Sister SOS (Inspired by Kathleen Cleaver)

She’s heard more eulogies than poetry so I wrote this for her.

Amidst the sips of licorice tea, I asked her
“what would she do differently.”

She replied she’d “love as fearlessly as she fought
take more time,
soak the greens instead of rinse ’em”
research his heart as she did antiquity.

She truly believed that for years she had a melody
but never a song
no vibration
no balance
“conquer your souls duality” she told me
the world is depending on you to love
surrender, Sister.

kathleencleaver

Nikki Skies, ©2007 Published in anthology of “His Rib: Stories Poems & Essays by HER” by Penmanship Publishing Group

Why Promise

All I know is

he can’t feed them
and out of the pack
one is a sheep / and the other wolves
and they are leading the masses in the darkness of the forest.

sheepandwolf

Their duality dwells low

so the teaching of climbing the oak tree to rattle the
leaves is not a thought
no home based knowledge to stir up conversation
simmer and brew some intellect

he just likes the attention
so he performs poetry.

from the poetry book, Pocket Honey, Wind & Hips

Missing Rifle / Missing Woman (for Harriet Tubman)

quilt2

sky readers / moon believers
before the sunrise prayers
Wisdom Born Mamas sew star, sun, earth, heart shaped
patterns on
quilts to warm babies
and free souls
hearing from the wind when to hang ’em
high on the clothes line
Before rooster crow / before master know
patterns on quilts mapped out which way to go
to wade in the water
Missing Rifle / Missing Woman.

**Dedicated to the courage of Harriet Tubman and the slaves and quakers that made quilts and hung them to slyly map the way to freedom**

quilt
quilt3
harriette tubman

from the poetry book, Pocket Honey, Wind & Hips

 

Keeping My Nose This Time

       “It is not enough to be a woman writer. It is imperative that we are women writers who write about other women, responsibly.  Otherwise, we’ll continue to write rebuttals on misrepresentation or the utter absence of our literary presence.”

Recently I returned to the city that grew my art, Los Angeles, California.  It is not the city I was born and reared in, however; it is the city that I consider home.  Where I grew into a woman and an artist.

Not expecting anyone to write my story, a few years back I had the audacity to write a piece of Los Angeles poetry HERstory that was not talked about.  What prompts this post is, during my recent visit to Los Angeles when I spoke about this information in front of a crowd, I was asked to be mindful and tell the “whole story” of LA women in poetry.  Interestingly enough, I’ve never seen the “whole story” written by my male comrades nor during my visit did I hear any conversations that announced the “whole story” of women in poetry.  The four day span I was in Los Angeles, when “the good ‘ole days” conversations came up, there was a repeated rundown of the male figures that were prominent in the foundational game but the women were harmoniously absent from the listings.

Continue reading Keeping My Nose This Time

to the open doors

Many people who say they want their work, writings, critiqued really don’t.  They just want to include your stamp of approval on it.  They want to include you in their circle of same friends, same crowds and same stages where they receive recycled applause.  Unfortunately this will keep them exactly where they are, using their art as a part time hobby and working someone else’s dream full time.

The only thing safe in this game is your vision.  What you ultimately want your work to be regarded as or categorized as.  The voice or narrative you want to represent is the only thing you can control. But that is the opportunity with most writers.  They don’t know who/why they are writing.  It’s as if everyone is falling into the “I write for therapy” “I do this for me” reasonings.  I don’t believe that.  In fact, you will have a hard time trying to convince me of this.  What I do believe is that due to a lack of reading and developing of worth or value for oneself a lot of writers cannot express why this art form has become so tangibly easy for them.

Before I could perform on stage or even write my own work, it was required that I read and memorize the literary greats that had come before me.  I had to memorize and know the works of Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, etc BEFORE I was allowed to share my own work.  These were my dues so to speak.  I am finding that nowadays writers are simply encouraged to write and express.  “Write what you feel and then get on stage and kill it!” There is no base, no foundation.  Just quickly constructed brick walls and rubber windows.  Then artists stand hostage inside defending everything they write or perform.

Specifically poets often ask me how to be a full time artist.  I always ask them to identify another poet who is working FT in their craft.  Some of the usual responses are Saul Williams and Nikki Giovanni.  Well, Saul lives in Europe and makes an incredibly living from his music and Giovanni is an educator and speaker in addition to poet.  So I ask them to give me someone else they could contact to be a mentor for their poetry career that ONLY does poetry.  I am still waiting on responses from the majority of them.  See, this art thing is medicinal.  It is not an individual thing.  If your mantra is, “I do this for me” you’re on a paved road, a safe path with lots of company and acceptance.  Not the wild road to discovery with silent strange faces and a million “no” responses. With that being said, poetry cannot be isolated.  Poetry is the word.  Poetry is the color of the sound.  Poetry is the taste of the wind. Poetry is an integral part of the seven sciences connecting to “it all”.  This understanding is how FT artists sustain.

I don’t know any FT artists who at some point do not incorporate education into their lifestyle as a workshop facilitator or speaker.  But what are they talking about?  They are talking about that base and foundation from which they developed their art from.  They are protecting the vision, establishing the livelihood of their narrative.  They are doing something most poets/writers cannot do these days.

So what are you saying?  I’m saying, you need to read twice as much as you write.  You need to study.  You need to know your art form and the cause behind it better than anyone else.  You must let go of the criticism that will come with your art and be more concerned with the status of the people holding together the foundation.  With that knowledge will bring a security and confidence that will open doors and opportunities to you as a writer/poet.

 

 

her side

woman-crying

She say for her family
she do what she can
when in reality it be for her man
who wants another mother like her son

so she wipe both they asses / and then her tears cause it be from the same shit

too tired more / more tired than / her mother who
taught her how to stay
who lived and died the same way
the palm reader etched on her palm.
now that she know,
she can remain calm
when he comes to bed
smelling like fuck nut and dried saliva

he’ll say it’s all in her head
so she close her eyes and have nightmares
of forever being a fool.

from the poetry book, Pocket Honey Wind & Hips
available at
amazon.com/author/nikkiskies

some days I feel like, lorraine hansberry

 

lorraine-hansberry

Artists can be inspired by the simple things. The sudden swarm of birds on branches to a nostalgic smell of perfume or cologne. When I abandon concerns of the world, I am able to be inspired by almost anything because my senses are without judgement and I can apply optimism to everything! Perhaps this was the process Lorraine Hansberry encountered when she created the timeless theatrical masterpiece, A Raisin in the Sun.

She was inspired by the poem entitled, Harlem, by Langston Hughes. This was one of the first poems I memorized and one of the first I made my nephews memorize! This poem inspired her to write the play that put her in the history books. With her play, Raisin in the Sun, she became the first African American woman to write a play performed on Broadway and the youngest and fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. The success of this play led to it being translated in 35 different languages and inspired the talented Nina Simone to write her song, To Be Young, Gifted and Black. After Hansberry’s death, her husband was inspired to adapt a remaining collection of her work into a play with the same name of Simone’s song.

Art is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy… The origin of art derives from the antiquity of documenting life or scribing so it is not surprising that this string of inspirations are connected. Some days I feel like Lorraine Hansberry when I pick up a pen and begin to write after hearing a song or note on from a saxophone or analogy from a poem. I get inspired by people and situations around me and of course I hope I will leave inspiration to others.

I am a lover of perseverance. I am folklore. I am consistency and contradiction.

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