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poetry submissions, other featured poets

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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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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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]

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BORN A WOMAN

BORN A WOMAN

Cinthia I. Albers is a fellow member of the Maui Live Poets Society.   She’s a lifelong poet with a quirky sense of humor and her own tales to tell.  She has laid claim to a “poet husband and a poet cat” and has collected her poems in a series of books that are available on Amazon.

I asked her to share a poem that has meaning and mana for her and to tell us why.  This is hers:

“I have always been at war with the ideas of what the world says woman should be. Magazines show us these images and most of us do not measure up.”

we-are-victims-of-this-folly
“We are victims of this folly” by Michelle Robinson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
“I was at a doctor’s office and picked up a woman’s magazine and thought about all those magazines I had read and discarded over the years.  The idea that what interests women is reflected on their pages seems like a cosmic joke. Women are much more than that.”

les-trois-graces
“Les Trois Graces” (mosaic sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle, part of the New York Avenue Sculpture Project) by David via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
“This poem grew from that. This was published in Maui Muses Vol 4- Equitude (a collection of poems curated by the Live Poets) and in my own collection.”


MAGAZINE

I was flipping through one of those magazines
You know the ones
With the makeup ads
And perfume ads
And Handbag ads
And High heeled shoe ads
Twenty-five haircuts
Just for you
The ones with the articles


How to lose weight
Lose belly fat
Sculpt your thighs
Sculpt your arms
Tighten those abs
Make that butt tight and firm
Those articles about
How to please your man
How to have more sex
How to have satisfying sex
How to declutter your home
How to organize your life
That kind of magazine
That follows the weight loss article
And the sculpt your body
into a fat burning machine
With the recipe for a 10000 calorie dessert
And the five minute meal
That takes three hours prep
And 100 dollars of ingredients
But you’ll be fine
Using their budget tips

I picked up that magazine,
I flipped through
I admired those thin women
With the leather coats
And the hair that flows in the wind
The one where you can smell her perfume
The one that runs in heels and never falls
Looking at them, the perfect make up
The happy homemaker
The husband pleaser
With the decluttered kitchen
And the picture perfect comfy house
I wonder
Being born a woman
How did I fail so badly?
They showed me how
It’s so simple
They told me so
I just have to read
Follow simple instructions
Bat my phony eyelashes
Buy the right kitchen organizer
Use the correct perfume
Take care of my man sexually
And all will be perfect
I will grow the perfect boobs
Sculpt the perfect ass
I will the don the perfect haircut
And I will be able to run
In expensive spiked heels
With matching bag
And fly away coat

Truth is it never worked
I just can’t quite master that image
Who would have thought being a woman
Was so hard to become
Considering I was born one.


Header Image credit:  “Woman in Window” by Beshef via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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POEM POWER

POEM POWER

Ever since people started talking to one another, they’ve explored the power of words.  The power of LOGOS (the Word) has been the fundamental foundation for building a religion, a culture, a movement, a life.

Words can move you.  Words can move other people.  That’s probably why everybody talks so much.

A MOST EFFECTIVE PUNISHMENT

Remember the Biblical Tower of Babel?  According to the story, the people on earth got together and decided to build this great tower that would reach into Heaven itself.  They figured they could be like little gods if they did that.

They were planning to invade and trespass into God-country.  The Big Guy got mad that they even dared to make that attempt.

tower-of-babel
“Tower of Babel” by ellenm1 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
So, how did the Dude punish them?  He made it so they began to speak in all kinds of different languages.  All of a sudden, there was a major obstacle to collaboration and cooperation.  You can’t work together if you don’t understand what the other person is saying.  The project was abandoned.

Of course, that also meant that folks had a harder time just living together peacefully, but that’s another story….

DISTILLING THE WORDS

Poems are an especially powerful form of word-use.  Poets distill their thoughts down to their essence, throwing away all the parts that interfere with their dance with the words.

Poems are like the essential oils of the Word World.  It takes an incredible number of rose petals to make an essential oil.  Imagine.  It takes 10,000 POUNDS of petals to make one pound of rose oil.  Each little 5mL bottle contains the essence of 105 pounds of petals.

a-rose
“a rose” by Hans Splinter via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Whew!

Have you ever tried opening one of those teeny bottles of essential rose oil?  Wow!  One sniff and your nose transports you into the best enclosed rose garden there ever was.

POEMS AS A BUSINESS TOOL

In this 2013 TEDxMarin video, “The Power of Poetry”, leadership coach and teacher Dale Biron, who combines poetry with martial arts, leadership, and life-strategy, in his speaking, coaching and workshop sessions for business conferences, organizational retreats and university classes, talks about how great poems are like powerful “apps” for the mind.

Biron says poems can be “good stories with the boring parts removed.”  He believes in the power of poems to get you to a life worth living.

POEMS IN MAXIMUM PRISON

Touring spoken word poet Phil Kaye has won many awards in his career so far.  He’s currently a co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression).  The Project, it says here, is “a national movement that celebrates youth self-expression through Spoken Word Poetry.”  They aspire to encourage young people to use Spoken Word Poetry as a tool “to explore and better understand their culture, their society, and ultimately themselves.”

When Kaye was still a student at Brown University, he participated in and eventually  became the coordinator for the college’s S.P.A.C.E. (Space in Prisons for the Arts and Creative Expression) prison initiative program.  The University students, unpaid volunteers all, offer a variety of weekly art workshops at the Rhode Island Adult Correction Institutions (ACI).  Phil did workshops about spoken poetry.

(S.P.A.C.E. also facilitates workshops in the Providence Center, a residential recovery service provider located on the campus of the ACI.)

Kaye developed a keen appreciation for the power of poems during the time he taught weekly poetry workshops in maximum-security prisons.  In this TEDxFoggy Bottom video, “Poetry in Maximum Security Prison,” he talks about that time in his life and how it has influenced his life-direction.

Kaye’s journey has led him to venues all over the world from the Lincoln Center in New York City to the Malthouse Theater in Melbourne Australia.  His work has been viewed online over five million times and has been featured in media outlets ranging from National Public Radio to Al Jazeera America and Upworthy.com.

In 2011, Kaye published a well-received book of his poetry, A LIGHT BULB SYMPHONY.

One of Kaye’s favorite life high-points was being asked to perform alongside His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama during the beloved teacher’s 80th birthday celebration at the 2015 Global Compassion Summit conference in Anaheim.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In my own life, poems have been my way to get back to clarity about a life-situation or about my own self.  Writing down and recording all the moving parts is like taking a step back from them so I can get a better handle on the whole mish-mash of chaos and confusion.

Sometimes, a hole opens up in the clouds and a light shines through.  Sometimes not.

clouds
“clouds” by Daniel Boyd via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
I keep working on it.  Sometimes I get a whole bunch of poems.  Sometimes nothing.

It’s all process….

Here’s a poem:


UNPLAYFUL WORDS

Nothing comes together.

This poem is not going well.

The words keep turning pale.

They fade, they float away.

They stumble around looking confused.

 

Hmmm.

 

I let loose my Sergeant Major

Who growls at these clueless bo-bo recruits.

They keep stacking themselves this way, that way.

They keep falling over, all in a heap.

A horrible mess.

 

These words have forgotten how to weave, it seems.

They’ve lost the knack of bending and turning themselves

Into a shapeliness that lightly dances.

All they’re doing now is tripping all over themselves,

Faltering and flailing wildly.

 

Maybe they’ve contracted some runical laxness…

A touch of lyrical amnesia, perhaps,

Or maybe some versical repression.

They are limp, they are flawed.

They are a bunch of lazy bums!

 

Maybe I’ve stumbled upon a stash of leftover bits —

Just coagulated lumps of airhead thoughts,

Neither highly expressive nor particularly rhymical.

A deadly dud-ness.

 

(Sigh!)

Ah well…maybe they just need to rest.

See ya later, guys.

I’m gone….

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “garden poem” by Julie Gibbons via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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CHANGING THE GAME

CHANGING THE GAME

I was looking through an old poetry journal of mine, looking for something to use in a post.  I found a folded sheet with a poem by a dear friend who died recently, Pat Masumoto.  The poem was dated September 10, 2015.

I remembered that Pat asked me to read this poem for her at a Maui Live Poets gathering she wasn’t able to attend because of conflicts in her hectic schedule.

Memories came flooding back and I was missing my dear friend.   Poems have that ability to speak for you when you’re gone, it seems.

Aloha no, my ‘aikane…aloha no….

Here’s the poem:


CHANGING THE GAME

(to be read with a perfectly straight face)

 

Self control.  It works.

 

When I feel hurt by rude insensitivity

I talk a lot and sometimes shout.

If I’m not heard, I walk away,

            even when I want to choke someone

            until he turns a putrid green.

 

When I feel alarmed by injustice

I stand up against it,

And if I can’t get anywhere, I read about heroes…

            instead of spitting at people’s faces.

            and I don’t like using guns either.

 

When I find myself in fear,

I might compose a poem…or two.

I won’t cross my arms and crouch and I absolutely

            will not growl and bite anyone coming near.

 

As I become stronger and tougher,

I’ll do a silly giggle and laugh like crazy.

If you want to know what else, I’m aching to

            get down on all fours and

            howl at the moon, but I won’t.

 

When I’m gladdened by kindness,

By patience and generosity, I smile and grin.

I don’t get naked and

             run amuck in the streets,

            arms raised and hands open, screaming with joy.

 

(visibly take a breath)

 

After exercising self-control for my whole life, I’m now bored with it.

I want to change the game.


Header picture credit:  “Maui Sunset” by Bernard Spragg, NZ via Flickr.  [CC0 1.0 – Public Domain]

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THE TWIN POETS

THE TWIN POETS

The Twin Poets are identical twin brothers, Nnamdi Chukwuocha (born Elbert Mills)  and Albert Mills, with a unique style of poetry that evolved out of their habit of finishing each other’s sentences and the rap and hip-hop of their youth. They are internationally known for their live performances of socially conscious work, including “Dreams Are Illegal In the Ghetto” and “Homework for Breakfast.

Their book, OUR WORK, OUR WORDS…:  Taking the Guns From Our Sons’ Hands are filled with poems that tell the stories of the people they’ve encountered in their work as social workers and teachers for more than 17 years in the poorest sections of Wilmington, Delaware.  These poems are definitely “Life-Built Poems” — of the most heartbreaking kind.

The brothers appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” series in the mid-2000s and, as a result have since performed on stages across America, Europe and Africa.  Through it all they continued to work with the people in their communities.

Besides being poets, the twins spent more than 17 years working at the Kingswood Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware and continued to expand and develop their idea that art could counter the dream-killing effects of poverty and hardship.  Mills is a family therapist  and community-based social worker and Chukwuocha is a social worker who has served on the Wilmington City Council for a number of years.

In 2014, Newsweek called Wilmington, “Murder Town USA” and said it ranked third on the FBI’s annual list of “most violent cities” among cities of comparable size.  It also ranked fifth when compared to all cities with populations greater than 50,000.

Most of the city is safe, Wilmington residents who were offended by the Newsweek article protested.

A 2015 Delaware Today article, “Wilmington Crime: A City That Bleeds,” pointed out that the numbers in the statistics used by the Newsweek report of murder and mayhem are disproportionately centered in areas like the Hilltop neighborhood mentioned as well as other, similar neighborhoods and are the result of a number of chronic problems – not enough jobs, not enough support of education and training, housing issues, and several generations of social ills that have no easy solutions.  It continues to be an ongoing problem.

Over the years the brothers have received a number of awards recognizing them for their community service, including the Village Award (2006) from the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families and a Local Heroes  Award from Bank of America (2006).

The Twin Poets were the State of Delaware Mentors of the Year in 2001, and, in December, 2015, they were named the 17th Poet Laureate (a shared title) of the state of Delaware by former Governor Jack Markell.

Another article in Delaware Today, “Wilmington’s Twin Poets Provide Healing Through Art,” chronicles the extraordinary efforts they’ve made and continue to make to help save the children in the poorest of the communities they service from the hopelessness and helplessness that the disenfranchised experience in their world.

The brothers founded Art for Life–Delaware, a community-based, social worker-led mentoring program that uses art to change the lives of delinquent youth and their families.

They also developed G.O.A.L.S. (Getting Organized Always Leads To Success), a tutoring and mentoring program that teaches children about the importance of self-expression and writing.

This Hearts and Mind Film published in 2013 features the Twin Poets poem, “Why I Write”:

Why I Write” is also the name of a website about the brothers and their work that was initially designed by the interactive design students at the University of Delaware.

As Chukwuocha says in the Delaware Today article about their life, the brothers have refused many invitations to become rap and hip-hop sensations over the years.  They wanted to “make a difference,” he said.  They continue trying.

Header picture credit: “Peace Keeper Marching” by TC Davis via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]  The description says, “The Wilmington Peace Keepers are volunteers who visit neighborhoods where there has been a recent shooting, to comfort and pray with families and friends and empower the neighborhood for change.”

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HOPE IS A LIE

HOPE IS A LIE

This poem was written by Robert J. Maxie, Jr, who has a You-Tube channel that features his spoken poems.  (Do check out his poetry site on Wattpad for more of his work.)  Robert recently independently published a book of poetry as well, BLEEDING INK, which is available on Amazon.com.

He says, “The back story of this poem isn’t as much in the past as it is what I’m living. I oftentimes recently have found myself in situations where I feel hopeless and powerless.

“This poem is a reminder to me that I can’t live that way. That if I let myself lose hope I won’t be able to make it.”

A wise young man….

Here’s the spoken poem on his You-Tube channel:

The words are powerful:

The truth is a blinding light
Shining over an ocean of lies
Gliding on black skies
On wings of fear and rage
It’s a rushing river that empties lakes
A hungry beast that takes and takes
A monster that terrifies
An ever living hawk
Scouting the skies
Bringing death to all
Because hope is the ultimate lie
A lie that lives on as long as the light is gone
Hope survives when hidden from the truth
Hope is the noble lie staying my soul from chaos and rage
Hope is a cage
Hope is control
Hope is a blinder over my eyes
And now that hope is gone
And all that’s left is an infinite
Black void through which I cannot find my way
Without my hope
Without my faith I stumble even though my eyes are open and my path is empty
I am blind to trouble
Though I see
Everything

by Robert J. Maxie, Jr.

Header picture credit:  Black Storm Petrel by Trish Gussler [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

[Please note:  If any of you would like to contribute a poem, please let me know by leaving a comment below….  I’d be happy to hear from youClick here to access the Guest Poet Portal.]

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LIFE IS GOOD

LIFE IS GOOD

I spent this weekend reading two books.

One was a hoary old classic marketing book, THE 22 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF MARKETING:  Violate Them At Your Own Risk! by marketing strategists extraordinaire Al Ries and Jack Trout which was written in 1994.

This slim book took the world by storm in its day for a good reason.  The master marketers were the first to distill down their work and life experiences into marketing “laws” that still apply to this very day.  It’s a good one for any wannabe marketer to have on their shelf.

gavel
Gavel: Ohio Supreme Court by Andrew F. Scott via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The second book was a joyous romp of a read.  The book, LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK: How to Live With Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, is written by Bert and John Jacobs and is the story of how “two ordinary brothers from Boston, who didn’t want a job but weren’t afraid to work,” built a company worth more than $100 million by selling t-shirts with the help of their friends.

It’s a very good read, authentic and honest, that incorporates told-from-the heart stories and a picture album of their wonderful shirt designs and the people who made it all happen having fun.

It was also a real-life illustration of the Ries-Trout Fifth Law, The Law of Focus, which says, “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”

You burn your way into the minds of your customers by narrowing your focus to a single word or concept, these mavens say.  And your customers will help you build your world around that concept.

The corollary to that law is this:  “The leader who owns the word owns the category.”

ONE IDEA, ONE DESIGN, ONE BRAND

The rollicking tale of the Jacobs boys’ journey is part of their brand legend .

Starting in 1989, the Jacobs brothers wandered around, crisscrossing state lines in a nondescript mini-van hustling their shirts to no avail.  By 1994, with $78 between them, the boys were ready to throw in the towel.  They had, after all, given it their best shot.

As they drove home to Boston, they were talking about the daily flood of negative news. Between them they agreed that the only thing that could counter the mindset that arises from swallowing all that negativity was a different one with which they were very familiar.

It was a mindset that they had learned from their mom, Joan – untrammeled optimism in the face of constant obstacles and obstructions.

This You-Tube video, published by RogiDream,  features two short poems by the brilliant Charles Bukowski who had a genius for hitting the heart.  They are spoken by Tom O’Bedlam and speak to the real power behind the concept of optimism.

Optimism really is not about swimming in peaches and cream, you know.  It is about fighting the good fight and staying with it no matter what.

The highway talk led the brothers to one idea that led to one shirt design that became the brand called “Life Is Good.”

LISTENING TO THE FEEDBACK

After every road trip, the brothers threw a coming-home party to celebrate making it back to home base.  Even though they were depressed and tired, they went ahead with their ritual.

At each of these parties it was their practice to tape sketches of all of their newest t-shirt design ideas on the walls of their apartment and encourage their friends to comment on the ideas by writing on the wall.

The design that got the most kudos was the result of their highway talk:  a line-drawing of a good ole guy with a baseball cap on his head and a wide grin.  The caption said, “Life Is Good.”

When they printed up 48 shirts with that one design and took them to a street fair to hawk, they were amazed.  All of the shirts (including the two they were wearing) sold in less than an hour to a wide array of people.

BUILDING OF A TRIBE

Naturally they made more of the shirts.  They kept on selling and LIFE IS GOOD became their brand name.

The concept grew and evolved as more and more people joined in the fun and the brothers kept listening to the suggestions from their customers.  More and more people jumped on for the ride.

The result became that $100 million company that uses art work and shares inspiring stories from their customers.  Their designs, all focusing on the power of optimism,  were magnetic.  People flocked to join a tribe who sincerely believes in the power of optimism.

These days, ten percent of the company’s annual profits goes to help kids overcome poverty, violence and severe medical challenges.  Their nonprofit LIFE IS GOOD Kids Foundation positively impacts the lives of more than 100,000 children a day.

Festivals and celebrations are a part of corporate life.  So is helping people.

Here’s a YouTube TEDx talk at Beacon Street recorded in 2013 featuring one of the brothers, Bert Jacobs, “Do What You Like, Like What You Do.” The company’s grown a bunch since then.

It’s all good.

SUPERPOWERS YOU CAN GROW

LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK lists ten “superpowers” that can be developed to enhance your own optimistic mindset:  Openness, Courage, Simplicity, Humor, Gratitude, Fun, Compassion, Creativity, Authenticity and Love.

The brothers devote a chapter to each of these attributes, ending each one with ideas and suggestions for growing your own.  And they promise:  “The Life Is Good superpowers will help you overcome obstacles, drive forward with greater purpose, and enjoy the ride of life.”

That is also a very good thing….

Here’s a poem:


THE CYCLE CONTINUES

The cycle continues:

arising, becoming, crumbling away,

then born again in some new-old form –

a never-ending relentless pattern

flowing, spiraling through this life,

in this world of dust.

 

And here’s me: 

trying to dance on top of this turning wheel…

moved to try to direct it, even…

(not that there’s a steering wheel).

 

It rolls on, it rolls on,

and I keep trying to play with it,

reiterating halcyon days of youth

when us kids took turns

rolling that abandoned old truck tire

down the grassy hill behind the baseball field,

trying to keep from crashing it through

the mean old neighbor-lady’s hibiscus hedges

and running over her half-blind old English bulldog.

 

Rolling that tire back up that hill

was part of the price for playing.

 

Laughing was the best part.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  Life Is Good by Herr Olsen via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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