A closet New Yorker

Sheri-DThat’s one of the ways Sheri-D Wilson describes herself. I first heard her perform back in the eighties at a women’s bookstore in Kitsilano. She was eye-opening, both in her appearance and in her work. Here I was, just emerging from the first intensive wave of feminism and still feeling a bit of a traitor to the cause when wearing makeup. There she was, unapologetic in leopard-print leggings and push-up bra. She launched into her first performance piece, which was about a woman who plugged her vibrator into the mains, creating a power outage all over Vancouver. I immediately became a fan.

I’ve seen Sheri-D (“Wilson” sounds way too formal, given her personal style) perform many times since, whenever she’s in Vancouver. Currently she lives in Calgary, where she’s the founder and artistic director of the Calgary International Spoken Word Festival. The CV on her website runs about ten screens long.

The San Francisco Examiner says

Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen . . . genetically tinker with these Canadians and add a chromosome of Patti Smith and a double-helix strand from Jim Carroll. . . you have Sheri-D Wilson.

It’s a pretty good description, but of course you have to see her perform to really get it. Her lyrics are sharply funny, often outrageous, and seem to be put together afresh every time in an inspired stream-of-consciousness way. Then you get her personal presence, the rhythm of her works, and the way she puts her whole body into every word.

The last time I heard Sheri-D perform, she did my new favourite piece: Panty portal. It begins (and yes, the first half of it is typeset in upper case in my book):

IN PARIS I GO
DIRECTLY TO THE GRAVE
MY TRUE LOVE
APOLLINAIRE

I’VE BEEN DYING
TO SEE HIM
ALL MY LIFE

I TAKE HIM A BOTTLE
OF RED WINE
AND BREAK IT
OVER HIS HEAD,
PLACE TWELVE ROSES
AT HIS FEET
AND SCATTER
ALMONDS ALL AROUND …

IT OCCURS TO ME
THAT HE
IS MORE ATTENTIVE
THAN MOST OF
THE MEN I’VE DATED,
WHO CLAIM TO BE ALIVE …

It becomes rapidly even more surreal when the panty portal kicks in.

So back to I am a closet New Yorker. This morning, I heard someone in the cluster around the coffee maker say it would be faster to inject the caffeine intravenously. (We like to talk tough about our coffee addiction.) And of course, I remembered Sheri-D’s jolt of a poem and my two favourite lines:

I am a closet New Yorker
I shoot pure caffeine to stay calm

If you already have Re-Zoom, Between Lovers, The Sweet Taste of Lightning, Girl’s Guide to Giving Head, and Swerve, you’ll be looking forward to the upcoming Heart of a Poet.

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