October 11, 2009
They sat welldressed and clustered, walled in by a Borders bookshelf, I gazing in at the poet speaking into mic from the side. Beside me sat a disgruntled man clearly not present because of the poetry but willing to give it a chance. He ate a reeses fastbreak and giggled during pauses in her words, discovering some kind of secret humor in the professional mask this woman wore as she read pages from her chapbooks which she had marked earlier in preparation for people to hear.
I hardly heard her over the sound of the thick man in purple suitcoat whose white-haired-head bobbed as each poem reached an end in attempts to convince the room he understood and approved its message. The poet interrupted herself mid-poem to acknowledge the entrance of those who belonged in the circle of people she had come to entitle “poetry,” speaking abstractly of her wonderful acquaintances in attendance.
Earlier that day at the homeless shelter, my coworker started strumming the blues on his guitar. A woman stood and sang in sultry impromptu voice:
one summer night i was walking
i was walking down the road
if you asked which way i was walking
i couldn’t tell you yes or no
And her passion-sound was poetry to the homeless inhabitants of the room, everyone bobbing their heads to the senseless words composed while they watched expectant, somehow thick with meaning.
When the woman sat down, they turned to me, asked me to read a poem of mine. After watching her and understanding what life was, none of my practiced planned poetry survived on pages.
No. I watch from the side, wondering why poetry is segregation and classification in the places and ways it sounds.
April 26, 2009
That’s the best word I have to describe the way I felt when I walked into the enormous warehouse that was the setting for Art All Night, an art event in Lawrenceville which took place on gorgeous last night and led us to experience art in a perfectly new way.
This event was 24 hours of eclectic visual arts, musics, drinks, and peoples everywhere you looked in this giant warehouse. It was free for anyone to enter one piece of art, and it was completely uncensored. It was also free for everyone to attend.
This resulted in what felt like miles and miles of interesting artistic expressions in every frame of space. There was a large impressive painting of Edgar Allen Poe made from ripped-up pages of his writings hanging next to an elementary-schooled depiction of Darth Vader in crayon. These types of beautiful juxtapositions were everywhere. It screamed in our ears that what any one person creates is worth our attention. I believed it.
“Kayla,” my housemate exhaled in excitement as we left. “My tye-dye was in an art show.”
What she felt right then might have been the greatest triumph of the night—a person realizing her ability to acquire the role of artist in whatever creative outlet she calls hers.
March 19, 2009
Every Wednesday night for the past two months, you could find me straddling a spinning ceramics wheel in the basement of Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and (somewhat unsuccessfully) trying to make my hands create shapes of usable mugs or bowls. Too many times I ended up with crumpled messes of wet clay and the need to start over again.
Just as my class is concluding, I am concluding that wheel-throwing is not my thing. Because while I find much delight and admiration when receiving handmade ceramic pieces from other people, I’ve found myself lacking in eagerness to keep making things.
Spinning clay is just not my choice venue for creation.
Because there are other areas of creation—like with the quilt I’m currently working on (and will be working on for what currently feels like forever) or with compiling words—where I can get so immersed in what I’m doing that it keeps me up at night, only willing to welcome sleep if it arrives partnered with a sense of completion.
So here’s to the things that keep us willingly awake at night.
February 6, 2009
and i. what dreams had i suspended
above our short order lives
when death showered you with bells.
call her back for me
bells. call back this memory
still fresh with cactus pain.
from “kwa mama zetu waliotuzaa”
I’m finding that I have distinct and specific attatchments to some certain images. Like the effects of sunlight captured well in a photograph. Or the image of a bell ringing through the words of a poem. Or anything that looks or sounds like peace. And I only noticed these motifs because they stare at me through the picture and word images I save so I can return to them later.
I’ve jotted down my thoughts with little consistency and some organization for most of my life. I return to read the books I’ve filled with my words occasionally, and in them I discover motifs to my life that I never would have discovered had I not written them down. It’s a secret value of words that can only be found when pieces of life become a book or poem.
January 27, 2009
I’ve discovered that sewing together pieces of scrap paper has an unavoidable attraction. Here is the culmination of my evening spent therapeutically attempting to recreate my jumbled life of paper clippings by sewing it into a somewhat cohesive refurbished whole:
I made it with the intention of writing a letter on it. But I’m still trying to figure out how to place the words.
January 22, 2009
I’ve fallen in love with scraps.
I recently decided to make a quilt, and the hefty task has left me scouring the earth to compile the scraps of other people’s lifestyles. With my recently acquired best friend freecycle, I’ve found myself traveling to various porches and doors of strangers where fabricked surprises like portions of a grandma’s old clothes and patterned remnants of childhood fetishes have been bagged and discarded into my hands.
I must admit that I acquired a lot of junk in my fabric scrap collection endeavors. It’s inevitable to encounter actual garbage inside of piles that other people consider garbage enough to get rid of. But I’ve also collected millions of mismatched pieces that I suspect, if combined in exactly the right way, might actually create something almost good.
I recently accompanied a friend on a trip to the fabric store to acquire large sheets of fabric for the quilt she’s planning. It was great to have endless options before our eyes, but it was also terrifying. New things generally make me a little nervous. Those dumb dollar signs have a way of amplifying mistakes. And there’s such great potential for mistakes in quilting and in life.
I’ll stick with scraps.
So now I have piles of various shapes and styles of fabric scattered about my floor waiting to be endlessly ironed, monotonously sorted, tediously combined, and slowly transformed into something beautiful with endless histories residing inside.
January 14, 2009
January 13, 2009
I found it dwelling in the response I received when I needed someone to assure me that my poetry would be an acceptable gift to give someone:
“But what can you do with poetry? Maybe if you write it on something useful…”
There it was. The uninvestigated truth that poetry is too impractical, too tossed aside, too improperly separated from the practicality of life and even from other forms of art.
But poetry is so valuable within itself.
You can know poetry like you know your daily breakfast, the familiar taste of soggy cheerios as you read the morning paper while still shaking off the sensation of nesting inside darkness and sleep.
You can walk through poetry like a walk through the woods on a sunny day with endless questions breathing in the branches and strips of sun painting strokes across your skin that disappear as you move.
You can feel poetry like a child feels a summer afternoon, hearing inaudible delight in a lazy day without having yet discovered what work is, without finding any need for concern with overbearing details of life.
Poetry houses something. It’s something you might find elsewhere like in a circumstance that naturally offers accidental sweetness, or in a perfectly taken photo, or in a just-rightly created piece of art, or resounding from the voice of a favorite person, or within the frame of an ideal moment.
It resides in poetry to alert you that life and everything in it has the perfect potential to be right and unspoken silences might be said.
January 12, 2009
Last year I got really interested in the idea of a buy nothing Christmas, so this past Christmas I found myself scrambling for thrify and creative ideas that would result in me having nice and at least somewhat desirable gifts to give to each of my family members.
This is what my efforts led me to discover:
I rediscovered that the idea of gift-giving is quite a beautiful thing. When making all of my gifts, I found myself still dwelling in the stress of time limitation. But it seemed like the hours I spent working on someone’s gifts sort of forced me to keep that person in my mind: what they like, what they need, how they’re doing, etc. These things became more important than how much money I had left in my Christmas budget.
So now that Christmas is over, I thought I’d post some of the creations I gave as gifts that took a good amount of thought and time and improved my whole Christmas experience (and hopefully that of those who received them).
I did a screenprinted-like shirt for my brother-in-law:
It just takes making a stencil with freezer paper, ironing it to a plain shirt, and then painting over it with acrylic paint and a sponge paintbrush. It makes for a nice screenprint look minus the costly materials and the ability to make multiple copies of it without making the stencil all over again.
For my sister I made a sketchbook out of recycled paper and fabric:
I pieced together fabric scraps to make the design on the cover then I collected lots of nicely-colored used paper and sewed designs on the pages and bound them with a sweet criss-cross binding design.
I also knitted her some glittens or mloves or whatever you call the combination fingerless gloves with mitten cap things:
For these I used the fluffiest and warmest yarn I could find and combined a couple patterns and made some of it up. Here’s a good pattern for some similar gloves.
I also quilted some pot holders for my mom. And for my dad I made handmade paper by creating pulp from old paper scraps. Then I used my ancient typewriter to fill the pages with my poetry.
I can’t remember the last time before this past Christmas that I was more excited to give gifts than get them.