Category: Poetry

Harnessing the Power of Fear to Generate Action

by Andie Bottrell

It’s been 9 months since I last blogged for LA FPI and the world feels like a drastically different place…a terrifyingly absurd place…the kind of place that I used to think only existed in dark, independent foreign films (a favorite to watch, though less favored to live in). Through all the political cacophony and “alternative facts,” one real, indisputable fact has emerged: Fear creates action like a motherf*cker. Advertisers, politicians, and religious zealots have harnessed this power for decades…but I’m not here to talk about any of that…I’m here to talk about creating.

It’s a story-line we’re all familiar with: A person has a near-death experience, survives and realizes what really matters to them. They quit their job, get out of that toxic relationship, sell the clutter, and live more simply in pursuit of their legacy. That may mean investing more time into your relationships with your family, or it could mean spending more time creating that masterpiece–or both! Or neither! Or something else entirely! Only your heart knows. The question is: If we all know the story, why aren’t we able to extrapolate the lesson of it without the near-death part?

Fear gets a negative connotation, some of which is justified, but fear is also adrenaline, it is motivation, and it can be the cold, hard hand of reality that slaps you across the face when you’ve tuned out on your life.

If you’re terrified of ending up as the person who always said, “I’m a _____,” or “I’m working on______,” or “I’m going to ________,” and then never became, never did, never got there…then you will do something. When the fear of not doing the thing becomes greater than the fear of trying and failing, you will do the thing. And when you do the thing, you’ll buck head-on with that fear of trying and failing like never before, and finally be forced to confront (ie. breakthrough) that fear. The good news is that the more times you breakthrough that fear, the further you’ll be able to go.

So, my advice? Be afraid, be very, very afraid. And do it anyway. Set yourself up to confront scary situations on the regular. Go take that stand-up routine you’ve got tucked in your pocket up on a stage in front of people and fill the space with your weird ass humor. Don’t just finish that book, put it out in the world–tell people, ask them to read it and tell you what they really think…then, send it to your idols–why not? Produce that play that you’re the most proud of but that no one has said, “yes” to yet. Start that business you’ve been dreaming about for 20 years.

In other words: LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING (because you are).

True: You might “fail.” You might fall flat on your face in the most humiliating way. Maybe no one laughs when they’re supposed to…maybe everyone laughs when they’re not. You will cry and there will be sleepless nights. You might go bankrupt. Maybe you go for it with all you’ve got and come up short. Maybe you’ll be forced to realize that you’re not capable of doing what you’ve always wanted to…yet. You could perish mid-pursuit…but, more terrifyingly, you could die never having tried at all–never having spoken your thoughts–never having shared your he(art)–never knowing what could have been…and then, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

It’s not hyperbole to say these decisions are life and death. Your life and your death…it’s your legacy in your hands, your decisions plotting your path. It’s a lot of responsibility to admit that to yourself. While “success” is a personally defined moving target–much of which involves timing and luck that is out of your hands…your effort, your output, and your action…well, that’s all on you, kid. Life is so, so weird and no one knows half of what they seem to know…rather than try to make sense of it, embrace the absurdity. Rather than wait for someone else’s validation, proclaim it for yourself: you belong. You’re voice, experience and perspective are the rarest, most valuable assets you have.

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN! There’s just one catch: You have to try.

I promise you, if you let it, fear can be the biggest gift you give yourself (along with a hardy dose of kindness).

My Top 4 List of Scary Things From The Last 9 Months

1. True Confessions: Goldilocks & the Three Dildos

Back in September I had the opportunity (ie. volunteered) to get up on a mic in front of people and tell a true story from my life. True Confessions is a local storytelling event in the vein of The Moth and provided the perfect opportunity to scare myself shitless. It’s one thing going up in front of people under the illusion of character, costume and set, and another thing entirely to speak truthfully about truly embarrassing parts of your life that you think might be funny and poignant, but that could also just be quietly unacceptable to utter out-loud. I did it though (you can listen at the link above!) and the most surprising thing came from it…I was able to own my story in a way I never was before–always worried what others would think if I shared it…suddenly, that fear had no power over me anymore. I let go of shame and learned, by doing, how to be grateful for every odd, painful quirk of my story…for giving me such a great story to tell.

2. Art Hung on Gallery Walls

Art was always my Mom’s thing. She’s the professional artist. I was the artistic hippie who did all artistic things, but left the “serious” artistic pursuits in my Mom’s lane. I’ve always made art but rarely placed much value on it. It’s “my Mom’s thing.” As if my placing value on my work could in any way take anything away from my Mom–but I so clearly recall an incident in my childhood with a competitive friend when one of us crossed into the other’s artistic lanes and sparks flied. “Hey, that’s my thing!” To my Mom’s credit, she’s never been anything but supportive of my art. She’s even bought (ie. paid real dollar bills, yo) for my art (which is crazy to me–LOVE YOU, MOM). It’s completely my own neurosis. In the last two years, however, I’ve made more art than I have had space for and people started inquiring about buying, so I re-activated my Etsy shop and started reaching out to galleries to do shows. This makes me feel boarder-line legitimate artistically…and that means being vulnerable for my work to be judged through that lens as well…which is scary. In the last 9 months through to the next 9 months my work has shown at (for judgement and purchase) or will be shown at: BookMarx, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield Regional Arts Council, Tea Bar & Bites, and Arts & Letters.

3. LET’S TALK About My Poetry Book

I’ve been writing poetry as far back as I can remember, but like my art I never took it “seriously.” In the last few years, I have become more and more cognizant of the power of representation. The #BodyPositive movement, the #BlackGirlMagic movement, and #effyourbeautystandards among others are powerful because they provide much needed examples of strong, confident, successful, and beautiful that aren’t being shown as regularly in mainstream media and advertising. I’ve realized that my voice and perspective could add to the chorus of voices that have re-shaped my mind and my perspective on others and myself in monumental ways. And what if those people had never seen the value in their voices? My life, undoubtedly, would be vastly different today. This collection, LET’S TALK, has been in the works for the last 2 years and will be available on Amazon later this year through their self-publishing platform CreateSpace. It’s scary putting this book out there–it’s an expense–no, an investment. What if no one buys it? Or what if they do? What if they leave really awful reviews? But, more importantly, what if it helps? Anyone at all, even just a little…to feel less alone in life?

4. SEEK HELP & Seeking Funds

This was the biggest leap. This one was and is the scariest. No question. I wrote a web-series called Seek Help way back in 2012. It came out of me in a huge, easy burst of inspiration and I really loved it–which, if you write, you know how rarely that outcome occurs! I wanted to make it, but it required a specific set and a few other things that I didn’t have access to at the time. Every few years I would pull it out, re-read it and proclaim, “I want to make this!”

Then, this last year I was reading it with my friend Matt and it SPARKED. This was it. The time was now. We talked and decided to do a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to make it–and make it right. I was so scared to do a kickstarter…imagine asking for money for a project you really believe in and finding out just how many people find you or your he(art) project unworthy of giving to. But then I thought about all my friends who had had successful campaigns and how I had happily donated to many of them and I thought…okay, we can do this! People do this!

I made a plan, we made a video, we made a kickstarter, I researched, I submitted, I PR’d and I posted and posted and emailed…and then, I started to panic…like, dry-heaving, crying actual tears, out of my mind SCARED that because not enough people were responding that it meant that no one believed in me. I felt betrayed. I felt embarrassed for trying. I felt briefly like I was not worthwhile. Then, right in the middle of it, the election happened. To be clear, we were not on target for meeting our goal before the election happened, but once it happened, all progress slowed to a complete stop. Understandably people had bigger concerns–as did I.

In a weird sort of way, I found my perspective again. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started feeling so grateful for everyone who did support me when there are so many other very worthy causes to support. When we failed to make our goal, I wasn’t yet ready to relinquish defeat. When I thought about making it any way we could scrape it together, I felt excitement and peace. When I thought about giving up, I felt depressed and incapable. So, it was simple. I didn’t want to feel depressed and incapable…I wanted to feel excitement and peace. Amazingly, some of the people who’d donated wanted to keep their pledges and help us make it. So, we reconfigured, re-cast, and re-committed. There have been no less than 5 major set-backs (all SCARY) since that decision was made, but this week I finished the rough cut of the first full episode which we shot this past weekend and I haven’t been able to sleep un-medicated since. I’m so incredibly giddy with excitement. I go to bed late and wake up early and don’t feel cranky about it…and this is the thing, guys…

THIS IS THE WHOLE ENCHILADA…

The joy you get from doing the thing? When it’s your thing–whatever that may be–is more than enough to absorb the fear and the setbacks. You only live once (probably)–SO GO FOR IT! And don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the comments if you want an accountability partner, or someone to bounce ideas off of. I love being an accountability and encouragement partner–especially for other strong, creative women! <3

 

PS. You can still donate to help us bring Seek Help to life and to release it out into the world with a bang at:   http://seekhelpthewebseries.weebly.com/about–donate.html

The Script of Life

by Andie Bottrell

12998490_10154102356129122_5986325746165444964_n

I had a thought today that maybe in the script of life your 20’s are the rough, first draft, and your 30’s (and beyond) are the re-writes. Maybe there is an age, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone, where you feel like the vision you had for yourself is fully realized, and maybe that age never arrives. This is the kind of introspection I’m sure most people face in the final inning (really? a sports metaphor? eh, sure) of their 29th year. That first decade of adulthood fading off into the sunset and the big 3-0 slapping you in the face with “like-whoa, I guess this adult thing is really happening.” It’s really sort of incredible all the different lives we lead…married, divorced, single (hello, again–I am), children, no-children, successful, struggling, etc. 30 looks so different on each of us, yet signifies, as all landmark birthdays do, that ever present passing of time.

It’s been an interesting and, as usual, utterly unpredicted few months since I blogged last. A break-up sparked an insane art binge that created well over 100 paintings in less than 3 months and just as many poems. The painting then evolved into ink line drawings, all of which, along with my paintings, are now for sale in my recently re-activated Etsy shop: www.andiebottrell.etsy.com Did not see that coming. I’m working on trying to get a handwritten and illustrated poetry book published (no idea how to do that, everything I’ve read has said basically “poetry is dead” “there is so little money in it no publishers will ever read your submission” “seriously, when’s the last time you bought a poetry book?”–actually, I bought, like, 5 last month, but I’m learning I’m more unusual than I ever expected). And I have my first art show coming up in May (my 30th Birthday month)…it’s called the “Break-up Art Show” (;

line draw copy 2

In June, I’ll be going back to Tent Theatre–I wrote about my first experience there on this blog. It was a momentous experience for me. It got me my EMC card. I am so excited to be a full-time actor for an entire month again! The play is Unnecessary Farce which not too many people seem to know about yet, but it’s hilarious and has a lot of great, quick, fast-paced wit and creative physical comedy (haha, I couldn’t think of the term “physical comedy” so I googled “body humor”).

There hasn’t been much writing aside from poetry. It’s been just poetry and painting and acting lately. Which at times I struggled with feeling guilty about–I should be writing a script. I should be re-writing that play. I need to make a feature film. But, you know what? Screw what every writing blog says about writing when you’re uninspired. I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written when I forced it. I feel blasphemous even saying that because I feel like that just becomes an excuse for the undisciplined, but I truly think you have to just listen to your heart/inspiration talking-piece when it comes to creativity. And there are other ways to access your creative geiser–sometimes being uninspired to write something just means you need to find another way in. At times I also feel a lot of pressure from people to do just ONE thing. To only focus on acting or only focus on writing, etc. When you split your focus among lots of different things, how can you ever get really great or successful at any of them? And I don’t disagree necessarily. It’s annoying saying all the hyphenates of my artistic endeavors (actor/writer/director/editor/artist/photographer). It sounds pompous and it takes a long time to list. But those ARE the things I do on a regular basis–those are the ways I express myself and use my voice as an artist.

I also started experimenting with using spray paint to create abstract paintings on canvas. This one is called "Il Cavallo" which is italian for "the horse."

I also started experimenting with using spray paint to create abstract paintings on canvas. This one is called “Il Cavallo” which is italian for “the horse.”

I’m learning that my personal artistic flow is cyclical and that my obsessive nature means that I often clamp down hard on one or two things for a time, while doing all the other things in smaller frequencies, and then rotate out to another skill set and do the same. I thrive when being surrounded by many tools to express myself and giving myself the freedom to go from one to the next as inspiration strikes. And I will no longer allow myself to feel bad or pigeonholed into “picking” just one thing when my heart demands the space to speak through several different instruments. I am an Artist. That is my life. My creations take many forms. That’s just who I am. I think part of turning 30 will be saying “That’s just who I am” a lot more. Not to say I’ll quit evolving (god, no, never!), but just that I’ll no longer feel bad about those few core parts of myself that I know to be true.

As I enter 30 I wonder if my art will ever sustain more than just the will to live, but become my actual livelihood. I’m struggling to figure out how to price my work, how to say that my art is valuable and you will have to pay me to have the privilege of using/seeing/working with it. At the same time as I’m struggling to tell others it’s worth paying for, I am also more confident than ever in my work. I can access things easier. I have more control over my skills. It doesn’t feel as hit-or-miss as it has for the majority of my 20’s. I have a lot more life experience to draw upon. My perspective is constantly expanding. I care less and less what I look like, but am working harder than ever to feel good in my body and take care of it as I have started noticing how quickly the body can start to deteriorate if you don’t. I’m more and more impressed at how resilient people are and their capacity to adapt to situations beyond their control–and the incredible things people have achieved. I see now, more than ever, the amount of work and sacrifices people make along the way to realize their dreams. I’m inspired by the massive guts (figuratively speaking) on so many people–and am constantly telling myself I’ve got to be even braver.

My new motto: Forward only, backward never.

Let’s go!

 

Stories from Anywhere…

by Robin Byrd

Listening for “First Words” – took me to a poem I started 10/26/12:

 

he got the tattoo

–so they would leave him alone

across his face

the skin once

smooth and beautiful

now marked

as he was marked

–for things no one should ever have to see

 

Today, 3/29/16, I continued:

 

he got the tattoo

across his face

–so they left him alone

the skin elsewhere

intact

not marked

–by things seen in places no one should ever have to go

 

he got the tattoo

–in a place no one should have to go

marring the skin

once smooth and beautiful

across his face

it, the self-marking of himself

–with words that say leave me alone…

 

he got the tattoo

–for things no one should have to see and places no one should have go

flung

across his face, across the smooth beautiful skin

in loud display

–leave me alone, it said, i will not take lightly to any more disruption

 

I title it “On the Occasion of Going to Jail…” and I wonder if there is a story trying to get out…

 

“First Words” :  Being a Playwright…being female…Voice…; On the Matter of Subject…

 

March 20: The Reproductive Freedom Festival

by Laura Shamas

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….”― George Orwell, Why I Write

header-Image-black
This election year, I’m concerned about the erosion of women’s rights on a number of fronts; that’s why I’m participating as a playwright in the Reproductive Freedom Festival on March 20, 2016. Featuring 25 short plays and poems, the event will stream live from New York’s TACT Studio this Sunday from 6-9 p.m. EDT/ 3-6 p.m. PDT via Virtual Arts TV.

As described on the RFF site, it’s: “a festival of short works celebrating the fundamental right to human reproductive autonomy.” Created and produced by Choice Theater (run by the amazing Cindy Cooper), its stated purpose is “to support reproductive freedom, rights, health and justice and to generate new conversations on these subjects.”

It has six parts, guided by six female directors. Here are the format details: “Half-hour sets, each completely different, of short theatrical works and poetry collected from across the country and presented by talented New York actors under the guidance of six directors. Artists and activists will describe their works every half hour.”

Each grouping has a theme: 1) Heroines; 2) Next Generations; 3) Conflicts; 4) Body Politics; 5) Discoveries; and 6) What We Know. There’s also a “Pre-Show” from Ireland at 5:30 p.m. EDT/ 2:30 p.m. PDT. You can watch just some of the festival or all of it—and it’s free.

I have a short comic piece in it called “Papyrus” about the discovery of an ancient scroll; it’s scheduled in the fifth half hour. Other LA FPI writers participating in the festival are Allie Costa, with her work “Two Girls” (in the second half hour), and Mildred Lewis, with her play “Chained Labor” (in the fourth half hour). For a complete performance schedule, with the writers and directors listed, please click here.

Costa’s piece, “Two Girls,” is a haunting, poetic duologue in which two women emerge from a violent attack. The play was first performed in London in 2015 at the Unheard Festival, produced by Goblin Baby Theatre Co. at The Bread & Roses Theatre. It has also been presented at the Clear Lines Festival and the Keble Arts Festival in London. This will be the first time “Two Girls” has been performed in the United States. Costa’s play “She Has Seen The Wolf,” which is thematically linked to “Two Girls,” just had its first staged reading this week in Hollywood at PlayGround-LA. Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress, writer, director, and singer working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover.

Costa, when asked about why she’s part of the festival, observed: “Victims of sexual assault often have questions posed at them – ‘What were you wearing? Why were you out late at night?’ – that are tinged with shame and blame. We need to stop blaming victims and start listening to them, and give them a safe place to speak up and speak out. I am honored that my piece was selected for this festival, and I can’t wait to see it!”

In Mildred Lewis’ piece, “Chained Labor,” an African American woman reveals to her daughter that she gave birth to her in chains while she was incarcerated. Lewis notes: “That experience sadly continues. Facing the reproductive freedom issues that women face in jails (e.g., forced sterilization) demonstrates how urgently the conversation around reproductive freedom needs to broaden. It’s not just about abortion or birth control.”

Lewis is excited that “Chained Labor” will premiere at the RFF. “I can’t think of a better platform, particularly since it’s being filmed in my hometown (Go Stuy Hi Peglegs!) I’m also grateful that it follows a run of my piece, “Bleed Black Bleed Blue,” at the Secret Theatre’s Act One Festival.” Explaining why she’s participating in the festival, Lewis responds: “I am a beneficiary of the women’s movement. I had access to great sex education from my mom, an RN, and my junior high school. Watching old battles being fought again over not just abortion, but birth control(!) is maddening. Sometimes I write purely to entertain. But there are some points in history where I believe we must pick up our pens to fight. This is one of them.” Lewis writes and directs for theater, film, television and the web; she is also a full-time film professor.

The Reproductive Freedom Festival is officially part of SWAN Day, Women Arts’ famous international celebration which aims to “Support Women Artists Now.”

RFF will send you a reminder notice to watch the performance online on March 20, if you’d like. You can catch the livestream and sign up for the reminder notice here. There will be a live chat function during the Festival, for online users. Please join us on Sunday, March 20, for a look at some female-centric plays and poems about reproductive freedom (and more!), and let’s continue the conversation.

Battle Bruises…

by Robin Byrd

I am not sure what kind of heavy artillery hit me but the bruises have left me sluggish, a little disoriented (darn freeway expansion, nothing looks the same, I never know where I am, blink and I’m lost) and then there is the constant checking of body parts after slamming toes and fingers in any place en route to anywhere not to mention being ticked off about always being caught off guard. I wish somebody had yelled “incoming”.

Every single thing I do to calm myself down, I have been unable to do lately. Being ticked off most of the time is really exhausting. I have got to find another sport that is active after basketball season is over. I promise yelling at games is a really good way to release stress. I am at the point where I want to wrap my ankles and start training for a marathon – that or find a gym so I can pump some iron. I am so on edge, my teeth hurt.

Why all the stress you ask?

Not able to keep writing past 3 am (what can I say, I like the night hours). I weary of having to shut down creative juices so I can go to bed, so I can beat the traffic in the morning (never happens), so I can think about building coordinators and personnel actions and what I am going to eat for lunch (it’s a really big chore) and why my paycheck never gives me a break. I long for change…, long for time to edit little lines of non-rhyming poetry.

I don’t like to rhyme.

Free verse is what I’d rather write.  I get allergic rhyming right.  I just adore the jagged view.  Words without meter, forgive me it’s my park avenue…

I get notes about trying different forms of poetry – the Pantoum and the Villanelle, for instance. I’m trying.  It’s not easy yet; it feels forced.  I figure it’s a good exercise for where I really want to take my poetry.  So, I have been seeking out the work of other poets.  Recently, I was listening to Yusef Komunyakaa on the internet reading some of his poetry, afterwards someone asked him why he didn’t rhyme more often – he said you can only rhyme with rain so many times. (He may have used another word.)  I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair which is why I can’t remember the exact word he used.  Apparently that’s about 495 times you can rhyme with rain. I’d be throwing up rhymes all over the floor by 100; none of them worth salvaging for the page.

All I want to do, right this minute is write a totally awesome poem that I don’t have to wonder if it is mediocre or not.

Mediocre.

I loathe that word. Well, not the word but what it means.

Eventually, I want to write an epic poem, line upon line till “the end” so I guess I am training myself to take on another genre – hoping not to keep bruising so easily in the meantime.  Hoping that if I can write enough poems in succession, I’ll get the same adrenaline rush I get off writing plays…

Art in a Time of Terror

It’s hard for me to justify plodding along with all of my work on a day like last Monday. The Boston Marathon was an annual trip with my father and sister, walkman buds in our little years, switching radio stations between the race and our latest music tastes.

Then of course remembering that attacks like this happen all over the world every day and this one just happened to be in my hometown.

snoopy

 

Life moves on, and “Tragedy Social Media Plan” was implemented among my clients. The fact that I even have such a thing depressed me.

Yet there was still work to do.

There always is.

[to be continued….]

My Awesome Place: An Autobiography of Cheryl B

I recently read a great book that I just have to recommend to you all. It’s called My Awesome Place: An Autobiography of Cheryl B, and it’s an excellent portrait of a young writer finding her voice and her awesome place in the world.

I knew Cheryl B back in the nineties at NYU. She went on to become a playwright, poet, and spoken word artist in New York. Sadly, she passed away way too soon in 2011.

When I finished this book, I felt I had to pass it on. It’s the kind of book that should be passed around. Then I started to get all poetical in the head. . .

This book is for that girl, that girl who’s too fat, too shy, not a straight A overachieving high school student. This book is for that girl who gets told she’ll never be anything except a toll booth fare taker. This book is for that girl whose parents don’t understand or maybe sort of do but can’t talk about it because the words don’t come out right. This book is for that girl who dreams of being more than what everyone around her thinks she can be even though she doesn’t know how to do it exactly. This book is for that girl and her friend and her friend’s friend. This book should be passed around while music’s blasting and the pages should get stained with beer, cigarettes, weed, and aquanet. This book shows that girl how to get to that awesome place.

You can get My Awesome Place on the Topside Press website.

Things from the Writing Box…

In the early nineties, I began my quest to look at my heritage and find more pieces of what makes me who I am.  I imagined that any journey toward that knowledge would be good for my little box of things to write.  One day while home from my day job, a man stepped out from between two cars in front of me.  I had to swerve to miss him.  Later that night in my apartment, I had a visitation from the man in the street. Not his physical self but his spirit or so it seemed.  I write about things of the spirit a lot in my work…it just shows up – like he did.  I have been trying to put the vision I had that night in a play but am not sure when, where or how to enter as I really do not want a literal interpretation of that experience.  I want to capture how I felt in those moments…  Over the years, I’ve tried different things but can never quite get that, “this is it” feeling.  Two years ago, I wrote this poem:

the Medicine Man

he stepped out from between the cars

with his staff

magnificent, authentic, ancient, familiar

he was tall like my uncle huron

with chiseled facial features

in headdress/ high moccasins/ native attire/ regal/ warrior-like

the feathers hanging from the staff caught my eye first

they were real

and i wondered if they were eagle

then i noticed that he was looking directly at me as i approached

our eyes locked for an instant/ for an eternity

my car seemed to be driving through a time warp

as i slowly passed him there in the street

looking through me to some place

we must have met before

in the rearview mirror

he turned his entire body to watch me drive away

i could not watch the road for watching him

he was a shaman/a medicine man, i knew

but why was he looking at me

did he know me/ daughter to native ancestors

i should have stopped/asked

later that night as i lay on the floor in prayer

i could hear and feel footsteps vibrating on the floor

moving toward me

a hologram in moccasins was all that i could see

his…

he placed one foot on the back of my head and pushed me into a vision

of the past

afraid/ unable to resist/ unable to move from the floor from the smoke

what is that?

i could hear the rattlers and sounds of war

the screaming women and children

i could smell the smoke and see its fog

then it lifted just enough for me to see

i was there dressed in buckskin

lying face down in the rubble

watching the boy as he searched through it for

his family

i was there

he knew me, daughter to native ancestors…

he knew me…

As a writer, do you ever wonder just how long a story can germinate before you can write it?  Have you ever come up against any story that just doesn’t seem to have an “in”? What do you do?  One of the greatest things about theatre is that the playwright doesn’t have to limit their approach to conventional ways in order to write their story.  Stuff just needs to be pulled out of the box, lived with for a while and looked at it from several angles…

 

 

the Secrets of Poetry…

One of the things I deal with in my writing are secrets; those kept by family, others, and those kept by me.  Poetry is a way I file them away for later days.  My brother used to read my diary and thus, knew my secrets so I started using codes, the best of which is the language of poetry.  Now, after all these years of writing, I no longer use it to always conceal but also to reveal.  Poetry:  snippets of moments or events captured in verse…

  

My Brother’s Eyes

my brother’s eyes pierce

shallow graves

to view the bones

set in awakenings and armor

dress right dress

till the cover is sure

secrets double time between memories

lay out half naked on the asphalt

soaking up the tar

hair black black now

skin black blue now

scrapped and pus-ing over

my brother’s eyes pierce but i cannot tell

the price i paid for his life…

 

the Blues of It…

it’s a rhythm

slow, low and bluesy

seeping like vapors into a waking day

me in the middle of it

always caught by surprise

always caught

off guard/off kilter

by the soothing riffs

slur/sliding down the notes

trilling backward in time

to then

when…

even after checking the archival catalogues

i can never find any foreshadowing

it’s always the same interrupt/

same perpetual stop-loss/

same…

decades passing

has not changed the cadence

henderson born, kentucky rooted syncopation

dating way back to the 1800s

way back to when

my shawnee mothers hid out

near robards station

waiting through

the trip to containment

waiting through

the loss

it’s the blues of it

that keeps the song going

pizzicato

shimmer/slur

pluck

me in the middle

me on edge

traveling back to then

in the middle of a waking day

stop-loss now/ me caught

in the blues of it

 

My grandmother used to tell me stories…before she began to forget.  I stored them somewhere in my subconscious.  I remember them at the oddest of times, in the middle of dreams, while writing other things.  When I was 26, I joined the army.  The days before I left, I would bury my head in her breasts – like I did when I was a baby – to soak her up.  I knew that was the last time I would see her alive and I needed to keep a piece…  She’s in a lot of my plays in some way and when I am really tired, I slip into her southern way of speaking.  Nora Lee Phillips Morris…could sing a whole church happy…right in the middle of the blues…

Being a storyteller means remembering and sharing even when you got the blues…

 

WordPress Themes