Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday May 6th, 2005 – 1:52AM

So we’ll see in a moment if this Best Western in Saranac Lake, NY is telling the truth about its wireless connection in the room. I’m yet to find evidence of it and I don’t feel like calling front desk at 2 in the morning. Besides, I’m in a hotel in Lyme Disease territory in the middle of the night and I fell asleep somewhere around 10PM, so I’ve got energy and nothing in particular to do, so a fast paced internet connection will just be too much power to wield right now.

Last weekend, we (LouderARTS Project) held another or our salon propaganda evenings. We attempted to talk about artistic movements; whether or not we were part of one, and how it was defined what defined it and whether or not we should to attempt to define the moevement of which we are (or aren’t) a part. Spirited conversation all of it, but I joined in late because I was trying to be helpful to Mahogany in the kitchen with the fried catfish. At the base of it, that was a good enough reason for folks to get together and it was really good to see folks like Jeff McDaniel, Peter Dressel, Frances Chewning, Halle Hobson, Rob Neill et al in a space discussing art in some sort of conceptual way outside of the creation of art itself.

The day before I was coming off the most massive case of insomnia yet. I didn’t get to sleep at all on Thursday night – ever; and I had to get going at 4AM on Friday in order to get to Piscataway High School at 6:45AM. When it was clear to me (around 2AM) that I wasn’t going to be falling asleep I decided to lie there and keep my eyex closed so that I’d still be rested some sort of way. I got up at 4AM, did sit-ups, and squats (to get endorphins up and working) and headed out the door after a shower. Once in New Jersey, I did six sessions for the day! (four assemblies and 2 classroom workshops) and I really don’t know how I got through it except that Maureen Berzok (the teacher responsible for getting me there) was a joy. She was enthusiastic and funny and had done so much preparation with the hundreds of students I appeared in front of that day, that it made my job significantly easier than it could otherwise have been. Students had been given a little packet with a bio and a couple of poems, and potential study questions for one of the poems. The questions (for the poem “what the water gave me”) were very insightful, though I doubt if I could have answered many of them myself.

In one performance “essay” I’ve done, I suggest that folks try to get into an analysis of their own poems, so as to generate the kind of questions that will uncover the multiple layers of emotion and motive at work in their poems, so as to more successfully put them to work in the performance of the poem. It dawned of me that many of the question asked of the students about that poem might be questions that would do just that and do it in a way that we might not think to ask of our own poems, ourselves. What this probably means is that we (poets) should all attempt to make friends with teachers (even if we are teachers ourselves), silly as that sounds, because someone else could unearth for us the questions that need to be asked of our poems better than we could. It is a worthwhile exercise at least and I’m going to attempt to get that done in the coming weeks with some of my work and see what I’d answer and how it can potentially affect my performance of those things. I’ll keep you posted.

Cave Canem workshop is moving on apace. Folks are writing some really interesting stuff and I’m getting more writing exercises to work with than I can swing a dead cat, at. I’m not working nearly hard enough at writing; and again I feel like I spend too much time tending to the business of making a living as a writer than I do actually writing. Some days it’s enough to make me think about getting a regular ole job… but not really.

Masquerade is on tap again for July 23rd, so I’m getting that publicity effort begun and I’m hoping to buckledown and do some serious revision of some of the poems in it. My plan is to have that revision done by the end of May so that I can start memorizing and rehearsing the entire piece. I’ve already started on the duet with Lynne and already it feels like it’s tightening up. I should go try to get some more sleep now. I have to teach a group of thirty-odd Adirondack Mountain high school students in the morning; and I need to have enough energy left to visit the prison in the evening to perform my work. it always takes me a lot of emotional energy to do prison work because visiting a prison makes real the social injustice of which we are a part – especially upstate, where the prison industry means that every county has several prisons peopled almost exclusively with blacks and latinos and manned almost exclusively with working-class whites. No-one ever seems to be able to hear the obvious connection between lack of educational opportunities and the need for these prisons (as opposed to football/olympic/baseball stadia), between the fact that I teach children who don’t have access to computers and are expected to compete with the kids in Hanover, NH; and the incarceration rates in those kids meighborhoods (the kids I teach). It usually takes a good cry before I can get rid of what I accumulate after I visit a prison. Fortunately, there is a Mexican joint right nest to the hotel I’m stayin in and I found out earlier that their margaritas are stellar! we should be able to git ‘er done! Here’s an unfinished poem created from a cave Canem workshop exercise. Feel free to say what’s missing or where you think it should go.

on the eve of my 95th birthday

Take the money for a casket
and shove it all into the jukebox
at 18 songs for $10
so there is music all night long
Pat Benatar and Jimmy Hendrix and
Bob Marley and Prince

Burn my body in a bonfire
on the beach in Coney Island
and stash the ashes in a styrofoam cup
on the corner of the bar for the night

And cry not because I died
but because you didn’t
kiss me hot and hard
one more time on my death-bed
as my laughter curdled
into my death-rattle

There is a van double-parked
in front of the flower shop
up from the block
where I once lived
and out of the back is coming
the most ferocious meringue
and this is how it should be

but there are four huge funeral arrangements
on their way to my funeral
meant for my grave
anthuriums, lilies, ladies of the night
headed for a parlor
and this is wrong
because I never wanted flowers

I want my friends (what’s left of them)
who count me worthy of celebration
my two daughters
Kali and Nyasha
my one best friend with the audacity
to outlive me
to pool the money they would have spent on flowers
and go to the Spring Lounge

The meringue coming out the back of the van
is old-school 4/4 timing
and the driver is surly
and this is right
and I love him for it
but tear the flower petals off
and feed them to the same
NewYork spring wind that made me
laugh when I was 25
the same Carnival Tuesday
Port-of-Spain Savannah dust
that made me want to fuck
my first real girlfriend at 17
because the dust blew hot red
horse-track sand grass and one
Ti-Marie petal onto my cheek


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