2017: Unleash The Warrior

When Maeve shows up in your spread, you freakin’ pay attention! From The Goddess Oracle Deck, curated by Amy Sophia Marashinsky and illustrated by Hrana Janto, here’s a poem featured for the goddess Queen. Take heed warriors:

I am a Warrioress

a Warrioress of the Heart

I am Queen

of the domain of myself

I am able to respond

in all situations

from the knowledge of who I am

My actions are who I am

My beliefs are who I am

All I do is who I am

That which is outside of me

stays outside of me

That which I choose to let in

I own and acknowledge

How can you be responsible

if you do not own all aspects of yourself?

How can you be accountable

without being Queen over your own domain?

How can you serve your consort, your children, your community

if you are unwilling to acknowledge and answer for yourself?

 

Toodle-oo 2016

Happy end to 2016, all! And man, am I glad for it.

My best analogy would be a roller coaster. The year started as a steady climb, up up up towards the sun, elevating my excitement, then a nominal twist around, a clear view of my surroundings, lush and lovely, before plunging, straight down, body lifting away from its harness, into a cavern of no end, in complete darkness, only to shoot out into the brightness once more, theme park camera flashing to capture the stoic expression upon my face before the rasping cart slams to a complete stop.

There might be a poem in that…

All in all, it was a year filled with hope. Hope that my independent productions would find happy homes or an interested audience. Hope that my love life would improve in a new domesticated living situation. Hope that my illness would stabilize, allowing my physical, emotional and mental health to be balanced. Hope that my inner circle of trusted friends would expand exponentially. With hope and a super injection of faith, these events did occur with great success. For that I am grateful. But there were costs and consequences, as described by that speeding coaster above.

One double-twist I didn’t brace myself for was merging my artistic process with another person’s standards. We were not on the same page with that. Living on my own I was able to carve out a creative space within my home, but combining two households, and the forces within, left me with no creative wiggle room. I felt my creativity fizzle, as you can witness by the dearth of blog posts this year. I overcompensated, helping others out with their life plans, supporting other artists with their endeavors, more caught up in their needs as opposed to my artistic process. The costs of supporting my productions was a giant loop with nauseating hang time in the middle. Fortunately, I didn’t get to a-block-of-ramen-as-my-one-daily-meal broke, but I’m still recuperating from such a dizzying situation. I asked myself, has the Von Simeon Experience reached its zenith?

Because of the intense focus away from my artistic self, I felt my confidence wane. Then the response to The Living Goddess Exhibit happened. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I received was a strong indication that the Von Simeon Experience is far from over. I’ve carved out a niche, a nice one, one that I can expose with the right resources. The fatalist in me of course then asks, but can you keep it up? I hope so. I really hope so.

I did step up my mental health advocacy this year, reaching out to fellow MIs, sharing poetry, participating in local mental health awareness events. I’ve renewed my NAMI membership, and am thinking of doing more with the Pinellas County charter. I’ve been invited to contribute articles and poetry about living with bipolar disorder. After Carrie Fisher’s passing, I’m encouraged to do so in her honor.

Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for reading, period!

May the new year be a gentle undulation through soft blue skies, easy coasts and mellow bounces, feather-light in ride.

And now, this video of the height-defying coaster I actually rode in July 2016. It’s gnarly!

The Living Goddess Exhibit (Video)

Thank you to everyone who supported this personal, transcendental endeavor of mine. The show was a hit! We wanted everyone to experience the magic of the Goddesses, so here’s a full YouTube link of the show, filmed entirely on smartphone. Like and share with everyone you love.

Broadcasting the Divine Feminine in Sarasota

I was four years old, standing onstage with my dance mates at the Fort Hood Family Recreation Center, wearing a white frilly top with red satin inlay and matching red velour skirt. White opaque tights and shiny patent leather Mary Janes completed my outfit. My hair, curls freshly unfurled from pink sponge curlers, served as a mane. Mom had painted whiskers across my cheeks. While the costume was more holiday, the performance was animal. I was cast as a lion amongst lambs in a story about Jesus Christ’s birth. My dance was simple – a crouched position, a turn to the left, a turn to the right, then a full circle. Repeat. It was my first stage performance. After the applause and raising of the house lights, I knew it wouldn’t be my last.

Flash forward to the eve of 40. I sit across from show director Luke Rosebaro in the WSRQ Sarasota talk radio station at microphone #4. Andy Garrett sits to my left, and Frances Roberts-Reilly sits to my right. The three of us are promoting The Living Goddess Exhibit, a production I developed early 2016 that was showcased on November 11th. For Luke and his listening audience, we share poems featured in the exhibit as well as other sacred creations.

This was my first radio performance, and I delighted to share at a microphone that wasn’t propped on a stand on a stage in front of a live audience. Although I faced Luke, I knew my purpose for being there was to reach out to the listening audience – what message do I want to convey? All our poems were formed around the Dark Goddess in our daily living. What does she have to say?

To invoke goddess energy into my delivery, I took my favorite scarf – a gray sheer fabric adorned with black skulls – and draped it over my head and shoulders. Immediately I felt a tingle in the crown of my head, more to the right side. A sensation like an electrical current flowing between two points repeated across the area. I was tuned in.

Photos: Frances Roberts-Reilly

From my collection, I offered ArcAngel, Lady of Blazing Dominion, and Reed-Girl. The beautiful poetess Nidia Del Mar, who embodied Kali for The Living Goddess Exhibit, let me perform her two poems from the show. The Dark Goddess infused me, allowing the words to flow with a lion’s strength and a warrior’s passion.

I felt good sharing with Luke and his audience. I felt empowered, able to perform without the ego getting in the way. After a successful day sharing our art, we touched a bit on opportunities in the region before heading to Simon’s Coffee House for lunch. Our contributions will be aired on Saturday, December 24th and will be available online here.

Our visit to WSRQ was an opportunity to promote POP! The Poet Outreach Program I began to develop this year. The purpose of POP is to bring together artists of all styles, all levels of experience, to collaborate on unique projects and deliver community events across Tampa Bay. This grass-roots level approach embraces literary arts as a catalyst towards increased creativity in communities were artistic exposure may be lacking. Since we were in Sarasota I encouraged the listening audience to consider supporting POP! locally, and to contact our organization for networking opportunities across the Skyway Bridge.

Andy, Frances, and the rest of The Living Goddess Exhibit cast are eager to reprise our show on a local stage or setting in 2017. We hope our visit to WSRQ will stoke interest and draw supporters. Currently, we’re in need of funding to cover exhibit costs. Your generous, tax deductible donations to POP! can be made via PayPal to vsenterprisesfl@gmail.com.

The Monday After

I took the flower bouquets I received Friday night and consolidated them into one mongo bouquet on the kitchen island. The vase it rests in is the same one from the exhibit, a gift from lady Brigid, the Bringer of Light. I wanted to depict onstage a woman’s womb and its power to birth beauty, thus the addition of the bouquet to the dais. Real flowers this time in the vase; they make me smile widely.

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Gifts from a successful evening, a plethora of flowers and a nice bottle of merlot

It is a strange morning. What had consumed my time, energy and effort these past few months is done, gone. I woke up thinking, what to do now? I took the healthy route and scaled down my interests just so I could concentrate fully on developing this creative piece. In doing so, I freed myself of unnecessary worry. But it’s done now, and I feel a bit…naked.

Let’s reflect on the exhibit itself. By the time I had horns on my head, I was ready to go. I had complete faith in each performer, on the attending crowd, and the spiritual energy in the theater. I smiled big the whole night. When I performed, I gave myself to the stage. I honestly can’t recall doing my poetic recitations, but I know they happened. I remember looking into the crowd, finding the faces of my friends. I remember feeling the heat of the lamps pointed center stage. I remember feeling empowered, thinking, “I am good at this!” as I laughed into my next recitation. I gave myself lines and not one, but two sets of poems to recite. I did not mess up. I am proud of me!

The first poem I recited is an actual poem written by Enheduanna, the high priestess of Ur and first poet of recorded history. It’s actually the invocation portion of an epic poem, Inanna and Ebih, In-Nin-Me-Huš-A, which means “Lady of Blazing Dominion.” You know what I use as a mnemonic? Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.” I play the chorus in my head, then I launch into the whole poem.

The second poem is an original I wrote earlier this year. It’s a poem about self-discovery and taking chances. It was a story I wanted to tell about me in the search for footing in a 21st century world. I figured it fit with the story of Enheduanna’s difficulty in pleasing the world, leaving her unfulfilled. Until the goddesses hear her desperation, Enheduanna suffers the part. This is so common, especially with modern women. We sit there and stew in our troubles instead of reaching out. Yours truly is a culprit of this activity. Thus, I turn around and encourage the high priestess to reach beyond and find her potential amongst the cosmos. If you can’t find inspiration in this world, be inspired by the worlds beyond.

Today I feel like I released a bird to the sky letting it fly and be part of nature. The exhibit belongs to the artistic ethos now, out of my hands, existing as its own pulsating thing. Today I should allow myself to breathe. Friday was a fantastic night. Today should be a quiet day.

 

Empowered By The Goddesses

Last night can’t be undone.

Magic happened to this scraping-by artist. Months of anxious planning and preparation, interrupted by life and health events, and here it was: my poetry exhibit. Performed beautifully by goddesses of their own caliber, embodying influential archetypes much needed in this post-election week. We gathered to share, we’re not scared. When challenged we have the greatest weapon – our divine sisterhood.

I hand picked artists of diverse creative influences with one common thread: a genuine respect for the power of goddess energy. Allowing them the freedom to choose their artistic interpretation made the project a communal experience. Everyone provided me input as to how they envisioned their deity within the story, based on the loose script I had provided. By the time I met with each woman, got to know her at her craft and on a personal level, and scripted her part, I had the complete story. Using a community-oriented approach to playwriting was a great experience.

And then, showtime. I was not nervous at all. My faith was so strong in these actors I knew I had nothing to worry about. Healthwise, my body had reacted well to new medication, so I didn’t have to concern myself with erratic movement or confusion. Mind, body and soul clear, I took to the stage like I take to my bed at night; cozily and comfortably! You know what? I felt redeemed. After a shitty Wednesday morning feeling tense and scared about my future, I have this moment of success that can’t be taken away. I achieved this, in America, as a disabled person, as a woman of color.  It took incredible fortitude to get here, and I championed that. I’ve arrived at the station I’m meant to visit.

My art has elevated my mood once again. I’m wrapped in the embrace of creativity, considering how to replicate the show for a wider audience. Or, shall I write another performance poetry exhibit? I love mashing music and poetry together, maybe a joint exhibit with live musicians, like how we incorporated a drummer into Pomba Gira’s performance? Wait, wait…let’s bask in the glow of success that was last night. We can do all of that battle planning later, Inanna 😉

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Me dressed as the warrior goddess Inanna
The Show:
 

Last night, the beautiful high priestess Enheduanna, troubled by her Moon Temple followers, found relief in the love, compassion, and commitment of her beloved goddesses. First, Persephone, Maiden of the Underworld, arrived as soon as Enheduanna begged for Death. She brought forward the Matron of the Crossroads, Pomba Gira, who offered the high priestess quite a wake-up call! Upon Pomba Gira’s departure, the Bringer of Light, Brigid, softly stepped into the high priestess’ chamber and blessed it with a light-welcoming poem. 

 
She brought forward Hecate, Great Crone, to call the powers of the four directions to Enheduanna. Her poetry reminds us of her all-knowing power. Relieved, Enheduanna takes a moment to relax, but is quickly interrupted by the powerful Kali, Governess of Time. The intimidating mother reminds the high priestess of her natural divinity and urges her to use it. Glamoured into a sleep state, the goddess Ix Chel visits Enheduanna’s dream. Her poem forecasts necessary change from disillusionment. 
 
When Enheduanna wakes, she is reverent, washed over in love and appreciation. To enhance those wonderful feelings, Yemoya emerges from the water to the high priestess, and they share a dance of divine feminine love. Finally, Enheduanna is entreated to the presence of her personal goddess, Inanna, who shares knowledge of the high priestess’ own written words. Inanna passes on her pure lance to the worthy high priestess, then sends her back to the moon ceremony with a poem of spiritual encouragement.

 

A Creative Place

Here we are, the first week of November. It’s still in the 80s here in Florida, with a tease of a cold front moving in this weekend. The Living Goddess Exhibit is turning into an exquisite piece of art, thanks to the collaborative effort of all artists involved. I’m really proud of this event, and proud of myself for sticking to it, as I was challenged by a medicine change a few weeks back.

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Check out the curls! Hanging out at The Complete Sweet Shoppe on a lovely Friday afternoon

It is quite a challenge to stay in an artistic flow when you’re experiencing every drug-related side effect indicated. I’m sensitive that way, didn’t realize how much until this recent run through. But I fought through, head butting through the collapses and the shakes and the confusion. I fixed my face and attitude so that I can have successful interactions with those involved in the exhibit. I continue to be nervous, more for the closeness of the performance date than the side effects.

What I’m most appreciative of is the quality of support I’ve received from my inner circle, growing greater as I venture out artistically. Sometimes I just need to curl into a ball on a friend’s couch for a few minutes, just to get aligned, grounded. Then I burst back into creativity, going through the logistics of the show, or working on the details of my props. It feels good to be genuinely nurtured through the process.

The show hasn’t commenced yet but I’m already thinking about after the fact. Where are my energies going to be directed? What is my focus for the next few months? Earlier in October I ventured out into a project that I realized was bigger than I can handle, and it left me in a depressive state, realizing my limitations. But I’m a try-er, and I can at least pride myself in giving it a go. That’s the artist life. Some things stick, some things slide through. I’ve gotten over the discouragement.

My hope is that the Living Goddess Exhibit goes without a hitch. I’ve got wonderful artists involved, full of positivity and talent, so there’s no denying things are gonna work out. Afterwards, I’ll allow myself a little break so that I can healthfully pursue my next project.

That’s my check in. Have a wonderful weekend!

 

It’s Dress Up Time!

inanna
Source: deviantart

Busy, busy, like a queen honeybee, pumping out ideas, designs, and information with little breaks in between to breathe. Ask for help will I? Why? Everything’s under control, yep…everything is errythang.

Whew. Who am I kidding??

These last two years, I had been producing works for publication and sale. After joining the band, I was compelled back into performance art. So, getting my Vaclav Havel on, I’ve designed an exhibit of empowered, proactive women sharing words of wisdom in the form of goddesses. Fun, right? The exhibit came from a place of concern, that pit in the gut where you feel something needs to be expressed, something especially important for humankind. This is what Art does for us, yes? Get those expressions out into the open.

I wanted to express my disappointment in humanity, specifically, in the way women refuse to support each other when it comes to social cues and laws defining our roles in society. But I didn’t want to be a nag about it either. Instead, I took a comic view. What is it that women typically deal with that we can all agree we deserve a break from? And so, I’ve developed The Living Goddess Exhibit.

The girls are here to tell it like it is.

Me, I’m going to perform as Inanna, my all-time favorite deity. I’ve blogged about her too many times to not support my obsession. Inanna is perfect! If I lived in the time of her worship, I would be her best high priestess. Why? She does what I do all the time: explore people’s dualities. I *love* to exploit either-or people (in a gentle way) in order to get them to see the world’s challenges as not which team one prefers but rather, what the global community could embrace if they considered both options. It’s easy to follow the herd, but ultimately, someone needs to shepherd. Inanna is that deity.

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Inanna, Goddess of Love and War

More details on the exhibit to come, but know this: I am in a place of deep creativity and also of calm. Things are moving at tornado speed around me but the inner cone is silent. I’m glad I’ve gotten to a point in life where I can manage the outer and inner worlds as a whole. Wish me luck in these next coming weeks!

 

 

The Great White Male

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I slapped on the visor and apron with uncertainty. Already I had worked the season opener for the local college team, now my volunteering efforts were geared towards opening day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The USF game was its own special nightmare – scorching day, no breeze, collapsing bodies – but otherwise, sales at the Second Time Arounders Marching Band tiki bar boomed. I think it was because we were by the boat.

This time around, we were placed in a beer corner with not a lot of space to move between the six of us. Before I had finished dumping ice onto the premium beers it was go time! Customers lining up for all things frosty and salty. I did as trained – smiled as I took the order, if it involved alcohol I asked for ID, held the ID up to confirm face and date, then processed the sale with a cheerful “Enjoy the game!” to send their happy selves off.

And then, he came. A large, burly man dressed in Buccaneer regalia, beads dangling proudly from his neck. His face was cute, chubby, and pinked at the cheeks. He ordered two beers and a water. I asked for his photo ID. His chubby face became firm. He flared his arms, “Are you fucking serious?”

“Yes,” I calmly replied.

“I’m 54 years old! I could be your goddamn father!”

“I’m sorry sir,” I calmly explain, “I can’t sell you those drinks without an ID.”

I watched as he stepped backwards, almost into the couple behind him, then flare his nostrils and widen his chest. I swear he was going to rush the stand, but then he yelled, “Let’s settle this right now.”

My eyes followed his left hand waiving over someone. I’m thinking it’s his wife or somebody holding his ID. A dark blue suit with TPD on the lapel and a gun at the waist appeared instead.

Never in the history of me has a cop being waived my direction ever worked out in my favor. I’m flushed, I feel my heart start to race, and an “Oh SHIT” mantra starts looping in my head, all the while thinking, he called the cops on me, he called the cops on me…

The large man details the situation above and then tells the cop “She shouldn’t ID me.” Wow! I wish I had that kind of social authority! Being above the law, being able to tell a cop what should and should not happen to him during his good time at a privately-owned stadium.

The policeman looked at me, at him, then replied, “It’s her discretion whether she sells you alcohol or not.”

WHAAAT! He’s on MY side?

Never in the history of me has a cop agreed with me, even off-duty. I felt redeemed. And even though he was pouty after the fact, I still sold the big guy a water.

I don’t care how mouthy you are. Rule #1 in retail: get the sale.

I wasn’t worried about him, I was worried about the cop. He was worried about his beer, I was worried I was ending up in handcuffs. This is our world – a bunch of unnecessary worries. If I’m lucky in this lifetime, I shouldn’t feel threatened by the appearance of law enforcement anymore.

I’ve slept on this and still felt compelled to write, because it’s such a phenomenal experience. When you look a certain way, or hang out in a certain crowd, the labels and assumptions abound. Negative labels and assumptions unfortunately carry on with you despite social improvements. So when I describe this simple scenario, I wonder if you’re reading it as someone who’s been negatively labeled all their life, or if you’re wondering why the cop agreeing with me is such a monumental deal. It is a big deal. It signifies the necessary shift in the social wind. Not everyone who looks like me needs to be disciplined by the police. Moreover, people who look like me aren’t easily threatened by the gesticulations of the Great White Male, as was my friend’s mistake.

 

 

 

 

My Upcoming Gig

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!

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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.

Smoochies!