Slam Dancing: Jillian Christmas Interviews mitcholos touchie
Łapḥsp̓at̓unakʔi Łim̓aqsti AKA mitcholos touchie is an indigenous Spoken Word artist from Hitacu, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ x Nuučaan̓uɫ territory; now living in Coast Salish Territory, the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh & səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (CKA Vancouver) since 2015. mitcholos’ poetry has been published in oratorealis and Dominion Mag and his featured performances include Talking Stick Festival, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity’s Spotlight Series, and Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. mitcholos’ self-published works include The Monthly Mitchtape Newsletter, The Mixolos Mitchtape Podcast, and a number of VLOG series— a bulk of mitcholos’ poetry readings/performances are published with Vancouver Poetry Slam.
This is Jillian Christmas’s fifth year as Artistic Director of Verses. She is an enthusiastic organizer and activist in the Canadian arts community, her focus being to increase anti-oppression initiatives in spoken word. She served on the Spoken Word Canada board 2012-2015. She has participated in, developed and executed programs in partnership with Toronto Poetry Project, Wordplay, Brendan McLeod’s Travelling Slam, University of British Columbia, Vancouver Opera, and the CULTCH Mentorship, and facilitated spoken word workshops for youth and adults across the country. Jillian is an accomplished spoken word poet who has toured Canada extensively and collaborated with poets and musicians.
Your work is filled with powerful messages and personal reflections. Why have you chosen this particular medium for your expression, is there something specific about spoken word that compels you?
as a result of, and a response to colonialism, its no mistake i end up being a spoken word artist.
before, there were many different roles and purposes, in being a speaker in nuu-chah-nulth-aht.
not just in our best practices, but altogether, in our lives and experience, we never had a writing system.
not until after i was born anyway. spoken word is more magic than we know, i think.
from time immemorial, my people mainly spoke and that inertia will last forever
What first brought you to the craft of Spoken Word?
i had no idea the unceded territories were so rich with performance art,
in the local and gathered artists ive witnessed since 2015-2016
since the Overly Creative Minds studio at Urban Native Youth Association
brought me to The Talking Stick Festival, and to Vancouver Poetry Slam
In your work you draw from so many parts of your life to illustrate a point or solidify an image. The “hold me” poem comes to mind. Or the “shit” stories. What does your process of crafting a piece like this look like for you?
nobody ever said to me, “im holding you to this” before
when somebody finally did, i was kind of reeling in how much it meant
i was then compelled to explore more of why it meant so much.
it drew a lot out of me in that moment. i was left preferring not to agonize over editing it.
You’ve been preparing to get on the stage with Buffy Sainte-Marie at the end of the month. Has her work had an influence on your artistry? What has it been like preparing for this show?
i didnt grow up familiar with buffy sainte-marie.
actually starting april 22nd 2018, i will be learning from buffy’s stories and her life for the rest of mine.
our meeting then is an honor ive been keeping, in preparation for introducing my self.
If you could curate a Mixolos Mitchtape with anyone from the past, present or future, who would make the cut?
alive or otherwise, the mixolos mitchtape live would love to host:
Favourite line of poetry you never wrote?
“Maybe you become music/Because it’s the only thing you’ve ever loved/That’s never hurt you” -RC Weslowski
“If it was really reality, there’d be an episode of people sleeping, grinding their teeth, dreaming of nothing” -Fernando Raguero
“…we are prisms that split spectrums and paint rainbows on our fingernails….we are dumpsters full of diamonds” -Lucia Misch
“I am just a jaded tint of blue trying to make bruises jealous” -Truth Is…
“us here, us now. learning to let the immensity, the magic of what lives between us, let it be enough” -Frankie McGee
You are well known for your work in slam and you’re also quite prolific in your proclamations of love for the sport of MMA. Do you enjoy competition?
i do not like competition
but between mma and poetry slam
the rules and boundaries we make
are somehow messy, and intricate enough
to slyly prompt us, and call us on stage
whereas otherwise the stage is an intimidating blank canvas
and i hate starting from scratch
If your writing style were a dance move, what would it be?
my writing style as a dance move would definitely be SLAM DANCING
In one of your poems you tell the audience that you ‘went ahead and named yourself “a mind with wings.” Who/ what else would you re-name if you could?
i would rename “north america” to turtle island.
id also like to rename things to reflect their purposes
wherever applicable, really…
What comes next?
whats next. is such a scary question at times.
until i figure that out for myself, ill ask somebody else
Watch mitcholos perform live during Verses Festival of Words (April 19-29). Canada’s revered spoken word festival happens April 19 – 29 with 30+ events across East Vancouver. This year’s lineup includes: Buffy Sainte-Marie, Janet Rogers, John D Trinh, Joshua Whitehead, and Molly Billows. More info and tickets here.