Elsie was a straight A student
a dutiful daughter and a fluent speaker
of three languages
two of which were colonial.
I spoke only English
was outwardly dutiful
but cared more about learning
and had the grades
to prove it.
We became mismatched friends
Elsie and I
enough so, I felt empowered to ask
why the French French teacher called her
Americans say Tuyet is hard to pronounce
so to make it easy I chose Elsie.
I tested it out on my one language tongue:
Tuyet, two syllables
that tied her to the territory of her birth
I tested Elsie out the same way.
Two syllables, also
but disconnected from anything
truly having to do with her.
Then, moans not mine
manifested through walls
like copulating ghosts.
Now, when I hear sounds
through the walls
I remember my own moans
and how they climaxed
into this life
where I am a mother
listening to my child
read himself to sleep.
Face and Masks Cento
Ever since dawn
the ground has been steaming
pleading for a drink
while the living seek shade
and fan themselves.
Hidalgo spent the night with his eyes
fixed on the ceiling of the cell
My father didn’t put me among the rich
or the generals or those who have money
or claim to have it.
My father put me with the poor
because I am poor.
At the edge of the village of Morón
a common grave
swallows the bones of a poet
who until yesterday
had a guitar
and a name.
His unshrouded body
ends up in the earth;
his couplets, also naked,
abide in the winds.
On the street
from a guitar.
About the Poet:
Tichaona Chinyelu is a writer, mother and author of three books of poetry: In the Whirlwind,Still Living on my Feet and Contraband Marriage. Ms. Chinyelu’s work has been published in LineZero, Step Up to the Mic: A Poetry Explosion and various online journals including Poems of Solidarity for Haiti – In Motion Magazine, Sierra Leone Web, etc.
Ms. Chinyelu has also published books by A. Shakur Towns, Melanie YeYo Carter and Abena Isake under the banner of her publishing company, Whirlwind Publishing. She also maintains a blog at stilllivingonmyfeet.com.
We all want someplace we can go where humanity and sensitivity wins over bigotry and guilt.
Smallish green striped awning
Long narrow room
Dark Wood paneling
Ceramic tiled floors
Elaborate Large Candelabra
Sconces with candles
Small round tables
Off with the Masks
She got fired from her church organist job for playing here in the early 70’s.
She’s on tonight. Her jazz is filling the air like sparklers circling voice and keys.
Ah it’s a special night and she is generous to share her stage. Everyone is here.
Tom D is soon off to Nashville and she hammers the keys while he sings his I don’t want to go but risking all to expand my soul song.
Melanie follows her light opera university trained voice changes the mood rising up from her small stocky life container.
John, a Karaoke regular, never took his eyes away from his heart while she sang, rises to pour his turn into the drink.
Humble Yolanda enters stage left with Ann. Oh no she won’t. Everyone is on their knees so she gives in in the end with amazing grace.
Check out the calendar and don’t miss the rest.
Age, Gender, Sexual Preference, Race, Culture
Sophisticated, Intellectual, Friendly Clientele
You never know who you may meet.
I’ll be there dancing on the last stump.
Smiles, Kisses, Hugs
The Poet and Artist:
Janette K. Hopper is a retired Professor who was raised in Idaho in an active outdoor family. During college, she served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Maria la Baja, Columbia SA and afterward was a partner in a beef, grain and hay operation in Idaho. Since receiving her MFA from the University of Oregon, she has taught in Denmark, Germany and in the United States at Columbia Basin College WA, Central Michigan University and, as the Art Department Chair, at the University of North Carolina Pembroke. Her work has been shown and collected extensively in museums, public venues, colleges and universities and in private galleries nationally and internationally in Germany, France, The Netherlands, Canada, Bulgaria, Italy and Denmark.
As a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship she spent a year in Denmark, where she began to have European one-person exhibits starting in Copenhagen with a prestigious grant from Danish Fulbright. Her landscape paintings and prints were included in a Fulbright juried retrospective in Washington, DC and also with New York artists in the Lincoln Center and in many other juried exhibitions internationally. She has exhibited in art centers and galleries in the United States, Germany, France, Bulgaria and Italy and, as a member of Paleur International, in Denmark.
She has works in many permanent collections including: The Gilkey Collection Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, the City of Mannheim Germany, the Museum of Humor and Satire in Gabrovo Bulgaria, Padagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg, Ludwigsburg Germany, Gonzaga University Spokane WA, The National Park Service, Stehekin WA, many works purchased by the Washington State and Oregon State Arts Commission for permanent display in public venues, Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles CA, Bald Head Limited, Bald Head Island NC, UNCP Livermore Library, Pembroke NC, Prints Arts Northwest, Portland OR, SGC International, University of Mississippi, Oxford MS and the Marselisborg Gymnaseum in Aarhus
Janette K Hopper – Artist Statement
My works are inspired by the special places I have experienced while hiking, camping and kayaking. I have explored beaches, mountains, black water swamps, creeks, fields and visited many unique beautiful places. The outdoors long has enchanted me and inspired my art. I have learned how significant fire is to the land, water to the swamps and marshes and the interrelation of all these elements to the animals and plants we call nature. As an artist, Cezanne came close to finding an artistic mode to express his feelings about nature. It is my journey too, as an artist to observe nature and then share with you what I see through the materials and techniques of art. Through my searching gaze, artistic discipline and my sensitivity to the processes and materials of art I hope you will enjoy and feel the influence of nature in my works.
I love our parks and wild lands. I want them sustained not depleted because of exploitation and monetary motives but preserved so that all of us can find a deeper meaning. The wealth of solitude, wildness, and beauty that so enriches our inner lives and brings us peace enables us to join together and build a future.
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.
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 andthisis 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Rose Gallery “The Cosmology of Resistance and Transformation” Leonardo Benzant
Opening Reception: November 6, 2015
The Poet: 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.
Raven Bland describes herself as someone who doesn’t seek attention, but there is a directness and a strength in her voice which makes one pay attention to her words. Raven Bland, featured on The Moxie Bee earlier this week, is Norfolk, VA’s first Youth Poet Laureate. Despite a very busy schedule packed with college courses at ODU, part time work, and her YPL duties, Raven agreed to an interview last week.
The Moxie Bee: Do you find time to write as a working college student?
Raven Bland:I don’t have those moments that I used to have where I’d sit down and say, “I’m going to write.” If something happens or I’m feeling a certain way, I will write it out. But, if I’m not inspired I don’t very often.
The Moxie Bee: What are you reading right now?
Raven Bland: *laughs* Text books! I’m a History/Poli. Sci major, so there is a LOT of reading. My sister got me this app called Watt Pad where new writers who aren’t yet famous can upload short stories or even a chapter of a book. In between things I can just read a couple short stories or part of a novel.
The Moxie Bee: What was the first poem you ever read?
Raven Bland: Mine or someone else’s?
The Moxie Bee: *laughs* Both.
Raven Bland: *laughs* OK. The first poem I read of my own was at my church. I belonged to the youth group and we had just changed our name to “THIS”, which stands for Totally His. I wrote a poem about the name change and the meaning behind it. I read it from the page. Now I like doing spoken word performances better.
The Moxie Bee: Better than reading the poem from the page?
Raven Bland: Yes. I was very nervous. But that was an amazing day.
The Moxie Bee: How do you deal with nerves when you perform now?
Raven Bland: I just try to relax. I don’t think about . I look over my poems a little beforehand, and that’s it. Usually, my family is there–so I talk to them.
The Moxie Bee: What about the first poem you read by another writer?
Raven Bland: Well, it wasn’t really a poem, but when I was younger, maybe 11 or 12, I read Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, and how she overcame silence by reading books in the library and then expressing herself through writing–that really spoke to me. I wanted to write, too.
The Moxie Bee: And you did!
Raven Bland: Yes!
The Moxie Bee: Who are your favorite poets?
Raven Bland: Maya Angelou! *laughs* I really love what she did.
The Moxie Bee:*laughs* Yes, I read her around the same age you did. She made an impression. Any other poets?
The Moxie Bee: What are your duties as Norfolk, VA’s Youth Poet Laureate?
Raven Bland: I’ve done a lot of functions , especially during the summer. I spoke and did a reading for Norfolk Public Library’s Summer Reading program at the new library downtown. One of the poets from TWP turned one of my poems into a song. She sang the first stanza and then I read and she sang the last stanza.
The Moxie Bee: I would’ve loved to hear that! This was at the Slover Library?
Raven Bland: Yes. It was very nice. Also I do a lot of work with the Norfolk Police Department. I spoke and read at an anti-bullying rally. Also anti-gang programs.
The Moxie Bee: That’s great to hear. They keep you busy?
Raven Bland: Yes, you know Norfolk has a lot of issues with gang and gun violence. So we need programs like that.
The Moxie Bee: Yes, I taught in Norfolk.
The Moxie Bee: What has been your favorite part of being Norfolk, VA’s Youth Poet Laureate?
Raven Bland: I meet lots of new people. I’ve made some good connections, especially at the non-profit organizations. After college I’m interested in a career with a non-profit, or maybe with the government.
The Moxie Bee: Since you were the very first one, what advice would you have for the next Youth Poet Laureate?
Raven Bland: Know yourself. Know what you’re passionate about, because you’re going to have a chance to reach a lot of people. It really makes it easier if you know your passion and have a plan.
The Moxie Bee: What, specifically are your passions? We talked about your work with the NPD on anti-gang/anti-bullying initiatives. Are there other areas you are passionate about?
Raven Bland: My passions are history, political science,religion, and social awareness for the most part.
I’m passionate about compelling people to educate themselves and read up on issues themselves and not depend on generational sentiments about race, or the government, etc. Learn for yourself by listening to various media outlets, newspapers, and magazines. Learn how the government works and not just complain about it. No one can argue with facts, but any one can argue against emotions.
So I said all that to say, I am passionate about education and awareness with anything that you can possibly learn about and form an opinion on.
I hope that answers your question, at least a little.
The Moxie Bee: Yes, that was a very thoughtful answer.
The Moxie Bee:When does your book come out?
Raven Bland: Right now I’m sorting through poems. I have a big binder of poems going back to 2007. I’m picking out the ones I feel belong in the book. The goal is to have it ready by the end of January. Mr. Nathan, is helping me with it; he’s really my mentor for the book project.
The Moxie Bee: I know Nathan Richardson through Facebook and his writing. We’ve spoken a couple times. Great guy. And busy! Wonderful that you’re working with him on the book. When will it be released?
Raven Bland: We’re aiming to get it out in April 2016, before the next Youth Poet Laureate is chosen.
The Moxie Bee: I can’t wait to read it.
Raven Bland: Thank you!
The Moxie Bee: Thank you for making time to talk with me. I know how busy you’ve been, so it’s appreciated.
Raven Bland: Oh, you’re welcome! I enjoyed it.
Raven Bland and I corresponded a bit by email after our interview. Those of you who know me will recognize that when it comes to young writers and poetry, sometimes I can’t help myself. Dismayed that such a talented writer as Ms. Bland was not currently reading or being exposed to more contemporary poets, I apologized for being a ‘Poetry Busybody” and sent her a list of poets, books, and poetry video links.
She assured me that I was “perfectly fine” to send her the list and that an older cousin who is also working on a book often encouraged her to widen her literary horizons. She told me that although she does not have a lot of time she would check out the list.
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”.
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
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
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
Cause something had to be the reason
He shot her
The police just don’t shoot you for no reason
if there was no reason
Other than he said she was resisting arrest
We must do our best
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
She was on unemployment less than a year before her arrest
And this was not the first time before being on it again
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,
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
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
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
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
aware that confines once existed
by Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman
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.
Impresiones/Impressions, a poema/poem de/by Rafael Ayala Paz
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
Mapas de lugares remotos como las galaxias
Discusiones sobre asuntos que pronto olvidaremos
Islas que son sonidos nidos
Impresiones de todo lo soñado
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
Maps of remote places like galaxies
Discussions over matters that we will soon forget
Islands that are nests of sounds
Impressions of everything dreamed
— 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.
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
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.
“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.
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,
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.
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.
Your strong personality
Dominates and leads.
It doesn’t back down for nobody
And I mean nobody
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.
***Look for an upcoming interview with Raven Bland later this month.
A breath or claw disturbs your
In dreams it always lumbers
You run or freeze, you hold
Some breath or claw disturbs
and it’s the animal you chose.
its hundred eyes and funk of
A breath or claw disturbs your
In dreams it always lumbers
Karen Craigo’s first full-length poetry collection, No More Milk, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016. She teaches writing in Springfield, Missouri
“I had a dream last night that the government started questioning the income of independent artists & requiring a license for us to do what we do.
I woke up from that dream knowing that such a thing could happen in real life (Don’t doubt these fools these days). And that my inner God will always be my “license.”
And, of this world, I will always be unafraid.”
When I asked Alyesha Wise if I could have some of her work to share here during my Dream Residency for Ione’s Annual Dream Festival, she sent me a selection that included her TEDxPasadenaWomen talk and a Button Poetry spoken word performance.
At first I didn’t see that what she sent me :fit” into the theme of dreams/dreaming, but I kept listening. Soon the hazy clouds of unknowing parted; I saw that all she had sent me had to do with dreams, were indeed the stuff of dreams brought into reality.
Alyesha Wise, poet, writer, spoken word artist, is the living embodiment of the dreams she had as a young girl, a young Black girl who dreamed of being a writer. Listen to her TEDx talk and you will hear her speak of the little girl who dreamed of a women who was all about creating poems, and never taking any shit. A woman whose words created her world.
Hear her poem “To This Black Woman Body, Part I”, and you will learn how a skinny Black girl, who once doubted her right to claim womanliness, who once feared the repercussions that came running after a girl “walking like a woman”, who then came to create and live the dream of a Black woman loving and accepting herself, including her particular Black woman’s body as it is, as she lives in it.
I see the acts of imagining, creating, and inhabiting a reality you and others did not at first see as some of the most rewarding, important, and radical acts of dreaming. Dreaming into your life, living into your dreams.
I invite you to listen, learn, savor and share the words of Alyesha Wise’s dreams.
Alyesha Wise is a published Poet, Teaching Artist and TEDx Speaker who launched her artistic career in Philadelphia, Pa. Currently residing in Los Angeles, Alyesha was the 2014 DPL Grand Slam Champion and a member of the 2014 and 2015 DPL Slam Teams. She is also a 2-time Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist, a 2-time Philadelphia Grand Slam Champion and Assistant-coach of the Get Lit Youth Slam Team in L.A., who placed 3rd in the world in 2014.
Some of her additional highlights include, but aren’t limited to, a 2012 interview with American Film Director, Ron Howard – An artist feature in the Google Interstellar Project, specifically a “Time Capsule” documentary presented by Google Play and Christopher Nolan, in conjunction with the hit movie, Interstellar – and being told by co-founder of Essence Magazine, Russell Goings, “In All, You Are Awesome.”