* Piri Thomasâ€™s succinct explanation of his writing â€˜processâ€™
Here is the breakdown from last weekâ€™s Kearny Street Workshop reading:
-A Personal History and Reflection on Sixty Years in Oakland from the Reverend JT (Excerpt)
-Random Acts of Storytelling: Overheard on BART
-an atlas of nationalism
-And God said â€œVayaâ€ (Excerpt)
I would have loved to throw in a cover piece but we were only given 6-8 minutes and I did not want to be a mic hog. This reading was a little bit more stressful than the last KSW reading since most of the readers dropped down pure fiction work and I had a mix of different work that I contributed to the chapbook and wanted to give a little shine to all the pieces.
You can find an early version of Reverend JTâ€™s story here and make no mistake: It is his story. I was just lucky enough to have him share it with me. Even though I only read about two minutes of it, his story was the piece that I think most people really vibed with.
More appropriation as the Random Acts of Storytelling was a trio of snippets that I have overheard (or heard secondhand) while traveling through the Bayâ€™s transit system.
The real challenge of the night was figuring out how to deliver atlas (unformatted first draft- here). A poem that I am really happy with but was unsure on how to deliver it or, more honestly stated, scared that the audience would not understand it. I donâ€™t think I would have been so scared if I was being given say 12 minutes or so of mic time which just goes to show what a diva I have become. ;-)
Dense with purposefully abbreviated, disruptive syntax from an unclear, unreliable narrator, it is a challenging poem to present and I think I pulled it off. Maybe. I did end it with a firm and definitive â€œThankYouâ€ ala Willie Perdomo. So I am now four-for-four on todayâ€™s appropriation checklist.
And God said â€œVayaâ€ is actually the last line of Miguel PiÃ±eroâ€™s Genesis According to San Miguelito (5-for-5) but the rest of the piece is all me and a pretty good start to my creative non-fiction career. A bit of a shout out as well to Miguel Algarin as his poetic challenge of a poet detailing his burial has been gnawing at me for a long time and while I havenâ€™t figured it out in poetic form yet, I have figured some of it out in prose with this piece. Mind you, itâ€™s not really me in the piece but it is very close to me. I didnâ€™t read the excerpt that appears in the chapbook but instead went into a middle part where my character laments as to what has gone so wrong in the Bronx he remembers from his youth. And let me tell you, I donâ€™t think I have ever read my writing with a genuine sustained sadness in my voice until now probably cuz I have never set out with the intent to be sad. Serious, yes. Somber, yes. Sad, no. Mostly cuz I think if I had set out to write something like this I would have failed miserably, very happy to report that this is not the case here.
All photos courtesy of Jay Jao