Photo and story by Alli Hayes
New sounds and syllables were thrown into the balmy air this week in between so many raindrops. April is blazing with music, spoken word, storytelling and poetry slams with the help of this year’s Vancouver Verses Festival, a jackpot and oasis of Canada’s best poets, writers, youth, musical performers, and speakers.
One highlight was attending Sounds Like Fire: Femme4Femme on April 25th at the Cultch; a Femme-focused slam showcase featuring four fierce females from across Canada (Amber Dawn, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Kama La Mackerel and Kai Cheng Thom,) sharing their art in a hyper-inspirational, raw, spiritual, relatable material for the Femme, LGBTQ, Women of Colour communities and beyond.
“This has what’s deepened the relationships in communities of poets, what’s deepened the understanding,” the Sub Rosa and Where the World Ends and My Body Begins author, Amber Dawn reveals. She speaks in such a loving, friendly way, I almost forget we’ve never met before.
“Verses is the right festival for us, through Femme identity, trans Femmes, on these professional arts platforms you will get to see work that is outrightly feminist, queer, trans, and intersectional, all amplified on that stage and always will be.”
As soon as the Femmes slowly walked onto the stage, with a soundtrack of chants, the atmosphere became thick with focus. The ceremony of singing and chanting zoned in onto ritual, presence, and maintaining calm rhythm before orderly fire was told. A component of the show, Dawn tells me, is about survivor identity and how that by initiating a show like this, allows the performers as well as the audience to fuse “an ongoing confirmation, that ‘I believe you, it’s ok to witness each other’. What I want is for people to tell their truth, to be challenging, to create safety, to create inspiration, there are some very real barriers here and we are going to open out about our values. I want you to feel supported,” Dawn explains.
All dressed in black, (although still somehow individual in their own personal styles), the four Femmes work together in a joined spoken word performance. They each speak of ancestral tales from the panel of cultural backgrounds, pain, dreams, family, abuse, and the creative self and their own literary journeys. There are tales told for and of trans Femmes of colour, childhood memories, living with disability, and experiences of being a sex worker, and the types of interactions one can experience with the ignorant, the naive, and the predatory.
After the intermission and an eclectic outfit change, the panel of Femmes each get their individual performance. They speak of difficult interpretive recollections that could have repressed them again another generation, but they are speaking out in their victory of survival, and they wish to bind this victory within the community. Although many moments are intense, it is with the inclusiveness of this show that we snap our fingers together and acknowledge the serious isolation and fear that has existed and remains to exist in the Femme and Queer community. We stand together and honour the Femmes on stage that are building onto the platform with blessings.
Catch more of the remaining festival events on the schedule online here.
Alli is a wildcard. Faux fur is her wingman. She is constantly moved by art, cool parties, and independent film, and continues to create her own projects. She wishes her photographic memory did her Instagram more justice. Check out her blog at thewildcardwins.com.