Monday, January 19, 2009

farewell to Steve Sauvé

On Saturday January 17, 2009, Steve Sauvé left this world, and underlined his indelible mark on the spoken word poetry family.

Steve was a poet and organizer integral to Ottawa's local spoken word scene, and to Ottawa's presence in the Canadian spoken word community. Most of us were struck first by his sense of humour, and next by his ethic of being truly himself, disarmed and disarming.

We knew Steve as a survivor. In recent years, he faced medical setbacks that would have crushed most of us. Instead of despairing, he treated them with humour -- though not lightly.

It was as if his response to peril was to lay bare his core self, rather than to be guarded. He confronted terrifying situations with an emotional presence that most of us don't have the guts to open up in our safest places, let alone in performance.

The most touching instance of this in my own memory was when he read his poem "Heart," about his own brushes with death, at the 2005 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Vancouver. He was part of the Ottawa slam team at that festival; we all spent some lovely time together exploring and bonding. When he took the stage, no-one in the hall that night could have been prepared -- even those of us familiar with the piece's content -- for the intensity of that particular performance. He wrought, from his own grave and painful experiences, something of beauty, and delivered it in a way that touched us all unforgettably.

Though relentlessly modest off-stage, Steve was never one to undervalue his loving relationships, and never afraid to expose them to the trial of the limelight. He let us all see how much he was loved and loved in return, and he wanted us to remember our part in that, and to treat it with due respect and joy.

I'm not trying to make him out to be a saint. I knew Steve only as well as my few years on the Ottawa spoken word scene allowed, but he always -- always -- shone positivity and courage on those of us around him. He remains with us in the nuanced and unexpected ways he continues to influence our work, our points of view, and our sense of how much we mean to each other. This part of Steve cannot be taken from us, and we are grateful.

Through Ottawa, and across Canada, the impact of his passing is still unfolding. Most of us just find it pretty hard to believe. Please watch, in due time, for various tribute projects that are currently in discussion; as we celebrate the facets of Steve's life that have made us who we are -- as artists, and as friends. If you have a part to play in that, please feel free to contact me at ktm7@mac.com.

Long live bwana geek.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Thanks Kevin. There are things that words can't capture... but the things that can be captured with words, you've said here.

In shared sadness,
Lisa Slater