I love where I work… @chipublib #booknerdsunite #bookpartybus #literacyonwheels
A. Van Jordan! #printersrowlitfest
Patricia Smith story time. #ltab
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…
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.
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.
Photos I’ve been hoarding from AWP 2009 here in Chicago.
One of the times I can easily be accused of being a poet groupie. Not only did I gush in front of Haki Madhubuti, but when Lucille Clifton came around the corner and the two of them began to talk in front of my table, I was absolutely speechless.