Seattle, WA
Poet, blogger, lawyer, educator, sista, sister, aunt, daughter, mentor, friend, dog owner, lover of music and all things gluten free... Writing about all of this and more.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Been a long, long time comin'.

Warmin back up...

Been doing a lot of thinking since my recent writing frenzy, mainly about how to build a more regular writing process, and also how to step my spoken word game back up. As an update, I did make my 100 page goal! Three days after my goal deadline, but I'm proud of myself for trying and seeing it through. One thing that I experienced in the process was a lot of internal pressure for each word I write to be something I consider golden. I think I'm over that now.

For some reason, the blogging piece has been lacking lately. But I just felt a need to post as an update the fact that I am still writing, regularly.

More to come soon.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's D-Day...

I'm SO close. So close! I'll announce my final page count by the end of the day. Lordy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Lifetime Summarized in Ten Minutes

As I contemplate the direction of the Soul section of my writing project, I see that there are so many things one can cover. What is soul and what is the soul? What is soul in terms of artform and what is the soul in terms of human form? What makes us who we are? What are the common links that make humans human, and what are the unique ingredients that make one soul distinguishable from the next?

To explore some of these questions I pulled some exercises from a fabulous book on writing memoir and one such exercise asks the reader to tell the story of her life, giving herself ten minutes to complete the task. Serious stuff! I’m game. My Life In Ten Minutes. Go:

Well there are details like how I was born in Seattle and first lived in a tiny two bedroom brick house with a dobermin puppy and my mom and dad and my brother Billy and some goldfish and rabbits, and a strawberry shaped toy box. And how we moved in with my grandma while our new house was being built, and how vast and mansion-like this new house seemed, with its extra rooms—I had a room just for toys! And the mysterious green forest across the street from us and the other that I explored that was just one house down from us.

And then there are details about school and being the quiet one, the short one, the youngest one in the class, the smart one, the “gifted” one that the teachers liked, and then shortly later one of the only black girls in the class, one of many “gifted” students and. And how I put quotes around that to this day because from this experience I learned how children are tracked and segregated and some are made to feel special and others are made to feel mediocre, and these expectations are set and most of the time we live up or down to them, depending where we fall. And how in school I generally liked boys who didn’t like me but once I liked Jeff Zimmerman and he liked me back, but he was white and I was afraid, even in the third grade, to understand whether that meant anything of any significance at all.

And then there are details about what kind of child I was, like how I wrote in a journal from the age of 8 and how my mom was tall (5'10") and elegant and I always thought I’d be tall too, and how here I am, 5’4” and all, but that’s an inch taller than I was when I went off to college so I guess I shouldn’t complain. And mom would always tell me I should be happy to be petite, that it means I can date anyone of any size or height, but how I used to only date tall boys/men.

And there’s how my mom died when I was 21 years old and she was 49, of breast cancer, and ever since then I’ve been petrified of breast cancer and convinced that every single secret vice or indulgence or sinful thought or selfish act will ultimately lead to my demise from breast cancer. And how my dad died when I was 26 and he was 56, from lung cancer, and how I was absolutely furious at God and the world and confused and missed my daddy and was utterly pissed off because we had just now started to “get” each other, and I had just now started to accept the past in terms of him and mom, things I couldn’t change but had held onto in bitterness for so long.

And how I went to law school but got on the plane from Seattle to D.C. to start the first year and from when I stepped into the airport terminal in Seattle I knew something wasn't right. How I endured the first year and now carry many scars from the experience but also some medals of honor. How I finished and saw my dad smiling with pride there at graduation. And how I had moved to New York and not taken the firm gig and thought this was a pivotal moment in my life but also found myself sucked in to New York City in a way that didn’t exactly nurture my spirit but if nothing else did earn me yet a few more stripes and give me some adventure and some laughs and many funny “remember the time when” stories to share and review with my friends.

And how when dad died I moved back home to Seattle and took a job that I liked but knew that wasn’t the end of my story, but just the beginning.

As for the future, I see many possibilities, but I suppose the optimal is: I then move on to grad school and become a published writer. I become a professor of African American studies and a writer of poetry and essays and short stories. And I write and profess and mold young minds and speak about and think about and meditate on and write about blackness and identity and creativity and soul. And I learn languages and travel and marry a wonderful man and am not afraid of cancer or life anymore. I drift into public service, helping shape education policy and reforming public schools. I’m not beaten down tired by work—I serve thoroughly and with love and diligence and I am energized and refreshed and happy and in love with life and work and all of it.

And when it’s time to retire, I don’t. I keep going. I am consulting, teaching, and always writing, because it’s my life’s work, my lovework. So I don’t mind, in fact I would mind not being able to do it.

And I have at least one child and he or she is a good person. And I remain close with my nephews and niece and I meet their children and love them like a grandparent would love a grandchild.

There are the details and the accomplishments and the paths I take in career, love, geography. Is this my life story? I think there’s more I have to say about who I am. More at the end of it all that I would want people to know. Like I am a person who loves people—who really does try to see the goodness in people and sometimes this means that I see people for their potential and not for their reality and sometimes this means I open myself up to people who do not mean well, and I don’t really care, because usually it means I open myself up to good people. Like I am a person who someday (at the age of 28 perhaps, if I get on it quickly enough) learned to say no when I needed to, but remained willing to say yes when I really needed to even if I didn’t want to. Like I am an artist and a person who values creativity and difference and authenticity and loyalty to who you are. Like I’d love to be a good storyteller, I mean spoken stories. I’d love to be the person people gather around and listen to and laugh with, although the thought of this simultaneously freaks me out because I don't like to be the center of attention unless I'm teaching or performing spoken word.

Truthfully, I can’t really see my life story past age 50. I hope that’s just because I’m too young to see that, and I have trouble seeing beyond five years down the line. I hope it's not that my parents’ short lives have impeded my ability to see the possibility that God’s plan is for me to live a long, beautiful, prosperous life. I appreciate that I don't take this for granted and that I know God's will is His will, but I hope I also don't go too far into limiting the possibilities.

The mysteries of time and place and other future details aside, my plan for this life, what I truly hope to be able to say in my “story of my lifetime” is that I served God well in this lifetime, and humanity too.

What's your life story? It's okay to give yourself a little more than ten minutes to write it out.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Finally watched Erykah's video. Happy that I heard the song and came to appreciate it for what it was before seeing the video, because I think this allowed me to digest this creative work of hers in a different way. But, the way I take the lyrics to the song and the meaning of the video and all, I totally feel her (and am considering incorporating more grits and cornbread into my diet. Haha).

When I heard her song it was like a breath of fresh air. I could imagine myself driving or riding with the window down and the sun hitting my face and a brisk wind blowing and maybe the song playing:

So can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down
can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a chance to fly
a chance to cry
and a long bye bye

but I need you to want me
I need you to miss me
I need your attention, yes
I need you next to me
I need someone to clap for me
I need your direction
somebody say come back
come back baby come back
I want you to need me
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back

People, I say I feel her on that! We all have moments of just wanting to get away and be free and indulge in a little solitude where we have the freedom to just do whatever--to have a chance to fly, a chance to cry. That's a gift we don't often get in this busy world we live in. It's something I probably should carve into my life since it's not really an option that's going to be set in front of me.

As for the video, I think this was Erykah's way of just taking that gift for herself. She literally allowed herself to just strip off everything that was weighing her down. She needed to get out of whatever it was that was restraining her, to do what she needed to do without worrying about whether people were looking (which, most of them weren't, interestingly. Something I think worth exploring, too). Isn't that what we all kinda wish we could do sometimes? I mean, I'm not exactly looking for the opportunity to show all my business to the whole world, but in a sense by doing the writing I'm doing, I kind of am. I'm opening myself up and sharing pieces of who I am with others, and the goal is that I'll do that with no apology and no explanation beyond that which I wish to offer.

But in the end, what's the cost of this? In this world is the act of seeking freedom in a radical way something that has potentially fatal consequences? Why did Erykah get assassinated in the end? Or, did she just die to the world she knew before, the world where she even seemed a little bit invisible? After all, in the end there she is again, radiant and smiling (with her eighties slash blacksploitation slash whatever-looking but she's still rockin it hair).

Anyway, the video just sparked a lot of reflection for me. It actually got me back on track with my writing, too. Good stuff.

what will it be, what will it be?

i just found this in my e-pile of half-written poetry saved on my comp. what will it become, what will it become? it's totally unfinished but i think i can do something with this so i'm sharing this little fragment of what it is in hopes that it will then inspire me to revisit the piece and complete it. in fact it already has inspired me to do that. thanks for reading! comments welcome.

no title yet

I’m so sick of love poems and broken hearts
They’re off target like a blind man throwin’ darts
I’m trying to start it like the way a fire grows in sparks
And builds upon itself like a tornado’s blowin’ starts

I’m sick of butterflies, breaths held, and eyes closed
Ain’t got no time to indulge in the heart's sigh-woes
I’m tryna find the flyer higher prose that gets us out our silos,
Discover rhymes that help us climb together to the higher roads

Cuz the path to revolution ain’t paved in gold
It ain’t gilded, golden bricked, it can't be bought or sold
We gotta build it with our hands feet bodies, our souls
We got to nurse it got to feed it so it grows and grows

So it goes and goes like jump forward git back
So I feel u feelin’ me even if I ain’t said s#!* yet
And you get that, and we accept the kismet
We just let we do our thing like it ain't been did yet...

That's what I'm tryna do, I ain't tryna sigh at you
I ain't tryna vy for you, I'm just trying to die for you
I'm just trying to die to self, share with you what makes me melt
put my ego on the shelf with poetry that can be felt

Poetry that can be felt by everyone down to the core
I'm talking home grown soul tongue sown and not no grocery store
chain conglomerate made, processed, manufactured thing
no I'm talking poetry that grows from me and blooms in the spring of my mind

I'm not talking blue violets or tired lines
I'm talking dirt and fertilizer, rain and sunshine...

that's it so far. i was in a totally different frame of mind at the time i started this--it is actually one of those subway poems, one of the poems i wrote on the c-train. so that was at least two years ago. time flies. wow.

thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Give Thanks

Word Poem (perhaps worth considering)
by Nikki Giovanni

as things be/come
let's destroy
then we can destroy
what we be/come
let's build
what we become
when we dream

Shout outs to Nikki G! Dream big--we are works in progress if we are living up to our purpose and potential!