Saskatoon, Treaty 6: Alasdair
(Photos/Gif by Inger Bonli, Intro by Olive Bestvater)
Alasdair is a francophone femme queer poet activist from Peterborough, Ontario. After moving to Saskatoon and collecting a bachelor’s degree in French Literature and Queer Theory, Alasdair pursued and promptly dropped out of graduate studies to devote himself fully to freelance poetry, magick, and the development of radical self-love strategies. Alasdair’s praxis is informed by a revolutionary softness. Leaving aside ideological Puritanism and the tendency to pass judgment, Alasdair moves tenderly through the lives of people around him, planting seeds and leaving pathways to informed, plant-based resistance. He will quietly untangle your messiest inconsistencies at the same time as he mixes you a potion for your headache and then send you on your way with a recipe for vegan shortbread, a piece of dark chocolate, and an answer to the string of questions that’s been tying you in knots for weeks. He loves chartreuse, dancing, glitter, and he always tips his servers very well. He is the best.
KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?
I feel like I’m always juggling a couple of projects. I’m recently back from representing Saskatoon at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam, and I’ve just secured a spot on the Saskatoon slam team headed to Winnipeg for the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in October. So I’ve been throwing myself pretty fully into collaborative writing with the team.
My most recent zine, Guided Meditations (available at Hazlewood Vintage) has been well received, so I’m doing some more work in that vein; bridging spirituality, poetry, and practical pragmatism. I’m working on a zine called Beauty Tips based on a series of facebook statuses aimed at re-imagining the paths we take to self-love. I’ve also got a rotating roster of full-length manuscripts and am really working at making at least one of them crystallize by the end of this summer.
In terms of community, I sit on the board of Les Éditions de la Nouvelle Plume, the province’s only French-language publishing house, and co-host CFCR’s French music program (Couleurs Café, Saturdays 7:00-8:30 p.m.). Building a community based on a shared language can be pretty tough; it’s easy to suffer erasure as an “invisible minority,” so I try to put as much time into supporting and promoting the cultural group that birthed my creative expression.
KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?
This is a bit of a sticky one for me. I’m trying something this summer where I fully embrace my communities and see if there’s a wide enough web of appreciation for the art I make to support myself – at least partially. I practice aromatherapy and am a self-taught perfumer, I read tarot (a skill I owe to my mother) and rent my words out to anyone interested. While this freedom is very special, it’s pretty terrifying to rely so heavily on the support of a network of people, many of whom start out as total strangers. That said, I really appreciate how this work has allowed me to be embraced by people across Saskatoon’s various communities who are as passionate about my work as I am. Trust is a beautiful thing in my opinion, and my recent practice has been a real lesson in that.
KC: What’s important to you?
Softness is a word I feel encompasses everything I believe in on an ideological level, but it’s something I think people often mistake for passivity. Mary Oliver wrote a beautiful line in her poem “Evidence” that sums it up perfectly for me: “I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” Softness is gentle, quiet, delicate, accepting, and loving, but in a disruptive way. To be a part of a system that insists we harden ourselves against, well, our selves is a fucking lot to deal with, but by saying “look, I’m going to make my self out of love” directly contradicts the paradigm in which we are only tools for an oppressive, racist, patriarchal, capitalist institution.
KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?
The river will always be my number one, but other than that, I’ve found the incredibly tight knit communities to be quite incredible. That said, the closeness that’s bred by those sorts of connections can sometimes become pretty toxic and exclusionary which is not very nice to deal with. I feel as though I’m only starting to dip my toes into Saskatoon’s arts’ community because it’s seemed closed to the other communities I operate within. Francophones are often dismissed because our work is “inaccessible” and spoken word artists/poets are the butts of a lot of jokes, even within artist circles.
KC: What is your impression of Regina?
The few times I’ve been to Regina have been for events related to the fransaskois community (Radio-Canada has its provincial hub in Regina) – I love any place that allows for a ton of francophones to lump together. Aside from that, the arts scene seems to be thriving; I was there for the Cathedral Arts Festival this year and was blown away.
KC: How do you survive the winters?
I’m actually a big fan of the winters in Saskatchewan. Where I grew up, it doesn’t get quite as cold, but it stays very humid, which makes it feel like the winter is creeping into your bones. While the dryness in SK does a number on my skin, it’s nothing a thick coat of shea butter can’t handle. Really, I would never speak ill of a season with so much operable napping time.
From the Proust Questionnaire: What is your motto?
Something my beautiful friend Emily once said in passing that I’ve picked up as a personal edict is “not my fault, just my problem.” I have the habit of placing a lot of blame on myself, so when bad things happen it’s nice to be able to say that, no, this didn’t “happen for a reason,” but it’s still my job to take care of it.
Twitter + Instagram: @JustAlasdair Patreon.com/JustAlasdair
HeyAlasdair@gmail.com to book a tarot reading, bespoke perfume consultation, or to send a love letter.