Friday, January 20, 2006


i know, i'm late again. i haven't been inspired towards a particular topic today, and i didn't have the time last night. got some laundry done, though! *sitcom applause track plays* big weekend coming up. ooh- wait! i got something. (ain't that amazing, i actually started to just leave a message along the lines of, i'll holla back at you, like how the hostess and beloved do sometimes, and now here i am about to actually write about something.)

criticism. i like the concept of good constructive criticism. it can be a very good thing. i thought about this as i was remembering how last night, a friend gave me a dvd that recorded me on

i like

good constructive criticism

stage, reading three of my favorite pieces for one of my favorite audiences. it was the night that my parents were in town, so i did three pieces instead of my usual two. it was also the last night that this particular open mic would operate in the year 2005, so it was kind of like, "okay people, what do you want this year to be marked with?" (i just love ending sentences with prepositions - i know better, i just don't care.) i popped in the dvd and fast forwarded to my part. you can't see it, so i'll have to give you the play-by-play, complete with director's - ok, well no, author's - commentary. and for free, no less. ain't the internet grand?

i was introduced by one of the coolest poet friends i have - the one i did the collaborative piece with. my friends made a lot of noise for me - so much so that i had to give them the "y'all are freaking me out a little bit" screwface, which made the audience laugh along with me. i noticed before it was my turn to spit that an earring was missing - i did the logical thing and broke the ice (and entertained the audience) by putting out an a.p.b. for my jewelry. i figured it was worth a shot. i had to deal with the peanut gallery (i love the front row!) asking what they'd receive for finding it. dag, couldn't gratitude be enough? a sista suggested offering a hug as a reward, which i said i could deal with. (aha! yet another dangling preposition.) i told the audience that i had gifts for them, and then began to read my pieces.

the first gift, for women, is entitled snowflakes. it skims the surface of a lot of things we deal with. self image, societal pressures, jealousy, pride, community. men seem to like the piece

i'm trying to give you

the best of my spirit

because i talk about female anatomy in an appreciative way. women seem to like the piece because it's about them and it promotes each of us in our own glory. my mom really likes the piece, too, and i thought she might like to hear it. while watching the video i noticed a lot of moving and shuffling around the room, and for a moment, i felt a little twinge of "shut up can't y'all see i'm trying to give you the best of my spirit?" and then i let it go. isn't that funny though? like my words are manna. um, they're not. sure they're nice, but they're not manna. besides, it's not like i haven't ever been the murmur in the crowd.

i looked at myself. i tried to look at me as if i wasn't myself. as if the girl on stage was some other person, completely separate from the girl on the couch watching - as if i only knew her by stage name and face. i saw a young lady, clutching a tattered black and white marble composition book, wearing tight jeans and some flowing interesting looking brown shirt thingie and a round

i wanted to hear her

tell the story

disc necklace where her collarbones kiss, right in front of the origin of her voice. her voice was strong, clear, and sincere. very matter-of-fact. sounded like a definite alto. she seemed, with the exception of her dependence on the book, comfortable behind the mic. here and there, she would move, shifting weight from one hip to the other, or shifting the book from one hand to the other, or turning the page. here and there, a hand would reach out and speak with her to emphasize her words and pantomime her emotion. she didn't keep her eyes on the book at all times. sometimes, she would look up during spots where she apparently didn't need the book, or just on g.p. to look at the audience, as if she was reading ahead and then grabbing eye contact like air where she could, so that she could look out and say hello every few lines or so and help to tell the words with her facial expressions - her rolled eyes, her smiles... she could use some more growth on stage - getting rid of that book being a major step. but i wasn't displeased with what i saw. i liked her. listening to her didn't bore me. even though i knew where the piece was going, i wanted to hear her tell the story.

the next piece i read was dear to my heart. i was minding my own business (when does anyone ever NOT mind their own business in a story) and the words started happening in my head, and i had to get paper and a pencil to write it down. i remember the emotion i felt when i wrote it. i

a joy to write and express

was crying before i'd finished the piece, and if i remember correctly, the original written copy has a tear stain or two on the page. it is entitled altar, and i read it often, perhaps because i hope that its empassioned plea for peace and understanding between black men and black women will be internalized and acted on by any and everyone who hears it. i always make a special point to read it with as much emotion as i can, because it was a labor of love - well, really a pleasure, because it was a joy to write and express. i dedicated it to the men. i've gotten good feedback from both men and women on the piece. men say it makes them feel appreciated. women say that the words are taken out of their mouths. i was happy that my dad was there to hear that loving, passionate part of myself, since i so rarely like to show anybody (especially him) the feelings and vulnerabilities and sensitivity inside of me, 'cause i don't want pity or for anyone to worry about me or think of me as weak (i have a poem about that, too, and a topic i should blog about one day).

my last poem surprised even me. i hadn't planned on reading it. another poet wrote a piece, "i want to be assassinated," which describes his desire to be, as they say, out for his people. he encouraged others to write their own versions and riff off of him. i had no intention of doing so,

i wasn't expecting

that amount of power

to come out of me

but you never can predict inspiration's results. one night, two poets i respect were doing their versions, and the first lines of my poem screamed at me. "he wants to be assassinated/because all great men are/so i am preparing to be a widow." i read the piece to the other poets who had versions, and to the originator, who was in town on leave from serving this country. it was his last night with us before going back to uncle sam, and he said he wanted me to spit it out, so i did. with a vehemence and a strength that was literally growing right there while i was on stage. watching the tape, i didn't know how much strength and resolve was steaming out of my pores when i was behind the mic. i wasn't expecting that amount of power to come out of me. i don't think anyone was. but there it was, and the audience was cheering me on, and when i finished, people stood up and hollered. for me. including my parents, who'd never seen me recite on stage before. i'll never forget the "hercules, hercu-leeees" look on my mom's unashamed that's-MY-baby face, and the props i got from my dad. it was a night to remember.

and to critique. 'cause i know what i want to improve on from watching myself. criticism is good. i timidly but sincerely volunteered some constructive feedback to another poet last night, and was surprised by how grateful he was to have someone say something other than, "yeah, that was tight," or "yeah, i liked it." critique can help you grow.

and growth is the goal, right?

a postscript: a sista did find my earring. and i did give her a hug.