A new tradition to thank some people who inspired started at this VERSeFest…
The first inductees into the VERSeFest Hall of Honour: William Hawkins and Greg “Ritallin” Frankson.
rob mclennan welcomed in William Hawkins with this introduction.
William Hawkins has lived most of his life in Ottawa, with side trips to Vancouver, Toronto, Tallahassee and Mexico. He is a veteran driver of the Blue Line taxi corps and includes prominent MPs, judges, journalists and bagmen among his regular clients. In recent years, Hawkins made a CD of his best songs, titled Dancing Alone, and was subject of an onstage tribute at the Ottawa Folk Festival for his contributions to the music scene. His collections of poetry include Ottawa Poems (Kitchener: weed/flower press, 1966), The Gift of Space (Toronto: New Press, 1971) and Dancing Alone: Selected Poems(Fredericton NB: Broken Jaw Press, 2005), with more recent chapbook publications through above/ground press and Apt. 9 Press. His online home is www.wmhawkins.com
Apt 9 Press, for the event, took into a second printing his 2010 collection Sweet Nothings.
Hawkins said this ceremony was something of a circle for him since this Presbyterian church was where he was baptized. He said a little of his life path, from taking a course from Creeley and Olsen in 1963 to turning into the music scene.
He related getting lost for a decade or so in the booze and schmooze of the music business. He said I’d learned to live with the fact that I was a drunk but knew that I wasn’t a fool so I decided to drive a taxi because I can’t drink and drive. When rob mclennan found me driving a taxi I learned that while I was in music, people out there were still writing poetry.
People were still reading his work. He started looking at poetry again. His Dancing Alone: selected Poems was released in 2005. A sample there offers,
From the Ottawa Poems: #11
Your hair electric, on legs &
traces on breasts, skin tone,
sly ripples of pleasure,
in my ears & always
a burning within
& me lost in my own confusions.
You see I am not inclined
can offer only
to all beautiful people–
at night your silence
keeps me awake.
There was a feature on his literary life and poems in Get Guerilla
There’s something of a plainspoken wit to him that reminds me of Robert Kroetsch. For example in his poem where he says (and I think I’m close but not quite right) birds shit all over Beethoven’s statue[…] I used to like birds. But now me and Ludwig don’t know what to think.
He read a few of his poems, further charming an already enchanted audience who gave an immediate whole crowd standing ovation at the end.
Rusty Priske did the honours to give Greg his award. Greg made a graceful speech about how he didn’t start the scene and won’t end it but was glad to be a part of it and called out people and series as being instrumental in adding vitality to it including Kevin Matthews and The Dusty Owl series. You can see him at TEDx here.
Greg Frankson debuted as Ritallin in Ottawa in 2003. In 2004 he represented Ottawa at the Wordlympics (now known as the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word), and did so again in 2006. In addition to being a full-time professional artist, Greg recently was on the team that won the 2012 Canadian Slam Championships (though now representing Toronto).
Immediately following the Wordlympics in 2004, Greg co-founded Capital Slam, now one of the longest running monthly slam series in the country. He ran Capital Slam and the Capital Poetry Collective for 2 years where he created the template for a stable, supportive, inspiring slam series. He also founded the Bill Brown 1-2-3 series.
Before moving to Toronto, Greg co-founded the Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam. Creating this environment for young poets to come and share their work was a crucial step in the evolution of the spoken word poetry scene in Ottawa. The poets coming out of the slam have received great accolades, but even more important is the fact that it is a place where all youth can have a voice and share their art.
So while Greg’s work was crucial to help create the current Ottawa spoken word scene, through the Youth Slam his work is just as crucial to the future of the scene as well.
For one number he was accompanied by ArRay-of-WoRds on the drum instead of the usual Bodhran in the Boom Clap.
Greg did a poem that he does in cycles at schools about the plight of the immigrant farm workers which you can watch here. A compilation of videos of his performances, including the 10 Commandments which he also did there, are at his Cytopoetics channel on youtube.