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POET LAUREATE KEALOHA (A Journey)

POET LAUREATE KEALOHA (A Journey)

In 2010, Steven Kealohapau’ole Hong-Ming Wong – “the slam poet known as Kealoha” — was designated by Governor Neil Ambercrombie as Hawaii’s first (and, so far, only) official state poet laureate.

The following 2010 YouTube video, published by poetryfan808, shows the multi-genre, multimedia collaboration that opened the 2010 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards Show, the annual premier music awards in Hawaii.  (Think of it as Hawaii’s Grammy Awards.)

The show’s opening act, which was spearheaded by Kealoha, features performances by renowned Hawaiian musicians that include the late O’Brian Eselu, Keali’i Reichel, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole, Anuhea, Mailani, Natalie Ai Kamau’u, Amy Hanaiali’i, Jake Shimabukuro, Henry Kapono and John Cruz as well as two hula halau, Na Pualei O Likolehua and Halau Na Mamo O Pu’uanahulu.

WHAT’S A POET LAUREATE?

The mandate given to Kealoha at the time of his elevation to “poet laureate” by the governor was this: “As Hawaii Poet Laureate, Kealoha will highlight poetry in all its forms as enriching to our lives and giving voice to our history and way of life in the Aloha State.”

His duties, the governor’s office said, include reading, writing and spreading awareness about poetry appreciation as well as performing at official state events like the dedication of a sculpture garden at the Hawaii State Art Museum and performing at the governor’s inauguration.

He can also be asked to represent Hawaii at similar ceremonial events around the country and the world.

Kealoha was doing all that for years before he was named Hawai’i’s official poet laureate.  It has all been a part of a spirited journey that took some unexpected turns.

long-and-winding-road
“Long and Winding Road” by Khánh Hmoong via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

GETTING TO THE BEST DREAM

Kealoha is a local boy.  He was born and raised in Honolulu.

Like many bright island youngsters he went away to school in the Mainland.  At the time he was dreaming about becoming a nuclear engineer, working on atomic fusion, and changing the world.

He returned home to Honolulu at the end of 2001, after earning a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and after spending a couple of years after he graduated working as a business management consultant in San Francisco for the Mitchell Madison Group, a worldwide company with clients such as Adidas, Visa, Samsung, Mattel, Sun Microsystems and Health Net.

Looking at it from the outside, there doesn’t seem to be much of a connect between business management and his major in nuclear physics (with a minor in writing), but as Kealoha says, scientists and engineers are trained to solve problems.

Corporations value that ability and problem-solvers are well-paid.  At Mitchell Madison, he oversaw marketing, aggressive sourcing, business development, internet strategy, corporate strategy and energy research.

It was in San Francisco that Kealoha discovered slam poetry.  He told PBS Hawaii “Long Story Short” interviewer Leslie Wilcox about that time.

The poetry he heard when he attended his first poetry slam in 2000, he said, just blew him away.  He was instantly hooked.

He said, “…my work just sort of got pushed to the side ‘cause I would spend all my time writing.  I was spending all those late nights, on Sunday night going to these poetry slams.  And Monday morning, going to work all tired.  And I didn’t care; I was living again.  I had something that really inspired me.”

Meanwhile, his work as a consultant had become less meaningful to him.

Kealoha needed to re-think where he wanted to go with his life, so he did what a lot of local kids do.  He did the Full Circle; he came home.

honolulu-airport
“Honolulu Airport” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
One interesting question that Wilcox posed during her interview with Kealoha struck me as noteworthy.  She asked whether Kealoha had a five- or ten-year plan.  He chuckled a bit ruefully and admitted that he did not.

The guy does not deliberately plan out his path.  He just takes off in the direction that looks like it could work for him and then whales away at it until it does work.  Maybe there is a lesson in that.

HAWAIIANS AND THE SPOKEN WORD

When he got back to Honolulu, Kealoha discovered that the urban poetry and art scene was alive and lively.

At the time of his homecoming, Wordstew, the brainchild of poet-performer Jesse Lipman (recognized as the godfather of Hawaii Slam Poetry), was drawing crowds at the Wave Waikiki nightclub’s open-mic nights.

This YouTube video features a poem by Jesse Lipman, “Jewipino Flowers,” at an early First Thursday gathering in 2013.

Other literati, musicians, deejays, and artists were cultivating “art spaces” where sound and visual artists could meet to collaborate.  Kealoha found a thriving literary and performing arts community.

Its existence was probably due in part to the reverence for the spoken word that has always been strong in Hawaii.

Before there was a written language, all of the native history and traditions were contained in the chants and the mele (song-poems) that were passed down through the generations.

Even when speaking the Hawaiian language was discouraged by those in power over a conquered people, the songs, old and new, could not be silenced.  The habit of word-play continued.

More than one observer has noticed the affinity the island peoples have for it.  Spoken word artist, author and publisher Richard Hamasaki found it to be true when he participated in the state Department of Education Artists-in-the-School program.

Hamasaki found that many of the children he encountered in the program had an affinity for word-play.  He said, “They had ingenious ways of combining what they heard on the radio with the language of their culture and they produced work that was honest and alive.”

This is no small thing.  Hawaiians are descended from poets and songwriters as well as warriors, farmers, artisans, and sailors, and even the children can dance with words.

Perhaps this is because, for Hawaiians, words hold power.  There’s an old proverb, I ka ‘ōlelo no ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo nō ka make. (In the word is life.  In the word is death.)

It comes from a time when the performers of the chants and the mele had to be word-perfect.  They were, after all, the ones who carried the words of the ancestors and of those who held the old wisdoms.  These words held power and magic.

AND THE DREAM COMES REAL

Kealoha joined right in, working open-mic nights, competing in national slam competitions and helping to build a “poetry scene” in Hawaii.

He helped to found HawaiiSlam, a non-profit organization dedicated to showcasing poets from the islands.

HawaiiSlam has been running the nationally certified First Thursdays slam poetry competition, the largest registered poetry slam in the world, and Kealoha has been SlamMaster since 2003.  HawaiiSlam’s ongoing First Thursdays competitions in Kaimuki draws more than 500 attendees each month.

Kealoha has also been on the “Artists-in-the-Schools” roster since 2005, helping to introduce youngsters to the power of words and poetry and he works with young poets who are hoping to compete in the national slam poetry competitions.

HBO’s 2009 “Brave New Voices” documentary produced by Russell Simmons featured Kealoha as the strategic coach for “Youth Speaks Hawaii”, a slam poetry team that won the entire festival that year.

He has ventured into theatre as a director, playwright and actor, has performed internationally as a poet and storyteller, and was selected as a master artist for a National Endowment for the Arts program as well.  The list goes on and on.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In an interview for his alumni on-line newsletter, “Slice of MIT,” Kealoha said that being named the official poet laureate for the state was a great honor.

He also said that he feels most fulfilled when people tell him that his work has moved them or changed their perspective.

“That’s the goal – that’s the good work,” he says.

And isn’t that the best reason to make the journey into your own dreaming?

This YouTube video is Kealoha’s 2012 TEDxManoa Talk which features his poem, “The Poetry of Us”.

 


Header Photo credit:  “Kealoha: Science Poetry Life”  (TEDxHonolulu 2011)

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THOUGHTS ARE YOU

THOUGHTS ARE YOU

I know, I know.  You’ve heard it before and will almost certainly hear it again:  You are the creator of the world you inhabit.  You become what you think.

Every motivational video and podcast producer focused on self-improvement is probably going to whack you upside the head with that one.

Here’s an especially good one published in 2017 by Tom Bilyeu as part of his “Impact Quotes” series.

Bilyeu is an American entrepreneur, the co-founder of Quest Nutrition, maker of a best-selling protein bar.  He is also a powerful motivational speaker and life-trainer.

CLICHES ARE TRUTHS REPEATED SO OFTEN THEY TURN INTO BABBLE….

Every advocate for positive thinking and optimism and every feel-good therapist of every flavor, backed up by all the guys in lab coats who are into probing the secrets of our brains and other aspects of our lives, will haul out this old chestnut at some point.

Even the wise guys who aren’t telling us we’re a bunch of delusional creatures will tell you this.

They’ve built all kinds of thought-constructs that prove that it’s true.  You’ve gotta believe them.  They know, right?

My own favorite is American entrepreneur T. Harv Ecker’s take on the matter.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

Ecker has said,

“Thoughts lead to feelings.

Feelings lead to actions. 

Actions lead to results.”

Therefore, once you’re aware of the thought-to-feeling-to-action-to-results progression, you are in a position to change your thoughts.

This will lead you to new feelings and perspectives that will affect the actions you take and the moves you make.

Using this progression, you can get to the results you want…it says here.

Okay.  Fine.  Right.

BUT THEN THERE’S THE PRIMAL QUESTION

I have to confess that I always get a bit squirmy and fidgety when I get yet another hit of this particular bit of nebulous wisdom that pushes me forward onto center stage as the “World-Creator.”

That sort of implies that the burden is on me to get my own world right.

The thing is, it seems to me that it would be a heck of a lot easier to get a handle on being a big-shot World-Creator if I could just figure out the answer to the Primal Question:

SO, WHO AM I AND WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO DO IN THIS LIFE?

question-mark-block
“Question Mark Block” by Jared Cherup via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
There are, of course, many opinions, positions and theories about how you can find the answer to that question.

There are all kinds of tools you can use to figure out “The Big HUH?”.  Every self-development book probably contains a dozen or so.

Many people have explored this question and returned from their journeys to explain and expound on the answers they found for themselves.  Some may even ring true for you.

ONE OTHER DIRECTION TO EXPLORE

At the start of the 20th century, University of Michigan professor and sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864 – 1929) went against the trend of thought held by his fellow sociologists of the time.  They were firmly committed to considering the development of individuals and societies as separate processes.

charles-cooley
“Charles Horton Cooley” by unknown photographer (1902 Michigansenian, page 8) via Wikimedia [Public Domain]
The classic utilitarian (and selfish) individualism of economics, which was promoted by the theories about the dynamics of social interaction held by other sociologists of his time, did not make sense to Cooley.

Cooley argued that society and the individuals in them were not phenomena that can be separated.   He said they were “different aspects of the same thing, for a separate individual is an abstraction unknown to experience, and so likewise is society when regarded as something separate from individuals.”

To Cooley, studying how people develop and behave separately from how a society operates was a lot like dissecting a frog in biology lab class

frog
“Frog” by Becca C via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
He said, “Our life is all one human whole, and if we are to have any real knowledge of it we must see it as such.  If we cut it up it dies in the process.”

Out of this way of thinking, Cooley developed the concept of the “looking glass self,” which has become known and accepted by most modern psychologists and sociologists.

Cooley’s theory expanded William James’s idea of the self having the capacity to reflect on its own behavior.

According to Cooley, we see ourselves as other people see us, as if reflected in a mirror.  People gain their identity and form their habits by looking at themselves through the perception of society and other people with whom they interact as well as by directly considering their own personal qualities, he says.

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“Ask Answer Choice” by Rita M. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Whether our beliefs about how other people see us are true or not, it is those beliefs that truly shape our ideas of ourselves.

The following YouTube video, “Charles Cooley Looking Glass Self | Individuals and Society” was published in 2015 by khanacademymedicine.  It gives a good, easy-to-understand explanation of Cooley’s theory.

 

HOLDING UP THE LOOKING GLASS

Tom Bilyeu, who was featured in the first video, is also the host (as well as co-founder and CEO) of Impact Theory, an interview video series exploring the mindsets of the world’s highest achievers.

This next video, “I Am Not What I Think I Am,” was published in 2018 by Fearless Soul  and features life coach Jay Shetty in an interview with Bilyeu.  It presents one way to use Cooley’s “Looking Glass Self” theory to find the life-direction and path that holds the most meaning and mana for you.

Jay Shetty has been called “one of the most viewed people on the Internet internationally.”  Among other things he hosts his own daily show, “HuffPostLive#Follow the Reader.”

In the video, he points out that all of us “live in echo chambers.  We’re just surrounded by the same thinking.  We meet  people who are just like us most of the time.”

Shetty outlines three steps you can make to counter that condition:

  • Expose yourself to new experiences or role models.
  • Find the experiences or role models with the most meaning for you, that you can be passionate about, and take seriously.
  • Ask, “Yes or no? Does that work for me?  Do I want to, for-real, live the life my hero/heroine is living?

This will at least keep you from unquestioningly following what you think the people around you are saying about who and what you are and what you “should” be doing with your life.

It can help you judge for yourself whether a particular lifestyle, with all of its inherent pros and cons, is really how you want to spend your days.

It might put you on the road to finding the life that has meaning and mana for you.

Here’s a poem….


THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

I have come to the conclusion

That the world is my mirror.

In its many-storied face I can find

Bits that resonate in me,

The hapless spectator with the flat feet.

 

I am like a harp wire, tightly wound,

That awakens as the air is stirred by

The sound of just one other string

Plucked by some insistent hand

That thrums and vibrates through me.

 

The stories are all around me,

Playing themselves out,

No more mindful of me

Than a stream is mindful of

A fallen leaf floating in it.

 

But, here’s the deal:

The stories I NOTICE are the ones

That tell me a thing or two

About what I am and who I am

And why I do my walk.

 

It is the fact that the story snagged my attention,

Raised up banners high,

Started horns tooting,

And fire-bombs flaring…

THAT’S the thing that needs attending.

 

Like the overly-sensitive, alarmingly bleeping parked car

In the middle of a quiet night in the ‘burbs,

It is mine to sort out.

I am the one that has to go deal with the durned thing,

Because it’s my car, my alarm, my concerns, my fears.

 

The world is my mirror.

What is it showing me?

created by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Through the Looking-Glass” by August Brill via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for the visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d share your thoughts and comments.

 

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REDEFINE YOUR BOXES

REDEFINE YOUR BOXES

I confess:  I am in love with artist Dustin Yellin’s mind.

He strongly believes that “if you have amazing people around you, then amazing things will happen” and he’s been proving that truth over and over again.

In 2015, artist Dustin Yellin did this captivating video, “A Journey Through the Mind of an Artist,” as a TEDTalk in Vancouver.  It has been widely viewed.

Yellin uses a process involving layered glass to explore what one commentator describes as “themes of nature at odds with human technological progress.”

He throws together metaphors, allegories, dreamscapes, and visions and mixes them up into glorious, chaotic and dizzy-making narratives that keep unfolding the longer you stand there and try to take it all in.

The monumental apocalyptic “Triptych” which he features in the video was inspired by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” triptych that is part of the permanent collection at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Yellin’s sculpture weighs 12 tons.  Hieronymus Bosch’s painting is not quite so hefty.

The other works he features are part of a series of sculptures he calls “Psychogeographies,” which are commentaries on the human condition in these unsettling times.

The essentially biographical YouTube video is an interesting look inside one artist’s head.  At the time, Yellin was promoting what he calls his “brick box.”

That box is “Pioneer Works”, a creativity incubator that grew out of Yellin’s conviction that the best art and the very best thinking happens when you throw together talented artists and intellectuals and let them build connections with each other and play together to spark up all kinds of marvels that they then share with the rest of the world.

pioneer-works
“Pioneer Works” by Nick Normal via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Writer Annie Fabricant, in a Huffington Press article written about Pioneer Works before it first opened, was the Yellin-watcher who captured Yellin’s quote about amazing people and things in the opening lines of this thing.  It gives you an idea of the intentions behind making his dream-utopia come real.

In the intervening years since that article, Yellin has been spot-on.  Innovation and alternative thinking happen at Pioneer Works.

THE BACK STORY

Five years before the talk, when he was an up-and-coming artist hitting his stride as the darling of the Beautiful People and the blue-chip movers, shakers and cultural illuminati in the Age of Information and Social Connection, Yellin had New York City all abuzz.

He had just closed a real estate deal for an enormous three-story, 25,000-square-foot abandoned wreck of a Civil War-era ironworks factory on Pioneer Street as well as its adjoining garbage-strewn lot in the infamous Red Hook, a neighborhood along Brooklyn’s waterfront that was once dubbed the “crack capital of America” by LIFE Magazine in the late 1980’s.

The place has history.  Pioneer Iron Works, which originally inhabited the building in 1866, created machinery for sugar production (which they shipped to Cuba in the late 1800’s and then to Puerto Rico in the early 1900’s) as well as railroad tracks and large-scale machines required by industry.

The building burned to the ground in a devastating fire in 1881 and was quickly rebuilt.  The factory remained in operation until the end of World War II.

It was this building that was a landmark that gave Pioneer Street its name.

The one-time maritime neighborhood of Red Hook is on a peninsula that projects into the Upper New York Bay.  It is less than one square mile, bounded by the Gowanus Expressway, the Gowanus Canal, Upper New York Bay and Buttermilk Channel.

More than half of the neighborhood’s residents live in subsidized rentals at New York City Housing Authority’s Red Hook Houses, the largest public housing development in Brooklyn.  The development is located a few blocks away from Yellin’s “brick box.”

It was reported that Yellin paid $3.7 million for the place.  It had no windows, no floors, no stairs, no utilities, and few amenities.  It did have a forty-foot high ceiling that soared and it had space…lots and lots of space.

Back then he said he was going to take that massive old red-brick behemoth and transform it into an art utopia “dedicated to the creation, synthesis and discussion of art, science and education.”

And he did.  Twice.

The first time, the box officially opened was in June, 2012.  The renovations were impressive.  For example, more than 100 windows were added to the once-windowless structure, turning it into a light and airy fairyland sort of place.

Then, on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.  The mega-storm’s 29-foot waves and storm surges caused extensive coastal flooding and record-high damages.

 

Sandy was the fourth-costliest Atlantic hurricane in U.S. history.  At its peak it was a Category 3 hurricane.

Low-lying Red Hook was one of the ten communities that were hardest hit.  More than five feet of water inundated most of the local businesses and residences.

At the Works, 3,200 square feet of drywall was ruined.  All of the ground-floor windows had to be redone.  The wood shop, metal shop and most of the equipment and machinery had to be replaced. The bathrooms had to be rebuilt.  There was no electricity for two months.

In the newly installed gardens surrounding the complex, trees had toppled and many of the beds were destroyed.  Entire sections of the half-acre garden area had to be replanted and redesigned.

Yellin and his team had to clean up and re-start the reconstruction from the bottom up again.

PIONEER WORKS TODAY

In the years since then the non-profit Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation has lived up to its name magnificently.  It attracts just-regular folks from the surrounding neighborhoods and denizens of the close-knit New York art scene as well as admirers from all over the world.

More than 150,000 people visit the Pioneer Works Center every year, attracted by the quirky free and affordable programs the group offers.  Nearly 500,000 visitors visit the group’s website every year.

in-the-garden
“In the Garden” (Pioneer Works) by sebastián bravo via Flicker [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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“Contemporary African Art Fair 2017” by J-No via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The best thing about all this is that it is not all about Yellin.  There is no one voice, no one vision.  Instead it has grown into a chorus of voices, a multiplicity of visions.

MAKER-SPACE GONE QUANTUM

It’s like a “Maker Space” taken to the nth degree, actually.  The thing fosters collaboration, creating partnerships between curators, artists, inventors, scientists, philosophers and all the other kinds of Makers.

micah-ganske-in-the-studio
“Micah Ganske in the studio” by Nick Normal via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
There are ongoing artist and scientist residency programs that throw together leading-edge scientists and scholars, Ph.D. researchers, programmers, physicists, biologists, chemists with visual and performing artists, along with writers, musicians, and designers.  The programs give them the tools they need to do their work (or take it to another level) in an environment that supports cross-talk between creatives and scientists and encourages them to collaborate on projects together.

oren-ambarchi
“Oren Ambarchi” by Ian Crowther via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The partnerships and collaborations growing out of the cross-pollination of all of these varied disciplines have become a strong jumping-off point that has resulted in multi-layered, complex projects for the community to experience and share.

workspace
“Workspace” by sebastián bravo via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The space is huge.  There’s room for special art installations, lectures by art and science leaders, film presentations, musical and dance performances, and parties and barbecues too.

inhabitat
“Inhabitat” by Chico MacMurtrie-Chrysalis via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Educational courses offered by the center run the gamut through the assorted fields of arts and sciences represented by the people wandering around.  They have also included things like circuitry design, lock-picking, making kombucha, and even advice about how to fake being dead.

The center also has a bi-annual publication called “Intercourse.”

To learn more about the center, visit their website by clicking on the button below:

click-here

AND NOW, FOR  DESSERT….

There’s a transcript of a fascinating conversation between Dustin Yellin and Brandon Stosuy, the editor-in-chief of The Creative Independent, a Kickstarter, PBC online digest and repository of interviews with many creative people on a large variety of topics as well as a collection of resources and guidance for working creatives that you can access:

click-here

In it Yellin has a grand time explaining the whys and the hows that help Pioneer Works work.

Here’s a poem….


IN GRATITUDE

I am grateful for

Butterflies who madly

Fly across busy highways

Through a stream of vehicular currents

Against prevailing winds.

And make it.

 

I am grateful for

Green growing things that madly

Spring up heedlessly

Braving dry spells, tapped-out soil,

Bugs and careless feet

And make it.

 

I am grateful for

The wild-eyed dreamers who madly

Strive to make their way

Towards goals only they can see,

Breasting ridicule and scorn

And make it.

 

I am grateful for that madness.

I am grateful that they make it.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Second Sundays Open Studios” by Nick Normal via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

In a world of seven billion-plus souls, one of our deepest human needs often goes unfulfilled – the need to be heard.  That may be one reason why the Spoken Word movement, once a subculture on the fringes of the mainstream, is gaining widespread acceptance around the world.

THE RISE OF SPOKEN WORD

“Spoken word poetry” was born in Chicago in 1984, when a construction worker, Marc Smith, started reading poetry at a popular club and encouraged others to join him in sharing their work.  Smith was looking to “democratize” poetry and “bring it to the masses.”

He was following an old road with an ancient lineage that meanders through the underground and fringes of Society among the dispossessed and disenfranchised and the ones who choose to stand different.

The trailhead for this road began before there was writing and paper.  The college theses expounding about the “long-held traditions” of the ancient art of wordsmithing (and all the other hoo-hah that made playing with words seem like it is a probable cause for dyspepsia) were not even a glimmer on any horizon.

Smith was going back to that most ancient of traditions, Word-of-Mouth — just like the tribal storytellers and assorted con artists and bull-shitters sitting around campfires and hearth-fires of the world from ancient times, weaving a yarn for their friends and companions.  And he was inviting everybody else to join him.

campfire
“Campfire” by Markus Pachali via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Smith remembered:  Poetry was, first and foremost, an oral art.  It was an art with a performer and an audience.  The people around him liked that reminder.

Two years after he first got up to tell his poems out loud, Smith approached the owner of a jazz club.  Those readings happened every week and evolved into a competition.

The format gained popularity, but it was the Internet that blew it up big.  A lot of people liked being reminded that poetry is an oral art.

Poetry was originally produced by a human voice, propelled out of a human body with the breath.  It was one person talking to a bunch of other people.

Audiences liked the presentations by the most avid performers that showed that poetry, at its most effective, contains the rhythm and movements of a human heart.

They liked that the beginning and end of a poetic line is often a unit of phrasing and sense-making that is based on the human breath. You need to breathe when you’re speaking your poem.  It is your breath and your voice that animates it.

PAGE POETRY VS STAGE POETRY

Poetry Its-Own-Self has always been a means of often-powerful self-expression.  It grew out of song and prayer and storytelling traditions that continue to this day.  It has been with us forever and because of that it can be difficult to pin down and define.

One cute breakdown, “What Is Poetry? #Poetry Defined” was published in 2015 by Advocate of Wordz.  Here’s the YouTube video:

In my own experience, poetry has been a life-saver.  It continues to be a way for me to find my own clarity in the confusion of everyday life.  Rearranging words on a page helps me to rearrange the thoughts in my head.  It works very well for that.

But, let’s face it.  Over the centuries, page poetry has become stigmatized by many folks as indulgences of the rich-and-snooty.  Books of poetry tended to gather dust on bookshelves.

Page poetry (especially as was taught in schools when I was growing up) could be a yawn-inducing experience.  Poetry – at least the kind pedagogues seemed to favor — had the most gawd-awful and esoteric rules formulated by various poetry-makers in times past, all gathered together by the intelligentsia and assorted acolytes of High Culture.

If your teacher was into it, as mine often were, it was a grand thing; otherwise, not so much.  Teachers who got stuck on guiding their charges through parsing and analyzing some “Great Poem” or other, killed more poets a-borning than any other thing, probably.

Like calculus and philosophical debate, it was stuff for the Big-Brains (or folks who wanted to look like they had some.)

Page poetry was a good thing to inflict on children.  Like regular doses of cod-liver oil or whatever, it was supposed to keep them growing and make them strong.  By the time the children hit adulthood, it was often not a thing remembered fondly.

the-poet
“The Poet” by Russell Chopping via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
“Dull” was page poetry’s other name.

Committing poetry to a page (if you were not an academic sort), was a weird sort of hobby at best.  Solitary you could string the words from your heart across assorted pages and realize all kinds of gains.  Rigorous mental exercise, mastery of an art form, personal catharsis, and insights are possibilities that come to mind.

A common fate for these homemade page poems was to be stuck in a drawer where they moldered until the poet’s death, after which, they were probably tossed by the poet’s heirs.

If you were particularly proud of the page poems you constructed, you submitted them to magazines in exchange for magazine issues, sold them to greeting card makers for pennies, or spent money on producing self-published chapbooks to give to all of your family and friends.

If you got good at producing poems, you might even consider spending time creating them “on demand” as a busker.

poet
“The Poet” by Garry Knight via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
When the Internet revved up, you could also post them on websites or on social networks and then wonder whether they ever reached anybody.  (The page poem launch very often hits a wall of dead silence.)

The problem with even the best page poetry is that it is only one-half of a dialogue.  The maker makes, but doesn’t know whether anybody is out there listening, doesn’t feel like he or she is being heard.  It gets to feel like you’re talking to yourself.

Stage poetry (as spoken word has been called) is something else.  When it’s done well and the audience is lively, it flies.  Performers and audiences can get caught up in a group hug-fest.

  • Some poets are raucous; they rant and rave, yell and shout. Others are calm and relaxed.
  • There are poets who make you laugh and poets who make you cry. Many of them bare their deepest secrets and rock your heart.
  • Some weave intricate verbal patterns that enthrall you in a web of sound.
  • Others parse out a problem using simple words that drill down into the core of it, reframing and rearranging your mind.

Stage poetry can be inspiring.  A spoken word poem can be stimulating and entertaining when it’s good.

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“Poet” by Taz etc. via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
When several good poets get together it can turn into a jazz jam, a live performance never to be repeated in exactly the same way.  It can be a feast.

More importantly, even when the poetry or the performance is not so good, stage poetry is about connection.  The poet speaks.  The audience listens.  Good performers take their listeners flying; bad performers get a lot of points for trying.

the-elders
“The Elders” by Laura Thorne via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

A TASTE OF SPOKEN WORD

To give you a taste, here’s one of my favorite slam poems, “Legacy,” presented in this YouTube Video published by Button Poetry.  It features poet Tui Scanlon performing for Hawaii during the prelims at the 2014 National Poetry Slam.

Button Poetry was founded in 2011 by poets Sam Cook and Sierra DeMulder.  Since then it’s become the largest digital distributor of spoken word in the world.  The Button Poetry videos are shared on websites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and NPR.  Their YouTube channel has over 900,000 subscribers.  Click here to check them out:

click-here

SPOKEN WORD INTERNATIONAL

These days, commentators note that spoken word has “gone mainstream.”  Poetry meant to be performed – performance poetry – is winning accolades from audiences of regular people.  Some of those people get up on stage and do their own spoken word pieces before sometimes massive crowds.

All over the world, wherever people gather, there are open mic nights, where folks get up in front of a crowd and share their words – angry poetry, love poems, poems of protest and politics, stand-up poetry, punk poetry, jazz poetry, nonsense rhymes, and rap and hip-hop fusion poetry.

There are regular organized gatherings of amateur and casual poets.

There are poetry slams where the competition and audience participation can get intense.

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“German-language Poetry Slam Championships 2010” by Very Quiet via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
There are shows by professional poets.  At festivals, you’ll find performing poets sharing the stage with musicians, actors, dancers and other performing artists.

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“National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – 2017” by Travel Nevada via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] (Photo by Sydney Martinez)
On the Internet, the variety (and the sheer number) of posted poetry videos boggles the mind.

There are even spoken word workshops you can attend to become a better performing poet.

slam-workshop
“Slam Workshop” by Tom Astleitner via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
And, in the schools, performance poetry and spoken word has opened a door to the impact and the power of words for children of all ages.

louder-than-a-bomb-kc-team
“Louder Than a Bomb KC Team” by Laura Gilchrist via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Smith’s plan to bring poetry back to the masses worked.   Words were spoken…and more and more and more words keep being spoken, mostly because people are definitely listening.

The quality of the works vary, of course, and that seems to be a part of the whole scene.

THE BEST POEM

My benchmark “best poem” has no words.  It was an exchange between my friend Wide Garcia, who chairs the meeting of the Maui Live Poets that meets in the Makawao Library on the third Wednesday night of each month, and a young man with Aspergers Syndrome.

During one of our regular meetings, we were doing a round-robin, where all of the poets in attendance took a turn to present a poem to the crowd.  A young man came in midway through the first session and sat down in an empty chair.  He sat quietly and watched as the poets read or spoke their work, watched as the audience responded.

It’s Wide’s practice to ask everyone who comes to the gatherings if they would like to present a poem.  After the first round was done and the poets were mingling and talking story, he approached the young man, who was sitting there, seemingly detached from the hubbub around him, and asked whether the boy had work he would like to share.

The young man did not answer, so Wide asked again, looking deeply into the teenager’s eyes.

There was a pause.  Then the boy lifted his right hand with all of his fingertips held together like a spear-point and touched the middle of his chest, fingers pointed right at his heart.  He gestured, moving his arm outward towards Wide and opened his hand, palm-up, as if he were offering his heart.

Wide made the same gesture back to the boy and grinned at him.  The boy just looked back at him out of his own world.

And, for me, that became my benchmark “good poem” – the one I remember every time I start constructing another one.  A good poem offers up your heart to another person.  It’s even better when that other person offers up his or her heart back.

Here’s a poem….


ALWAYS THERE ARE POEMS

 Always there are poems.

Not all of them use words.

Sometimes your body builds them.

Sometimes hearts must be heard.

 

The hand that reaches out,

The smile that glows and shines,

The eyes that sparkle in delight,

The hug that says, “We’re fine.”

 

Always there are poems.

All you need to do is see

The wonders of the universe

And the worlds in you and me.

 by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Ballsaal um 20:50” (Poetry Slam) by Sebastian Courvoisier via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
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COMPLINE — Wings of a Prayer

COMPLINE — Wings of a Prayer

Since 1956 the Compline Choir has filled St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, WA with the uplifting holy sounds of chant.  The service happens at 9:30 p.m. every Sunday.  It is only 30 minutes long.

There are no sermons, no priests – just readings of psalms and some thoughtful musings interspersed between an incredible, soothing, peace-inducing sound.

This YouTube video, The Compline Choir at St. Mark’s Cathedral (Seattle, WA), was published in 2014.  It was the first one to be produced and commissioned by the Choir and gives you a taste of what they do.

(The video was filmed by Markdavin Obenza and includes excerpts from the Compline Service for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels on September 29, 2013.)

A BALM FOR THE WEARY SOUL

Chanted prayer is an ancient tradition, one that modern-day science has found is good medicine for the body and for the mind.

Dr. Alan Watkins, a neuroscientist and co-founder of Complete Coherence, a European business leadership development firm, has explored many different ways to help clients maintain high levels of performance during challenging and stressful times.

In 2008, when Watkins was a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London, he announced, “We have recently carried out research that demonstrates that the regular breathing and musical structure of chanting can have a significant and positive physiological impact.”

Watson and his team followed five monks at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in the village of Heiligenkreuz in the southern part of the Vienna woods, north-west of Baden in Lower Austria.

The monastery, founded in 1133, is the oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the world.   The monks are famous for their Gregorian chants.

heilingenkreuz
“Heiligenkreuz” by Paula Funnell via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The scientists followed the monks around and measured their heart rates and blood pressure throughout a 24-hour period.  The heart rates and blood pressure numbers dipped to their lowest point in the day when the monks were chanting.

Dr Watkins pointed to similar previous studies documenting the neurological effects of sound supported their findings that chanting seems to lower blood pressure, increase performance hormone levels as well as reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood.

One remarkable story is the one French audiologist, Dr. Alfred Tomatis tells in a 1978 documentary called “Chant.”  The good doctor was called in to help the monks of a Benedictine monastery who were suffering from deep fatigue, depression and physical illness.

The doctor found that the sad, sick monks had been complying with a new church edict that had halted the centuries-old practice of chanting prayers throughout their day to mark their connection with the Divine.

When Tomatis convinced the monks to re-establish their rituals of prayer, the religious community regained its vitality. The monks were healthier and happier.

Not only is chanting beneficial, but it seems that just listening to chanting can be good for your health.

Some scientists believe music can stimulate the production of endorphins—natural opiates known to generate feelings of excitement and satisfaction.

It’s also possible, they say, that music helps the left and right hemispheres of the brain communicate more effectively and that it creates new neural pathways in the brain.

Benedictine nun, Sister Ruth Stanley, who is the head of the complementary medicine program at Central Minnesota’s Heart Center at St. Cloud Hospitals, found that having her patients listen to chant helped to ease chronic pain.

When you play chant, Sister Stanley said, “about 85 percent of the time, the body goes into very deep healing modes.  It’s quite remarkable.”

Listening to the Compline (and to other forms of chanting as well) can foster inner peacefulness and healing, it seems.

ROOTS OF THE COMPLINE

The Compline has its roots in the everyday life of medieval Catholic monastics.  It is the last service in a cycle of “offices” or “hours” sung in the Western Church throughout the day, the prayer before going to bed.

During medieval times, in the Catholic monasteries and convents in the west, the resident monks and nuns spent their days in solitary and communal prayer as well as doing more mundane work.   (For all of them staying mindful of the Divine in their lives was one of their primary jobs, actually.)

Residents in the monasteries were more isolated from the world than those living in convents and friaries, who spent their days doing good works in their communities, but all of them prayed separately and together throughout the day, reciting formal sets of prayers and meditations created by the leaders of their various orders.

The timing and the formats of the monastic prayer services that marked the divisions of the religious day evolved as leaders of the various religious groups set up rules for how their followers should live and work and pray.  Much of it was pretty much standardized for the different religious communities in the west by the fifth century.

st-benedict
“St. Benedict” by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
During medieval times (and pretty much into the 20th century) each religious day was divided into eight parts (also known as canonical “hours”).  The set prayers for each of these divisions made up the Liturgy of the Hours.

Lauds (morning prayer) sanctified the morning, preparing the inhabitants for the day.  In medieval religious communities, that day started very early.

Terce (mid-morning), sext (midday), none (mid-afternoon) were known collectively as the “Little Hours”.  They were celebrated with short prayers intended for use during  breaks in manual or scholarly work.

Vespers (evening prayer) was for coming together to give thanks for the blessings received during the day and for work done well.

Compline (night prayer) was designed to be said as the last prayer before going to sleep.  It starts with an examination of consciousness and includes a contemplation of mortality and a prayer for inner peace.

This service of quietness and reflection before rest completed the day for the religious.  In certain monasteries, it marked the beginning of a period of silence observed by the whole community (including guests) throughout the night until the morning service.

The Night Offices (also called Vigils, and, in more modern times, Matins) were performed very early in the morning while it was still dark.  During this time you were supposed to contemplate the mysteries of salvation.

In some of the more rigorous monasteries, the monks were supposed to get up in the middle of the night to recite these prayers and to meditate.

There was one other “hour” called Prime, which was celebrated between Lauds and Terce.

Around the year 382, it seems that in at least one monastery there were some monks who couldn’t get up for their morning prayers after spending half the night doing their Vigil practice.

To keep the monks from staying in bed until mid-morning instead of getting up to start their day, all of the monks were called together for Prime when they prayed together before heading out to do their tasks.  The practice proved to be effective and was adopted by other monasteries.

(Prime was abolished by revisions of the Second Vatican Council when church leaders looked at ways to make the practices of a contemplative religious “more humane.”)

Until the 20th century, the Compline was pretty much unknown to the general public and worshippers who were not a part of a monastic community.

ONE MAN’S VISION

St. Mark’s Compline Choir and the Compline Service was the brainchild of American composer and liturgist Peter  Hallock (November 19, 1924 to April 27, 2014) who was organist and choirmaster at the St. Mark’s Cathedral from 1951 to 1991.

st-marks-cathedral-organ
“St. Mark’s Cathedral Organ” by kaoruokumura via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
When he attended the Royal School of Church Music in England, from 1949 to 1951, Hallock was one of the few American students allowed to chant the Office of Compline with fellow classmates in the crypt of the Canterbury Cathedral.

cantebury-cathedral-arches-in-the-nave
“Canterbury Cathedral Interior: Arches in the Nave” by barnyz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When Hallock became the organist at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, he invited twelve music students from his alma mater, the University of Washington, to gather at the St. Mark’s to study and sing plainsong.  Their text was from the Proposed Book of Common Prayer (1928) of the Church of England, set to medieval chants.

By late 1956, this study group evolved into the Compline Choir.  Not all of the choir members were religiously oriented.  They were, however, excellent musicians and they loved liturgical music.

The all-male group grew in number as they began singing the Office of Compline for others on Sunday nights.  It was the first offering of the Office in English on a regular basis (outside of Anglican monasteries) in North America.  For a number of years they sang to an empty church.

Starting in 1962, the St. Mark’s Compline service was broadcast live over the radio on KING-FM.

Perhaps that is why when the “Summer of Love” in the late 1960’s turned young people’s minds towards more spiritual practices, colorfully dressed young people discovered the beauty and peacefulness of the Compline, and began attending the service at St. Mark’s in droves.

The congregation grew, practically overnight, from zero attendance to several hundreds packed into the church.

Hallock led the Compline Choir from 1956 to 2009.  (The choir is now directed by Jason Anderson, who joined the choir in October, 2004.)  The services continue to be well-attended and thousands more tune in to the radio broadcast or listen via the Internet.

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“view above the altar in St. Mark’s Cathedral” by robryan65 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
As time went on, a renewed interest in plainsong and other forms of liturgical music as well as the Compline grew.  Over fifty groups now offer a regular Office of Compline in the United States and Canada..

The once-obscure medieval religious service has become a regular spiritual practice for many modern people.  It is also a lovely way to help yourself get to sleep.

PETER HALLOCK INTERVIEW

Composer Peter Hallock talks about his music and his experiences at St. Mark’s Cathedral in this YouTube video published by Markdavin Obenza in 2013.  The video features session footage and music from the Byrd Ensemble’s CD release, Peter Hallock:  Draw On Sweet Night.

Here’s a poem….


SOUL THING

It’s a soul thing.

 

World sometimes gets at you

With all the needs and wants

Pulling at you, dragging at you

Making you sink down

Under the weight of so much

Gimme, do me, want me, honey!

 

Real is something else:

A quiet place that sits there

Waiting for you to come and rest

Your weary self by waters

Gently flowing like soft music

Melting down your heart, yeah!

 

It’s a soul thing, don’t you know?

The ebb, the flow of this thing

We are doing together that

Seems like everything and nothing

Much at all, at all.

But we keep doing it, yay!

 

We keep on doing, doing, doing it….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  St. Mark’s Cathedral (on Seattle’s Capitol Hill as viewed from the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union) by sea turtle via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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ONE ARTISAN VILLAGE

ONE ARTISAN VILLAGE

I think that in every Maker’s heart of hearts, there is a dream of being surrounded by others like them who live their lives working and dancing to their own heartsong, trying to do their own best  work and cheering each other on to greater effort.

We dream of a place that supports us in our journey while letting us find our own way to our own best life.

AN ARTISAN DREAM

One of the oldest established “artisan communities” in America is the village of Sugar Loaf, which is a small hamlet roughly six miles long and five miles wide, in the town of Chester in New York’s Orange County.  It’s been around since the 18th century.

The village was originally a waypoint along the King’s Highway, providing supplies and horses for the travelers along that road.  It was a busy place and went through many changes as the world moved through and then past it.

Back then it was likely that every tradesperson was some sort of artisan, if the definition of “artisan” is someone who makes things by hand.  (There wasn’t any other way to make useful things.)

Sometime around the middle of the last century, the village had become little more than a forgotten bit of the landscape between crowded metropolises.  Transportation routes had changed and it was no longer a hub and hive of activity.

There gathered a group of artists and artisans who took up residence in Sugar Loaf and began doing their work in the old falling-down buildings and barns that had endured for a couple of hundred years. These Makers found a place with room enough and time enough to do the work they loved.

In the course of things, a core group of these full-time working craftspeople opened up their independent artist’s studios to the public, selling the works of their hands to support lives they found meaningful.

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Prophecy Untold” by Henry M. Diaz via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
For an interesting history of the early days of the Sugar Loaf artisan community as well as some of the trials and tribulations as the community went through assorted economic and other changes, click on the button below to check out an old Sugar Loaf Guild site by one of the leaders among these early artisan-residents, Bob Fugett.

(I have to warn you:  Bob is a bit cantankerous.)

click-here

As Fugett points out, some of the early artisans continued to develop their skills in their chosen work to a high level.

Over the years other Makers joined in as the earliest of these creative people and their neighbors made a community that was centered around producing locally made, one-of-a-kind, high quality creative work.

The people who appreciated the quality of the work they produced came in droves from all over the world.

THE CHANGES DO KEEP ON COMING

But, the Way of the Creative is never an easy road.  In his musings on his website, Fugett mourns the lost shape of the community he helped to build.

sugar-loaf-sign
“Sugar Loaf Sign” by Kafziel Complaint Department via Wikimedia.org [CC BY-SA 3.0]
In one of the riffs on his site, Fugett quotes James Lynch, the founder of Fforest Camp, an eco-living retreat in West Wales:  “It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient.”

It’s a pithy commentary on what happens after the Makers have made Beauty in some abandoned place, which then becomes a “destination,” and then gets made over into something else as other folks move in.

This YouTube video, “Artists and Artisans,” was published in 2017 by Sarah J. Burns.  It’s a mini-documentary featuring interviews with some of the artisans currently living in the village and focuses on how their livelihoods changed with the recession.  It also offers a glimpse of the village itself.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The future is never certain, but the village continues anyway and it will grow into some new shape that better reflects the Makers who now live and work there in these very different times.

One of Bob’s salty comments that is spot-on nevertheless is this:  Talent is bullshit; work is the thing, and of course it is all for naught, always has been, always will be, but that has nothing to do with the doing of it.

Here’s a poem:


CHANGE

That things will change is a given

There is no argument.

Established constructs will be riven

And much will fade of past efforts spent.

 

Still and yet and ever more

The world keeps turning in its place.

Still and yet, there will be joy,

There will be rainbows and always grace.

 

Change comes, change goes

And so do you and I.

The only things we get to keep

Are the ways we walk and fly….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “The Work Never Matches the Dream….” By Kendra via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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MY BROTHER

MY BROTHER

MysTerry Randolph is a long-time member of the Maui Live Poets.   Very often her simple poems reach out and grab your heart and old memories open up.  It’s what she does.

About this poem she says, “This just came out of my heart.   Wrote it for my brother in Idaho.”


MY BROTHER

You are the portrait of

My childhood remembered.

You are the happiness

In my smile.

I am the procrastination of

Each day.

I am the winner

Of the marathon.

You are the butter on

My baked potato.

I am the salt

In the wound.

You are the colorful

Hot-air balloon.

I am the wonder-filled

Child riding inside.

 

We want to be

An optimistic anthem.

We are a realistic song.

Sing with me, my brother.

© 2015, Teresa Randolph

Header picture credit:  “Hot Air Balloon” by Rick Willoughby via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

In 2001, a group of  friends graduated from college and set out on a cross-country road trip to interview people who lived “lives centered around what was meaningful for them.”

The boys acquired an RV, and wandered around countryside filming a documentary about their trip in which they brazenly approached all sorts of people who were doing what looked like interesting things and asked them a lot of personal questions about life-issues like, “How do you know that this thing you do is right for you?” and “What was your worst mistake?” and  “What advice do you have for a lost puppy like me?”

The documentary the friends made of their journey was expanded into a series on PBS. They wrote a book about the first road trip.

This first book was followed by other books, by other projects all designed to help other people get the kind of insights the young men acquired on their own original road trip.

Eventually they and the team they assembled along the way launched a nonprofit called “Roadtrip Nation.”  The goal of this nonprofit is to help other young people who need advice for shaping their own careers into something fulfilling, for living a life doing what matters most to them.

In the following YouTube video, “Road Trip Nation:  The RT Nation Story,” the three friends, Mike Marriner, Nathan Gebhard and Brian McAllister, tell the story of their continuing journey.

They point out that going around the country asking people they encountered questions about how they ended up living lives that had meaning and mana helped each of them find their own truths, their own self-definitions, and their own kind of good life.

Asking questions and listening to the answers from people who had taken their own paths was profoundly useful to them.  It helped them answer that age-old question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

What started as a madcap adventure-cum-vision quest has spawned a whole movement of young people who are looking for their own answers to this most important question.

Besides an assortment of books, Roadtrip Nation maintains an extensive on-line video library of the interviews they conducted on their PBS series.

If you click on the “watch” link you can browse the PBS series by season.  Within each season you can browse each episode by interview subject.  Among those interviewed are everything from CEOs of major corporations to everyday workers in all kinds of industries and working situations who love what they do.

 Besides all of this, the Nation has put together a guide-book of sorts called ROADMAP: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life.  It’s a starter-kit for seekers looking for the meaning and mana in their own lives.

Check it out.  (It’s filled with exercises and ideas that  work for serious questers  of any age.)

And here’s a poem:


WILL YOU HEAR ME?

Understand something, please:

I do not aspire to be that tree

That falls in the woods and no one hears.

I refuse to be one of a line of trees in the forest

Blown down by a big kona wind,

Spilling across the landscape like fallen matchsticks.

 

I want to be heard,

To know my voice will rise up and grab at ears,

That my words will shake and stoke hearts that burn.

I want my voice to join those other voices in the wind,

That roar like a raging river,

That gently sigh like a baby sleeping.

 

Will you hear me?


Header picture credit:  “Traffic Trails” by Barry Davis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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I DID NOT SPEAK

I DID NOT SPEAK

Here is another powerful poem by spoken poet  Robert Maxie, Jr.  He is sixteen years old and has been writing poetry since the age of seven.  He has his own You-Tube site and his first book, BLEEDING INK, was published this year.  More are on the way….

He says, “This poem is extremely important to me and my life.  It’s a constant reminder that I’m not alive to make sure that I do and say what pleases everyone around me.  That kind of life is unsustainable.  Instead, I want to make sure that I’m saying and living my life the way I want to.”

A wise young man.


I did not speak much when I was a child
They asked me to speak, so I spoke
I spoke of whatever my mind could conjure up
hoping that the abundance of words
would make them like me more
I was wrong
They said I was annoying
That I talked to much
They asked me to be quiet
So I shut my lips and sewed them shut to please them
Hoping that they would love me more
I was wrong
They told me I was antisocial and quiet
So I was friendly and outgoing and I spoke what I thought
They told me my thoughts were wrong, that I still talk too much
So I hid my thoughts and agreed with whatever they said
Hoping they would want me more
I was wrong
They called me a follower and gullible
So I led my own path and said what I thought,
hoping they would love me more
I was wrong
They hated me for my diversity
They abused me and made me an outcast
I starved myself to death trying to feed everyone else
People don’t want you to think
People don’t want you to speak,
they want you to shut up
especially when you have something important to say
For if thought corrupts language,
language will also corrupt thought.

© Robert J. Maxie, Jr., 2017

Header photo credit: “Bunker Hill” by KayVee, Inc. via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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BE TOO BOLD: An Un-Seeing Exercise

BE TOO BOLD: An Un-Seeing Exercise

Ah…here it comes again.  Another Un-Seeing Exercise.  There’s THAT question:  Who am I to be so bold? 

The story you tell yourself about what you “cannot” do can hurt you your entire life.  This question, in particular, can tie you up in all kinds of knots and keep you stuck in suck.

WHY BOLD?  WHAT IS BOLD?

“Lemme tell ya, cookie,” as an old, rasty rascal of a friend used to say, “it’s supposed to be bold.  What are ya?  Some kinda snail?”

Jan (Arny) Messersmith published that sky-diving image in the header of this post in his Flickr stream in 2010.  He tells the backstory in a long rumination in his image notes.  He also includes one of the best definitions of “bold” I’ve ever seen.

He says, “Boldness is the exercise of one’s beliefs accompanied by a certainty that positive and well-considered actions will produce desirable outcomes.”  He continues, “Timidity and fear are not compatible with confidence and trust.”  It’s a truth, that.

This INBOUND Bold Talk, “From Suit to Seal” was published on YouTube by HubSpot in 2015.  It features Phil Black who hung up his suit as a Goldman-Sach minion to become, of all things, a Navy Seal.

“Be bold,” Black says at the end of his talk.  Bold is the first step to following your dream.

TAKING THAT FIRST STEP

How do you get to bold?  Some counterpoint questions might help.  How about these?

  • When you are 80, are you going to regret that you did not take action and believe in yourself because you were scared?
  • What message will you give your kids and your grandkids?  How are you going to authentically encourage them to follow their dreams when you stop yourself from following your own?

The saddest comment I have ever overheard was one from an elderly grandmother telling her grandson, “Go do your dream, bebe.  Me, I too old for dream now.  I can only wish.”

Another take on this is the advice in this spoken poem, “Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives” in this YouTube video by Richard Williams, better-known as American rapper and spoken word artist Prince Ea.

Prince Ea published the video in 2016.  It was a collaboration between the artist, who calls himself a “Futurist,” and Neste, a Finnish oil refinery company that, besides producing and marketing petroleum products, also produces “renewable diesel” which is produced in a patented vegetable oil refining process. The upcycled vegetable oil works well as an alternative fuel in diesel engines.

PRETEND THERE IS NO COUNTDOWN

The Real is that being bold isn’t all that hard to do.  Major tip:  Forget the countdown.  Never mind “a-one and a-two and a-three.”  Just go.

Practice will help with that.  It gets easier every time you do something that makes you scared and nervous.

scared-but
“Scared BUT” by vivek JOSHI via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS

Bold can also get easier if you can follow along the trails of adventurers and explorers who’ve gone on ahead of you.

  • Start a file folder today – either a physical paper one or one on your computer.  Choose a few people who you admire for their bravery and bold actions.  Research their stories.
  • Chances are your heroes started in situations that are no better than yours right now and they made it.  Find out how they did it.  Look at ways that maybe you can do it your own self in your own field.

sahara-footsteps
“Sahara Footsteps” by Rachael Taft [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I AM NOT HERE TO AUDITION

I’m not here to fill

A role one playwright

Or another put down

To get some constipated plot

Moving this way or that.

 

I’m not here to match

A cast director’s vote

For color coordination

Or for an echo of some

Old star’s past glory.

 

I’m not here to act out

Some director’s dictum

Of the statement I must make

While juggling stereotypes

And tired old clichés.

 

I’m not here to bend

And spend myself,

Reworking every line

To make some producer’s

Wet dream more sublime.

 

I’m not here to audition.

The part is already mine.

Who I am is what I am,

And, on this stage,

I’m the star and the chorus line.

 

Whether I show what’s honest,

Whether I show what’s real,

Whether I am brave enough

To show what I truly feel:

Only I can decide.

 

I’m not here to audition,

And neither, my dear, are you.

On another stage,

On a different page,

For you, it’s just as true….

By Netta Kanoho

Header image credit:  “Fortune Favours the Bold” by Jan (Arny) Messersmith via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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