slam Champion of Edmonton - meaning she'll be leading this year's Edmonton Slam Team to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Toronto. And while she may call Edmonton home, she lives in many of our hearts here in Victoria. So please welcome Mary Pinkoski to our digital couch...

Let's slap a label on you: Poet? Performer? Spoken Word Artist? Slam Poet?

Label makers are awesome things when you are moving or filing things or doing taxes or just generally organizing. I have a lot to organize, generally, that just generally needs organizing. Is this getting complicated? Labels are complicated, unless you are just looking for your toaster after a move.

I guess if I were moving, I would put myself in the spoken word poet box. Hopefully, someone would find me there...if they were looking.

And let's take that label off ('cuz labels aren't nice): now who are you? How do you see yourself in the world?

Well, my bio reads that I am spoken word poet from Edmonton, Alberta. So I guess at the simplest level, that is who I am. However, I like to think that each of us contains so many stories and mythologies of who we are and all of them contain truths about ourselves. And we are all doing our best to sort them out and make some sense of where we find ourselves in the world.

So I guess I just see myself as one more bee hive of a person in this world. And, with all these stories/memories buzzing around the apiary of me, I keep hoping that poetry will be my beekeeper and sort me out, pull the light and the memories out of me and make something sweet. And I am still learning that you can make honey out of more than one kind of flower.

Sorry, I kind of went off on a tangent there. I am spoken word poet from Edmonton.

Edmonton really hit the national stage running at last year's Canadian Festival of Spoken Word: What's the local scene looking like in your neck of the woods?

The Edmonton scene is growing and diversifying. It is an amazing thing. The Breath in Poetry Collective, spearheaded by Titilope Sonuga, is doing fantastic things here. We have great team to take to CFSW this year, with two returning members (myself and Ahmed Ali) and two new members (Colin Matty and Liam Coady). I am super excited to begin working with the new team and bring our best to Toronto for CFSW.

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

Oh wow! That was awhile ago. I read at a few open mics in 2004/2005, but if we are talking slam and competitions I didn't start doing that until 2006 and I did about one a year. Now I do things a bit more regularly. I hope I am getting better.

The first time I went to read was at a slam in Calgary and I drove all the way there from Edmonton and I got terrified and went back to my car and drove home. So the first time was a 'no go' haha. It was terrifying!

I guess what I am trying to say is that I understand and appreciate how much courage it takes to get up and read your poems or talk or share a story, and we should really honor that bravery because no matter what our first time story is, we have all been there. And then we should all move on from our first time gaffs, so we have the chance make 2nd and 3rd and 4th and 150th time mistakes because it all just about learning and growing.

What's the next poetry-related goal you want to fulfill?

I have so many things that I want to do. Most importantly, I hope to continue to put myself in situations that challenge me to expand my writing and grow as a writer. That being said, I would like to begin to work on a cohesive body of work that is thematically-based.

Who is someone that really inspires you? Why?

I have been so fortunate to have so many mentors in my life for writing. I really attribute my success to them. Can I just list a few here?

Sheri-D Wilson (Calgary) – I would be nowhere without her encouragement and mentorship and the opportunities for growth in my writing that she has given me.

Jack McCarthy (Seattle/Boston) – I met Jack at a poetry festival in Edmonton and we got on like prairie fire. He is so supportive and helped me get my first shows in the States. He is a master storyteller and I aspire to weave stories like him.

Regie Cabico (Washington, D.C./New York) – Regie is my constant and my encouragement. I would not be writing what I am writing today without the love and support of Regie.

Evalyn Parry (Toronto) – Evalyn taught me to breathe and defined open for me, in both performance and life. I am forever indebt and eternally grateful to Evalyn and her magical powers.

Those are some people that have been great to me. However, I try to learn a little bit from everyone I come across.

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

Let me write an off-the-top of my head poem to answer this... (because free writes are always fun and it is good to expose people to your creative process and they are a nice thing to take away from written interviews...at least for the poet)

The poem I haven't written yet sits
like a weight on my chest, warning:
I could break you open at any moment

I get nervous with anticipation, itchy
with anxiety in my blood
when I think of this poem

The poem I haven't written yet waits
behind every corner, in every dark doorway
it is everything they told you not to talk to,
not to eat, not to touch, not to look at directly

This poem is a poster in a police office,
the face of the missing child in a mall,
an amber alert snapping the city into awareness

The poem I haven't written yet is buried
with the fossils of protozoa, stretched along
rock-pressed images of plankton, floating in
oil rivers under the sand

One can only hope that sand will turn itself
into a mirror, that rocks will excavate themselves,
and show me this poem I have yet to write

The poem I have yet to write lays sleeping
stretched out like a cat along
the sunshine hallway of my trachea
some days I think the cat will awake
and purr my vocal chords into vibrations
that actually say something

This poem longs to peel back the lazy sunblock lotion
of my fingers, wants to shine its light beams
all the way into my hands and hold them to the fire of the sun

It yells, "write me down." It runs through my blood writing,
"say me out loud."

This poem that I haven't written yet is there
It is always there, just beyond my reach
but I haven't stopped trying to grab it

What are the subjects that are really engage you?

I have a penchant for historical things and stories that make up our country. I work in a living history museum part-time, so I find the stories of people that are the fabric this country fascinating and something that should be shared.

I am also fascinated by the topic of light. Finally, is there any other poem than a love poem? Love, in all its forms, is always close to the tip of my tongue, the tip of my typing fingers, the tip of my pen.

We run your poetry through the ice-cream maker: what flavour do we get at the business end?

Hardest question ever! I would say you get the following: equal parts heart of a bird and love of a garden, with a dash of light. Hopefully it melts somewhere good.

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