Friday, May 26, 2006


so i did the two new pieces... at one point in the evening, it looked like we weren't going to get through everyone who'd signed the open mic list, so each poet was limited to just one piece, myself included. i had to make a choice. i could either read the first one i'd finished, one that is creative and fun to read, but which is something that's more expected of me, or the other one i'd planned to try - the one i was nervous about sharing because...

well, because it has a refrain that is sung.

i sing all the time. been singing since i was about seven or eight years old. but i don't sing for audiences, not solo anyway. i've sang with others, on a choir, the happy birthday song, my sorority hymn, the national anthem, the black national anthem... you know, stuff like that. but as a general rule, i don't sing for audiences by myself. i lack confidence, training, and a few essential skills. it's not, as one of my role models would say, my dominant gift, so i don't emphasize it, or often tell people that i like to do it. i consider it a public service. it's only right. i wish someone would tell a few other folks to consider this same policy, but i digress.

a poet i look up to and admire for his skills and his sincerity was on the stage before i was. he didn't share his pieces right off the bat - he talked about how as artists, we need to stop hiding pieces of ourselves, take a chance every once in a while, and jump off a cliff. he reminded us that we're all family, and that we should be able to do that - to take artistic chances - with each other. ain't that something? and he hadn't even read yesterday's blog (nobody had, i'd posted it too late LOL). i decided, right then and there, that if we wound up getting cut down to one piece by the time it was my turn to take the mic, that i would choose the piece that would require my courage.

and that's exactly what happened. i, honestly, told the folks i was nervous, and that i was glad the crowd had thinned out... then i stalled by telling folks via public announcement about the slam we'll be having in a few weeks in south philly... then something in me jumped off a cliff. i opened my mouth, and singing came out. i don't know how it sounded, but it felt like someone was behind me and just pushed me onto a stage from behind a curtain, making me stumble forward and just start. and then it was like putting one foot in front of the other - the more i kept going, the closer i was to getting to the spoken verses, and the next thing you know, i was safe in my world of spoken words again. that wasn't so bad... but right near the end of the first set of spoken verses, i considered cutting the refrain to keep from having to sing again, and just continuing to speak. but i couldn't listen to that fear. i knew that if i did, the piece's character and impact on the listener would change, and that it wouldn't serve its purpose if i altered it, so when the time came to sing again, i opened my mouth, and the words came out. i didn't modulate much - just when my spirit needed to - i simply stuck to the melody and was faithful to the piece as it was intended... and then something special happened.

don't laugh at me... i'm serious, now, don't laugh.

i had a ji.ll scot.t moment. no, i didn't think i was her, or the next best thing, or anything like that. but see, she puts forth the impression that she LOVES what she does immensely. like it's what she was born to do. i've always admired her talent, and how it seems that as a writer, she writes what's in her heart and shares that with people, instead of guessing what people wanna hear and catering to that. you can hear it in the sincerity of her delivery. it makes people feel good. it makes her feel good - you can tell. and at one point when i was singing, i realized that i was doing exactly that - i was sharing the contents of my heart, on a piece that dealt with ministering to the spirit of a friend in need, which is something that is very important to me. i knew the piece was something that perhaps people could get courage and strength from - and the import of the fact that i was really actually finally sharing myself in that way occurred to me, and i was so joyful, i just modulated for the heck of it, and it didn't sound bad at all. it was bliss to share so freely. i couldn't believe i had been scared.

jump off a cliff indeed! i've never done it, but i wonder if the adrenaline rush is as unspeakably wonderful as the feeling that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, right when you're supposed to be doing it.

course now my cherry is broken. i have no excuse to fear sharing that piece again. and the encouragement i got from other poets, even strangers, made me feel like i hadn't made a fool of myself for jumping off that cliff. it's a good feeling to have it pay off when you take a chance. a friend told me this morning that he really felt me deeply. the words did their job. i can't ask for much more than that. and i'm glad i didn't punk out.