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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

And so the gigs begin...

You have to imagine it possible before you can see something. You can have the evidence right in front of you, but if you can't imagine something that has never existed before, it's impossible.
Rita Dove

Busy week. Busy good. Not busy like work, busy like art....So much happening, hardly have the time to write about it...poetry, connecting, moving, meeting.

On Friday, I performed some poetry in Mica Valdez' Native Storytelling class at San Francisco State University to a large class full of deer. I double-thumped them with first "Names," and then "Somebody Forgot to Tell Somebody Something"- two poem-stories that tell some disturbing tales about conquest,colonialism, slavery,  racism, and Indigenous survival. I did not see any of the deer fall over but suspect that as soon as I turned my back one or two might have toppled...

Later that night I performed at the Mallinalli showcase, along with some other righteous poets and MCs. Nazbah Tom, Madeleine Clifford/MADlines, Acacia Woods-Chan, Bernadette Zambrano, and Mica Valdez were in the house.

Friday was the last day of my wonderful Mallinalli Media Artists Residency in Oakland. I had to say goodbye to the spacious mansion and its lovely hostess, Mica Valdez...and hit the road.

I spent a couple days with the talented fiction writer Michelle Remy and attended the Idle No More protest at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco on Sunday. More on that later...must go write. That Impossible  album is not going to write itself. My goal for this tour is to write at least 4 hours every day. Sometimes I write with fellow artists, sometimes I write alone. I have books to finish and I intend to finish them...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Home in Oaktown

Coming back to Oakland always feels like coming home...The crisp smell of the air, the bright sun, the easygoing nature of the inhabitants, the beautiful rainbow of faces one sees, the delicious Vietnamese and Thai food, the innumerable cafes full of ernest young scholars. Oakland, whats not to love? I could write 100 love ballads to this city and it would not suffice.

It is interesting to notice how lands make and change us, how they pull on us and capture us, how they beguile and seduce us, how they demand of us that we retrieve ancient aspects of ourselves, how they birth us anew. I am a certain kind of person in Oakland and I can never be that person anywhere else. I am a certain kind of writer here, a certain kind of lover, a certain brand of activist. Oakland is where I blossomed as a poet so many years ago. Oakland is where I discovered there was a use, a need, a demand even for my voice.

The story goes like this: I was working my way through the PhD program at UC Berkeley, working at a wide assortment of temporary, low-paying jobs, and renting an adorable studio apartment on 38th street in the Piedmont area of Oakland. The time came, as it often does with students, when one job ended and another one was yet to materialize. Since I was not bequeathed with rich relations I never had a trapeze net. I was left to my own devices.

Now women left to their own devices in circumstances such as these have resorted to all kinds of desperate moves.  I was fortunate to have had one card up my sleeve and that card was poetry. A classmate and dear friend, Ashley Phillips, had earlier that year insisted on putting my poetry together into a chapbook, Names, which he published under the auspices of his nascent publishing company, "Indigenous Speak." I had a stack of these and I started going out to open mics in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco every night of the week, getting on the mic and selling books.

I sold my books for $8 a piece (minus a cost of $2 per book) and I made rent in two weeks. Rent was about $550 (the good ole days) so if we do the math....( and one has to add in bus and train fare to make the total income closer to 575) we get that I had to have sold about 91 books in order to make $575 dollars at $6/per book... 91 books in 14 a minimum of six books per night. Keep in mind these were Open Mic's! Not features! So I was selling 6 books a night by reading ONE poem a night. No small deed at all.

Thus my poetry career was born... For, until that desperate two week period  I was not sure how serious I ought to take my poetry. I had always imagined I wrote for other people but after those two weeks I KNEW without a doubt that I did. Countless individuals came up to me and proclaimed that I had "told their story."  I had not known that my work spoke to people in that way--that it mattered and I did not know that people liked my poetry enough to actually buy it.

Now I am much clearer. I know why I write and I know that my writing is necessary, whether or not it makes money. I know now that I write to tell the stories that need to be told. Other people's stories- those they either will not or cannot tell themselves.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Tour Begins

"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." Christopher Reeve

The Impossible Tour has gotten underway: I left Los Angeles today, heading north on the I-5, with Sheryl Crow and Pink as my soundtrack. I stopped at a rest stop to meditate and spent the middle meaty part of the 7 hour trip listening to Eckhart Tolle and Michael Beckwith talking about presence, living in the now, and evolving one's consciousness out of victimhood, or the need to tell a story and into awareness and beingness with the eternal. Then I switched back to some righteous superwoman lyrics by Pink...

Almost as soon as I left LA I began writing a poem about my niece and nephew, the twins I have been living and playing with for the last few months. These outspoken 8-year olds started asking me some important questions about my poetry career awhile ago when, much to their annoyance, I was going out almost every night to do a different gig. First Niko (the girl) asked me, when I was going to have my "last gig" (so that I could get back to the much more important task of spending evenings at home playing Bronco with them). When I replied, "hopefully never" she was not impressed.

Later, Malik (the boy), after viewing some of my videos and my website asked me if I talk about him and his sister at my gigs..and "do they even know that we exist??/!!!" I had to admit that no, my audiences generally do not know about them. They were disgusted with this unsatisfactory state of affairs and decided then that the solution was for me to write a poem about them.

But here is the thing about writing poems about people: it is generally easier to write about them when they are not around or when some time has passed since you have seen them. I don't know why this is. Is nostalgia a necessary ingredient for poetry? Maybe.

So don't you know, that as soon as  as I hit the wide open road I started to write about them:

Cherubs on their best days
Rugrats the remainder
Crawling chasing jumping yelling
Munchkins making merry...

Children are very good at keeping us in the now. We grownups would be so lost without them...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Impossible to Get the Tour on the Road...?

Nelson Mandela

I should have left already but I am still in Los Angeles, preparing to leave on my "Impossible Tour." I have said goodbye to some people so many times it is beginning to be embarrassing.  The people up north waiting for me are beginning to wonder if I am ever gonna get there. I am 3 days behind schedule...A few minor snags have slowed me down, most notably this cold that refuses to part ways with me despite my making it abundantly clear to said cold that we are not compatible.

Another delay concerns my co-pilot, Michaela, the Bunny. She was scheduled to fly to the West Coast before my departure but due to various factors, she is still in New England, faring the awful Blizzard of '13 with her caretakers Tiesha and Mimi (angels these two). Between Sandy and the blizzard I am beginning to feel like I left Providence in the nick of time!

Over here in Cali we have all been complaining about the record cold weather which in fact is only in the 40s at its worse. Meanwhile, New Englanders are dreaming of 40 degree weather...and roads that are visible...and power to turn on the heat.

One of the things I hope to accomplish on this tour is the completion of my poem, Survivor (title subject to change). It is a positive alternative to all the poems I have started to write (and failed to/refused to finish) in response to a certain incident that occurred in Florida on 8-9-10. People have asked me to write about it, I have been invited to give lectures and talk about it at various universities and I think its about time to finish that poem...

The following (somewhat angry) poetry snippet will likely NOT make it into that poem, but it gives you some idea of what I am working through to get to the other side and why it has taken me so long.

 It is in some ways, an impossible poem to write.

You weren't there
So you don't know
And there aren't enough words
To tell that story
Not enough colors
To paint that picture
Vivid enough to break your heart
Like it broke mine
You ought to try

Thank goodness for meditation and time and good friends and distance...

I have so much to write, so so much to write on this tour. I will be working on my superduper intriguing  spiritual book about past lives and multiple dimensions and all kinds of weird and fun stuff (stay tuned-more to come on that). I will also be working on my next album, The Impossible Album.

Check out my reverbnation site for videos, audio downloads, and my mailing list

Also, while you are at it, why not go to my facebook fan page and hit "Like"?

 It will make my day and surely cure my cold!