Tuesday, April 11, 2017
I've a chapbook to my name Mandible (Slapering Hol Press, 2014) courtesy of The African Poetry Book Fund. One of my friends called its voice 'completely unexpected' we talked about how much of a self confessed rambler I am and how that and my spoken word background led her to expect something else from the book. She loved it but wondered if I had 'left something of [my]self' out of it. That is reason number four that I am very glad I published that work. I am able to deal with my work far outside my body and its (actual) voice - or whatever other props I employ consciously or otherwise - because that distance has been very productive. And to retire some poems because there was the self imposed obligation that once I thought a poem was done I wanted to share it live, some over and over but once they were published I could free up that head space. I'm not making an argument for books as some sort of literary graveyard, that's just how my head works/ed at that point. In many ways the publishing was not an end in itself but a clear way for the work to live in different spaces.
I began as, and still am, a spoken word poet in the sense that I love to read my work out loud and often write poems that would present themselves as ...unusual (depending who you ask) were they to be placed quietly on the page. That said, in hindsight, I don't like to hear my own voice. I suspect where we meant to, we would sound just as we imagine ourselves to on and off recordings but that's not been the case for me. It's easy enough to pseudo-distance myself mid performance/reading because I am engaging outwardly - I am invested in my listeners' experience not (primarily) my own. I'm notorious for slipping away if some recording of my voice starts to play because all I can do in that moment is be a critical listener - though it is I who am speaking, but like Marshall and his BreakBeat poets I very much "believe in the necessity for poems to live in multiple media (page, performance, video, audio, various multi-genre presentational forms)."
I've thus far recorded 2 CDs (including one with my band Sonic Slam Chorus) and been featured on others' projects, as well as on websites such as lyrikline where the work appears in English alongside its German translation. There's also a lot of unsanctioned material on the web - plenty to humble any ideas of self aggrandisement.
And I've shot two videos. Both Neon Poem and Dreams were filmed in Cambodia by the talented Masahiro Sugano (Studio Revolt). Neon Poem borrows its opening line from Amiri Baraka's controversial poem Black Art. Do take a look and listen.
Yours, as always.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
I don't drink coffee, a little architectural misdesign with the old ticker means on some days my heart can get real angry just looking at a picture of coffee beans.
But tea I love.
Tea ceremonies even more so.
Tea ceremonies even more so.
Years ago I watched the movie Red Cliff and smiled at the idea of a woman tea master distracting a power hungry general (Cao Cao) by endlessly making him tea, moving through ritual the way Sheherazade might tell a story whose end means to get her killed. She makes Cao Cao tea long enough for the wind to change direction and favour her lover Zhou Yu's warships.
Thanks to the Seoul InternationaI Writers Festival which is run by a fantastic team of individuals I went #SeoulSearching today and spent the entire day at a temple with female monks (nuns) learning how to stay silent and meditate, eat vegetarian food, the history of the Korean flag and alphabet as well as - yes you guessed it - make tea. Just call me #teamaster I too will avert many 'wars' with my new skill. My 'guests' for the day enjoyed my bamboo leaf tea. It was neither too mild nor strong which would be Korean code for what some Batswana call dibese/mbodza (a rubbish meal). Don't laugh, this is serious business.
here and the tea ceremony is around the 20 minute mark.
Monday, September 19, 2016
It is 1960 Zora Neale Hurston author and anthropologist, who at this point has published numerous articles, plays and books, received two Guggenheim Fellowships, an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Morgan State College as well as Howard University’s Distinguished Alumni Award having earned an associate degree there in 1920, dies.
She has suffered a stroke the year before, and at her passing her neighbours have no recourse but to take up a collection. It is in the end insufficient to purchase a headstone, and she is buried in an unmarked grave.
Return to 1945, Hurston writes to W.E.B Du Bois suggesting as Valerie Boyd tells us in her “She Was The Party” essay “a cemetery for the illustrious Negro dead […] Let no Negro celebrity, no matter what financial condition they might be in at death, lie in inconspicuous forgetfulness”.
It didn’t happen.
Sitting together at a festival in that other south, South Africa a fellow poet and I thought of this exact …predicament quite a few years ago. We had just learned that a celebrated and much loved female musician, for all intents and purposes, had just died on stage far away from home because at her age and after all her brilliant and hard work – factor in rapacious contracts scribbled by shysters- she still needed to work. At this point her talent alone was never going to be enough.
Back to Hurston, thirteen years later, in the year 1973 Boyd tells us that ‘a young writer named Alice Walker traveled to Fort Pierce to place a marker on the grave of the author who had so inspired her own work’ on it she places the words,
“Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South”