Tag Archives: NaBloPoMo

My Aunt Norma in Puerto Rico circa 1955

My Aunt Norma in Puerto Rico circa 1955.

Her name was Norma Giraloma Congilosi.  She had jet black curly hair, olive skin, sloe green eyes. She was the epitome of culture, style, and grace.   She could also curse like a longshoreman and saw no contradiction in that.

Norma
Norma Giraloma Congilosi, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1955.

Almost entirely self-educated and no sufferer of fools, she started her post-secondary education at a community college only to leave, disappointed, because she was more well-read than her instructors.

She worked for United Airlines and traveled the world, often alone, which was considered unusual at that time.  She spoke French, Spanish, and Italian, including the Sicilian dialect her Sicilian/Ethiopian/North African father spoke at home.

She was a poet, a feminist, activist, and fighter for civil and equal rights way ahead of her time.

I was fascinated with Norma and her stories of beatniks, revolutionaries, poets and playwrights in San Francisco and NYC.  

Her contemporaries were white, black, brown, straight, lesbian, and gay.   She wrote poetry under the pseudonym Nya Gailord Carver. 

I loved how she simply took her freedom; she didn’t wait for it to be granted or sanctioned.

The nasty comments sometimes thrown her way were a small price to pay for autonomy.

Somewhat surprisingly, her mother, my grandmother Maria Grazia Amato Congilosi, a devout Catholic Sicilian paired in an arranged marriage with her father’s tinsmith apprentice, my grandfather Alfonso Congilosi, not only did not judge her iconoclastic daughter harshly, but seemed to vicariously enjoy her adventures.

She worried about her unconventional daughter, but she never tried to clip her wings–not even when she fell in love with a Jewish doctor and began classes to convert to Judaism after he proposed.

Norma  packed a whole lot of living into her first twenty-seven years.

She was stricken with MS at age twenty-six; she stayed independent as long as she could.

She weathered abandonment by her Jewish fiance, the loss of her spectacular San Francisco apartment, her job, and her independence,  with a feisty spirit and a salty tongue.

By age thirty she was confined to a “rest home” where she continued to curse, laugh, smoke a hookah, and shake her fist at God.

As a child, I both loved and feared visiting her there. She lived to age sixty-two; I had a hard time forgiving God for her thirty-two years in a hospital bed.

As happens in families, I was often mistakenly called by her name by my mother and grandmother.

  In our family, her name was synonymous with style, verve, and a sensibility on a first name basis with originality. 

I took it as a compliment. 

moxiebeesignaturephp

 

Author’s Note: I wrote a poem, Sweet Revenant, to her memory,  and paired it with Kristin Fouquet’s gorgeous photos of Ingrid Lucia.

 

 

Spotlight On: Clay Randle The Artist/Writer aka CID

Spotlight On: Clay Randle The Artist/Writer aka CID

I became acquainted with artist/writer/music manager Clay Randle in 2011 when he sent me some music with a request to listen to,  and possibly review or feature, the band he was representing.

I was writing for DJ Come of Age and his Soul Music of The World back then,  as well as blogging  on the first incarnation of The Moxie Bee.

I listened and wrote back to tell him the songs he’d sent were too derivative of other rappers/hip-hop groups.

I told him what I heard was promising, but needed more “cooking”.

I was impressed with Clay because instead of responding with rudeness or hurt feelings, or not responding at all,  as some others who’d sent me music had done,  he wrote back to say, “Next time I’ll send you something better.”

And he did.

Years later Clay Randle is still creating art, writing and music, on his own and in art/music collectives.

Today he’s sharing a sampling of his visual/prose hybrid art.

CID
LOVE ABOVE, CID

 

CID
AMPLIFIED HEARTS, CID

 

CID
SLEEPLESS IN EDEN, CID

 

CID
PATTYMAYO, CID
CID
PORKANDBEAMS. CID

About The Artist/Writer:

CID
CLAY RANDLE, CID

Atom Used To Live Here is a literary gallery curated by artist , Clay Randle ; creatively known as CID. His art ranges within the literary field from prose, to poetry and abstract ideological musings. He has been expressing through the art form of writing since he was a young man with an affinity for authors such as Thoreau, Emerson, Nietzsche, Dr. Seuss and Lao Tzu.

CID is a jazz , punk rock , classic hip hop and alternative rock aficionado with an appreciation for 80’s and 90’s cult classic films. He is a creative free thinker, a bohemian creative and rebellious in his approach.

With an intent to change the world through his revelatory perspectives, CID expresses honestly and fluidly. He is an underground philosopher and pursuing evolution as a man through his artistic and impassioned endeavors.

Highly influenced by his grandfather, he is a quirky mix of classical influences; through his experience of traveling the world while serving in the Navy, he has grown interests in multiple styles of creation, ideology and perception.

CID has been successful in endeavors of music management and lyrical writing , is highly skilled in the art of conceptualizing visuals and audio concepts as creative director and writer with his collaborative The X + Why Chromosome and is dedicated to being a staple in the promise of revolutionary creation.

Catching Up With Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman: The Moxie Bee Interview

Catching Up With Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman: The Moxie Bee Interview

Last week The Moxie Bee featured the poetry of the multi-talented  Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman, who also sings as Khadijah Moon.

You can read about how her stage name evolved into its current celestial incarnation at her Artsy Moon blog.

Calling her a renaissance woman almost doesn’t cover her creative output: poetry, short stories, plays, songs, the production of events and programs, and soon–films.

coleman
Khadijah Moon Press Photo

Featured here today is her new single, titled “hunger”.

 

 

The song was written in response to her mother’s death during a period of estrangement, as she dealt with the pain of losing her with unfinished business left behind.

 

Khadijah shared some of the song’s back-story on her blog:

I wrote this song “hunger “less than a month after she died.  I have questions.  

I have this intense love.  I have a lot of anger.  What came out was a letter to her in song about all of that.  My life partner, who is also my producer, composed beautiful music on his guitar to accompany the song and this is what we came up with.

I shared  the song on my Facebook personal page yesterday and received feedback from others who had similar relationships with their mothers, could relate to the sentiment.  I received feedback from folks who have (or have had) struggle-free relationships with their moms and still could find value in the words of the song, even more grateful for their relationships with their mothers.

The song is beautiful; the sound is warm and smooth,  with an undertone of ache that is never maudlin.

I encourage you to buy it, download it, and add it to your collection.

khadijah
Khadijah Moon, Hunger–the new smash single!

 

But wait–there’s more: Khadijah is also known as The Creative Midwife™, which is the business she created to help anyone with a creative dream bring it to life. 

 

I caught up with Khadijah just after I published two of her poems and some information on her many creative activities.

The Moxie Bee:  What came first for you: singing, poetry, creative mentoring?

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman: I’ve been writing since I could write words, I think.

I remember writing songs, as a little kid (inappropriate songs, at that) and short stories as early as elementary school.

Whenever I learned a new form of writing formally, I embraced it lovingly and would play around with it on my own.

It went hand in hand with my voracious appetite for reading.

I’ve written poems, plays, songs, short stories and (incomplete) novels nonstop since childhood.

Very thankful to have had some of my work published, plays produced and songs recorded.

I began loving to sing as I started to fall in love with musical theater and getting to sing more in music classes.

I recall the kick off of my singing on stage being this one year where I convinced my 5 year-old sister to sing “My Favorite Things” in the school talent show while I played it on piano.

 

I was so proud that I had learned how to play it. When we went to audition, she ran off stage in the middle of me playing and, to play it off, I started singing it.

 

The teachers auditioning us loved it. I wound up singing it for my 6th grade graduation that year instead of the talent show.

 

 The Moxie Bee: What music most fuels your urge to create?

 

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman: Honestly, I don’t know

 

coleman
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman and her daughter.

 

The Moxie Bee:  What inspired you to start working as a creative midwife–helping others birth and fulfill their creativity?

 

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman:  I began to brand myself as a creativity coach when I started to get inquiries from others on how to self-publish after I published the first anthology in the Liberated Muse book anthology series.

 

I started doing workshops and then decided to offer basic editing and proofreading services until one of my clients, the late Nathan Seven Scott, started wanting to work with me in more of a coaching capacity.

 

I helped him with organizing his concepts, which led to our sessions really becoming breakthrough moments.

 

I would assign him readings of online resources and really worked with helping him build his skills which led to him really expanding his goals to writing more books, building a writing team, etc.

 

My work with him inspired me to want to do more with other clients.

 

I chose the name The Creative Midwife because the most significant moment in my life was giving birth to my daughter with the assistance of a team of midwives who were the epitome of grace, nurturing and expertise.

 

coleman

 

My beautiful brown baby– now a pre-teen– would not have arrived safely (during a hurricane, no less) if it weren’t for the care of the midwives who helped me.

 

The Moxie Bee:  Who are your creative heroes and heroines?

 

Khadijah Moon: Toni Morrison is one of my main inspirations lately when it comes to writing.

 

Her unapologetic attention to her characters, crafting them from a perspective not dependent on a white gaze is empowering, inspiring and validating.

 

I have always loved the poetry of Langston Hughes.

 

His simple phrasing coupled with ironic yet charming storytelling always captivated me as a child and I love it to this day.

 

The way he said a lot without writing a lot is a gift very few have.

 

Lastly, I cannot fail to mention Robert Frost.

 

Learning about him in 10th grade English at Friendly High School in Maryland with the best English teacher every, Mr. Poniatowski was a turning point for me as a writer and reader.

 

Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” engaged me in literary analysis and understanding how words can be arranged in a way to say so much that can be interpreted in different ways based on the experience of the beholder, like visual art.

 

I can go on and on about people who I look at as s/heroes but those mentioned have been the most consistent.

 

The Moxie Bee: Have you participated in the Black Poets Speak Out project?

 

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman:  Yes, I have participated in Black Poets Speak Out.

 

Links to poems can be found at http://www.culturalfront.org/2014/11/a-roundup-of-blackpoetsspeakout.html under my full name Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman.

 

The Moxie Bee:   Are you active in the #BlackLivesMatter movement?

 

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman: I am active in the #BlackLivesMatter movement by creating programs and art.

An upcoming event is tomorrow. (Editor’s Note: The event described in the flier below took place the day after our interview.)

 Coleman

 

 

Connect with Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

Coleman

 

Contact her at: Khadijah@khadijahonline.com

Passionately human and deliciously creative, Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is The Creative Midwife™. Let The Creative Midwife™ Help You Birth Your Creative Dreams Today!

 

Learn more and book her services today at BirthYourCreativity.com

 

Read some of these articles for creatives:

5 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Artist Spirit

4 Ways to Find Your Tribe

Tech-Savvy Artists Needed for 2016 Conference

 

 

Short Takes: Escape Artist by Maura Alia Badji

Escape Artist

Escape
Unknown Black Escape Artist, 1924.

 

Escape Artist

 

Each act escapes,

stripped of ribboned rubber masks,

husks our circus smiles, greases our trickster strides.

Protective coating melted, ringed

around blue tables, we sip the milk of she-wolves.

Wisely, we count ourselves

lucky, survivors forever

tickled by Fortune’s

fickle gaze.

 

~Maura Alia Badji

 

The Poet:

Maura Alia Badji’s poems and essays have appeared in Barely South Review, Cobalt, ArtVoice Buffalo, Switched-on Gutenberg, Exhibition, convolvulus, Spillway, teenytiny, Signals, The Buffalo Times, and The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. Her themes include multiracial identity and families, female ancestors, social justice, female sexuality, and the discovery and creation of mythos. Maura has been a contributing writer for The Buffalo Times, Soul Music of The World, and LivingSocial.com.

She is a member of The Watering Hole collective, an online community for poets of color and is grateful for the excellent online classes, and mutual support of‪ #‎tribe‬ she has found there.

Looking for Clues, a poem by Maura Alia Badji, with Art by Leonardo Benzant

BENZANT
Mayombe Magik In The Urban Jungle.

 

Looking for Clues

I am a mother anxiously waiting for her son past curfew.  I am his wary lope beneath floodlights.

I am the hoodie draped over the deejay’s freshly shaved head.  I am the brassy highlights in the bartender’s curls, I am the obituary of the old love shoved in her back pocket.

I am the neighbor making excuses to talk to you at dusk, lingering at the mailboxes.  I am the midnight whistle of the cross town train.

I am the dented trombone played by the scholarship student in New Orleans. I sing the music of the Spheres trailed behind the second line.

I am the love you make with the lights on. I am the dance you chance when you forget your cares.

I am the breath you exhale after paying your rent.

I am the last time you rode the bus, the seat you gave up, the elderly woman, the steel gray of her braids, tenderness in her stare.

I am the Ancestor murmuring in your blood.

I am the curve of the crescent moon Iman and Yasmeen spied last Ramadan. I am the prayer that broke your heart at dawn, just before it was answered.

I am the undrawn gun in the church, the moment before it was too late. I am the mother quieting her child hidden beneath a desk.

I am the unending grief unraveled.  I am the unimaginable, audacious forgiveness we somehow can’t forgive.

I am the broken teeth of the veteran sprawled across the median at rush hour.  I am the wave of wayward stardust thrown from a mermaid’s tail.

I am the tension released from your bones as day succumbs to twilight. I am the moan that escapes your lips, that spirals into the night.

–Maura Alia Badji

 

The Artist:  Leonardo Benzant, Brooklyn, NY

BENZANT
LEONARDO BENZANT, NYC

 

Artist’s Statement 

I create art connected in terms of a single vision emerging in various forms including: sculpture, painting and performance. Growing up in the 80’s, as Hip-Hop was flourishing, I felt an inner void prompted by the lack of an African-perspective in mainstream America. I began to investigate identity and spirituality. Being aware of the divide/conquer strategy of colonization, I initiated in my formative years during Catholic school, an investigation into African retentions, continuities and points of connection among the people of African descent throughout the African Diaspora for the purposes of healing, transformation and empowerment, both individual and communal.

Explore More of Leonardo Benzant’s work at his web site: http://www.leonardobenzant.com/

Recent Exhibition:

BENZANT

POWER, PROTEST, AND RESISTANCE | THE ART OF REVOLUTION

Sept 24th – Oct 31, 2015
Curated by Oshun Layne and Daniel Simmons

Rush Arts Gallery
526 W 26th St # 311
New York, NY 10001

The show took place at three venues at the same time and Leonardo Benzant’s work  was exhibited at the Skylight Gallery in Brooklyn.
Current Exhibition:
BENZANT
Rose Gallery
“The Cosmology of Resistance and Transformation”     Leonardo Benzant
Opening Reception: November 6, 2015

 

The Poet: Maura Alia Badji

benzant
Maura Alia Badji

Maura Alia Badji’s poems and essays have appeared in Barely South Review, Cobalt, ArtVoice Buffalo, Switched-on Gutenberg, Exhibition, convolvulus, Spillway, teenytiny, Signals, The Buffalo Times, and The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. Her themes include multiracial identity and families, female ancestors, social justice, female sexuality, and the discovery and creation of mythos. Maura has been a contributing writer for The Buffalo Times, Soul Music of The World, and LivingSocial.com.

She is a member of The Watering Hole collective, an online community for poets of color and is grateful for the excellent online classes, and mutual support of‪ #‎tribe‬ she has found there.

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman aka Khadijah Moon: Multifaceted and Deliciously Creative

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman aka Khadijah Moon: Deliciously Creative

Poet/playwright/producer/creative mid-wife/ budding film-maker, Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is also known as Khadijah Moon, singer.  Multifaceted and seemingly in perpetual motion, Khadijah inspires by example and dazzles in performance.

I’m pleased to feature two of her poems today.  Through language that is often both sensual and harrowing, Ms. Ali-Coleman’s poetry reflects the beautiful struggle of being a Black woman poet/artist in our increasingly fraught time,  while simultaneously fashioning a lifeline.  Her words are indeed often “like a lasso of unbreakable strength” as she describes her indispensable consciousness in “Out of the Barrel” .

Next week, we’ll catch up with the prolific DC-born artistic renaissance woman for an interview and a chance to hear her new smash single, “hunger”.

khadijah
Khadijah Moon Press Photo

What they will say on Twitter when the police shoot me in the back

She was known to be militant

Organized people in parks to sing

And dance

Possibly riot

Although no violence was reported

There might have been.

Who is to really say?

The officer felt threatened

By her almost ten year-old car

With missing hubcaps and door handles

And her big hair

And bigger feet

And crooked eye

That looked at him the wrong way

That spoke profanity in every language to him

In that one look

#AllLivesMatter

Maybe it was the degrees he didn’t know she had

Or the gun she didn’t own

That made him suspicious of her

Maybe she ran too slow when he told her she was under arrest

For nothing

Cause something had to be the reason

He shot her

#PoliceArePeopleToo

The police just don’t shoot you for no reason

And even

if there was no reason

Other than he said she was resisting arrest

We must do our best

To maintain

That in some way, she was insane

#She was fired from more than one job

And she had amassed tickets by the dozens

#She was poor and unmarried with one child

Known to have many lovers

She was raised by a single mother who had children with three different men

#SheWasAHoe

#HereWeGoAgain

She was on unemployment less than a year before her arrest

And this was not the first time before being on it again

#lowlife #shedeservesdit #wegot2dobetterifwewantbetter

I’m sure

She had bad credit score and a whole lot of debt

Particularly from graduate school and education

Better yet,

it seems like she had the potential to cause a lot of trouble

Riling up others and causing a sensation

She was killed after a traffic stop

Causing the officer irritation,

No violation, but—he had a first of the month quota to reach

So what, she was supposedly on her way

to pick up her child and later teach

#slowdown #itsyourfault #shekilledherself

See, We  are not sure,

because

As we said before,

She has a history

Of potential criminality

You heard her history

Imagine her mentality

 

Fortunately, she did not survive

Or she would have been arrested

And who knows what other crimes she would have been charged with

If the officers hadn’t been tested

#End of the report

#Press conference

#Public statement

#The end.

Demonizing the dead is the current new trend

There is no honor in being a paycheck to paycheck living

Black woman wordsmith

You are not of value

You are not worth protecting

There is no virtue in your gifts

 

And, What would the news media say about me

when the police shoot me in the back

most likely

#notonething

Because I am a woman and I am black

–Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Out the Barrel

Through all of the hate

Rotten and sour as clotted milk curd

I crawled upright, steadying myself

and clung there, at the top

Holding tight as King Kong in New York

My fists clinched fast around that peak

Un-pried

as piercing words & angry actions

wrap round my legs

like steel tentacles, heavy and void of feeling

Trying to drag me down yet

I don’t fall

My consciousness, like a lasso of unbreakable strength

Lifts me higher until my feet are no longer

bound by ground and my mind, unblemished and new

no longer

aware that confines once existed

by Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

 

khadijah
Khadijah Moon, hunger–the new smash single!

Passionately human and deliciously creative, DC-born Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is The Creative Midwife, a creativity coach and modern renaissance woman.  She helps creatives give birth to their creative dreams. A playwright, poet, singer & emerging filmmaker, Moon is founder of Liberated Muse Arts Group, the brand she brought to life in 2008 as an online digital community for artists.  Since then, she has produced book anthologies, music & theatrical shows through Liberated Muse, including her production In Her Words which, since 2012,  has been commissioned for performances at the Smithsonian, United States Peace Corps, DC Public Library System and other venues. She is a recipient of a 2015 Individual Artist Award for Non-Classical Music Solo Performance by the Maryland State Arts Council. She lives in Maryland with her partner and their daughter.

Learn more at http://www.thecreativemidwife.com

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

Passionately human and deliciously creative, Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is The Creative Midwife™. Let The Creative Midwife™ Help You Birth Your Creative Dreams Today!

 

The Healing Music of Habib Koite, Modern Griot

koite
Habib Koite

Habib Koite’,  of Mali by way of Senegal, with his band Bamada, is one of my most beloved and favorite musicians.  In the past I’ve bought doubles of his CDs because I wear them out with constant play.

He’s one of those externally beautiful people whose angelic visage seems to communicate the positivity flowing beneath the surface.

Koite
Habib Koite 2015

He plays his guitar in a beautifully unique way; he tunes his instrument to the pentatonic scale and plays on open strings, which is how one plays on the kamale n’goni,  N’goni are traditional West African rhythm harps.

The n’goni have been in existence since 1352, in the court of Mansa Musa, the great ruler of Mali.   It is believed to have evolved into the banjo in North America after Mande people were exported there as slaves.

There are three main types, the djeli, the donso and the kamale.

The djeli n’goni were traditionally used by griots to accompany singing.  The donso (hunter’s harp)  are larger than the kamale n’goni and have six strings,

The smaller kamale n’goni (young man’s harp)  have four or eight strings and are tuned a fourth higher than other n’goni.

They are a more modern addition to the West African stringed instrument family, introduced in the 1960s and made popular in the 80s and 90s in the Wassalou style of music,

koite
Kamale n’goni

In Habib Koite’s songs and  style of playing you can hear a blend of  the Malian Wassoulou and dannsa musical styles, as well as African-American blues, and Spanish flamenco.

In fact, in 1999 Habib and American bluesman Eric Bibb toured in support of the Putumayo compilation Mali to Memphis, which celebrated and paid tribute to the connections between Malian and American blues music.

Koite
Putomayo’s Mali to Memphis

The predominant style played by Habib is based on the danssa, a popular rhythm from his native city of Keyes. He calls his version danssa doso, a Bambara term he coined that combines the name of the popular rhythm with the word for hunter’s music (doso), one of Mali’s most powerful and ancient musical traditions. “I put these two words together to symbolize the music of all ethnic groups in Mali. I’m curious about all the music in the world, but I make music from Mali. In my country, we have so many beautiful rhythms and melodies. Many villages and communities have their own kind of music. Usually, Malian musicians play only their own ethnic music, but me, I go everywhere. My job is to take all these traditions and to make something with them, to use them in my music.”–Habibkoite.com

Music critics worldwide have dubbed Koite a modern griot; this isn’t far-fetched as he hails from “a noble line of Khassonké griots, , traditional troubadours who provide wit, wisdom and musical entertainment at social gatherings and special events.” (http://www.ifas.org.za/)

koite

I’ve heard fans describe him and his band as “West African Sufis” for the vibrant spiritual quality of their sound.

I don’t know if there is some factual basis to that opinion, but I do know how uplifted and soothed I feel when I listen to, sing, or dance to their music.

The song I’m featuring here, “Sirata” is one of my all-time favorites.

It was featured on “Mali to Memphis” as well as Koite’s 2001 CD “Ma Ya”.

It’s not a lullaby, but can lull you with its spiritual, somehow healing beauty. This song, has been known to drive grown men to tears.  Yes–for real!

My son, Ibrahim, now 12, and I saw Koite’ and Bamada perform at Wolf Trap in the late winter of 2005. Ibrahim was under two years old then; it was his first concert,  other than those of his Guinean dancer/drummer/ fire-eater father’s, which he attended as an infant.

Our seats were in the front row.  He was transfixed!

At first Ibrahim sat next to me, but when the entire audience got up to dance and stayed up for the rest of the concert, he attached himself to me.

He spent the rest of the night dancing and swaying with me, his legs wrapped around my waist or hip, his eyes trained on the stage.

At one point Habib Koite and Ibrahim locked eyes as Habib leaned down and played his guitar directly to him.

He nodded to me and smiled, then moved on.   It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say I felt we’d been blessed.

Days later Ibrahim asked for both a guitar and a balafon.

Habib
Ibrahim at 18 months old. The young balafoniste, just like his Uncle Ibrahima Diabate, Master Balafonist of Guinea, for whom he’s named.

How could I say no?

Habib
They call him Gitar Badji. 2006– A year later he was still at it. He is wearing a traditional Malian boubou sent to us by a friend who lived in Mali at the time.

Habib Koite latest album,  Soô (which translates to home) was released in 2014.    Soô takes a direct and loving look at Koite’s homeland of Mali, a country torn apart by violence and terrorism over the last few years.

koite
Habib Koite, 2014

The title of the CD also symbolizes the dream of home for a man who makes his fortune away from friends and family for long stretches of time.

Ever the touring road warriors, Koite and the new lineup of his band, Bamada, are in the midst of a world tour.

I hope to take Ibrahim to one of their U.S. shows in 2016, in either Washington, DC or Raleigh, NC.

In May of 2015 they performed at the Africa Festival in Germany.  The 90 minute video below showcases their performance.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The embedded videos below were removed because the Automatic Play option could not be disabled. Click the link below to enjoy the concert and the bonus interview in full.)

HABIB KOITE and BAMADA: AFRICA FEST 2015

A bonus!: This interview with Habib Koite (in French) at Africa Festival 2015.

Enjoy!  Be well!

~Maura Alia Badji

Impresiones/Impressions, a poema/poem de/by Rafael Ayala Paz

Impresiones/Impressions, a poema/poem de/by Rafael Ayala Paz

impressions

Impresiones

La memoria está en la yema de los dedos
Los colores están en los ojos
La infancia está contenida en la columna vertebral
Los mundos nacen en cascarones rotos
Siempre habrá un signo en todo objeto
Una señal desdibujada en el horizonte
Un presagio de infinito en la noche
Un destello suspendido en la frente
Un viejo olor bajo los guijarros
Un sol rojo detrás de las colinas
Amaneceres en los parpados
Globos flotando en el cielo
Aldeas insospechadas en la planta de los pies
Anémonas gigantes en las nubes
Seres que caminan de cabeza
Soles como pupilas
Buzos ahogados en un vaso de agua
Náufragos de la desesperación
Locomotoras exhalando un enjambre de moscas
Árboles que entienden lo que decimos
Un reloj con brazos y piernas
Una torre sumergida en un charco
Ojos llorando aves
Sueños que conducen sus autos en la noche
Balsas que atraviesan las arterias dejando una estela de estrellas
Canciones buscando la luz
Cielos tensos como codos y brazos
Ciudades edificadas en mi mano izquierda
Soles entre los dedos
Mareas de oídos sordos
Pedazos de playas en la retina
Insectos acuáticos
Mapas de lugares remotos como las galaxias
Discusiones sobre asuntos que pronto olvidaremos
Islas que son sonidos nidos
Impresiones de todo lo soñado
visto
olido
escuchado
presentido
sentido
de gustado
olvidado…

Impressions

Memory is in the fingertips
Colors are in the eyes
Infancy is contained in the backbone
Worlds are born in broken shells
There will always be a sign in every object
made vague in the horizon
An infinite omen in the night
A sparkle suspended on the forehead
An old smell beneath the pebbles
A red sun behind the hills
Sunrises on the eyelids
Balloons floating in the sky
Villages unsuspected in the soles of feet
Giant anemones in the clouds
Beings that walk on their heads
Suns like pupils
Divers drowned in a glass of water
Shipwrecks of desperation
Locomotives exhaling a swarm of flies
Trees that understand what we say
A clock with arms and legs
A tower submerged in a puddle

Eyes crying birds
Dreams that drive their cars in the night
Rafts that navigate the arteries leaving a trail of stars
Songs searching for the light
Skies tense like elbows and arms
Cities built in my left hand
Suns between fingers
Tides of deaf ears
Pieces of beaches in the retina
Aquatic insects
Maps of remote places like galaxies
Discussions over matters that we will soon forget
Islands that are nests of sounds
Impressions of everything dreamed
seen
smelled
heard
sensed
felt
liked
forgotten…

— Rafael Ayala Páez, Zaraza, Guárico, Venezuela

Through the vague, yet intricately woven mysteries of the Internet, I virtually met Rafael Ayala Paez in September of 2012 when he wrote to me via Facebook. He found me through my author listing on the Poets & Writers website, read some of my work, as well as reviews I had written, and invited me to write a brief preface for his forthcoming collection, “La levedad de la materia/ The lightness of matter”.

He also asked if he could translate and publish a few of my poems in Venezuela through the online journal “Negro Sobre Blanco”. I was a little taken aback, because while I’ve had my work published over the years I’m not exactly well-known in the US, let alone Latin America. Yet, he sincerely enjoyed my poems and made it clear that the offer was not one of quid pro quo for writing the preface.

After immersing myself in the deceptively unadorned language of his manuscript I agreed to both requests. His book was published shortly afterwards; two of my poems appeared in the Oct/Nov 2012 edition of “Negro Sobre Blanco” in as translated by Rafael and Brooklyn-based poet/writer/activist Emanuel Xavier.(http://issuu.com/negrosobreblanco/docs/periodico_oct_nov on page 8)

In my preface to “La levedad de la materia/ The lightness of matter”, I wrote:
“Rafael Ayala Paez has the enviable ability to write about the heaviest and deepest of matters —love, sex, death, longing —with the lightest of touches. His is a voice that informs without hectoring, seduces without cloying, convinces without shouting. In La levedad de la materia/ The lightness of matter, his images alight on the page; we can’t help but turn to see where they will lead us next. “

Rafael Ayala Paez’s work is a natural choice for me to include in my week of Virtual Dream Residency here at Ione’s Festival of Dreams; his poetry often seems imbued with the imagery of dreams. Unexpected metaphors and discursive word play accrete only to give way to a suddenly crystallized image imbued with pure though unsentimental emotion.

The Venezuelan poet Gregory Zambrano says of “Impressions”:
“In the poem there are worlds in movements that go from sleep to wakefulness and back, appealing to the confusion of the senses, finding sound and word play, revealing from apparent diversion, a great unease.”

With Rafael’s permission, I’m happy to direct you to a link where you may download a free e-book edition of his 2012 collection; I hope you will read, enjoy, and perhaps reach out to the poet who continues to live fully as a poet and writer despite a less than hospitable national climate of political upheaval, violence (25,000 murders in 2014 alone) and economic pressures.

Once you reach the site, click on the book cover for “The lightness of matter” for the free download.

http://www.poetscoop.org/free.htm

~Maura Alia Badji

The poet: Rafael Ayala Páez was born in Zaraza, Guárico, Venezuela in 1988. He studied at the Universidad Nacional Experimental Simón Rodríguez (UNESR), and was a founding member of the Municipal Writers Network of Zaraza.
His collections include Bocados de silencio and The lightness of matter (both 2012), and his work was featured in The Blue Hour Anthology – A collection of poetry, prose and art (2013).
His poems have been translated into English, German, French, and Hebrew.

The translator: Roger Hickin (b. 1951) is a New Zealand poet, visual artist, book designer, and publisher.
Roger is the director of Cold Hub Press which publishes poetry in several languages, including bilingual chapbooks of poems by two Chilean poets: Juan Cameron (with translations by the celebrated US translator Cola Franzen) and Sergio Badilla Castillo (with translations by Roger Hickin and the author).

Painting: The Reality of Dreams by Carlos A. Soli, Venezuela, 2012

Raven Bland, Norfolk, VA Youth Poet Laureate

laureate
Raven Bland, outside library at ODU. Photo by Bruce Ebert, (Picasa)

Somehow I did not realize until last week that Norfolk, VA has a Youth Poet Laureate.  I found this happy news where I find quite a bit of my media updates–on a friend’s Facebook page.

The Poetry Society of America‘s website states:

The National Youth Poet Laureate initiative (YPL) is a program of Urban Word, an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization, that strives to elevate the voices of teens while promoting civic engagement and social justice.

Raven Bland an alumnus of Teens With a Purpose–The Youth Movement, is the inaugural youth poet laureate for Norfolk and the first in Virginia.  Other cities with laureates include New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Houston and Nashville.

A graduate of Granby High School, she’s currently a history major at Old Dominion University with a political science minor,

Ms. Bland was the subject of a Virginian-Pilot article, by Bruce Ebert, this past May,  in which she spoke about her literary  journey from unsure pre-teen to her state’s first Youth Poet Laureate, an honor she won in April, 2015.

In the Pilot article, Deirdre Love, the Executive Director of Teens With a Purpose, said of Raven Bland,

She inspires me. She embodies the best of what youth is about. She understands that words matter. Any city would be proud to have her as a representative.”

In addition to her title,  Raven Bland will have a  book of her poems published by Penmanship Books; the publisher will also arrange book signing a Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

Poet
Raven Bland, Norfolk, VA, Youth Poet Laureate.

Here are two of her poems. The first, Lady in the Curtains: Hallucination in the Jewish Square of Poland,  was originally published on the Poetry Society of America’s page.

Lady in the Curtains:
Hallucination in the Jewish Square of Poland

I glanced at a curtained window
Thin blue sheets
I imagined an aging analogy
With flowers and butterflies
Attached to thread
I seen a small grey haired head.

Ages were gray
Hair was gray
Skin was pale
Bones as thin as a nail.

I seen her bones grow
Seen her skin fatten
I seen her grin towards me
But nothing happened
I stood still,
Frozen, paralyzed
In wonder,
Curious even.
She glanced right, glanced left.
As she was looking for something.

After a single grin, her lips faded thin,
What was she looking for,
Why was she still here?
Doesn’t she know the attitudes
The hate, the disbelief
They consciously think: God choose you not me.
See, they’re jealous, get out of here, flee.
Go to the place God created you to be.

I stare into her eyes, she’s speaking to me:
This is my home, I created it to be.
They have robbed me of enough,
They won’t take all of me.

She glanced left, glanced right
With her head out her curtained window.
I seen her head then fade in between.

–Raven Bland

 

“Lame”

Your scent swallowed me

As I slide into my blanket. 

I’m laying here lame

I won’t move because

I’m afraid to blow your scent away.

 

It’s only been a couple of days 

Since your body laid underneath.

And yet your scent refuses to leave.

Figures, though

Your strong personality

Dominates and leads.

It doesn’t back down for nobody

And I mean nobody

But me.

 

I remember when you were underneath .

I was there too.

I remember how soft your eyes grew.

Like a turtle,

Hiding under that huge shell

And slowly peeping from beneath.

You didn’t think I saw you,

Because you quickly tried to push yourself back inside

Without the consequences.

 

Your secret is out though baby,

I saw it.

Your shell is just a cover,

You’re all soft underneath.

And I love it.

Don’t hide it from me,

Let me be soft with you,

Out here we can’t survive that way,

But let me come under your shell too

And we can discuss the ways

The stars make our eyes twinkle

And the moon molds our hearts together

How the silence sweeps our thoughts in loops and intertwines.

We can discuss our pasts’ hurts

And maybe even cry.

We can be soft together,

I don’t mind.

 

I remember when you held my hand here,

Them rough hands of man hood

Grabbed my delicate ones.

A piece of me died inside your palms

A layer of me unraveled.

You watched it,

I saw you,

And your eyes were baffled.

 

See if it’s only been about 3 months,

But our friendship has endured much longer.

You didn’t know this side of me,

Didn’t know how strong my gravitational pull was,

How I make your mind wonder.

Didn’t know I could see so deep into you,

In ways no girl before has.

And you grew scared,

I laugh, never in person though,

At how much you were amazed.

At how a woman could treat you in such good ways.

 

It all happened here,

And I can’t help but reminisce.

Your scent swallowed me 

As I slid into my blanket.

I’m laying here lame

I won’t move because

I’m afraid to blow your scent away.

–Raven Bland

 

***Look for an upcoming interview with Raven Bland later this month. 

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