Be proud of me. This is my 1st event flyer of 2016, and it’s August. This represents a huge sigh of relief. A difficult start I had this year, but I’m proud I was able to recover within the 12 months. It’s the Ishtar in me, I suppose. Can’t keep a woman down too long!
And so here’s my new project, Spoken Works. Why Spoken Works? Written words are the definition of a generation’s experience. In my experience, too many well-written words by exceptionally talented artists remain unshared because of personal barriers: shyness, terror of public speaking, fear of judgment. Knowing that, I asked myself, “What can be done to avert those challenges?” Then I asked, “What helped me?”
Group sharing in my Creative Writing courses. Discourse amongst colleagues in closed environments. Finding the right tribe, and sticking to them, because I can trust them. Those experiences helped me. When I had a home base for my sharing, I was not inhibited anymore.
This workshop program is part of my POP Pinellas venture, a grass-roots poet outreach program. To poet and to be a poet, to me, is one in the same. Just as people use “their” as a gender-neutral derivation, I use “poet” as a title-neutral derivation for those who write their truth down. Makes sense right? Instead of listing, oh I’m a poet, author, lyricist, short story writer, blahblahblah. I’m a poet.
And this wasn’t my original idea. From James Baldwin’s 1963 speech, “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity”:
However arrogant this may sound, I want to suggest two propositions. The first one is that the poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets. That’s my first proposition.
Which, heads up, a review of James Baldwin is gonna be my next blog post because I’m absorbing his words right now. If you want to book club it, I just started “The Cross of Redemption” and am still reading through the speeches.
Questions? Comments? You know how to reach me. And check out POPPinellas.com when you have a moment. I haven’t officially launched it yet, but it’ll eventually be where I post about Spoken Works and other local projects.
Progress report on my awesome ‘do. I’ve got about an inch and change of growth since the buzz down. The curls are coming in really tight, yet still distinct – soft, wispy curls along the temples, thick twists cover the rest. There’s still the weird patch of hair that grows longer than the rest of the head.
The last time I cut my hair down, it grew back in bone straight, reflecting my maternal biology. This time, there isn’t a straight hair to be found, all coils!
What’s also growing in all nice and neat are white hairs. You know what? I think I’m gonna leave them alone. I kinda like the thought of entering my 40s with salt-and-pepper curls.
Been riding quite the wave this week. Got my spoken word workshop green-lighted, received positive responses from exhibit participants, and I’ve even lined up some local celebs to bring flair to my projects! Man, am I a lucky girl. Thanks for delivering, Universe.
On Thursday, my arty cohort and I traversed the local Joann Fabrics and Michaels stores. I needed to brainstorm. As per usual, I’m taking the most complicated route to satisfy a very simple project; in this case, trying to get my goddess apparel together for my November exhibit.
Still going with the Queen Puabi crown of course. As we perused row after row of notions and beadings and sheets of both paper and cloth, I realized yup! I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
Here’s sketches of what I’ve designed. Found the “easy” dress pattern and some bamboo cross-stitch hoops to make a crown base. The key is to make the head gear as light as possible.
The dress? A yummy purple floor-length number with an empire waist. It’s not so much the cloth adornment as is the emphasis on jewelry. This is an elaborate crown, indeed, and so to compliment it, I’ve pulled down accents to the arms. As you’ll see there’s little anise-shaped stars that go along the crown which I’ll also make an armband of. And that elaborate strip of gold foil? I’ll have that carried down the other arm. At least this is what my ambition is coming up with; hopefully we’ll exceed expectations!
The first time we went out on the water, BF spent more time looking back and stopping for me than he did enjoying the adventure. For the inconvenience, on this time around, I assured him he could enjoy the trip without worrying about me, now that I knew the course of the river from launch to landing. Besides, with his shirtless back facing me, his sculpted shoulders busy at work, I had someone quite pleasant to focus on.
We planned for one more day on the New River; the cool, clear water beckoning us to enter and clear our souls. My soul was a bit heavy, having to bear the uncomfortable feeling of entering a home in distress. We didn’t know anything about our host family’s marital split prior to our arrival, and even more so, I didn’t know I had to be on the defense as the only woman among related men. For me the water was liberation from the snarls and scowls of a wounded male, a free moment to tune to nature and scale off the superficiality of man.
A meandering was in order.
Depending on which data you reference, the New River in the Appalachian Range is one of the oldest rivers in the world. To ask the locals you would be certain to believe it is the oldest. I’m not here to contest any of that data, but I will say this: from water to stone to tree to sand, the entire universe of that river felt primordial.
Pushed off and well into our course, I smiled, looking through clear water at the mica-flecked stones along the bottom. BF wondered if they were flecks of actual gold. I told him how mica is used in cosmetics to offer that under skin “glow.” In the moment of that interaction, I felt the goddess Isis widening her giving wings over the both of us. As much as I wanted to share, “Isis is here!” I remember the unfortunance of the double meaning, and hold back.
Our small barques wound their way over pure water, hugged by rocky shores with faces almost a billion years old, deciduous trees lording over us as the sky laced between their green fingers. The sun loved us enough to warm our shoulders bronze. A breeze, like a subtle tongued kiss to the neck, won over my frazzled spirit, and finally, I could relax. My stroke through the water intensified, my shoulders winding fluidly as I searched out the deep pockets. In the shallows, I dug with might and determination, “No! I won’t get out of this boat!” BF was far forward. I sensed he’s on his own journey, and let him be.
At the thought to allow my love to float along and be with the river, I came upon the most curious sight. Bear in mind the north-flowing current was constant but not strong that day. The water itself was cold, but not unbearable. As I paddled to the right of a patch of moss, I saw a yellow and black snake completely erect, protruding from the center of the moss. I slowed to admire this behavior. I don’t know of a snake that would sun in the center of a river, let alone do it standing up! Then I noticed he started to wave, along with the current, but I took it as a “Hello!” A glow of yellow-gold light, filled with good, fortifying medicine, swaddled me. Oh Snake, I prayed, thank you for your gift. I kept looking back at that vertical creature until the river pulled me from view. The entire time, Snake stayed in that tall position in the moss. Imbued with blessing, I hurried towards my love.
The New River curled towards our landing. We came across a black and white border collie, feverishly digging a hole along the shore. As there was a makeshift swing nearby, we figured he was a member of that riverfront household. The collie, more preoccupied with his find than us, leaped from his post then climbed up the hill ostensibly towards his home.
But he didn’t go home.
This collie followed us the remaining few miles of our trip, swimming between the kayaks, landing on either shore, taking off into the woods; yet he’d always return. I heard the words, “Wolf Medicine” echo between my ears, then, experienced an unavoidable snag in the river. My kayak landed on rocks. I watched as the collie and BF continued, then realized, Spirit wants me to hang back. From my landing it was abundantly clear, this wolf descendant and this mountain-spirited man were meant to meet. Side by side, Wolf and Man paddling, quietly as to not disturb the existing serenity. It was overwhelming to behold. To the mountain I prayed, “thank you for his Wolf medicine” before returning the barque to a deeper pool of water and paddling on.
The topless silo signaling our stop, our wolf company disappeared into the nearby tree farm. On our landing, BF found a perfectly flat, round stone which he pocketed. I helped myself to a larger stone, the width of my hand, so that I could enjoy ancient river medicine anytime.
When Man weighs you down, let Nature lift you up.
As the Parade of Nations at the Olympics passed onscreen, I couldn’t take my eyes off of a certain African athlete dancing along with the stadium samba music. Djibouti’s small yet excited delegation entered in matching clothing, but the dancer added beautiful jewelry across her face! Found what it was, a version of this ceremonial headdress.
I think my goddess might like to wear this…
August = productive so far, and delighted to report it’s a very positive experience! So far, I’ve drummed up interest on my two projects, and it looks like we are totally greenlit for The Living Goddess Exhibit. What is that, you wonder? Word will be out soon on the details, but if you have been following my previous cosmic-based posts, this was in the works for a while.
Currently I’m in design phase: how I want my exhibit to look, how I want the performers to appear, and most importantly, how am I presenting myself? Since the preferred date of the event falls after Halloween, I got the idea to costume the event (and the idea for you the attendee to dress up as well).
Immediately I went to my sketch book and freeformed how I imagined the engagement to appear if it had to be described entirely in drawing. Tendrils swoop the hands and crown of the Oracle I had drawn. Yes, this is going to be a very interactive, connected event. If you don’t leave feeling spiritually charged, then I didn’t do a good job!
Inspiration for the goddesses come from Queen Puabi the Sumerian ruler of Ur, whose crown and jewelry can be found on display in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Penn Museum. I’m considering re-creating this crown for the event. It is quite intricate, but I love a challenge!
Over the weekend, I was happy to discover that Peter Hargitai, longtime friend and Poet Laureate of Gulfport, Florida, completed a review of the poetry portfolio I had provided him, a selection of poems written within the last 16 years. Peter’s critique washed me in validation, his words honoring my approach to our shared craft. The poems he mentions are embedded in this post.
VON SIMEON, the author of I Blew Up Juarez, is a wunderkind of imaginative literature, having published her first creative effort in Germany when she was eleven years of age. A self-described poet, novelist and blogger with an international following, she transitions from genre to genre with dashing confidence. As a child in a military family, she had to adapt to life, transitioning from Panama, where she was born, to Germany, where she was raised, to Puerto Rico, Texas, Kentucky and her current home in Saint Pete Beach, Florida. Her educational background is a testament to her mastery of seemingly contrary disciplines: science and the arts.
When responding to works of imaginative literature, it is not always appropriate to identify the author with her work, unless the work contains biographical elements that may be useful in shedding light on a text. Such is the case with confessional poetry in which the speaker and the author are one and the same. Von Simeon’s attraction to dualities is not confined to art and science, but cover a broad spectrum of contraries that serve as leitmotifs in her verse: black/white, male/female, spiritual/physical, demonic/divine, obscure/grandiose, gentle/furious, pensive/manic, weak/strong, feeble/titanic, fear/courage, curse/blessing, life/death.
These contraries are much more than rhetorical or metaphysical conceits; they are urgent and personal unresolved questions of identity that ultimately find as a solution a persona that is mythic, titanic, and divine. Wolfgang von Göethe, when referring to Lord Byron as “heroic” described him in terms of “Keckheit, Künheit, und Grandiosität” or “daring, dash, and grandiosity.” This is not something to be taken as a disparaging delusion of grandeur, but rather a true realization of the poetic soul’s immensity. Likewise, Von Simeon’s “Empress of the waves,” in her poem “Reed-Girl,” is titanic and cosmic, since the power of the imagination is limitless, “ordained by the Cosmos” where the poet can “go play about galaxies” to “show the universe / how majesty is done.” The sense of empowerment through which the creative process makes us more than mere mortal finds a kindred echo in Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “What am I? Nothing. / But not so art thou, Soul of my thought! / with whom I traverse the earth.”
The aspect of the divine is palpable in the power of creation itself: as God creates, so does the poet create, and insofar as we create, we are divine. What makes Von Simeon’s deity different is that hers is always female, usually a strong woman, a poetess-warrior “with the strength of five lions,” a mythic heroine or a goddess who is as powerful as she is divine as in the case of “Calypso,” “Artemis” and “Venus,” the queen of the gods who adorns the poet with a “Wreath of Stars,” or the primordial Earth Mother “Gaia” who grants her the “Voice of the Gods.”
My personal favorite is her poem Black Not Black. In this highly original verse Simeon combines the jaunty rhythms of hip-hop to convey a youthful surge of sensuous energy in tandem with a kindred spirit when her female speaker encounters her soulmate at a bus stop. The usual dualities surface, this time as pressing questions of racial identity: “Black? Not Black.” As her lens focuses, the inchoate figure approaching her with “full lips, Gillespie dizzy,” and “chocolate eyes brimming with soul” turns out not to be “Black” insofar as physical features are concerned; but inside the fair skin is a truly “sensational soul” (another duality: sense and spirit) that evokes the melding of dualities just as the words “BlackNotBlack” merge into one word. The speaker and poet embody the same conceit in the duality of opposites (“ivory” and “black”) as she is a mirror image of what she perceives. And the encounter, however brief, is a transfiguring epiphany. Something wonderful, inexplicable and immortal has happened, a discovery of oneness that has the power to suspend time, to heal a rift in a fractured psyche, and to resolve for time immemorial all her inner conflicts into transcendent art.
First Poet Laureate of Gulfport
©2016 VS Enterprises
Black Not Black
Five Oh One and bounding
successes of yet another fine day.
The next bus is at five twenty.
He strolls smoothly
eyes half-closed in pensive rapture
perhaps timing out a tune
Black. Not Black?
Full lips, Gillespie dizzy
chocolate eyes brimming with soul
A thick crown of tight
It is copper red.
Black? Not Black.
His skin is sweet fair
cheeks flecked with freckles
Not tall…short? Average.
Hands are smooth and adorned with
Black? Not Black?
Sensational soul stops suddenly.
The bus corners and prepares to stop.
Starstruck eyes meet starstruck eyes
I stand to reveal sharp curves enveloped in
small hands pressed against thick thighs
and long Black hair framing pursed lips
Soft-skinned saint smiles and sidles off
The next bus is at six o’clock.
©2016 VS Enterprises
I am in a mood.
I’m gonna compose some letters. Not going to mail them, just let the words flow cathartic. I’ll print them on lovely stationary, then burn them, after I cross and cover names.
Yep. I’m in that kind of mood.
I’ll start my drafts here for your amusement. To accompany, a few of Dali’s beautiful heliogravures from his 1969 Alice in Wonderland series. Enjoy!
Dear Person Who Self-Deprecates When Attention Is Drawn To You:
Hi. I’m noticing what you’re doing and it’s annoying the hell out of me. First of all, you look old enough to be my mother, and that’s not an insult, that’s a demographic detail. Second of all, we’re in the same room together, about to face the same challenges. While I sit here in tune to what’s happening, you’re sitting behind me, disturbing the persons to your left and right, saying, “I hope [he] knows how stupid I am” and “They better have someone who knows what they’re doing with me.” Do you even understand that what you’re doing is completely self-absorbed? Your pretend self-flagellation is actually a form of grandstanding that you probably inherited from a lifetime of leeching off of the kindness and patience of others. Shut the fuck up you stupid leech; you’re here to do a job. If you feel you can’t handle it, there’s the door. We’ve got this covered.
The Chick Wondering How You And She Are The Same Pay Grade
Dear Person Who Self-Deprecates As A Form Of Emceeing:
Hi. You’re not a comic. If you were a comic, and this was a comedic venue, you’d so not be making me laugh. Self-deprecation is a source of humor only when you realize the joke is supposed to be on you. But if your job is to warm up the mic, try not to spend those moments between performers – who may be nervous or amped or prepared – to talk about how much of a talentless waste-of-space you are. When you do that, you diminish the starlight of the talent approaching the microphone after your sad tale. It’s like watching someone murder a puppy between sets: not only is it senseless, but it doesn’t fit the grand ideal of uplifting artists and showcasing their artistry. Get it together, or get another project.
The Chick Waiting For Her Turn On The Stage
Dear Person Who Self-Deprecates In Order To Get My Personal Attention:
Hi. You done fucked up. I don’t do pity. I don’t do the pat on the backs and “there, there” acts. You’re phony and I smelled your phony the moment I saw your pinched shoulders and wavering eyes. You want to absorb my energy, I see it in your wringing hands. Are you actually telling me about your life problems without me even knowing you? Who am I, Barbara Walters? And don’t you DARE call me Oprah, or you will know my wrath. Get away. Grow up. Instead of coming to me about what you’re going to do, come to me about what you’ve already done, maybe then I can at least advise you. But your self-inflicted humility is not my charge, buddy. You’re an adult now. And if you’re an adult using lines like, “I can’t deal with adulting,” stay the hell away from me. I’ve got a life; get yours.
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