New poem: Live to Art

I know I’m not great at updating my website. Sooo follow me on the Twitter: @Janicejolee or Instagram @JanJoLee or the Facebook @Janice Jo Lee ok?

Anyway, here’s the new poem I performed at the Arts Awards Waterloo Region last night. The video is by Philip Bast, thanks Philip! Big ups to Cheryl Ewing, Joy Kramer, Bren Shuiling and the whole Arts Awards volunteer crew who make it happen. And big ups to Alysha Brilla, Sam and  Gerima for inviting me onstage with them for their last tune. Impromptu fun!

So I found out I was opening the show 5 days before, at which point I decided to scrap what I was gonna do and write a new piece, that was more thematically appropriate. I tried to write it every day, and got nothing. Until the day of when it just came out and I memorized that shit in a few hours. Whew! But friends, always be prepared. I had the text in my back pocket.


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Live to Art
By Janice Lee June 18, 2014.

To the steady incomer in a suit,
who told me that being an artist is a waste of time
and when am i gonna get a “real job?”

Listen buddy.
Take out every single piece of art from your life
and try
to live.
You’re gonna be miserable.
No music, no literature,
no film that means no netflix,
no paintings or photos
no fun clothes
no popcorn stitch scarves
no fancy food
and try to tell me
that you could live
without art
You can’t.
You need us.
Tell me,
then, for what,
are you living?

Cause I live to sing, and lift up heavy hearts with a soulful melody like Alysha Beee~
I live to hear the wisdom of elders pour out golden honey poetry
and pass on to me the wonders of the world.
I live to watch dancers embody all that is grace, power, emotion
in a leap, in a spin i never could do, in a language everyone understands
cause it’s a rhythm that follows the beat of our bodies, our pounding, incessant hearts.

This art is a force
that provokes the deepest belly laughter and overflowing tears of joy and pain,
witnessing life and death theatre, filling the MT Space and affirming our communities,
to be challenged by new musical modes and atonal weird strange off-kilter sounds
– that stuff always tangles my Open Ears up.

I live to come together with people,
in a circle, around a fire,
and celebrate what we can create together.
I live to fill the streets, under the Summer Lights,
and eat and eat and be merry and take selfies of me eating merrily with you…yeahh~

Cmon, tell me, for what, are YOU living?

I know what I THINK you’re living for, but it can’t be right.
You can’t simply be living to work and working to live
and drive and pay and sleep and consume and exploit and destroy our earth
and yourself.
I don’t believe that.

I know for what the artists are living.
Where all my ARTISTS at?!! Holla!!

You make art because you can’t stop.
You make art because that’s how you exhale.
You express yourself, you don’t oppress yourself.

But I know you. I know your strueggle.
I know you struggle behind that easel, the patience that runs out like paint
I know your pain, pouring out your fingers on the keys, valves and strings of your
instrumental,      monumental,         music.

I know those polite emails you sent,
asking if they want you to “volunteer” for this gig,
or if they have a budget
amirite Isabel Cisterna?

And I know we struggle,
with them damn grants, and all their damn questions,
about what we’re gonna do, what kinda art we’re gonna make,
4 to 8 months from now..
– how the hell do I know?
I know how it goes, you just make shit up!
You’re a creative person.
Oh a budget?
Uh yeah let me just fill in some numbers in this spreadsheet hyah like deedle lee doo
and if you cant add it up, that’s why we have arts administrator friends!
amirite, amirite!

And as a person constanting oscillating from
huge narcissist and megalomaniac to complete self-doubt and despair
often during the night before the grant is due,
you still chugging along, you still REPRESENT.
Fighting for space, thousands of dollars of rental fees worth of space Conrad Centre
…yo put that in the grant.

So Artists, this is for you.
All that free food out there, that’s for you.
This stage, this space, this is for you.
This mic, that’s for me ok, for now, for now for now,
until you get up here, and get your dues,
you can probably melt down that Denny and sell it for supplies.

Artists, you are the brave ones,
you are our storytellers,
our firekeepers,
Artists, we honour you