Author Tags: Fiction, Theatre

"When writing poems / Forget you are writing poems." -- Sheri-D Wilson

Sheri-D Wilson is a former ballerina, actor, performance artist, playwright and poet. She studied theatre in her native Calgary (b. 1959) before gravitating to the West Coast experimental arts scene. She first read her work at the Helen Pitt Gallery in 1984 and attended the Naropa Institute. She co-originated the Vancouver Small Press Festival (with Gordon Murray) and published Bull Whip & Lambs Wool in 1989. She has mixed theatricality and poetry in performances such as Hung, Drawn & Quartered; her original Tamahnous Theatre presentation of Confessions; and The Cambodia Pavilion, an Edmonton adaptation of Brian Fawcett's Cambodia: A Book For People Who Find Television Too Slow, directed by Brian Paisley. Her book Swerve, with an introduction by Marianne Faithful, is about a sea captain who lusts after his ship's figurehead. With her return to Calgary she has become the director of a major spoken word festival.

Edited by Sheri-D Wilson, The Spoken Word Workbook: inspiration from poets who teach (Banff Centre Press 2011 $20), is a resource for writers whose vision is to say their words/sounds out loud. The collection brings together twenty-seven “poets, griots and bards” working in jazz, hip hop, dub, story-telling and sound from across North America. Participating artists include José Acquelin, bill bissett, Regie Cabico, George Elliott Clarke, Paul Dutton, Ian Ferrier, John Giorno, Louise (Sky Dancer) Bernice Halfe, Bob Holman, Kaie Kellough, Shane Koyczan, Cheryl L'Hirondelle, Billeh Nickerson, Hilary Peach, Robert Priest, Steven Ross Smith, Quincy Troupe, Anne Waldman, Sheri-D Wilson and d’bi young. With essays by Brian Brett, Klyde Broox, Corey Frost, Heather Haley, Richard Harrisonm Wendy Morton, Sarah Murphy and Eugene Stickland. 978-1-894773-40-3


The Spoken Word Workbook: inspiration from poets who teach (Banff Centre Press 2011). Edited by Wilson.
Autopsy of a Turvy World (2008, Frontenac House)
Re:Zoom (2005, Frontenac House)
Between Lovers (2002, Arsenal Pulp Press)
The Sweet Taste of Lightning (1998, Arsenal Pulp Press)
Mountain Sliding (1997, Broadsheet, Swerve Sound)
Girl’s Guide to Giving Head (1996, Arsenal Pulp Press)
Swerve (1993, Arsenal Pulp Press)
Bulls Whip & Lambs Wool (1989, Petarade Press)

[BCBW 2011] "Theatre" "Fiction"

"I was wearing a body mike," she recalls, "and I felt like Madonna."

LIKE K.D. LANG AND INSTALLATION artist Evelyn Roth, performance poet Sheri-D Wilson is another female refugee from rural Alberta. "Alberta is a great place to be from," she says, "If you have any art in you at all, you first become orangutan. It forces you to be crazy." After studying theatre in Calgary and Banff, she gravitated to the West Coast as an actor for Kaleidoscope Theatre and Theatre Plus in Nanaimo. Among her various Fringe-related projects, she first read her poetry aloud at Vancouver's Helen Pitt Gallery in 1984. The rest is herstory. With her acting talent, a jazz delivery and sometimes a plunging neckline, Wilson has become a very hard act to follow. "Showbiz," muttered poet Peter Trower more descriptive than scornful when Wilson left the stage at last year's Vancouver Writer's Festival. Now Wilson regularly combines theatricality, self-promotion and a work ethic that would kill a horse to get more gigs in a month than most writers get in a year. "All this work improves my skills," she says, "The discipline is great. It gives you energy." As one of the originators of the Vancouver Small Press Festival (with her publisher Gordon Murray), Wilson initially thrived on the edges of respectability, pushing pop poetry in venues such as One Yellow Rabbit's Retro-avant-garde Rodeo, the Small Press Festival in New York and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. Now she is being invited into the mainstream. Last year at Seattle's Bumbershoot festival she performed on a large stage for 500 people. "I was wearing a body mike," she recalls, "and I felt like Madonna." This year she was invited back east to participate in a panel discussion on Beat poetry for TV Ontario's Imprint program. When other panelists tried to eruditely analyse the poetry of the Beat Generation, Wilson responded by doing off-the-cuff scat monologues. In April she appeared in her original 'jazz play' for Tamahnous Theatre, Confessions, directed by Teri Snelgrove. Included in the audience on opening night, according to CBC's Jerry Wassermann, was Premier Rita Johnston. "Sheri-O is a striking figure who performs her stuff with a lot of pizzazz," said Wassermann, somewhat diplomatically.

At the same time Canada's busiest poet was preparing for her latest challenge acting as one of the two tour guides for The Cambodia Pavilion, an adaptation of Brian Fawcett's Cambodia: A Book for People Who Find Television Too Slow (Talonbooks). Directed by Brian Paisley and scripted by Fawcett and Ken Brown (who wrote the Prairie bestseller Life After Hockey and initially adapted Fawcett's book for a one-man show at the Edmonton Fringe Festival last year), this highly unusual production is being performed in a renovated 6,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Edmonton's Old Strathcona district until July. Eighty television sets surround the audience as it is guided through a massive area divided by five theatre sets. Howard, played by Brown, is an optimist. Eames tine, played by Wilson, is not. Described as "the pavilion Cambodia would have put at Expo," the show is an exploration of the impact of television on so-called civilization. "Getting Sheri-D was delightful," says Fawcett, "The show demands an actor who is also literate. Because she's also a writer, she understands how to deliver a text.” By the time The Cambodia Pavilion closes, Wilson will likely have her second book of performance-poems in print, Swerve, slated for summer release by Petarade Press. The foreword for Swerve has been written by Marianne Faithful, a friend from Wilson's twice-yearly visits to New York. The pop music connection includes Faithful's bassist, Barry Reynolds, with whom Wilson writes songs. As well, Wilson has studied African drumming and African dance to enhance the performance of her work. "I have trouble labelling myself," she says, "I was a professional dancer and actor but my main focus is poetry. My main love is the sound of words and the rhythm of words and the emotions they can bring."

[BCBW 1991]