And another page turns as I signed off of the synonymUS list serve today with a nice simple note—
fun times last night y’all, werd
consider this my last post on this list serve as i continue on my
if you need me, i aint hard to find and always ready to lend a hand.
its been real and its been fun but mostly its been real fun…
This isn’t as dramatic a split as Acentos with Raymond Daniel in the Captain’s seat, a position that he has occupied for quite a bit of time. Add Rich, Abena, Scot, Steph, Jessica Elizabeth & the other musicians/artists that join in on the jams and the team is rock solid.
But this was the first series I actually had a hand in. Lynne is the original founder and she put a call for others to come and help organize a collaborative poetry reading. At the time Ray and I were working on “Mercy on the Battlefield” and just plain bugging out on our own- what would come to be known as synonymUS Jams. Based on this one collab I figured that I could help a bit and intro Lynne & Ray. Pretty soon I was in the thick of organizing and loving it, mostly because I was still unsure if I even had the stuff to be a poet but always knew that I could cut it as an organizer.
Confession- All my previous forays into the administration aspect of poetry readings have been based on insecurities in my own work. Five years later I feel damn confident in my writing and, consequently, I really have no plans to regularly curate or host when I move to the West Coast. (Its gonna be fun to read this later on down the road. I know it!) Confessional- Done.
There were other insecurities as well especially when I would look around the roundtable of synonymUS founders – Lynne Procope, Raymond Daniel Medina, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani & Elana Bell – and see a wealth of poetic experience and then me with all of six months of writing experience but it didn’t take long before I was booking poets on my own and learning the promotion game.
The first couple of shows were strong but then we hit the end of the year. When we came back in 2003 we lost a ton of audience and never recovered. The fact that we were running a workshop after the collaborations did not help the flow of the show either. The true bomb was that we were running the series out of the Bowery Poetry Club and had to promise the club a minimum paid attendance. Soon I was more worried about making that number than anything else and the joy of poetry was being replaced by the angst of business. In the end, we couldn’t produce the numbers and were left without a venue.
Luckily, Ray kept the Jams going and soon we were rocking out in a recording studio in the West Side. It was cramped, it was hot, it was loud and it was not free but the series, in the most grassroots manner possible, was still alive.
Later on the Nuyorican offered Fish a slot on their schedule and he passed it on to Ray. We were back in business and have been making it happen ever since.
The attendance is nowhere near capacity and the organizers have to bust their ass to make sure word gets out but throughout all this synonymUS has managed to birth a slew of poetic collaborations and is the go to crew whenever louderARTS even thinks about jumping into multi-disciplinary work which is one area where we could have made more headway. The poets should be developing an ear for what works and doesn’t work musically with their work and feel free to approach other artists for collaborations as opposed to lazily returning to synonymUS every time they want to jazz up their work.
Even though I was late (what else is new) I still got to see Ron’s set and hang out hard and heavy with the peeps afterwards. Warm mango cobbler + coconut sherbert = Happy OB. I definitely plan on being at the next show featuring Kelly Tsai and who knows, I may even get there in time to kick a piece on the Open Form@ (the collaborative open mic)!
For now, I feel good having made a new turn on the road. Not so much saying ‘Goodbye’ to the series that helped birth me but just kinda sayin ‘Good Night’
* From Ray’s poem “Bronx Born Straphangar”