Tag Archives: writers

some days i feel like a skyscraper

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I feel part of the smaller story. I feel part of the larger story. Skyscrapers are like small cities with thousands of people that live and work there. Their foundations and superstructures provide different appearances. These tall buildings are seen as symbols of power and greatness. They are improved in live time to stand the test of weather and the moods of mother nature. Yes, some days I feel like a skyscraper… especially when I began spoken word in Los Angeles.

It was clearly the congregated movement of griots and sages before us that declared the time again. Only the shadowless and their corners really thought “they started something new” or “took it to the next level”. Only time would be able to determine those thoughts just as the medu netter has spoken for centuries in the pyramids. Only time, still will reveal that.

One would have thought the time was 1961 and women were still only allowed to be house attendants. When in fact it was 2001. Writing and performing poetry was not new to me. I was shocked that it was being critiqued and shared in seemingly ‘non art environments’. Coffee shops, lobbies of recreational centers, after hours at businesses and theatres in need of publicity. The art form was taking on a new timeframe and would need new walls to hold it’s voice.

In an already big city. A city with the most highly structured designed skyscrapers, one would think she could just pick up where June Jordan left off. Just take the notebook from Gwendolyn Brooks and turn the page. But it wasn’t like that for Jaha Zainabu, Bridget Gray and Rachel Kann, my “come up” crew. None of us were novices to the arts. Together we were decades of stories, poems, lectures, theatre and visual art. Together we split the city and nestled our art amongst those who neighbored our homes. We supported our venues week after week and then by bequest, politics were engaged in our arts but this time the agenda was to undermine. From history our community arts had a focus of meeting weekly to “build and feed each other”. These new politics were of division because all of us would not be able to eat. In fact, it happened so fast we weren’t even able to decide on our seasonings! And many owned microwaves and had never lit a stove or practiced patience with a crock pot. But she/we stood there.

One would have thought it was 1961 they way we were over looked to perform feature poetry shows. One of us was even told, “women can’t hold the audience attention to do a feature segment”. And week after week, we went and supported the self served. And we began to see the bending of the art. This was called open mic, to disavow the necessity for us to hold one another accountable. We were allowed to do and say anything and not read or study and some times not even demanded to practice. Our art scene became like loose, dangled dred locs from an unhealthy scalp. Her voice strewn like sidewalk abandoned Christmas trees. With the desperate opportunity for manhood to be demonstrated, she/we were overlooked. It was not 1961.

Now about this, She was given the mic and then cut short by loud music playing in the background to a host dancing behind her begging for a laugh and a few smiles. She wasn’t given the same time limit, as he. And She, was given time on the stage to express her newest and most intimate poetry piece. She was accepted by the audience with warm applause and finger snaps. Capsized with emotion, she stepped away to gather herself only to have the host scold the audience clapping for her by saying, “We don’t do that here”. And then She, was too serious and her voice was too loud. “You should write some love poems”, he declared to her after she received thunderous applause when all night he received scattered rain drops. And then She, was a performer amidst reading writers. And while both are styles of interpretation, it distinguished her natural flame to a fire and cast her away feeling lost and unheard.

And she/we were paid less. And she/we were heard less. And then one night we all talked. And we almost cried. And we all had the same story and we all reaffirmed it wasn’t 1961. And Rachel decided we should do our own. And we did. And we sold out a night club on Hollywood Blvd with an all female poetry feature show. The first of it’s kind during this wave of poetry in Los Angeles. And we ate. And then our four corners of the city saw what we were made of. That temblor thwarting technology that doesn’t fall during earthquakes. That strong wavering skyscraper that houses thousands of people working and living with stories to tell.

(part II tomorrow)

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some days i feel like, bell hooks

bell hooks

some days I feel like, bell hooks. I feel radical enough to express my mental health even when it exposes my family. It is done with respect and an ambition to grow. I can’t remember the first book I read by bell hooks but I remember feeling like I was having an incredibly intimate and engaging conversation. like the writing legacy I want to leave behind, bell hooks has mastered her craft. she stands alone with the interconnectivity she entails with gender, race and capitalism. she is pro a progressive and critically thinking culture. she is pro living life in a just and freedom filled way.

some days I feel like, bell hooks.

a different kind of vicious

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The snow is gone. The trees are still bare. We survived without losing electricity. And the kids only have two snow days to make up at the end of the school year.

The culmination of a week and I had an incredible one with writing. I am consistent in writing everyday and this comes simple when I have nothing else to do. For example, turning my television off! Listening to music with no words so I don’t have to focus on someone else’s verbs. I remember space like this when I lived solo in LA. And I didn’t take it for granted but I did have something different back then. I had a fierce determination. A different kind of vicious.

Disregard the cliché, but I lived in a place with no space and time. I lived in that kind of confidence everyone has before you share with someone and adopt doubt. To me it was about a matter of opportunity. I had the body of material. I had the body of emotions. And I had the body. (the body body…36,24,34) I had a vicious overall outlook on art like my predecessors. I had a library to waylay me into the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement. I was indicative of significant worth. Period. I was perfectly positioned for success. And from what I prepared, I received.

There is a difference with reverence and support. And my spirit told me I didn’t have enough of the latter but I hoped I could muster enough to maintain humility. My solution when I couldn’t differentiate the two was to simply stop. Pull away and not perform. Get a job that demanded an early bedtime so I could not perform at late venues or the Sunday hot spots. Me trying to supply my mental with sustenance brought about a negative implication and it confused me.

And then poetry became political with the performance form of slam. And I became even more confused with how we can skip from the spiritual formula of creating to wanting an instant result of “winning”. I stopped.

I am in the present of creating a body of work that needs an opportunity. I am clothed with a fierce determination. A different kind of vicious. And I appreciate this cycle of not being caught up in a space or time. What will the outcome be this go around? Very different! Because I know differently.

when myspace was the ISH

I am always very late to check into the latest technological gadgets and all the social media circles. I guess you can say I am easily intimidated with having to learn all the download, upload, add a link, rank your friends stuff. My friends would always ask me when was I going to get on and start posting stuff. In my head I was protesting! First they take away letter writing, then you don’t make phone calls you text and now you don’t text you type on the internet. (And in between all this, no one has told me what to do with all the cd’s I still have?! Now we download music?) Well, I remember when I finally decided to join Myspace and how it really helped catapult my performance poetry career.

It was right before the release of my poetry cd, “Moody”. I consulted with some friends on which sites to download photos to download for my profile (never understood that!) and how to download videos and my spoken word. I was performing feature spots heavily on the LA scene at the time and after performances I would mention my Myspace page and have friend requests from nearly everyone in the audience a few hours later. It became a link for performance opportunities in other cities and eventually other states. I’m sure this is how a lot of spoken word artists were able to arrange self supported tours and for venues to bring in talent to their perspective venues. Myspace social networking allowed me to create a following and literally have my next potential paying gig sitting in the audience. I realized the opportunities were limitless and only a keystroke away.

The successful sales of my poetry cd and my two books are largely due to the social networking I engaged with on Myspace. Expanding my audience outside of California into a tour of the midwest, south and east coast are all from networking with other artists and venue producers via Myspace. Now there is facebook, foursquare, twitter, tumblr, linkedin and so on. I have a profile on nearly all of them but find myself once again overwhelmed with all the how to gadgets. I suppose after some research on which one, or ones, can be the most supportive to the next phase of my artistic career I will focus on that site. Until I make that decision, I find the networks I am on as different ways to gather political and entertainment news as well as keep in contact with friends. Even though Myspace is pretty much now defunct and I can’t even remember my password, I remember when Myspace was the “ish” and helped me pay my bills.

Why I Stopped Blogging

This blog was created some two years ago.  I had incredible intentions to express myself as an artist and newly formed parent of my nieces and nephews.  I wanted to share with other people the newness that I was experiencing and hopefully get some insight as how to handle certain situations.  Now, I have been either writing or performing for years now. If I’m not performing then I am writing and vice versa.  So the discipline that is needed and where I need to go with myself came easy but what stopped me were the reactions.  The consistent and earnest support I began to receive.  The love that surrounded my situation.

As an artist, we receive stories from within (the Most High) and they always connect with somebody.  And that somebody has been waiting for you and when you arrive they have a genuine love for you.  They keep you connected with that unselfish, free feeling.  That plentiful emotion with the Most High continues if you deliver the message.  So you stay there as an artist.  When in fact, you are only delivering the same message to different people and not growing your spirit.  Because how dare you change and contradict yourself!

I sat in my theatre performing for years with the same emotions and only got out because I graduated with my degree.  I sat in my writings for years with the same emotions and only got out because people began to perform my works without my consent.  I then sat in my performance of theatre and poetry for years and only got out through a relationship.  I had been a captive to my art for years in fear of growth and because I feared what people would think.

So when people became affianced with my blog and my situation, I stopped.  I stopped in fear I would be held accountable to stay in whatever mood I was experiencing at the time.  Now being responsible for children, I knew this was not the time to wait around to be saved through a situation or person.  I knew I could only come back to my art with an unabashed confidence and a solid buoyancy about myself.

So, here I am.  Nikki Skies, author/performer and active aunt of five.  No longer afraid to be my perfect companion and grow amongst minutes.

A Poet’s Handbook by Haki Madhubuti

nikkiholdingbookI have been asked so often various questions on how a poet is supposed to act, where they are supposed to perform, who they are supposed to support… I answer the question and conclude with, “this is my perspective.”  I try to remember my conversations and dialogue with various artists and crowds at educational institutions to be better prepared for these “life of a poet questions”. Recently as I was browsing the shelves of the poetry section of a used book store…

“Run Toward Fear: Poems and a Poet’s Handbook” by Haki Madhubuti

An elder, award winning poet, essayist, educator, founder & publisher of Third World Press and founder of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State.  I suppose he too became bombarded with questions from our generation on this art form now once again prominently (cause this ain’t new people!) in the forefront called poetry and wrote words of refreshing encouragement and guidance.

Pick the book up!  Writers and performers PERIOD not just poets! I have to share a few things until you get to the bookstore!

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“You may not be able to earn a living exclusively as a poet or writer, but if you persist, work hard and nuture your talent; it is almost guaranteed that you will earn a life.  To choose to be a “poet” as a professional endeavor is not very high on the preferred or most lucrative career path in our nation, therefore as a poet, you must adhere to a few standard and not so standard rules.”

ONE Learn to run toward fear. Understand that-even with the emergence of performance poetry and poetry slams and the increasing number of individuals who profess to be poets–few people actually read poetry.  Understand that although smallminded individuals rule the world, it is always right to question, challenge and hold them accountable for their actions.

TWO Think about, read, and study more poetry than you write.

THREE Repeat number two.

FOUR Minimize the praise given to your poetry from parents, friends, lovers, siblings, spouses, running buddies, cheerleading squads, creditors and former lovers.

TEN Write your truth and you will seldom have writer’s block.

ELEVEN Most people think that they can write poetry. Many of them are right and need encouragement.

THIRTY-NINE Poets must be acutely aware of “fame” which is like a flame in the brain and will cut serious writing potential by 85% and turn most of the poets it consumes into game show participants and other cultural embarrassments.

In total he offers his golden wisdom in 40 rules.  I am positive this book will help any writer/poet in their endeavors.  I know I will use it as a resource for my performances/lectures!

just passin’ some water along for the ’forever thirsty’!

speak on love,

inspiration confirmation

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I remember the day I got this letter!  I stood in the post office and the world stopped… then I sat in my car and let the world stop again…

I was working on my first play and wanted to use a snippet of Lady in Purple from Ntozake Shange timeless piece, “For Colored Girls…”  Out of all the things she could’ve been doing, out all the business she was tending to, she wrote me a letter of approval.

This letter meant the world to me!  Everyone wants to write the classic piece that can live without them.  And Shange taking the time to read my material and send this letter confirmed I had true passion for this.

I want to inspire someone someday.  Provide that encouragement when they want to run for security to plan B.  I hope to keep them on track to want to perfect their craft and believe in it.

Thanks Ms. Shange,

passing it on…

i hear He laughs at plans

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Plan B has been perfected.  There will be no visible errors or gray areas for mishaps to occur.  This plan was created for me by my parents and even though it has never matched the pace of my breath, I have taken on its’ presence and made it my own.

Plan A dies daily.  Between blinks of dreams. Washed down with sweet red wine.  Sweated out on the elliptical machine at the gym.  Plan A presents an uncertain genius.  Plan A is park grass filled with summer jazz lovers.  Plan A are hugs from strangers simply because…

Plan B will be the death of me.

SOS

A Lifestyle

Nikki Skies, Howard University Days

even back then I knew I would have a lifestyle in the arts in some form or fashion.  capture the stares of strangers and live in the heat of the light.  a bit more relaxed now.  not as serious.  still believe that voice in my head and that message in my heart. – Photo by Lydia Douglass-Cordova