Tag Archives: poetry slam

Video: Reading at In The Meantime

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Writing as a Spirtual Practice: a sound walk experiment and reiki ceremony

Photo via Tomas Sobek

Photo via Tomas Sobek

“The writing of (Soma)tics is an engagement with the thing of things and the spirit of things” … CA Conrad.

Since I discovered CA Conrad, his (Soma)tic exercises have greatly influenced my writing. (Soma)tic poetry investigates the “infinite space between body and spirit by using nearly any possible thing around or of the body to channel the body out and/or in toward spirit with deliberate and sustained concentration.”

Tomorrow, I will start a one-week writing workshop in Malibu Hills at Camp Hollywood Heart. To help my writing students learn (Soma)tic techniques, we will go on a sound walk and have a reiki bowl burning ceremony. On the sound walk, we will focus our attention on sounds and we will incorporate the sounds into our writing. In the reiki bowl burning ceremony, the students will write down negative things that they want to let go of. They will write on biodegradable paper. After finishing, they will tear the paper up, place the papers in the bowl, and we will symbolically burn the paper by throwing it off of a cliff.

As the students write, they will receive reiki energy work from Reiki Master, Carlos Caridad from the Centre For Life in Los Angeles. The energy work is intended to heal emotional trauma and stress and bring back to balance the electro-magnetic energy fields of their bodies. We will have a mini writing session after the reiki practice and see the impact it has on their bodies. The ceremony will take place in a Jewish sanctuary at Gindling Hilltop Camp.

I was inspired to create the reiki bowl burning ceremony after reading one of Conrad’s exercises.

Wash a penny, rinse it, slip it under your tongue and walk out the door. Copper is the metal of Aphrodite, never ever forget this, never, don’t forget it, ever. Drink a little orange juice outside and let some of the juice rest in your mouth with the penny. Oranges are the fruit of Aphrodite, and she is the goddess of Love, but not fidelity. Go somewhere outside, go, get going with your penny and juice. Where do you want to sit? Find it, and sit there. What is the best Love you’ve ever had in this world? Be quiet while thinking about that Love. If someone comes along and starts talking, quietly shoo them away, you’re busy, you’re a poet with a penny in your mouth, idle chit-chat is not your friend. Be quiet so quiet, let the very sounds of that Love be heard in your bones. After a little while, take the penny out of your mouth and place it on the top of your head. Balance it there and sit still a little while, for you are now moving your own forces quietly about in your stillness. Now get your pen and paper and write about POVERTY, write line after line about starvation and deprivation from the voice of one who has been Loved in this world.

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L.A. Pride for the First Time: A story for HomoCentric Reading Series

A Story for the Homo-Centric Reading Series
Read for the One City, One Pride Arts Festival
In Celebration of West Hollywood’s 30th Anniversary

Being a polysemic word, Pride means something different between members of the LGBT community. Whether it’s getting the masses to sign a petition, dressing in drag as a cultural protest, safely holding hands with a loved one in public or donning a colorful ensemble, these acts represent Pride. Los Angeles Pride is a smorgasbord of the above times twenty. At my first L.A. Pride, I had the opportunity to walk in the parade with Erase Doubt, an L.A. County-wide safe sex campaign. For the parade, I had to bounce a giant black beach ball that towered over my head. To launch it high up in the air, I lifted the ball above my head and smashed it to the ground. My arms cramped up from exhaustion after two minutes. Another guy had a matching beach ball. Printed prominently on our black balls was the AIDS virus.

Before the parade, I practiced what I would say to attract attention to our group. I settled on, “come stroke my black balls” and “don’t you want to juggle these?” Other people from our group would pass out condoms, beads, t-shirts, and drawstring bags with AIDS ribbons.

I was expecting a large crowd, but what I wasn’t expecting was the number of people that would greet us from the sidewalk. Thousands cheered, waved, high-fived us, stroked my ball, asked for pictures, and selfies. After the parade, an on-looker said it was quite a sight to see two colossal black balls bouncing toward The Abbey.

This year Pride turns forty-five, and that experience made me think about the first Pride in West Hollywood. How did those first walkers feel being greeted not only by the cheers of hundreds, but also hundreds of protesters? It must have been the disquiet that promised to suck the air from their lungs faster than a thumbtack through a balloon. For those brave men and women, I proudly bounced my giant black ball through West Hollywood.

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Our Odyssey: A Reading of Homer’s Epic By the People and For the People at the Downtown Public Library

“Tell me, Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered far and wide after he had sacked Troy’s sacred city” … are the first lines of the Odyssey that I had the pleasure of reading at the Los Angeles Downtown Public Library. I was asked by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles to be one of two hundred readers to reading the Odyssey in its entirety (1200 lines). The voice of Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) provided running commentary. Cloris Leachman, Rhea Perlman, Bradley Whitford, Susan Sullivan, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Lisa Loeb read. Also, magician Ricky Jay, KCRW traffic reporter Kajon Cermak, and musician Lol Tolhurst read as well.

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Into Darkness: Remembering Poet, Musician, and Community Activist David Blair

Blair Performing Carl

I cried the first time I heard poet and slam artist, David Blair or Blair perform his persona poem “Carl” in the voice of the black character Carl Carlson from The Simpsons (ironically voiced by Hank Azaria). In the poem an employee at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant draws a black N on Carl’s locker.  It starts off, “I was drawn here” and ends “I was drawn here” and in between dissects what it’s like being black in a predominately white community using brave language. Brave is an appropriate word describing Blair’s poetry, also politically passionate, fiery, provocative, and necessary. Maybe it was Blair’s syrupy-rich voice, his to the point delivery, and bearlike stature that had an impact on me. Maybe it was that I knew he was gay and because he was a black gay writer I could see myself in that poem. Whatever it was he had the same effect on so many people.

The National Endowment for the Arts said “his stunningly evocative renderings of (Emily) Dickinson’s work are not to be missed.”

Jay Connell, author of Eat This City said “Blair is awful. Not in the way you’re probably thinking, though. When you see someone that talented it’s hard not to be reminded of how mediocre a lot of other things are. Every single time I’ve left a Blair show, I’ve made a comment about how I need to see that guy more often.”

Blair Performing Being Black in America

He performed throughout the world after winning against 54 four-member teams at the National Slam Competition with his team, Team Detroit (which included Ben Jones, Aurora Harris, Becky Austin, Michael Ellison, Judah, and Scott Klein) in 2002. At the competition Blair performed an Italian madrigal. I would have loved to have seen that performance or have seen Blair perform in Paris next year. Blair passed away on Saturday, July 23, 2011.

“Because I’m black and gay, the black gay community means a lot to me as a writer, artist, performer and as a listener,” Blair said.

He meant a lot to the black gay community, the slam community, the Detroit community, so many communities.

David Blair and the Wall of Prejudice

Image by Preston Rhea

He described himself as a black, queer writer, and musician. His poetry was heavily influenced by his music. A style called urban folk with an urgent rock feel. He performed with a band called The Boyfriends. Blair was on vocals and played the acoustic guitar along with Leah Woods (Vocals, Clarinet), Ken Comstock (Double Bass), Chris Winter (Drums), Markita Moore (Trumpet), Scott Stone (Drums), Dale Wilson (Electric Guitar), and Nicole Varga (Violin, Viola). Their most recent album, The Line, “was released in 2010 on Repeatable Silence Records. Blair, as a solo artist, and with The Urban Folk Collective, self-released more than seven records in the last ten years.” The Urban Folk Collective, Blair’s first band, a 5-piece band “blending many different styles from folk and blues to jazz, hip-hop and funk.” They performed shows with “Stevie Wonder, M. Doughty (Soul Coughing), Michael Moore, Tribe 8, Niagara, Reggie Gibson, and Harold McKinney.”

Blair and The Boyfriends Performing Freedom Calling

For six years Blair worked at The Chrysler Plant is Detroit where his work suffered. When he quit, he entered into a state of creativity overload, churning out poems, spoken word pieces, music, a one man show called Burying the Evidence performed in Detroit, and an experimental theater piece called The Walking Project, which had a two-week run in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. One of those poems written during that time is appropriately titled My Time At Chrysler which talks about how his work suffered.  My Time At Chrysler ends:

I traded in my Chrysler body
for the body that you now see before you
I know it’s not quite as sleek or as young as it once was
it still gets me to where I need to go
puts me on a new road
points me in a new direction
where the light beams
and the mind dreams
and life seems to go on forever

Blair’s life will go on forever in the minds of the people he inspired, that loved him, and on YouTube. Check out more of Blair’s performances below. Little Richard Penniman Tells It Like It T-I-IS is a favorite. Rest in peace Blair.

Recommended Reading and Listening:

The DVD World’s Greatest Poetry Slam 2002 featuring Blair, Shappy, Becky Austin, George McKibbens, Benjamin Jones, Celena Glenn, Michael Ellison, Sekou (Tha Misfit), and Shane Koyczan Taylor Mali from the 2002 National Poetry Slam in Minneapolis, MN showing both the team and the individual competitions.

The DVD Slam Safe II featuring Blair, Taylor Mali, Lizz Straight, Sonya Renee Taylor, and Simone Beubien from the National Poetry Slam in West Palm Beach FL.

Blair and Boyfriend’s The Line Album. All the songs were written and produced by Blair with Chris Pyle, Josh Antonuccio, and Dale Wilson.

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black artsy event: los angeles: tonight: 5/19/11: spit – urban mic night @ the kickback lounge

Yolo Akili Performing Are We The Boys We Want

Come out LA and snap yo fingers.

SPIT, an urban open mic night is happening tonight at The Kickback Lounge in LA from 7-10.

The special featured guest is Dorothy Randall Gray, noted author, lecturer, and spoken word artist. Gray’s book, “Soul Between The Lines” will be available for sale. She conducts transformational writing workshops at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. Jair “The Literary Masturbator” of Oakland will be performing as well. Jair’s book, “Touch…Poems and other writing of Love, Erotica & Sensuality” will be available for sale as well. He also has a spoken word CD available “Confessions of a Literary Masturbator.” With royalties from “Touch” Jair donated money to help poet and spoken word artist Yolo Akili produce his one man show. Sign up ends at 7:30 to get onstage. The event is sponsored by In The Meantime.

Stage Microphone TTV

Keith Bloomfield via Flickr

Event Information:

Where: The Kickback Lounge, 4067 W. Pico Blvd. LA CA 90019 (Parking at the Catch One)

Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011

Time: 7:00p.m. Networking/ 8:00p.m.-10:00p.m. Showtime (Participants must be signed up by 7:30p.m.)

Price: Free/Donation at the door

For more information on Dorothy Randall Gray go to her facebook page and for more information on Jair “The Literary Masturbator” go to his website.

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black lgbt artsy event: atlanta: 6/23 – 6/25: atlanta queer literary festival @ mulitple locations in atlanta and decatur

The premiere LGBT literary Festival in Atlanta, The Atlanta Queer Literary Festival (AQLF), showcasing LGBT authors, novelists, playwrights, and poets will take place June 23-25 in Atlanta and Decatur. Keynote speakers are Sibling Rivalry Press founder Bryan Borland and Women of the World Poetry Slam champion Theresa Davis. There will be readings, poetry slams, workshops, signings, and theater events.

Blogger and AQLF board member Cleo Creech stated the board is “returning AQLF back to it’s Stonewall roots.”

Go to their website for a schedule of events.

Last year Antron Reshaud, black gay poet and author of Bohemian Rebel: Naked and Exposed. Vol 1 and The Rising Vol 2., performed last year during AQLF’s opening night event at Charis Books with Karen Head, Alice Teeter, Timothy Wright, Bailey Lynn, Maudelle Driskell and Mose Hardin. Antron premiered his One Man Show: SIXLIVESINFORTYPOEMS.

Linton Kwesi Johnson on stage reading from a book

Image via Wikipedia

Other black LGBT authors included Charles Stephens, Reginald T. Jackson, Ifa Bumi, and Blair (D. Blair). “Charles Stephens has been an advocate and enthusiast of black queer literature and culture since he read James Baldwin’s Just Above My Head when he was a precocious 12-year old. He also co-organized “Phyre” a celebration of black queer history and culture. His writing has appeared in the Gay and Lesbian Review, the monographs Think Again and If We Have to Take Tomorrow and Alternet.”

Reginald T. Jackson‘s new book of poetry, This Morning I Woke Black: The Barack Obama Poems, on Outskirts Press, “was named a National Shakespeare Pioneer for his adaptation of King Lear as a Black Drag Queen dying of AIDS: House of Lear. He also received a NYC Mayor’s Citation and an Arts and Cultural Foundation Award for his work in Arts-In-Education. His literary works have appeared in the anthology Brother To Brother, the anthology Flesh and The Word 2, BlackOut Magazine, the anthology Sojourner, BGM Magazine, OUTWEEK Magazine, American Writing Magazine, The Pyramid Poetry Periodical,He has completed two novels entitled: Love Sickness and My Homeboy Love.” Check out Reginald’s interview with DJ Baker on the Da Doo Dirty Show discussing the inspiration for “This Morning I Woke Black” and living with HIV.

Ifa Bumi is a poet, spoken word artist, and songwriter. Her spoken word album, Musoetry, was released in 2009 and received critical acclaim.

Blair (D. Blair), 2010 Callaloo Fellow, is an “award winning Detroit-based poet and singer-songwriter, a 2010 Callaloo Poetry Fellow and a National Poetry Slam Champion. He is the author of Moonwalking, published by Penmanship Books. The recipient of Seattle WA’s Bent Mentor Award, he is also a Def Poetry Jam Poet who’s performed on bills with Stevie Wonder, Wilco, Oscar Winner Michael Moore, Bitch and Animal and others. He teaches poetry and music classes in Detroit Public Schools, Hannan House Senior Center, the YMCA and lectures at universities, colleges and high schools across the country.” Blair is performing in Chicago on 4/23 at Scarab Club with Jamaal May and in New York on 5/7-5/8 at the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe.

Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission gave the first keynote address at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Cary previously had been IGLHRC’s Senior Africa Specialist, a position he held for four years, and managed the organization’s office in Cape Town, South Africa. Lambda Award finalist Ana Bozicevic gave the second keynote address.

Last year’s panels included: journalism, African-American writers and social media. This year should be even better.

I hope to make this a stop on my book tour. Fingers crossed.

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