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From The Prairies

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What does it mean to be from the Prairies? To each, his or her own. Musician Mark Ceaser places himself in the flatlands of his home and his heart through his songwriting. Poet Teresa Yang takes her prairie sensibilities (and her height) to her cultural home of China. The rest of us? We get to come along for the ride, this week on The X. (Photo by Chris Haynes.)

Mark C large.JPGMark Ceaser

There aren't too many professional musicians who can boast a master's degree in economics, but Mark Ceaser is definitely a one-of-a-kind man. He's the former co-frontman for the unforgettably named Saskatoon band 'Sexually Attracted to Fire'. It was during the years Mark was playing in this band and finishing up his master's degree that he came to realize "while he enjoyed numbers and the theory of supply and demand what really made his eyes sparkle was playing music".

Today Mark's degree certificates take pride of place on his wall, and he spends much of his time focusing on a solo career as a musician. He's obviously doing something right, because Randy Bachman thinks his solo record is great, and he even describes Mark's song 'Highway 16' as a "hit song".

Mark Ceaser's music is definitely rooted in a prairie sensibility, and he easily blurs genre lines by incorporating folk, rock, and even country elements with ease. Mark is a natural storyteller and his songs explore everything from "rolling, tumbling, comfortably naked, making love in the summer breeze" to memories of his grandfather, a larger than life man who was a major role model for Mark when he was growing up. He ended his life in a nursing home, and Mark's song 'Knife and Key' thoughtfully reflects on that experience.

This concert took place at an amazing performance space in the small town of Harris, Saskatchewan. Routes Gallery was an abandoned United Church in Tessier, a town just up the road from Harris. Visual artist Liza Gareau Tosh bought the church, and with the help of her friends and neighbours, moved it to an empty lot on Harris' main street. She's now converted it into an art gallery, a home for artist workshops, and an intimate concert space with great acoustics and plenty of charm.

To revisit this concert, go to CBC Radio 2's Concerts on Demand.

teresa yang.jpgTeresa Yang

Saskatoon poet Teresa Yang tries to process a visit with her family in China in her first creative non-fiction piece for the X, where her entire identity seems to be reduced to two words: "too tall".

Teresa Yang was a Youth Write winner for poetry in 2008, the youngest participant in the CBC Radio National Poetry Face-Off, and is currently a student at University of Ottawa.

From Jennifer Maya at the Onestop Ottawa Newsstand:

"STUDENT POET TERESA Yang is no stranger to the argument that poetry is on the way out. Not one to let her way with words go to waste, however, Yang has a quick answer ready for anyone willing to challenge the importance of her art form: "Poetry encompasses ... a universal theme in people. A person can be touched by something ... It should affect you."

Yang, a student of international development and globalization, explains that poetry has been a part of her life since the age of eight. Starting off by writing about boys, Yang moved on to compose lines about her encounters with specific books and works of art. By the time she had reached the age of 15, she was writing portraits of people she knew or strangers who captured her interest, and she began to participate in competitions such as the Canadian Poetry Face Off and the Sound Exchange Competition. According to Yang, it was at this point that she made the decision to write less for herself and more for an audience.

"Everyone is affected by something," she says. "I've done readings for people, and it [adds a whole] new dynamic. People have told me that they liked it and it helps them feel good about themselves."

Yang explains that she tries to write in a specific way to make sure that she is pleased with her poems.

"I have a tendency to listen to music while I write. The writing comes in the flow from the sound that I hear," she says.

Though she does not write everyday, Yang says that practicing her writing and exercising her talent is a significant part of her life.

"There's a lot of paper that I look at and tremble in fear. Just because it looks like a poem doesn't mean that it is one," she says.

The only way Yang will feel satisfied with a finished work is if she is certain that people will relate to it.

"I don't classify myself as a poet, because to say that assumes that I have reached a certain point where everything that is in my head can be expressed on paper. I haven't reached that point.

"[I have a personal] expectation, where I should be able to have the writing be the most beautiful and simplistic way possible to express words, all at once in a matter of three lines," she laughs.

Yang is of the opinion that anyone can write a poem. Though it may not be easy to find the right words, there is no specific rule of poetic writing."

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your daughter is a fenced line, is a sunset.

the police kicked your bundles away, said loitering was forbidden

I thought about flashing my passport, how it might work like a stop sign here.

how Canadian of me.

the shoe polisher in the fashion district tells you here,

we make a living out of anything because we must.

--Teresa Yang

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