My name is Shayna Stock, and I am a spoken word artist and the new artist-in-residence at the Creative City Centre. Over the next several months, with your help, I will be unearthing poetry from the brick walls, glass windows and frozen alleyways of downtown Regina.
Each week, I will select a different downtown location – a bus shelter, a yoga studio, a bench in Victoria Park, the food court at the Cornwall Centre, the former site of the Plains Hotel – from which I will write for two hours. My choice of locations will be based partly on suggestions from others who live, play and/or work downtown and have interesting anecdotes or stories about those places. My end goal is to create a set of performance poems to be shared at a public walking tour of downtown Regina in the spring.
In situ is a Latin term used in a variety of fields to mean “in place,” “site-specific,” or “using the resources that are available on site.” I will write with the intention of opening my senses up to each place as it exists in that moment and really paying attention.
This project was conceived in conjunction with the Creative City Centre’s visual art project Pop Up Downtown, which places the work of emerging visual artists in downtown spaces. I am coordinating this project as part of my residency work, with the support of our curator Lydia Miliokas. I will incorporate the artwork and the locations of these pop-up exhibits into my writing practice. The walking tour will also include stops at each of the exhibits.
I want your stories!
If you have a memory or anecdote about a specific downtown location, I want it. Is there a spot in downtown Regina where your life changed? Where you had an interaction with a building or a pigeon or another human that shifted your perspective on something? Where you cried in public for the first time? Experienced your first kiss? Saw your daughter for the last time? Where you learned how to hula hoop or play ukulele or tie your shoes?
Please send your stories to shayna AT creativecitycentre DOT ca. They will be kept anonymous if you want them to be. Be as specific as you can be about the precise location that your event took place, and include as many sensory details as possible (Do you remember how the moment smelled? What was your skin doing? Describe the light.).
Your stories will inform the specific locations from which I choose to write, and will be worked into my poetry in one way or another.
I am a recent and unsettled settler here. An immigrant from Ontario, I moved to Regina six years ago at age 24, after never having stayed put anywhere for longer than 8 months since I was 18. My feet are still itchy; every October I yearn for a longer, more colourful autumn in the company of my blood family, and every March I think about getting on a bicycle and heading south. This place has nourished me with ample and fulfilling work and rich and generous community. And yet, I am restless.
On a personal level, this project is like a pilgrimage to my own backyard – a practice in staying put and paying attention. In “A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape,” Candace Savage details her own at-first-mysterious pilgrimage to the town of Eastend, Saskatchewan. She writes:
What do you want from me? I’d ask the view outside my window. I come from the Peace River Country eight hundred miles from here. Why is it so important for me to listen to all your sad, old, moldy, half-forgotten stories? But in my heart of hearts, I already knew the answer. The stories the hills have to tell are bigger than their pinpoint settings, larger than ‘X marks the spot’ on a map.
So, with inspiration from Candace Savage, I will ask this urban landscape what dusty, rotten, half-remembered (or perhaps tidy, fresh and vivid) stories it has to share with me, and what I might learn from them about the poetry that exists in everyday places. I will also take inspiration from poets such as Wendell Berry and Regina’s own Bruce Rice who have unearthed rich stories by simply paying attention to the landscape around them.
As Savage points out, the stories that I find here are likely to resonate much farther afield than their particular locations. Although my writing will be inspired by specific spots in Regina, my intention is for the poetry to be relevant to an audience beyond Regina’s swollen contours – to anyone who has struggled with questions of connection to any place.
I’ll be blogging about my experiences with the project here. To be notified when I make a new post, email shayna AT creativecitycentre DOT ca and I’ll add you to my email list. I’ll also link to the blog from my facebook page, Shayna Stock Spoken Word.
This project and Pop Up Downtown are funded by the Creative Partnerships Program, a joint initiative of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and SaskCulture that is supported by funding provided by the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.