For about three years, I could count on three sure things in my poetry life: louderARTS at Bar13, Acentos at the Bruckner and synonymUS at the Nuyorican. These were the touchstones of my poetics, the places where I could hear the poetry of new voices, my contemporaries, and literary heroes. Sometimes back-to-back-to-back!
It was also where I could test out my own work: play with a longer line, focus on recitation & memory, or go off on an entirely new tangent. The results, for the most part, were unpredictable. A poem I thought would be too esoteric would hit all the right chords. Or a poem I thought was zeroed in on one sure marker would miss by a mile. It didn’t matter since no matter what, I would be back again soon to see where else my voice would travel on the mic.
Since moving out to the Bay, I haven’t had the same opportunities to be on stage. I’ve had a good number of co-features and a couple of full features but there is no real stage out here that I can claim as a home base. On my lesser days, I hunger for a stage where I can try out some new verse and see how it reverberates off the walls and what the reaction of a fresh crowd is. But the majority of the time, I’m real happy to have a smaller community of poets and really excited that the work is reaching them via print and not by the mic.
Now don’t get it twisted, I love the orality of poetry and feel there is no higher art than being able to seamlessly interchange between the written text and spoken word of poetry. The key is balancing the two, like shifting gears on a manual transmission. Sometimes, you want to cruise on second and then speed up to fourth in rapid succession until you see a tight turn and then you downshift on the curve and let the machine and gravity take over. For me, the machine is the paper and the gravity is the voice. But when I was a regular on open mics, I know for a fact that not was I relying heavily on my voice but I was also using my banter and personality to help carry the poems.
With a reliance on poetry journal submissions, residencies, social media (this blog, my Flickr, YouTube and Twitter accounts) and self-published chapbooks, I’m letting the text take more and more control over where my poetic vehicle goes. The results have been dynamic and well worth the trade of leaving a stage poetry community. As stated before, I do miss it at times. But if I hadn’t quit that part of my poetic development, I’m not sure I would be as satisfied with my growth.
This is all a rather long winded intro to some great acknowledgment my work has gotten this week. This attention has come from poets who first “met” me through the page and the potential of my writing. It’s all very humbling and has added some fuel to the tank that I’m trying to ride to the publication of a 48+ page poetry manuscript.
Shout Outs (and Shouts Back!)
• Anisa Onofre has posted “A Century of My Writing” on her Tumblr page. Anisa does some great work highlighting Latina/Latino poetics on Xican@ Poetry Daily and it’s an honor to have her mention my work.
• Francisco Aragón speaks on my Progress as a Poet on the Letras Latina blog. Francisco had been motivating my work for years; the first time I ever seriously put together a full collection was to submit for the 2006 edition of the Andrés Montoya prize. Since then, he’s giving me some great opportunities and I am very thankful for it all.
• Barb is teaching Poetry, Politics, and Prayer: The Litany at Foothill today and is using “I’m Jus Askin” as one of her teaching text. Having my poems in a class setting has been one of my constant goals, I hope the poem inspires some good writing from her students.
• C St Perez launches the Crazy Poet Spotlight and I am the first featured poet. Yes, that is me dancing like a fool on my 39th birthday and if you ask “Why you so happy?” I will tell you that it was because of the amazing company I was with that day. Poets, writers and teachers who keep me striving to be a better person and then let the writing follow. The one thing the picture doesn’t show is Craig beatboxing me on. Dude is sicker than Doug E Fresh!