Screw You, To-Do List
The more I actualize myself the more comfortable I become with looking at everyday me in the mirror,
the spots in the corners of my eyes
the ends of my mouth are starting to curl down
the relaxed skin on my hands and arms
and I undoubtedly know there is no safe place for me to hide from myself
the pockets are too snug against my spreaded thighs
and this well read mind and worldly tongue
will always offend whispers and stares
Well, 2015 is wrapping up here folks and there are some things I want to share along my many discoveries and self reflections. Here we go:
- The power of blogging. – Blogging has to be better than buying a website these days! Blogging is like your own personal newspaper or public journal that links you to like minds. The connections I have met on wordpress have culminated into several speaking engagements and book sales around the world. Unlike social media sites, a blog requires work. You have to put in a decent and consistent amount of writing time and you must network with the audience you are trying to reach. Building this comradery can yield amazing results! Your Facebook friends/followers WILL NOT SUPPORT your work on a level that allows you to pay a bill or two.
- The saying, “Write what scares you” is true. – You take a chance with ordering a new dish at a restaurant. You take a chance in new relationships. So take a chance with writing the stories you are afraid to be linked to. The subject matter of my novel, The Town Dance, has frightened me for years. At readings, I speak about what I had to confront on a personal level for me to write characters with depth and meaning. Characters that ‘belonged’ in the story and not just placed there to move the chapters forward. The Town Dance has had an amazing year! In addition, my play, Hope’s Return, handles the subject matter of women in the military, a crime committed on base, the government cover-up and a small town African American family dealing with the mental illness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I took a chance with this material and it has paid off as big as I had imagined in my dreams.
- I like living in Atlanta. I must admit, it took over six years for it to happen but there are a lot of opportunities in the arts. Perhaps in the sense that there is still work that needs to be done for diversity within nationalities, gender and age. (then again, that’s probably everywhere!) The art funding is definitely geared toward younger poets who are taught slam poetry and older Caucasian writers. The quote, “It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re art”, took me a looooong time to accept that. But over the past 13-15 months I have grown to like Atlanta.
- Acknowledgement of women writers still needs to be written in art and historical culture/documentation. Even the critical and independent male thinking minds are blind to this, or conveniently accept this part of patriarchy. A recent example I saw of this, there was a Black Lives Matter banner created that spelled out the names of the victims fallen from murder by the hands of the police and only one woman was listed. Instead of researching women to include, the list repeated with the male names.
- African American art is viewed as sociology or psychology instead of art. Instead of being asked on various creative decisions I made for my art, I was asked questions like, “is this due to your community?” “is this a result of your upbringing?” After reading more on the basic history of African American literature in western culture, the sensitivity of critique or criticism is still not where it should be as the literary giants before me have written the same observances.
- There is a desperate need for black book stores for all of the above reasons.
- There is a desperate need for African American book review groups/circles for all the above reasons. (Story Sellers Book Reviews coming soon!)
- The personal positivity movement has turned into a sensationalistic movement that is cultivating a strew of motivational speakers and life coaches. It is imperative for people to understand that avoiding or becoming addicted to a fantasy life of no turmoil stunts growth. In addition, naming life’s detours ‘negativity’ instead of lessons and self reflection stops/halts life.
- Ph.D’s do not hold the same creed they once did. Experience and activism can get you on the same panel discussions as PhD’s and persons in academia. In fact, trust is built through personal testimony versus book study (new age wave expectations); same as travel expert equals trusted experience. I believe their in depth studies are still imperative but the panels and workshops I observed over the past year in regards to art activism and community social activism had very few PhDs.
- The poetry audience is gone. No matter where I traveled, the audience was a unanimous crowd of other poets. The study of poetry 101 has been replaced with being a champion or being on a ‘winning team’. Poetry is seen as entertainment instead of art. In my opinion, the communication aspect is absent from the art form and it is a strategic political move.
2015 has been beyond amazing for me! After relocating to Atlanta a few years back to help with family, I worked as a performance poet doing feature sets locally and in the surrounding states. However, the pay was no where near close to what I was familiar with living and performing in northern and southern California and the opportunities were not as versatile in regards to branching in education and art funding programs. Grudgingly, I returned to the corporate world and had to let all the stories and voices pile in my head.
After one too many phone calls from my colleagues in California asking why they hadn’t heard from me or seen me on the speaking/performing circuit, I told them I was back in the 9-5 world. But I assured them that the stories had not left me and I would return to writing/performing soon enough. My prayers became my art and I journaled constantly. Then in the spring of 2014, I set some dates and goals:
- I set the date I would resign from my job.
- I decided to write a play and set a deadline, Hope’s Return
- I decided to write a novel and set a deadline, The Town Dance
- I decided to compile the poetry and prose I had been writing and publish another poetry book, yardwork
I had never been so artistically hungry in my life! I pulled out all of my old contacts and began to network and let them know I had some “new stuff” coming soon. I was fortunate enough to book speaking/performing engagements even before the work was published. Very fortunate and grateful. I also decided that I would not return to the poetry scene as active as I had before. I realized two things, 1) I despise the art form of slam poetry, (I ALWAYS have had a problem with the underlying politics of it) and 2) my poetry does not go well with liquor. In Atlanta, like most cities, slam poetry has become the norm and venues that might offer pay for performances are in clubs or venues that serve liquor. I needed a new plan, I had to do something different this go around.