Spoken word artist and musician Charlie Petch is known for powerful performances that combine humour, insight, and wordplay, and for a long list of contributions to the cultural community, including as one of the founders of the beloved poetry slam series Hot Damn It’s a Queer Slam.
So it's no surprise that the cheekily titled Why I Was Late (Brick Books), Petch's debut full-length collection, is a delight, packed with wrestlers and Star Wars characters, examinations of love and loss, and witty turns. Petch's transmasculine queer lens is illuminating and empathetic in poems both entertaining and gutting.
We're thrilled to welcome Charlie to Open Book to take on our Dirty Dozen challenge, where we ask writers to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves with their readers. Read on to get to know Charlie, who tells us about the iconic Toronto job that provided a foundation for work as a 911 operator, the time they performed their poems in a wrestling ring, and why treasonous saws spelled a great loss for music lovers.
The Dirty Dozen with Charlie Petch:
- My first role onstage was in grade 1, and I starred as “Mama Bear” in the horrific tale of Goldilocks the home invader. I had to make do with an ape costume. I am still that ape costume today.
- Everything I needed to know as a 911 operator and emergency room clerk, I learned as a teenage hot dog vendor in downtown Toronto.
- I once came home to an egg eating contest in my apartment while Roger Water’s classic “Pink Flamingos” was still playing, and I had to do some first aid on the “winner,” Ejaculah.
- I was an altar boy at the Roman Catholic church in the 80s, which probably is what made me trans. Or was it being a best boy in film? Or was it joining the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers? Or was it being born trans? (it was me being born trans)
- Upon returning to Saskatoon, after performing “Buried Treasure” in poetry slam finals, a couple came to my show early to tell me they had loved this poem, tried “pimpling” (their term, no credit to me) and now love it, and in fact, did so right before coming to see me. #Legacy.
- I once shook a man’s hand and then smelled mine after, and then made sure I ran into him for months afterwards just to shake his hand, until he hit on me in a most uncomfortable manner. If I could have bottled that 80-year-old’s scent, I would be a bazillionare, or even a bajillionaire.
- While in the legendary punk/noise band “Wine With Everything” for 15 years, the following things landed on our stage: Fake blood, real blood, too much spit, breastmilk, many pulverized robots, several bottles of punted piss, and a freshly roasted pig’s head.
- My best friend growing up was a brown Buick Skylark I named “Victor,” and I would talk to him incessantly until a neighbour bought him. Then I’d go sit in their driveway and talk to him. My severe lateral lisp won me only imaginary friends.
- I once performed poetry in a wrestling ring, and later on, one of the performers was bodyslammed into my merch box, and it was probably the coolest moment of my damn life.
- I worked on the lighting crew for the movie The Woodsman, so if we’ve met, you’re now only two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.
- Had it not been for the metal drive in WWII, I believe the musical saw would have been recognized as one of the greatest accidental classical instruments of our time. Instead it was melted down for weaponry because it was considered treason to own two saws, and cutting wood ruins the tone.
- When I realized the only way to survive and thrive in this ol’ world is to be a white man, I became one.
Charlie Petch (they/them, he/him) is a disabled/queer/transmasculine person who resides in Toronto/Tkaronto. Petch’s full-length spoken word vaudeville play Mel Malarkey has toured all over Canada. They have several handsome chapbooks, and Late Night Knife Fights was published with LyricalMyrical Press. A musician, lighting designer, spoken word artist, award-winning playwright, and host, Petch was the 2017 Poet of Honour for Spoken Word Canada, winner of the Golden Beret lifetime achievement in spoken word with The League of Canadian Poets, and founder of Hot Damn It’s a Queer Slam.