Ted Joans Lives! Words by T. Paul Ste. Marie

T. Paul Ste. Marie:

Ted Joans and T Paul Ste MarieMy fortune in life, my true fortune of connecting with wonderful people, grew intensely as a result of knowing Ted & Laura here in Vancouver, B.C.. I had first met them at a reading Ted was giving at Bukowski’s Bar & Grill. Being a poet and an artist myself who draws heavily upon jazz and surrealist influences, it was a joy to witness one of the forerunners of these genres read his work in his gentle and alive manner. I spoke with Ted about wanting to build a night around his work for Thundering Word Heard at CafĂ© Montmartre, my weekly spoken word/music fusion open mic series. I laugh when I think of this now, as they are words that I generally live by as a poet — Ted responded with “I’d love to, but remember — no bread, no Ted.” To be an artist does not mean one need be a starving one! Thanks for those words, Ted.

The night was a magical one and will remain as one of the highlights in people’s memories of TWH, and this is a series that brings hundreds of touring poets to the stage — but none that could compare to Ted. I brought out one of B.C.’s leading bassists, James Forrest, to accompany Ted — their combination was rich and beautiful. The fantastic accordion diatonique sounds of John Krieger filled the room with Parisian compositions influenced by Andre Breton. The audience involved themselves in surrealist word games that were read throughout the night. Mark den Boer, who is the sound man and DJ at TWH was thrilled with being able to draw on his more obscure jazz albums that night, as well as having the rare treat of recording Ted’s voice.

Ted and I were amongst many readers at the BlackSheep Books “Naked Poetry Marathon”, a fundraising attempt at keeping afloat one of Vancouver’s treasures owned by George Koller (the store is no longer). I went for broke in the “naked” department, while Ted showed a rather impressive nude photo of himself on the jacket of one of his books from 1969 — I stood all chilly in the room, and he let his snapshot and poetry do the talking!

I am saddened by the fact that I was not able to spend more time with Ted, as both of our poetic schedules kept us hopping all of the time. As I sit writing this, there is a picture on the wall of Laura & Ted smiling down at me. Ted is leaning on a Georgia Straight newspaper box that displays the cover image of he and Laura, and Laura has her head resting on Ted’s shoulder, smiling sweetly. It reads “To one of our favorite friends, T.Paul — Laura & Ted.” This photo, amongst the artwork and posters on my walls, serves as impetus and inspiration to me.

Ironically, the day that I received the call about Ted’s passing, I had just been laying down my list of poets who I wished to have perform on the Thundering Word Heard stage at the Vancouver International Folk Festival — Ted topped the list, and I was going to call him in the next few days. Now, I will have to trust that I may be able to do his spirit and words justice by reading one of his pieces on the stage as a celebration of his life.

Every reading happening in Vancouver right now sees poet after poet who has been touched by Ted on one level or another dedicating their verse to his memory. Laura requested that I ask people to carry charcoal or sidewalk chalk with them so they can write “TED JOANS LIVES” throughout the city. It is happening! Better than that, after a short chat with a reporter from associated press recently, I put this plea forward, and it is running in newspapers across North America!

Wednesday May 14th will mark our celebration of Ted’s life. Laura asked if I could help to organize an event where we may all share in the joy that is Ted’s spirit, and the response has been overwhelming. Some of Ted’s family will be up here from the states. Poets from other provinces and states are hoping to make there way to Bukowski’s Bar for the celebration, and the honor at being involved in this has renewed in me what was a fading belief in the sense of community in our city. Even though not here in body, Ted is still brining people, ideas and the energy of life together in one room!

I am including a poem of mine titled INVOCATION that Ted favored. It pays homage to so many of the ideas and ideals that Ted represented.


We need
to put words into context
to formulate a pretext worthy
of our cut-and -paste verbal
aching to be heard
thunderclap blurred
quake-shake that thundering word herd
play those changes
that rearrange us
rain down rhythmic rhyme-time
jazz-jazz-jazzy clime
axe teases
in the licks chaotic

bring on the axiomatic
round sound midnight drumroll fury-
squeeze beat angel wings
’til they sing sweet
drink the bebop sax
the wing drip wax
of them that flew too close to the sun
fillin’ holy souls and tongues
with the ever changin’
always in the now
manic minds eye milkmaid
leading the tongue tied
to the teat that paid the fare
with their jailtime press
and their pain was not in vain
they were paving the wagon train ruts with gluts
of tarry thick ideas
fresh with bloodsweat extract
doin’ that literal literary lowstick limbo
into the next generation
of word play sensation-
like us
thinkin’ ’bout
what to say
and how to say it
that beat in rhyme
and time to play it

We need
to bask in extremes
to set our wet absurdist dreams
in flight
through tarpaper night satellite kite crowded skies
where our white noise pen toys
spin spiderweb thin
sinewy monkey limbs
limberly groping at new poetical chins
our fingers licks spittle
thick with ripe hype glory
pricks the juice-blown words
tasting flying syllables
invisible chords tying them
to howling celestial forms
storm voices that are
politic / lunatic / heretic
our kinetic kites collide
in starry night skies
with leaky loud electric pens
our eclectic process begins
where it never left off
sound richness
rhythmic hitches
content stitches
pop-pop-poppinn’ a hole
in the whole of time
art serving purpose
continues expansion
in the Universe of Rhyme

We need
to invoke the everyday
tin pan alley trashcan huckster scam
slam sing-song banter
that is simple
with those blam blam blam gunshot phrases
that glazed ham
canned heat
edge of your seat
because we learned from those who told it
who origami folded visions
in deserts dry
selling passers by
wordy purple fishes
from their oceans of sand

We’ve got to
on this vocabulary
form a mental constabulary
arresting ignorance at hand
because knowledge
the sting bee in the flower
that pollinates and seeds
with concepts overgrowing
the weeds of conformity
building bridges of wisdom
over the dull beige schism
torn by sitcom mentally
and wisdom culminates awaiting cultivation
by our visual cortex
spiritual vortex whirling
helix twirling out
the answers to our prayers
and the spoken word blares
from invocation
to creation
occurring within
the process
of lookin’ for words to say.


today they find our voice.

T. Paul Ste. Marie:

Thank you all who came out to celebrate the life of Ted Joans at Bukowki’s Bar & Grill on Wednesday night. A special thank you to those who shared their thoughts, words and feelings at the mic — by doing so you participated in the full circle of Ted’s spirit as he passed on from this physical realm into the ethereal and back, via your memories, stories and verses.

The beauty of the true meaning and spirit of love was shown by Laura, whom, despite her overwhelming loss and sorrow, came through with her full presence and attentiveness in tact to all who read, played music and spoke with her — our hearts and thoughts are with you, Laura!

Alannah, you are the kind of friend everyone should be so fortunate to have. Thank you for helping me with all of the work involved, and for involving me!

Daline, your smile through the evening was a beacon of light to me, and I believe to everyone on the stage.

Robert — you had me do a double take when you walked in to the room! If you had a beard, you’d be the spitting image of your father. Thank you, Robert, for your closing rendition of “TRUTH”, the poem that you said was the first thing your father ever gave you.

Thank you to Marker for always being my saviour of sound, to Angus for your long-legged painting hanging help and more, to Tanya for not only your fitting verbiage but your arms that know how & when to hold a fella!

Bonnie — thank you for getting word out there. Jeremy from Associated Press, without you and Bonnie, the continent wouldn’t be armed with chalk! Vik, thanks for the CBC coverage! Warren my man! You be the king of videography!

Gus and the folks at Bukowski’s — thank you for the space, your kind service and patience while we took over.

And Ted — thank you for being
in our midst!
My faith in why I do what I do is renewed!

There is so much more that I’d like to say, but it is 4 am, and this boy needs sleep — haven’t had the real thing for 2 days now!

(To see the poster for this celebration of Ted Joans’ life which took place Wednesday, May 14 in Vancouver B.C., please click here.)