Nygel Metcalfe is someone I have come to know through collaboration and friendship grown in creative and faith communities of Kelowna, British Columbia. Nygel is as comfortable bringing his slam poetry to the stage in fierce competition, as sitting down for a glass of Okanagan wine and a chat about philosophy, or personality types, or tigers.
The poem Nygel is bringing today is a favourite of mine. I can attest Harvest is equally captivating when Nygel performs it live, and you are in for a treat as both written text and video performance are shared here today. My heart is gladdened by being in Nygel’s presence, and yours. Welcome.
Lesley-Anne: We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?
Nygel: I suppose I am just as guilty as the next person of wishing that I had more time, however I’m not a very disciplined individual, so even when I have hit the proverbial paydirt, a wealth of time on my hands, I don’t use it very well. I fritter it away on entertainments, partially out of selfishness, and partially as a defense mechanism, out of fear of the current unknowns and disruptions that we are facing on a global scale. So, I would estimate that [I am] two weeks behind everyone else.
If we’re thinking in terms of stages of grief, the first being denial, my denial phase lasted for two solid weeks. I buried myself in distractions in order to avoid having to face the monumental changes. This past week, however (largely in part to your invitation, Lesley-Anne) has been a beautiful process of thawing, awakening, and allowing myself to confront these new realities and process them to some degree. Anger was definitely present, as well – anger at myself, and the world – and I think depression was definitely rearing its head on Wednesday. Now, despite these things being recurring and cyclical, I do feel an increasing acceptance settling over me at the moment.
Lesley-Anne: Why is art important?
Nygel: Art, to me, is one of the most laudable human pursuits. Art is content creation and, subsequently, action, and embodiment, and forward motion, and dialogue, whether we speak of renaissance sculpture or a youtube channel. The content creators are those who we look to for answers, for language to describe our experiences, for stories to tell, and for emotional appeasement or reassurance. The consumer merely waits, and is fed, and follows directions.
For example: Tiger King is all the rage right now. Why? Because it’s the first thing you see when you sign into Netflix. Nobody “found” Tiger King, but everyone is talking about it and how “interesting” it is. I won’t watch it out of principle, because I feel like choosing a movie on my own terms is symbolic of my humanity – the exercising of my own preferences and judgement. The alternative is like some Orwellian nightmare – a trudging and mindless series of clicks and swipes. Let me read from an alphabetical list, and choose whatever jumps out at me! (It’s best not to think too deeply about the fact that virtually every choice I make has been pre-determined for me by environmental factors or the programming of corporate interests ). Just let me watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers while I cling to the last vestiges of my illusory autonomy, damnit! But I digress…
I have heard many beautiful assertions over the years: Art is subversion, art is survival; art is a creative impulse which results from our own innate divinity as those made in the image of a Creator. Poetry is Bearing Witness. Poetry is a finger pointing at the moon. Poetry is “speaking your truth.” I appreciate all of these. Perhaps the definition that feels most true and most potent for me at this time is of poetry as liminal space: the place where language still ventures, but logic unravels; instinct, sound, and symbol intermingling.
Lesley-Anne: What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Nygel: For starters, I accidentally went on a full-tilt rant about Tiger King…
Other than that, I found myself writing two very personal, emotional letters. One of them was a letter to my first love, to apologize for some things my younger self was ignorant of and to wish her health and happiness in her new marriage.The other was a letter to my future daughter, to capture some of the thoughts and feelings that have been occupying my heart and mind this year (my wife and I are not yet pregnant, but have been trying for several months and I feel that it is soon to be).
I am grateful, for poetry, and for green growing things, and for friends who reach out with invitation. May you discover, dear reader, in this season, the groundedness to face whatever feeling emerges within you and the strength for whatever task which you decide to undertake.
If you want to investigate further the work and the man, here you go: nygelmetcalfepoetry.com
Also, here are two of Nygel’s chapbooks well worth perusing:
Nature Poems and DEEP BREATHS.
Nygel, this has been wonderful just hanging out and hearing from you. Thanks for honouring us today, and we will leave now, carried by these poetic lines…and if you scroll waaaaay down to the bottom of the page, your video awaits!
Peace and poetry,
HARVEST (OR, AN EXHORTATION TO OUTCASTS)
When it comes to speaking your mind from your mouth,
the sentiment spills into scenes,
and the saliva sprays are, in fact, a sacrament.
And sometimes Winter feels eternal,
these endless frozen months that grace the stage
and we have long been caught
in the rib cage of an ice age.
But we have not waited in vain; frozen,
yes, but ever thinking and ever dreaming, waiting
to be thawed out in a hundred years and and put on display
in the national museum, amongst the sarcophagi
and holy books and rosetta stones…
We will be historically significant when we awaken.
Each of us is a crucial part of the cacophony, active
and electric participants in the symphony: we are movements,
and we are being conducted together.
and I don’t believe that you are what you eat,
because despite the steady diet of notebook paper
and napkin scrawl that has been ingested
by my kinetic and unrelenting soul,
I have yet to become… stationary.
We are seasons. We are not becoming extinct,
only changing our clothing
accordingly to suit the weather. We adapt.
Call us earth-shakers, record breakers,
the brand new lawmakers.
The scientists, the activists, the strugglers
and haphazard courageous sleeping on street corners,
and in care homes and in spare bedrooms.
We are the little brothers, tag alongs,
the late-night fiction readers, the cheekbone shiners
We are the halloween ghouls,
the thanksgiving pilgrims, and the sleepy,
tea-time and lullaby-loving citizens
of the hometowns we all have in our back pockets.
We are the spirits who will visit you at midnight
on Christmas Eve. We are here to open our mouths
in order to unlock eyes and ears, our own notwithstanding.
We are cuban cigars and aged scotch on the rocks,
letting the fireplace warm our woollen socks,
getting up to answer the door every single time
opportunity knocks books open on our bedsides:
our Tolkiens, Tennysons, Nerudas, and chicken scratch
love songs to all of our various Prufrocks.
Still, there is more for us…
Step out from under the awning, this protection –
Walk past the skeletal branches and barren hillsides
of the things you used to believe in,
and come be my guest.
Warm your hearts at this hearth.
Feel the heat of kindness and truth
permeate your body, and let yourselves soften.
I long for us to learn how
to warm the wintry places inside each other,
Revive one another.
I know people love their cars and credit cards,
but pardon my disregard, sympathy for civilized society
is harder when part of me is still in the garden,
under the arbour. When winter scatters,
I’ll be searching the sky for patterns
and coming alive soon after,
when springtime gathers and summer lingers.
See, I have big, big plans for the harvest,
to fill up my larder, with wine and stories,
shared experiences, conversations,
Dancing hard, because the day is not done,
A tiny blue dot with the power to separate the moon from the sun,
Freddie mercury high notes, bird feathers
good round potatoes,
pieces of paper that I have dreamt upon,
sheet music i saved from the fire, beautifully charred
edges but not forever, shoes with worn out soles,
unable to take me any farther –
Why don’t you come over, and enjoy the warmer weather?
Sit, just sit. Be Still.
We can talk about how people are mountains,
worthy of our expeditions;
and how righteousness can look a lot like being wrong,
if we can no longer hear the beauty of someone else’s songs.
This is the promise – of the thawing out of hearts
who are locked up like lifetimes of sunshine in December
This is for the wanderers and farmers alike.
This is for Prodigals.
This is me throwing wide the cellar doors,
and letting the voices pour out, setting them free
without remorse. I can hear them every day,
calling to all of us, here, now, and forever. They’re saying…
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the rain fall softly on the fields of you,
May you be restored to the beautiful bonds
of our interconnectedness,
and May your arms be strong
for the sowing and reaping that is to come.