WHY: As soon as Verenice appears upon the stage you know you are in the presence of a truly special artist. Verenice has the rare ability to spin language into poetry, and the way she attacks the stage with her body steals your heart from start to finish of her beautiful solo show. I caught myself holding my breath as Verenice confessed personal truths of family obligations, and stories of facing generational traditions while chasing dreams filled my soul with gentle familiarity. The vulnerability of this young artist makes you feel as if you’re witnessing a sacred rite of passage. After the show, as I got in the car, I sat and sobbed and the only way I could express that overwhelming feeling in my gut was to ask myself, “Have you ever seen a Brown girl fly?” I have no doubt the sensation this show leaves in the body is the spirit of the Fringe. This is what the future looks like in the theatre when artists are uplifted and supported. Go see this beautiful Brown girl manifest her future on her own terms!
by Robin Byrd
Yesterday, I attended a wonderful webinar hosted by Hedgebrook, “Exit Strategies: How to End a Poem” with Chet’la Sebree, author of Mistress, Field Study. Ms. Sebree generously shared her jewels and knowledge with us. The atmosphere was inviting. Community in Hedgebrook webinars is really comforting and uplifting. To write together is nice once in a while. We learned more than “endings”. The webinars are recorded and there is always a “holding space” segment after the webinar where the participants who can stay have more time to discuss the art or any other things with the instructors. This is the part that makes the community so comforting and inspiring.
We worked on exercises using poetry that we had already written or new pieces. Below is a new piece that I started in the webinar but seems to be evolving. Poetry has been something that I have written and read all my life; something I make a point to continue to study – it never hurts to work on craft.
The earth shook ferociously
Tsunamis terrorized the coastlines
Whole towns destroyed
Whole futures washed away in an instant
When things shift
There is no time to steady yourself
against the moving tectonic plates forcing new terrain
Or time to gather the energy to do more than stand
I am bound to the memory
Of the theft
Of things that cannot be restored
Of organs failing
Of bleeding out damned spot
We wait for endings,
songs and measured grace
Grace to cover
Grace to continue
Did we forget
Or simply let it go
They say there is a new continent
Built on the scars
They say there is new contentment
In unchartered lands
In place of what had been
by Robin Byrd 2-27-2021
I was introduced to her work in high school…
I’m not sure how it came about, but the folks at my high school decided that they wanted to have a cultural celebration of sorts. All 45 seniors and 20, or so, underclassmen at our little magnet high school were expected to participate in some capacity. While I was part of a Mexican folkloric dance group at that time, I had no intention of dancing in front of my entire school. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, there was very little fun I took from that endeavor. Additionally, I was still traumatized by the demands of peddling the “joy and skills you too can acquire” of accordion playing to my middle school classmates that I just wasn’t going to put myself out there like that anymore. Still, I was expected to participate.
Unsure of what to do, and with a day to go, my Spanish teacher (who was coordinating this whole ordeal) suggested that I read an excerpt of short story written by a Latin@ author. I hate to admit it but at the time I can’t say that I knew the work of very many Latin@ authors—call it a lack of awareness/exposure, ignorance, what have you, I was drawing blanks. So my Spanish teacher handed me a few books from his desk and encouraged me to check them out, and from those few, I was immediately drawn to Michele Serros’ Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard.
Chicana Falsa was a compact offering of non-fiction and poetry detailing Serros’ complex, comical grappling of her own identity. It was genuine, often times heartbreaking, and funny as hell. It was one of the first pieces of literature that I deeply connected to and made me feel seen.
For our school celebration, I ended up selecting the story “Attention Shoppers”. It was a satirical piece that shows Serros being made aware of the notion that, even within supermarket aisles, discrimination was alive and well. This was proven to her by way of packaging styles for Malibu Style Vegetables vs. Latino Style Vegetables and the connotations each evokes.
“…. look at this, the Latino Style Vegetables are all spilling out of this wicker basket, all overflowing, messy like. Insinuating that we are overflowing, overcrowding what they think is their land. And what’s with this wicker basket?”
Back in January I had the pleasure of visiting an exhibit at University Hall (Cal State University Chanel Islands) in honor of her life’s work.
I cried when I saw the exhibit.
Most everything that she’d been inspired by and written about was there— the desk her mother gifted her, journals, framed t-shirts, concert tickets, her skateboard… it was overwhelming. Michele Serros’ work has meant so much to me for a very long time. I often think of her, her writing and the impact her artistic voice has had on me. She’s the writer whose work I most often go back and re-read. I love the familiarity. It feels like home.
I meant to post these photos a while back but it didn’t feel right then. I was writing about loss and it’s not what I wanted to do, especially in a week that already felt so sorrowful. I decided then that I would give it some time and wait until my next go-round on the blog to post them because surely the world would be in a different place from where it was at the time.
And we are, now, in a very different place.
But it feels right to remember the people, places and voices that bring us joy.
In fact, there’s no better time than now.
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
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” (;
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’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.
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.
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…
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
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…
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
off guard/off kilter
by the soothing riffs
slur/sliding down the notes
trilling backward in time
even after checking the archival catalogues
i can never find any foreshadowing
it’s always the same interrupt/
same perpetual stop-loss/
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
the trip to containment
it’s the blues of it
that keeps the song going
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…
It’s time to write but the internal mulling over process is growing branches – more like veins – and they’re burrowing…going places I did not expect. I have been reading a lot of poetry lately – writing more of it than I have in years. I have entered my sacred circle, searching for stories never expecting to find them in poetry but there they are – visible more to my ear than my eye, writing an old thing a new way. I found a new poet, too. Nikky Finney – who is not new but somehow she was hidden from me all these years. Perhaps, I wasn’t ready for her; she’s intense. Her poems help me understand the ache in my own poetry to be more than… They’re like short stories – her poetry. Raw, refined and full of truth – her poetry is a lesson in the deliberate… Deliberate as in: Intentional, on purpose, premeditated, calculated, planned, and not accidental. Every writer should have/develop the ability to deliberately tell their stories, their way – to flip the switch that turns off all outside interference and just say it…
I am noticing a greater freedom in my poetry lately. Now that I am focusing on it; it seems to have evolved into another form of storytelling. It even almosts writes like a play. In the past, I have written monologues in poetry but I never thought much about the connection to a freedom I haven’t had in my plays. Not that I am not free already but in poetry, one can be sparse and direct and move on to the next thought. This is the first time my poetry has become part of my circle where I thought of it as story first. Putting together a manuscript recently, I found myself looking at the context of the whole, the arch, the subtext of the whole, the imagery, the story… And, now, I can hear pieces and parts of poetry whispering to me from the shadows; on the verge of the light of day yet always just able to crawl back into their hiding places – too many to catch. They want me to sit with them by the fire and listen as they slowly tell me – everything…they promise to tell me everything… But, I have been so busy lately; there has been no time to linger in my sacred circle longer than a moment. Especially, since I was expecting characters from a play to speak and not fragments of poetry.
Maybe the poetry will end up being a play… At any rate, if I deliberately go with the flow and write whatever wants to be written now; I am sure it will enhance every area of my writing life. May be the break will bring me back to the characters more refreshed and ready to rock and roll. As long as I can meet my deadlines…
In my everyday life, I must remind myself to go with the flow and to not talk myself out of the adventure. It is quite difficult to do 52 percent of the time. I always feel as though I am wandering around in dimly lit forests without markers or roads, finding it hard to trust “the flow” of the thing. The trees are so tall and closely set that I can hardly see the sun. And, if I can’t see the sun, I can’t see my way out of the dark. When I do trust the flow; it is always an amazing journey. One would think that I would learn by now but I’m human and I like to have plans that work – most of the time – as opposed to having so many “go with the flow” moments.
In my writing, there is no other way but going with the flow – regardless of the trees or the dark – the voices of the characters do not speak when tampered with and they have their own rhythm… I have to be open when I write or I’d never be able to write. Personally, I cannot do the “not writing” thing – must be writing, always writing… And, I have come to rely on being open to the processes I use for writing my plays and have spent the last decade plus honing that sensitivity.
With poetry, I have let it come in when and where it can find a space between plays and work mostly for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and deaths. For the last few years, I have been working on a book of poems for my mother – gut wrenching stuff to write but she says it’s like I’m her memory. I did intend for it to be personal to my mother but did not expect it to take so long and be so emptying. I literally have to take breaks after every few poems. Because of that, I had started to think that putting a book together unlike just collecting poems was virtually impossible for me. I have been planning to submit to a certain poetry contest for a few years but every year, the play submission deadlines overlap with the poetry manuscript submission deadline and in the time before and after submission periods, I was always writing another play. This year, by some miracle, the deadline was extended two weeks. So, I figured I would go with the flow by trying to submit something. I started going through my stash of poems looking for a theme that jumped out at me – a daunting process to say the least as some of my best poems were off limits for this project. I had to find an “in” so I wrote a poem about whatever it wanted to be about, was completely honest – no secret codes. It went boldly to the scary dark place and said, “Now what? You game?” Suddenly, I knew what the theme was and how to pull poems I had already written into the pile, one being “Before the Red” and I knew I was going to have to keep going back to those scary places to write the manuscript right. But even knowing that, time was running out. I was going to have to write and rewrite a total of at least 50 poems in less than two weeks now. It was new to me; I was completely terrified…scared…”afeared”. I was traveling into scary dark places at a pace I didn’t think I could keep up… I was writing through the night, writing through my lunch, writing while trying to get dressed for work…just writing and editing like a crazy woman… Every time I would get overwhelmed and say, “Lord, I can’t do it. I can’t finish in time.” He would say to me, “But, what if you can?” After a while, I found myself echoing, “What if I can?” It was the million dollar question that I needed to have an answer to. So, I continued to push hard; not making it when all I need to do is push hard a little bit longer is the worst kind of not making it. I told myself I would push till the last available minute and just see what happens – just see if I can. I could and I did. I uploaded my finished manuscript with fifteen minutes to spare…New York time.
I had gone to the THERE space to the scary dark place and I had written it scared…but I had written it. The flow of that thing was like being caught in the swell of a wave that refused to break. I told a friend that I felt as though, I had become myself….nothing broken…nothing lacking…
Now…I am planning to start a new play to submit before March. I have two weeks off from my day job and I ain’t scared to go wherever…because I know I can go to the scary dark places…and still go with the flow…