03 July 2010

the point is not the performance, the point is the poetry.

i guess what it all boils down to is the fact that there's enough shit on tv and on the radio already to entertain me. i don't come to poetry for that. i come to poetry for different reasons.

(after i write up this diatribe, i'm gonna go watch some tedtalk my roomie posted called "how to live before you die." sounds appropriate.)

so, back to our regularly scheduled programming. i've had an internal battle about spoken word for a long time. i recently attended my first slams, and i had a great time. i really did. i do not, in any way, deny that what i watched all those performance artists get up and do took serious talent, commitment and love. i appreciated it very much and i'd like to see more. i also understand that i don't want to attempt to actually do what i saw them doing.

i started off typing "i don't think i COULD ever actually do it." but i refuse to put that kind of self-limiting energy into the universe. i know i COULD do slam if i put my mind to it, but i don't really WANT to put my mind to that...

why? it's hard to explain without sounding crass or snobby... and though that is nowhere near being my intent, keep in mind THIS IS MY SPACE AND I SAY WHAT I NEED/WANT TO SAY. period. so, if you must, get offended. i'm sure you, dear reader, have said or done something to offend me before too. and i bet i kept pretty quiet about it.

i love to write poetry and i love to read poetry. i love to think about poetry. i love to hear poetry in some of the crazy, silly things my three-year-old says. i love to find it on abandoned sticky notes on the streets. i used to write it around the perimeters of sugar packets and napkins in restaurants and leave them there, energy rushing through me just knowing that i'd put poetry into the universe and that maybe someone would notice it, read it, and therefore have it as a part of them (whether they actually wanted it or not). i love buying books of poetry. i love having them on my bookshelves, preening away, waiting to be remembered so that i might reach forward, pull one from the shelf, open it and go into the world of another person's creation. the idea of random poetry on billboards or the sides of buses makes my stomach flutter with excitement. seriously.

i have the weirdest conversations with myself, and God, and my friends, and my child, and strangers in line at the grocery store, and the world, and that's why i write poetry. i can't memorize my poetry anymore than i can memorize those conversations. i'd love to, but something gets lost in translation. the best i can do is either to let you read the poem or to give you some rough retelling (via reading the poem to you) and hope that you can catch the nuances. sometimes, you seriously just had to be there. and that's a shame, but i don't feel i have any right to try and control the situation by recreating that exact moment for you. you're the reader. you're always at least ONCE REMOVED. that's the nature of the beast (or the art).

there is something in slam and/or spoken word poetry that robs me of something essential, something that i long for when i experience poetry. that something just MIGHT be humanity in a certain way. well, first of all, i love the page. i'm a bookworm. that's all there is to it. when i hear someone recite or perform a poem that sounds good or dynamic or interesting, i want to SEE it on the page. it's kind of like checking references. i want to see how the poem is laid out, where the punctuation marks are, where the play with language took place. i love to see the kinds of tic-tac-toe games other people play on a sheet of paper that result in poetry. when i can't have the page, i feel cheated. when someone tries to offer me a cd instead of a book, i feel a little hurt. i can't exactly explain why. it's like not showing me yours after i showed you mine. or something. the page is very intimate. it’s full of room for your flaws and breaths and chicken scratch and typos and idiosyncrasies.

i love going to poetry readings where people step up to the mic and are awkward. i attend a regular open mic (every second friday of the month) where i hang out and share poetry with a really great community of poets – most of them are spoken word artists. i revel in the times when they get up to share a new piece, one they have not yet memorized, and they stand there with a sheet of paper in their hands, reading and stumbling a little bit. that, to me, is a conversation between them and their writing that they’re allowing me to see. those are the times that i really feel i get to know them. i feel closer to them because they’re vulnerable in that moment.

the best poetry performance i’ve ever seen was by a poet named d.a. powell. he’d just done a reading at boise state. he was making his gracious appearance at the reception-like gathering held at the house of one of my professors. everyone was having wine and snacks. the professors started reciting poems – not their own, but great poems they’d read and liked so well they decided to commit them to memory. it was beautiful and humbling. mr. powell launched into this amazing recitation of one of my favorite poems, “the love song of j. alfred prufrock” by t.s. eliot. the entire room fell silent. his voice whispered and shuddered and croaked and flowed. i could feel his humanity reverberating with each word. when he whispered, “do i dare disturb the universe?” i could feel the question of his own mortality couched within. i could feel him living and dying within the words of someone else’s poem. i shed tears – not because of the moving performance but because i was honored to get to know something about this person in a few minutes, and through someone else’s words. something he’d probably never share with me in general conversation. something only the POEM could bring forth. something to which no spoken word performance has ever allowed me access.

watching an incredibly polished, meticulously memorized and well performed spoken word or slam piece is like watching a dramatic monologue. it’s exciting, engaging, moving. sometimes it’s even tender. but the only moments in which i feel i really get to KNOW the performing poet is when he/she is adjusting the microphone, getting his/her jitters out, correcting stance, and taking a breath before beginning the performance. and then i basically LOSE the person and the poem to the performance. the performance takes over. and i enjoy performance. for some reason, however, i prefer my poetry without that element that turns the poet into a character right before my eyes.

i’m easily manipulated. there’s my confession. this means that, when i watch spoken word and slam, i’m WITH the poet/performer all the way… but is it because the poem is that good or because my willing suspension of disbelief is THAT strong? this is what the page helps me figure out. i am a muddled and procrastinating, though passionate and committed reader of poems. i may screw around with your poem for a long time, avoid it, make excuses for myself all the while… but once i commit myself to your poem and read it, i’m going to give it my all. i’m going to profusely praise you for your moments of brightness, newness, love and humanity… and i’m going to call you on your bullshit as gracefully and brutally as i can. because i care about you and i care about your poem. so, i guess it’s hard for me to separate the brightness from the bullshit when it’s all given to me onstage. it’s a performance, so every move and inflection is intentional, meant to be compelling – but what about the POEM?

the point, for me, is not the performance, that’s all. the point is the poetry. i don’t want anything distracting me from the poetry.

oh baby, the rambling!! does anybody understand what i’m getting at here? if you don’t, crawl in my brain and try being my perpetually torn and yearning self for about five minutes. that may not get you any closer to what i’ve tried to explain here, but at least you’ll know my intentions were true.

23 May 2010


ok, so ... it's officially gotten old. i've gotten down to the brass tacks on this "fail better" mission and i just. don't. WANNA.


i updated my list. highlight in THIS COLOR are the journals to which i still need to submit. and have i mentioned that i don't wanna? ok ... *more sigh* so i'm gonna try to put my beggin' card in with at least ONE of these mofos tonight before i hit the hay. mostly what i wanna do at this point is tool about in on 'net and then hit the hay.

so there's that. the home stretch sucks, y'all. nite.


20 May 2010

"back to the grill again"

i'm gonna listen to "ring the alarm" by tenor saw over and over again until something clicks in my head and i feel like writing ... or SOMETHING ...

(embed code is disallowed by the youtubian gods, so commiserate with me by listening to the song HERE. )

so, i need to get back on this list. suffice it to say i've officially lost my steam. is my lack of motivation showing? no new rejections to report, but there's hope on the horizon, i suppose. i've sold a few copies of the chapbook. by the by, i kinda threw in the towel on this whole grassroots, do-it-my-damn-self method of pushing the chappie. i have copies remaining if you want one directly from me. however, lulu's now gonna do some of the work for me, via their online marketplace. you can purchase your copy of "prayers of Calcitrant" via this nifty lil button i'm about to slap you in the face with below. check me out!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

owwwwww! tell a friend, i say. i'm going to take some of the copies i have and try to get them consigned to some local spots as well.

... ok. i've procrastinated long enough. time for me and tenor saw to go click some links. lah-dee-dah and goodnight.


10 May 2010


happy mother's day to me. i graded papers. i told my goddaughters their gift to me would be making sure i didn't have to look at any dishes in the sink. for the whole day.

i finished reading "wind in a box" by Terrance Hayes. it was a victory hard-won. i'm pretty sure i started this book three months ago - it's all tattered now from the ins and outs of my purse, my hands, my snacks. his books don't usually take me anywhere near that long to finish.

( Hayes is one of my favorite poets, not so much because i'd date him if he were single, but because i would date him because he's brilliant and lyrical and tender. on paper. i keep writing poems to him. anyway.)

the poetry was sharp. warm and fine and full of aching. i like ache. this book made me look up the word "ennui." i think this is important, to remember that you don't know all the words in the world. i am happy to have accomplished the completion of this collection, but sad to leave its little universe. i'm bad about withdrawal, i think. reading it the second time isn't the same. i should just put the damned thing back on the shelf so that i look "smart" or "deep," and stop BLOGGING. sheesh.

thank you again, J. Ruben Appelman, for talking with me the other night. you must bear the burden of my high regard because we shared a pivotal moment. mostly, i was there and you were there too. i wore a pink wig to a dinner party at your house and talked to a woman who'd lost 35 lbs. by smoking. i actually considered smoking then. that's vulnerability ... or it's idaho. either way, thank you. that's all.

05 May 2010

get some.


so, i'm back from the vacay. i had an excellent time, but now it's back to the grind ... before i left i could feel myself starting to get a little discouraged. i collected some more rejection letters (all gracious and interesting, really). but something great also happened ...

the shipment of my chapbook, "prayers of calcitrant" finally came! yaaaay! i'm excited to get these into some people's hands. i really believe in this project a lot. hope people dig it! want one? email me.

so i'm back on that failbetter list tonight! the goal is to click on five links, and submit to any that will allow it, of course.

i'm gonna have to get myself into some swimming pools this summer. the kid too. how am i gonna eek out a trip to atlanta? that's gotta be a way ...

27 April 2010

doves are assholes.

it sounds really sweet and poetic when someone says that a dove is nesting on their porch. really. imagine waking up to the gentle, melodic coo of a bird that symbolizes peace and beauty. when i first saw the dove, i thought, "oh, that must be a positive omen. good energy. we're doing something right in this house."

the problem with this idealistic notion is that doves are assholes.

every time we try to leave or enter the house from the front porch, we face a pretty good chance that the dove will do a crazed, renegade fly-over - flapping at our heads with its evil wings and possibly pecking up a little of our hair in the process! doesn't sound much like the pure white fowl that carried an olive branch into the new world for noah, does it? now, this dove has had a chip on its feathery shoulder ever since a stray cat crawled up to its nest and killed its first batch of eggs. but that's not OUR fault. we felt bad for the damn thing. oh, she went away for a while. but now the bitch is back, and apparently out for blood. nobody in our little midtown tulsa home is safe!

my three-year-old daughter suddenly has a fear of birds. any birds. she thinks they will peck her head. why? because this seemingly sweet, cooing, piece of shit dove, DID try to peck her head! don't birds know that toddlers rank WAY HIGHER than them on the cuteness scale, and that this testimonial has the potential to vilify them forever? JUST WAIT TILL OPRAH READS THIS, YOU FANCIED-UP PIGEON! you're DONE for.

this feathered fiend has riddled with anxiety the hearts of everyone living in our house, and quite a few of our friends and family members. i've noticed that several people no longer come to our front door. why? scared of the damn dove. my roomie just walked into the house, from the SIDE door, frazzled and distraught because the dove attacked her as she fished her keys out of her purse and tried to shit on her head! that's just rude!

ok, so the dove's protective of her eggs. big deal. this B.W.A. (bird with attitude) has NO RIGHT to take out its vengeance over lost babies on US! go find the cat who had munched up your babies, since you're such a bad-ass!

i'll tell you what else, turd bird. you're not the only one around here protective of her eggs. and if you attack my child's head ONE MORE TIME, i'm gonna add a little scientific research to the prince song lyric and find out EXACTLY what it sounds like "when doves cry."

fuck doves!

22 April 2010

i heart lil' jamie

the first time he called my phone, lil' jamie was positive i was sheena - his homie brandon's girlfriend. i assured him i wasn't, but he was positive that i knew him and was acting "all funny." after confirming that he wasn't one of my students playing a prank, i became relatively certain that he was some random jerk ... playing a prank. i hung up on lil' jamie.

he called back. i didn't answer.

he called back again. i didn't answer.

on the third call-back, my roomie took the phone. turns out lil' jamie's intentions were true - he really WAS trying to reach someone and thought for sure he had the right number. the number of the guy on whose couch he'd slept a couple days prior, the number of the guy to whose house he'd arrived in a four-wheeler. my roomie made it clear such was not the case. "we live in midtown," she said. the call ended with a few laughs.

perhaps two minutes later, lil' jamie called back. i asked for him by name. "is this lil' jamie?" he laughed nervously. "how'd you know my name?" i reminded him that he'd just called and that his name was quite memorable. i suggested he release a hit song and cash in on his new notoriety. he laughed again, this time a lot more relaxed.

we talked. he told me that there was, indeed, a "big jamie" - his dad, who was 43. lil' jamie was 25. he was distraught about brandon (the homie he was attempting to call when he reached me) giving him the wrong number a couple days prior. i checked the date. "brandon gave you this number on 420! he was high!" i could hear the grin in lil' jamie's voice. he was pleased i'd made that connection. i knew, in that moment, that if i extended the conversation for another 3-4 minutes, this kid would be inviting himself to my house for a smoke and herbal-induced philosophical ramblings. he was already crashing on my futon in his mind. i could hear it in his voice.

i cut the conversation short, wishing him luck in finding brandon's real number. i couldn't help but smile when i hung up.

i love lil' jamie.

he represents, for me, the hope that there's still some humanity floating around in all this presumptuous digital precision and social-networking-site-application-based friendship. there are still some people in the world who will talk to you on the phone even if they don't know you, and find your house at 10 pm on a thursday night to hang out if you let them. some people who will tell you their story.

this glass of wine is for you, my friend - may you always find a couch to cruise and a connection to miss, so that you might try to connect again. and again.