The Non-Resolution Resolution

Within the first 10 days of this new year, I’ve come across a few blogs, statuses and tweets of those “resolving” themselves for 2013. I, myself, have often been one of those people, demanding newfound and cast-aside undertakings where I will be a better lover, better friend, better bodied, and most importantly, a better writer.  I do admit that I often completely and utterly fail at holding up my end of the bargain. Sorry self.

That is why this year I am not going to talk about it, but be about it.  For those of you who know me well I have the tendency to talk myself and your ears through my thought process until I have finally discovered my point.  However, times are a-changing. I always thought that if I talked to myself and anyone else about what I was going to do I would be bound to follow through. After all, I told the world and now the world had expectations of me and I didn’t want to disappoint the world. This theory rarely worked in my favor. Not in 2012, and honestly not since finishing grad school in 2008. This year will be different, though. The act of doing will not manifest itself through the act of talking. If I’m going to call myself a writer then i’m going to have to just shut up and put out.

But first, here’s what I confess before the court of writer-dom:

1. I haven’t finished a single poetry manuscript.

2. I probably wrote a total number of 10 new poems in the past year, give or take a few.

3. I can tell you what happened on the last seasons of Atlanta Housewives, New York Housewives, Flipping Out, Basketball Wives, Chef Roble, T.I. and Tiny, and so many more I am nearly ashamed to admit, than I can about the latest books or music.

4. I often doubt my writing.

5. I compare myself to much to those I know who have been and are being published.

6. My biggest fear with regard to writing is discovering that I will always be a mediocre writer and even worse, realize writing was never meant to be my true talent.


So here it is, all laid out. From this point forward I will resolve to push through the fear and doubt. I may not always make it through the other side, but I will push through. At the end of 2013 I won’t dwell on all of the things I didn’t complete or compare my successes to my losses, but cut myself some slack and CELEBRATE all of the things I did accomplish and things I accomplished that I didn’t the year before, beginning with this blog.

For the first time I’m not going yap about all the things I want to do, but just fucking do them and not punish myself the way I have for so long for not being where I thought I should be by now.

So hello 2013. That’s all. Hello…


“Cruelty” by Lucille Clifton

“Cruelty” by Lucille Clifton

I just mentioned on Twitter that I was thinking of a simple idea: it is interesting how things you thought were no longer have a way of coming back in such nearly invisible ways. I then thought of this poem, “Cruelty” by Lucille Clifton. Not only is this an amazing poem, but hearing her voice and the haunting way she says the last line (which makes me shudder ever time I listen) gives the poem so much body. Needless to say, Lucille’s the ish.

Poetry Anonymous: My Writing Group Is Dope

Every writer needs his/her own support group, a group of people who get you. I love my friends to death and they are very supportive, but there is nothing like being around people who completely understand why you froze in place as Yusef Komunyakaa walked by you like he was Denzel, D'Angelo, and Maxwell in one, or even know who he is and why you would feel such a way because poets your favorite poets are your celebrities. Oh, and you need them to help figure out if this line is working or what the hell it is you’re trying to say in this poem by them time a reader’s reached the end, stuff like that. 

I mean, I haven’t sat amongst a group of writers and thoroughly gone through a poem since my last day of workshop my last semester of grad school. I am not a disciplined writer. I cannot write 30 poems in 30 successive days. Now, I always have the noblest intention of doing so, but it doesn’t happen. Don’t confuse this as my resignation of my ability. I’m simply saying it has not yet happened and I forgive myself. 

I really missed being held accountable for providing a poem to someone for something. I’ve tried to be held accountable to myself and well that hasn’t turned about to be as productive as I’d hoped it would. So I decided to get a bunch of writer friend and writers I admired together for a writing group. They reached out some of their writer friends and we met for the first time yesterday afternoon. The cool thing is that I was able to meet writers in the city I’d never met before and it was the same of others. I love when stuff like that happens. New friends are cool.

So, my house was filled with 6 poets who are all talented and amazing individuals. We dished about poetry, the poets we’re afraid to admit we hate, the current state of poetry, MFA programs, and eventually got around to reading and critiquing each of our poems. Then we commenced to dishing again for those who came late. What was slotted for 2 hours ended up being 4 hours and it was 4 hours of poetry goodness over Tostitos and Sweet Tarts. 

I have a whole new motivation to create new work and am inspired by the work of my friends. Simple as that. My writing group is pretty much dope. 

#NowReading: Divide These by Saskia Hamilton


One of the books I obsessively gathered amongst the stack I fished out when I discovered where the Harold Washington Library was hiding all the contemporary poetry (and here I thought they just weren’t getting with it!) was Divide These by Kaskia Hamilton. I was unfamiliar with this poet and randomly picked up her book in pursuits of exposing myself to poets I have yet to read. 

I did what I always do when trying to determine if a book is worth the potential late fees I will most likely accrue on my library card. I closed my eyes, flipped to a random page, began reading whatever poem was destined for me, and from there determined if the book in my hands would come to be a newfound love. Seeing as how I’m sitting here under my cozy covers and typing this blog, you can very well guess the outcome of my latest journey through the library stacks.

So, Divide These thus far: Dream-like. Phantom-ish. Real. Excitingly puzzling.

The first poem, “The Weight of the Inside of the Body,” is the welcome mat of the book. It does exactly what the title might imply and grounds me in what I am still not yet sure of. But I know that I know where I am although I don’t know exactly where I am, but wherever I am I am supposed to be here, ready, and standing before a doorway skirted with mists that will open up and invite me into its wonder and mystery. My curiosity will get the better of me and I will be fated to indulge that curiosity, enter in, and – .

Yeah, it really is like that. And I love it!

What I love so far about these poems is that it is just enough abstraction and narrative. I do miss the days where poetry took some figuring out, some inspection and deconstruction to discover its meaning, and this book carries elements of that. Ed Roberson once said that while LANGUAGE poetry appears abstract in nature, there is always a thread that can be followed throughout the poem that serves as its spine, its trail of bread crumbs to guide you through. (Now, those may not be his exact words, but you get the gist.) Hamilton’s poems carry this disposition, but also provide us with images we can grab a hold of and call out by name. When you feel like you may be treading off the path, she pulls you back in and reminds you that you are anything but lost. 

Anyhoo, as I said, I’ve just begun reading it and will most likely have more to concrete ideas to share.  However, it’s late and I’ve started to ramble. I’ll be sure to tell you more as I read and actually post up some excerpts so that all of this will make more sense. 

Goodnight, Dear Friends.

Cleveland Dean: The Black Series

As I walk into the Salong Gallery sitting on the edge of Wicker Park, everything is quiet.

Besides the few hushed voices that fall and roll along the edges of floor, there is a reverent stillness that remains, lining the narrow hallway. The walls hold up the latest work of Chicago artist, Cleveland Dean – canvases that at first are only seen for their black, glossed backdrops.  The dark spaces echo.  They are the only sound heard reverberating against the walls.  The echoes are each one of us who have walked up to, looked inside of, and dared to see not only the deceitfully uncomplicated images etched into the matte, but also our reflections left imprinted in the gloss.  Cleveland Dean’s latest collection of work, entitled The Black Series, becomes more than just a continuation of Dean’s constant exploration and exploitation the human dichotomy, the self-prophetic experience, the pursuit of intellect. It is a series of shadowed mirrors in which we are asked to become lost and found.

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Escape route (48” x48”, acrylic, enamel on masonite)

From a distance it appears there is nothing, but the closer one gets to the painting the more visible the hand becomes. Its smeared print is pressed into the solid shine of the blackness surrounding it. It is pushing out.  There is a face hidden behind the glass of the canvas, the window, the locked door.  Standing before it you feel compelled to pull it through – to save it – but you quickly realize you cannot hold onto the smudge of a ghost of a hand.  Are we useless? You will walk away from this painting slowly, disheartened by your inability to action, still desiring to rescue a hand that has no face.

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Leaving behind a career in interior design, Cleveland began working as a professional artist in 2006.  “I started painting feverishly,” says Dean.  Although a painter for only four short years, he is by no means an infant before the canvas. With over 1,000 works created, various awards, and collaborative showcases, Dean has accomplished more in this short term than some artists have completed in lifetimes. When painting, Dean explains that he goes into a trance he may not come out of for days.  Known for his live art shows in which he goes into these trances amidst large crowds, he is completely unaware of any presence other than that of the blank space before him, including his own. Inside of these zones, he himself is oblivious to what transpires.  What results is compelling works of art, the punctuation to a portion of an on-going conversation.

To tell us our own individual stories, Dean looks only to abstract art to write the tales.  “Abstract always made more sense to me because it challenges the brain…it gives you something to think about, figure out, and it gives you an interpretation of your own.”  In The Black Series this is no less the case, and more of an absolute truth.  Using only the color black, Dean seduces us to risk reading our own dusted chapters.

There’s mystery in the color black,” says Dean; and it is the mystery of ourselves we are asked to pursue in the pieces lining the gallery halls. “If you go into a room devoid of light, a black ass room and bump into something, you have to then navigate your way through what it is you remember of those dimensions, objects, etc to find your way…you have to call on your memory to recall your bearings.”  In the shadows of these paintings lies our inner closets; we must remember what we can of those unlit rooms in order to find our way out of the darkness.

 

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Tao (48” x48”, acrylic, enamel on masonite)

 

This painting hangs as the only piece in the collection containing the color red.  There are snake-like images mingling with black, but it is not a snake you fear or suspect.  It is one you welcome, maybe even seek out for it wisdom it exudes in it curves. The snake is a path continuously winding away from and into itself.  The red is not a sign of caution, but a map giving us directions for entrance and revolutions.

 

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Walking up to each piece requires a willingness to engage in a previously eschewed conversation with our long-avoided relatives – our true selves.  It is in the silences and singularity of these particular works that call us to retrieve the old unopened letters we’ve left piled inside the back of the kitchen drawer.   We must live in their shadows and navigate our way through the darkness.

The presence of the work demands that we stop and become vulnerable to the experience of looking into the matted mirror.  In this way, Dean left even himself open while viewing Jackson Pollock’s “Lavender Mist” at the Museum of Modern Art, an artist he greatly admires. Dean confesses that as he sat before the painting he could nothing more than sit and cry. “Everything made sense and didn’t make sense” says Dean.  The Pollock painting’s affect on Dean is the same affect he hopes to have on those engaging with his own work. He wants people to be able to feel the art, and let it speak to them.

 

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I still fantasize about you (68”x77”, glue, salt acrylic, enamel on canvas)

The conventionally shaped heart defies the convention of its nature. This heart bleeds in still life, slipping into distortion as it falls into the base of its ‘v’.  It is rebellious and it is exposed, inescapably suffering and over-protective.  Its concrete armor stops the dripping before it bleeds to the edge of the canvas. It transcends itself to you, sharing the load you didn’t ask to carry, but whose weight you are all too familiar with.

 

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For Cleveland Dean, the fascination with the duality of life and the human intellect will render itself through other art forms.  Dean’s passion and hunger for his craft leads him to explore new artistic realms.  Specifically, he plans to continue the exploitation of the pursuit of the human intellect through installation pieces. The Black Series, however, will not be the only set of mirrors Dean will put before us.  When coming into contact with works to come, we must expect to come back to the table, sit opposite of ourselves, and humbly say, “Hello.”

These works and more can be seen at Cleveland’s Upcoming Show, “I Heard He’s An A**hole: Works  by Cleveland Dean” this Saturday, February 19th,2011 at his gallery located at 1643 N. Milwaukee 6PM – 10PM. After party at Lokal, 1904 W. North Ave.