Sunday, July 06, 2008
Sitting at Denver Airport (Pearson, take note – they don’t charge for wireless here). Usually, when I travel, I don’t have time to just chill and write. Usually, I’m skipping lines, running through customs, and making it on to a plane by the skin of my teeth. But not today. There’s an hour before I have to board, and I’m five minutes away from the gate. I thought I’d seize the opportunity and wrap-up this past week, tie everything up neatly with a bow before I have to rejoin my real life.
I came to Boulder to take part in the Summer Writing Program ran by the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (I just love saying that, it sounds so retro).
First off, I knew it would go well when on Monday morning, when I went to get my first coffee of the day. I still hadn’t spoken to anyone, was trying to find my way around and had been traveling the entire day before after rolling on no sleep in two nights. But I walked into the coffeeshop, and they were playing Outkast. And that’s all right by me.
With regard to the program, I had been romanticising the beat generation, but what I got was a simulacrum of it, retro politics repackaged for a new generation of radical chic. Or maybe I’m just a cynic. I did get to meet Amiri Baraka, a small man with a gigantic presence. I also got a chance to see Anne Waldman performing, who’s on another level completely in terms of sheer performance skill. And Tracie Morris? Damn!
The workshop that I attended was called “Taking a Solo: Prose & Interdependent Consciousness”. Originally designed by Thulani Davis, the lovely Akilah Oliver took her place at the last moment. A lot of what I practiced in terms of my writing this week was outside of my comfort zone – but hey, boundaries are there to be crossed. What I did place a lot of value on were the conversations I had with some of the faculty.
Another reason I had elected to attend the workshop at Naropa was to expose myself to more black writers from an older generation, to learn more about what had come before me in the diasporic cultural scene, and to find out what else was going on. The community and connection aspect was good for me. Sometimes, I feel so isolated and insulated from the world-at-large, too wrapped up in the Screwface Capital to pay attention to what’s going on.
Aside from the educational aspect of it, Boulder was fascinating. It’s an interesting little town, filled with beauty, magic, and weird racial dynamics. I’ve also never seen so much Buddhist/Tibetan/Hindu paraphernalia in one place at the same time.
Fourth of July fireworks were beautiful watched lying on my back on the grass on the university campus, surrounded by families and good people. We’d planted ourselves in front of a tree, and although we easily could have shifted a few feet to the right for an unobstructed view, everything was just fine. I saw the Big Dipper for the first time ever, bright, clear stars in the mountain air. I also had an interesting encounter with a snake on my way to the creek. People told me there weren’t any snakes in the city any more, that noone had seen any in years. I think it was a baby king snake. We had a brief exchange and then we both went on our way. Actually, I went right back the way I had come. I can take a hint.
I had a lot of time to just pause, think and write. I’m sure that a lot of the writing that has come out of this week will surface in future posts, and hopefully in more published work. I’ve promised to make more of a commitment to publishing my writing. To keep on pushing it and stop hoarding like it doesn’t belong out there.
And henceforth, every new week shall now begin with Outkast.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
by S.M. Awad-el-Kariem
Before you came I was me
I thought of me and felt for me
And then, there was you
And “me” changed forever
There were us, them, her, him, and you
Together we shall have the ultimate love
They will make you feel happy and laugh
She will be your playmate, your peer, your friend.
He will be your teacher, your mentor, your guide.
Everyone will be there for you
All the world will be there for you.
For it was God’s gift to you
As you are God’s gift to me.
You were the beginning for me to know
Life is not futile,
Birth, suffering and death.
Life, was watching you grow
Your cry, your smile
And how you held your breath
Trying to get your way.
Finding it in the uncharted road
Luring me, enchanting me to pray
Grateful for this ultimate gift of God
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
It amazes me how emotions are so physical. I've been through some physical pain - nothing major, a bum hip, a fractured thumb, cramps, severe back pain, burns, deep cuts, etc. Regular physical pain that anyone can relate to. Emotional anguish manifesting as physical as well: sore ribs, tension headaches, painful lethargy.
But the emotional/physical pain from these dreams has been unreal. No analgesic on earth was going to take this pain away. Halfway through this dream was the death of a loved one, and I've never felt anything remotely close to the pain that this imagined loss created. I'd wake up, early in the morning, unable to move. My pillow would be soaked halfway through. It felt like my body was being torn in half. A seemingly long period of deep breathing, trying to bring my body and mind under control again. Repeating "it's okay, don't be stupid, it hasn't happened" to myself like a mantra.
Sunshine takes unreal fears away. So do panicked repetitive phonecalls to make sure everything's okay. The anxiety becomes a joke at my expense, but at the back of my mind, there's this nagging little voice asking me what the hell it all means?
I exorcise through writing, and I seek solace in the Geto Boys.
Friday, April 04, 2008
Now, the first time I had ever tried to play the bass was in the store the day I ordered mine, when I was checking them out. I can't read music. All I can do, really, at this point is play the first part of "Love Me Tender" (sans chords) on keyboard, and "O Susannah!" on the harmonica. I once could play Nirvana's "Rape Me" on electric guitar. I learned that in high school. One of the school bands was performing it at our senior prom, and the guitarist used our computer classes to practise (he also provided the soundtrack for our anti-physics classes boycotts). We were pretty wayward. But that was over a decade ago, and I can barely remember how to play it now.
I'd always said that if there was any instrument I was going to learn how to play, it was going to be the electric bass. It's a crucial element in most musical genres, from the Afro-jazz of home to every form of reggae, from funk to indie, from hip hop to punk. Music's integral to my being, and I want to start making my own. And what's a song without bass?
I don't know why I decided to buy an instrument now. Mainly because I couldn't find a reason not to. Bass players in a band don't get no shine, but I'm not in this for the glory. I don't intend to perform, just to play along to the basslines in my favourite reggae and p-funk tracks. I'm excited. Since I've ordered my guitar (it will need a name - any suggestions?), I've been a great mood, looking forward to when it arrives. If anyone from Steve's Music is reading this, it should have been here last week!
I'm counting down the days to when "grooving to a bassline" is going to change meaning. When I'll cancel plans because I need to practice. When I can add "wannabe musician" to the list of self-descriptives.
In the meantime, I'll marvel at Lloyd Parks' basslines for Dennis Brown and build on a newfound respect for Robbie Shakespeare. The extra bass in my sub woofers is turned up all the way, in a rub-a-dub style.
Friday, March 14, 2008
It’s becoming glaringly obvious to me that I have a problem with owning my creative output. I believe(d) that art does not need to be accessed through its creator/producer. My name does not need to be on my writing or design work. When I’m challenged on this, as I have been recently and constantly, I find this resistance to claiming my own work. I’m not ashamed of my work, I know it’s good and I know I have unlimited potential to improve. I think this pushing-against stems from the name that I carry. It immediately places me as belonging to a particular ethnic group, religion, and place. My name limits my art. It gives my audience permission to categorise and constrain me. It permits them to use my words as weapons against me. It gives them this presumption of knowing me, and thus knowing what I’m trying to convey. And they’re usually wrong. To give myself permission to breathe, to say what I have to say without fear or being misconstrued, misinterpreted, or even worse, used as a symbol, I remove my name. I don’t deny what I’ve written, but I remove my name. It’s a conscious decision, confounded with regret, anger, frustration, and self-righteousness. But I’m starting to change on that front, because I’m becoming aware that I need to remove that power from my audience. I need to use the power of my words for me. I don’t need to apologise. And I don’t need to protect myself from misinterpretation.
Once again, on the self-awareness tip. I’m a person of extremes. I don’t cut corners on anything I do – eating/not eating, socializing/hermiting, writing/not writing. My life’s like a game of Pong, and I’m the ball, external circumstance are the paddles, and sometimes I get so slammed around, I’m not even there. It manifests in my emotions – depressive phases that are so dark and hopeless, ecstatic phases when I’m frighteningly delirious. I’m a human pendulum, swinging through the mid-point like it’s irrelevant. And I just figured, hey, this is just me. This crazy-ass up-and-down is just the way things are supposed to be, and I’m just going to go along with the flow. But last week, I clicked. Audibly and deliberately. And unconsciously. I just felt balanced and in tune. The feeling was so new and so wonder-full. And soul and so amazing.
The word “annotations” has been recurring in conversations, texts, and concepts. I’ve been annotating previous writings as well, I’ve been calling it “editing”, but the action was definitely annotating. I like the concept of annotating. I like the idea of going through things and adding little notes and comments, improvements and ideas. I’ve been annotating myself, highlighting areas of improvement, little text tabs that say “I LOVE THIS!!!”, and fixing up grammar. I want to annotate other people – I want to take little stickie notes and say “I LOVE THIS ABOUT YOU!!!” and stick them on them. I want to say “Maybe you could include this here?” I want to draw lines through ignorant beliefs and mistakes made (including my own), so during the next round of encounters they’re no longer there. I want the people I love and trust to annotate me, help me improve. And I want everyone to have DRAFT wordmarked onto them, so we all get that we’re past versions of our future selves.
So, based on two particular conversations I’ve had – one happened last Sunday, the other one last night – I’ve discovered that I’m not weird. This is good news. Things I believe, things I do, are perfectly normal to some people. Two very significant conversations, where I didn’t have to explain myself once. Where I didn’t have to stop and search through my ESL vocabulary for the perfect words. You (M. and T.) really understood what I was saying. This is a huge relief. Thank you.