Negotiating This Whole Balance Thing or Finding Time for a One-Woman Dance Party In Order to Write Poems

I have a theory. The time you were born directly connects to the time of day in which your creative energy is most abundant. It occurs daily at the same time, an overwhelming need to do whatever it is you artistically do. I was born at 11:50am. 10 minutes right before the clock struck lunch. My hours are the hours of 10am-2pm. During this time, I am my most awake self, often overcome by a strong urge to write, or simply become filled with too many ideas to ever be able to get down on paper all at once before they flit away by the time the midday slump hits. I sometimes wish I had a recorder in my head to capture all of the snippets simultaneously appearing and asking to be remembered to finish later.

This is my theory and for me, and few other whom I’ve approached with this theory – remains to be steadfast and true. What scientific evidence do I have to back up this claim of mine? None. Here’s what I do know:

I know that I never know how my writing will feel on any given day, and so cling to this notion that there is a time that sets itself aside for me in the event that I have that time available to write, prime writing time. I’ve asked my other half what time he was born: sometime late in the night. He spends his late late hours, designing, producing, conceiving new ideas, churning out his creative impulses when most of us are asleep. I’ve tried to match this cycle, pushing my bed time later and later, telling myself that the greats sacrifice and so must I! Rarely, do I live up to the night owl standards. When I do, I’m done for the next day, uninterested or uninspired to do/write anything. I’ve done myself in. And so, I hold fast to my theory of birth time = creative productivity. It’s my truth and I’m sticking to it.

However, I am also a working adult and don’t really have the liberty to just drop what I’m doing, tell my colleagues or boss, “Excuse me for a few hours while I go and write poems. Be back to discuss that partnership negotiation later.” I heard Tyehimba Jess once talk about how he knew he was supposed to be poet when he found himself spending more time on the job writing poems than being on the job. After that revelation, he applied to NYU’s MFA Program and for those of you who know his work, you know how that story ended. I aspire.

But I love my 9-5. I spend my day creating amazing programs at the library for youth of Chicago. I do have the chance to spread the poetry gospel to new generations of writers and young artists, helping youth of the city discover their passion, no matter the content area. It’s pretty sweet.

Yet, I still long for the day when my own nicely polished, fresh paper-pressed book of poems arrives at my door step saying, “Hello, Mama!” So I write – find the time in the evening hours, having a conversation with my afternoon muse, asking it to push back our quality time just a little later. The greatest part about having an other half that is also creative, is that unspoken understanding of needing time to make the dream happen, and so giving each other the time and space needed to focus on our art, in between the jobs and our toddler.

When it comes to creating artistic space to produce, adjustments can surely be made when necessary. I attempt to save that Noon energy and put it into an imaginary bottle I can open when I have the quietude to sit down and get down to writing. I read over work I become excited about getting back to later, running lines through my head throughout the day until I can get to my desk, or a piece of paper. But I cherish my nights, wooing my muse through Acoustic Evening playlists on Spotify (or now perhaps Tidal? I digress), tea London style, sometimes even a one-woman dance party to keep up the fluidity, the writing written one day or moment at a time.

Whatever it takes, man. Whatever it takes.

Apology to My Muse

Muse,

You and I have been estranged for far too long and I miss you. You remain with me, but as some shadow confined to a corner, turning only when called. I’ve been selfish, expected you to expect to know your place as supplier, misunderstood your true purpose and lost sight of my love for you. I was afraid of you and your power, the unconditional nature of your being. Your proximity to me made me uneasy every time I questioned whether or not I was capable of fulfilling our potential. My faith in you wavered and for that I am sorry. There can be no relationship if there is no trust.

I lost my way and have had trouble finding it back to you. So much has happened and perhaps I’ve built those capsules of moments and years around you to quiet your voice of expectations. I knew you were there. You were always there. You were close enough to call and I knew you would come, prepared to give. I rarely, if ever, replenished you in the way that was necessary, that demonstrated my love and appreciation for you. How disingenuine of me! There were times when I asked you to show yourself, a servant treasure to my art. You gave me what you could and reserved the rest.

I’ve neglected you for far too long. It is time to make things right. I will set aside my fears and learn to listen, to hear you and to trust you. Who knows me better than you?

Please forgive me. Stay.

 

 

Fast Geek Press Releases "Further Down Rd." by Chicago Poet John Franklin Dandridge

Small book and cassette tape label, Fast Geek Press would like to announce the release of John Franklin Dandridge’s new collection of poems Further Down Rd, an examination of an artist’s relationships, rivalries and exaggerated perception of the future painted on the geographical canvas of Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.  John Franklin Dandridge inserts his audience into relatable situations and settings by weaving abstract imagery with icons of pop culture.

John Franklin Dandridge lives and writes in Chicago, Illinois.  He earned his M.F.A. in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago.  Several of his poems have been published in Callaloo Press, Spirits Journal,and The Smoking Poet to name a few.  This is his first chapbook.

Fast Geek Press will hold a release party on Monday, May 10, 2010 at the Tonic Room (2447 North Halsted Street Chicago, IL).  This event will start at 8:00 PM, and feature readings by John Franklin Dandridge, and Charly “the city mouse” Fasano.

Further Down Rd. is available at fastgeekpress.com.

Mercy :: Poet Lucille Clifton Passes This Day

the tale the shepherds tell the sheep



Today, poet, mother, inspirer Lucille Clifton passed away at the age of 73.  To honor her, we could post a description of her life and many achievements, summon her legacy with reverent words given to that of a queen, whom she was, indeed. But the only way to tell the tale, to show the true essence of Ms. Clifton would be to give you only her own words which will continue to ring inside of our hearts, come forth in the foundation of our pens, echo through our voices and those of the ones yet to be heard. Lucille Clifton, we love you, we miss you, we carry you with us always.

Coming Ashore: Langston Hughes' "The Big Sea"

I began reading The Big Sea by Langston Hughes somewhere around my late high school years, or early college endeavors when I was still an infant of a poet.  Langston was one of the first poets I’d read, one of the first books of poetry I’d owned. I still remember walking into the Walden Books at the West Farms Mall in Connecticut where I pulled it down off the shelf, handed it to my mother. There was no conversation — the book was bought.

There is no other term than ‘giddy’ to describe how I felt when finding The Big Sea, a first person account of the lifestyle and legacy of a poet I greatly admired, who lived during a time I often obsessed over.  For some reason, picking up the book at that time was not the time meant for it to be read.  I am embarrassed to admit this, yet I am also grateful for having put it away.  It found me when it needed to find me; and I realize now that it wasn’t supposed to be any other way.  Therefore, I am not ashamed for not reading it earlier.  I absently obeyed fate.

I fell in love with Langston’s humility and shyness, an outsider looking in on the Harlem Renaissance as if he was nothing more than a passerby, a fly on the Harlem whist party walls. He bashfully explains a time when he did not know what to do with the stems of a strawberry he’d eaten at a formal dinner in New York.  His innocent uncertainty and child-like curiosity gets the better of him concerning the whereabouts of the stems of the other guests, since he was the only one left with stems which he placed to the side of his plate:

“But when I finished eating the berries and ice cream, I noticed that no one else at the table had left any stems on the plates.  Their ice cream and all was gone. I couldn’t imagine what they had done with their stems. What did one do with strawberry stems on Park Avenue?  Or were these a very special kind of strawberry stem that you could eat? Or had I committed some awful breach of etiquette by removing my strawberry stems by hand and putting them in plain view of everyone on the side of my plate? I didn’t know. I was worried and puzzled.”

When reading this and other anecdotes, I am reminded of what  E. Ethelbert Miller says so simply in his book Fathering Words which echoed in my mind throughout my reading, a mantra of mine:  A true poet is a person of the heart.  Honest and compassionate, Langston shows us that we are nothing if we are not human, explorers and wanders of our own terrain, listeners of the story-tellers we meet along the way, vulnerable — all of these, simultaneously and wholly.

Reading The Big Sea was like reading the letters of a grandfather I’d never known, but heard so many stories about.  When he felt nauseated, I held my stomach. When he slept in the haunted cabin, I turned out a light and said “Goodnight.”  Reading The Big Sea centered me again, reaffirmed for me that poetry is the whim of a moment where a sailor sits at the hull of a ship at midnight along the coast of the Congo, his drunken banter in the barracks. Poetry is raw and necessary and risky, but it is love, the last penny I am happy to give up to a stranger.