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#27 Strike!


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#27 Strike!


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Bookmark #27 Winnipeg, Manitoba

Strike! by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe


HELEN ARMSTRONG (shouting) They demand we go back to work at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow! What do we say to that?

STRIKERS (shouting with defiant fists in the air) NO!!

HELEN ARMSTRONG And they demand we end our union affiliation—

STRIKERS NO!!

HELEN ARMSTRONG And they demand we never take part in a General Strike again—

STRIKERS NO!! NO!! NO!!

ALL (singing) UltimatumOur hopes – can’t take ‘emOr break ‘emForsake them we will not!

— from the musical STRIKE! by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe. Bookmarked in Winnipeg on August 29, 2019.


Scene from the Winnipeg Strike, 1919.

Scene from the Winnipeg Strike, 1919.

 

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike of May 15, 1919 is a Bookmark for Strike!, a musical by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe (Playwrights Canada Press, The Canadian Drama Publisher, 2007). Board President Hughena Matheson was pleased to unveil Project Bookmark Canada's 27th Bookmark on the Canadian Literary Trail on Thursday, August 29, 2019, Waterfront Drive, Stephan Juba Park, Winnipeg, just ahead of Labour Day Weekend.


About Danny Schur and Rick Chafe, and Strike!

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On May 15, 1919, 35,000 men, women, and children walked off the job in a six-week long confrontation that brought life in Winnipeg to a standstill. Fought by working class families for the right to union recognition, shorter hours of work, and a living wage, the strike drew the attention of much of the industrialized world to Winnipeg. The strike ended in bloodshed when government authorities used military force to establish their control over the city. Two workers died and many were injured in the events of “Bloody Saturday.” (Sharon Reilly and Nolan Reilly, 2007).

Danny Schur is a Juno Award-winning composer and music producer and Winnipeg's most successful composer, writer, and producer of new musicals. Rick Chafe is a Governor General's Award for Drama finalist whose plays have been produced across the country. Strike! won the Kobzar Literary Award and the Grant MacEwan College Kostash Award, and was adapted to the major motion picture Stand!

STRIKE!, a musical by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe, was published by Playwrights Canada Press (The Canadian Drama Publisher) in 2007. This excerpt is used with the kind permission of the authors.


The Passage

Act II Scene I

Victoria Park. A crowd of thousands surrounds a make-shift wooden stage.

CROWD Hear us out! Hear us out!

A.J. ANDREWS, former mayor and leader of the Citizens' Committee of One Thousand, addresses the crowd.

ANDREWS I will not be provoked. The motive behind this strike is clearly the overthrow of constitutional government.

HELEN ARMSTRONG, Winnipeg's staunch activist for working class and women's rights, ascends the stage.

HELEN ARMSTRONG (singing) He won’t meet usHe won’t speak t’us He’ll just improvise invectivePosturing with yammering‘Bout quelling rebelliousActivity

ANDREWS (singing) I don’t bargainI won’t pardonI won’t recognize collectiveBargaining as anythingBut tampering with governingAuthority

ALL & ANDREWS UltimatumMy [His] words verbatimDebate themMistake them? Best ye [we] notUltimatumYour [Our] jobs: vacate themNegate themErase them, pensions goneUltimatumYour [Our] hopes, I’ll [he’ll] break themDeflate themReplacements take your [our] jobs

The crowd screams insults at ANDREWS.

ANDREWS Disperse yourselves immediately. I will not bargain with a mob. The government of Canada will not give in to the threat of a general strike.(singing) You must yield firstSign this deal firstThis takes force immediately bySevering your unioning,Eliminating striking butYou’ll have jobs

HELEN ARMSTRONG (singing) There’s no partingFrom our starvingBut he wounds our dignity withPatronizing, taxing liesImpeding us and feeding us straightTo the dogs

ALL & ANDREWS UltimatumMy [His] words verbatimDebate themMistake them? Best ye [we] notUltimatumYour [Our] jobs: vacate themNegate themErase them, pensions goneUltimatumYour [Our] hopes, I’ll [he’ll] break themDeflate themReplacements take your [our jobs]

ANDREWS exits. The strikers’ solidarity is at a fever pitch and the whole group is in no mood for compromise.

HELEN ARMSTRONG (shouting) They demand we go back to work at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow! What do we say to that?

STRIKERS (shouting with defiant fists in the air) NO!!

HELEN ARMSTRONG And they demand we end our union affiliation—

STRIKERS NO!!

HELEN ARMSTRONG And they demand we never take part in a General Strike again—

STRIKERS NO!! NO!! NO!!

ALL (singing) UltimatumOur hopes – can’t take ‘emOr break ‘emForsake them we will not!

 
 
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#26 Knowing I Live in a Dark Age


#26 Knowing I Live in a Dark Age


BOOKMARKS 1–5    |    6–10    |    11–15    |    16–20    |    21–25


Bookmark #26 Toronto, Ontario

“Knowing I Live in a Dark Age,” by Milton Acorn


Knowing I live in a dark age before history,
I watch my wallet and
am less struck by gunfights in the avenues
than by the newsie with his dirty pink chapped face
calling a shabby poet back for his change.

– from the collection Jawbreakers by Milton Acorn, published by Contact Press. Bookmarked at the corner of College and Spadina, Toronto, August 16, 2019.


Laurie Murphy, Executive Director, reads the poem, August 16, 2019.

Laurie Murphy, Executive Director, reads the poem, August 16, 2019.

 

This is Toronto’s ninth Bookmark, located on Spadina Avenue at College, overlooking the site of the former Waverly Hotel and The Silver Dollar. The poem was penned in 1960 and published in 1963, but could have been written about Toronto, today. Warm thanks are extended to the Estate of Milton Acorn, City of Toronto and Ward 10 Councillor Joe Cressy. The Bookmark’s unveiling featured a reading of the passage by Laurie Murphy, and remarks by Project Bookmark Canada Board President Hughena Matheson and fellow board member Don Oravec, Executive Director Laurie Murphy as well as Councillor Cressy. Special thanks are extended to the City’s Transportation Services Division Director of Public Realm Elyse Parker, and Neighbourhood Improvements’ Maili Sedore, and to Daniel Gelfant, flutist.


About Milton Acorn and “Knowing I Live in a Dark Age”

The poet Milton Acorn was born in Charlottetown, PEI, in 1923. He was a radical personality with strong left-wing views and working-class sentiments. Dedicated to class struggle, Acorn peopled his poems with working men and women and paid unceasing tribute to them.

He began to publish in 1952, and in the 1960s co-edited with A. W. Purdy and Gwendolyn MacEwen, whom he married in 1962. In 1963 Contact Press published a small collection of his verse called Jawbreakers, and The Fiddlehead devoted its spring issue to Acorn's poetry.

When his first major collection, I've Tasted My Blood (1969), was passed over for the Governor General's Award, Acorn was honoured by fellow poets with a specially created People's Poet Award in recognition of his writing and his activist stance. In 1975 his collection, The Island Means Minago, won the Governor General's Award for poetry.

Ever restless, Acorn migrated from Montréal to Toronto, to Vancouver, and back to Toronto where he settled for a time; and, finally, to Charlottetown, where he died in 1986.

“Knowing I live in a Dark Age” is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Estate of Milton Acorn.

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Banner photo credit: Lisa Sakulensky


The Poem:

Knowing I Live in a Dark Age

Knowing I live in a dark age before history,
I watch my wallet and
am less struck by gunfights in the avenues
than by the newsie with his dirty pink chapped face
calling a shabby poet back for his change.
The crows mobbing the blinking, sun-stupid owl;
wolves eating a hamstrung calf hind end first,
keeping their meat alive and fresh … these
are marks of foresight, beginnings of wit:
but Jesus wearing thorns and sunstroke
beating his life and death into words
to break the rods and blunt the axes of Rome:
this and like things followed.
Knowing that in this advertising rainbow
I live like a trapeze artist with a headache,
my poems are no aspirins … they show
pale bayonets of grass waving thin on dunes;
the paralytic and his lyric secrets;
my friend Al, union builder and cynic,
hesitating to believe his own delicate poems
lest he believe in something better than himself:
and history, which is yet to begin,
will exceed this, exalt this
as a poem erases and rewrites its poet.


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