named after lion
May your roar be unleashed;
you were not made to be silent
May your roar be unleashed,
but may your claws stay in hiding
Last month I did something I don't often do.
As in, I don't ever do.
I read a poem I had written off my phone. In front of a crowd. And it was how I set the tone for the monthly spoken word night I host.
I have so many mental reasons why I tell myself I don't do this. 'You're a professional! Real performance poets memorise everything! People expect a certain standard from you!'
And I'm not chucking the baby out with the bathwater. There are good reasons I memorise my poems. I want to wear them like skin for the audiences I share with. I want to know I can look into people's eyes while I share what I have carved out with care. I want to be able to breathe the full life I intended into the phrases I crafted.
But, in all of those reasons, what am I saying about others?
What am I role modelling to the student I urged to share,
even if it was just one shakey line from a phone,
even if it was just saying their name,
even if was just sharing their breath on a stage?
I am saying I am past that. That I am bigger than that. Above that. Beyond that.
But, here and now, I am calling myself out.
I am the student, who sometimes needs to urge myself to share,
even if it's just one shakey line from a phone,
even if it's just saying my name,
even if it's just sharing my breath on a stage.
I'm a learner. I'm small. I'm a work in progress.
So, I did this. I took my own advice. I became vulnerable.
I made a confession.
So, I haven't written a blog entry for a couple weeks.
But a little over a year ago I recorded some of my poetry in a little EP called 'Things I Don't Understand'. I've still got a few copies, and I'll post you one if you'd like (click here)!
Anyway, I thought in lieu of written words this week I'd share one of those recorded poems - I wrote this a while ago now (2009) but it seems more relevant than ever as I watch my little boy learning about the world, surely forming a million questions just waiting for the language he can wrap them in.
This poem is for the child in us,
and the 'grown-up' in us,
that continue to have conversations
in the depths of us.
- even a little idiotic -
but I think,
the most religious person I know
is an atheist
And I can already hear the objections to that sentiment
The crowd switch-off, the flare-up of ‘faith vs. evidence’!
But try to stay with me - this may be relevant
whether you’re a ‘right-wing evangelical’
a ‘progressive intellectual’
or a ‘lefty vegan’ smoking the botanical
I’m not a fan of the labels - trust me; I try to avoid them
(Can’t we just agree we’re all human, and we’re all kind of annoying?)
But I do find it funny that my friend, a Facebook activist
atheistic strategist, trying to save the world
with surprisingly violent words for a pacifist
loves to remind me how backwards my passion is
He’s a university student; he’s doing an arts degree
(So we’ve got something in common; I’ve got an arts degree)
But if you’re asking me - doesn’t matter if you’ve got an arts degree
or a PhD in some form of scientific mastery
Either way, you can still a bastard, be.
Don’t take that as an accusation
I just have some simple observations
the same temptation for self-righteous proclamation
and broad, sweeping condemnation
can be wielded by every variation
of information interpretation
We all want to be right, right?
We all want to lift our hands
or fall to our knees
sing, pray, preach, proselytise, lecture
gather in conferences, forums, theatres
rejoice and lament
about the wonder and the agony
and the mystery, of it all.
about Higgs Bosons, protons, photons,
the complex language of DNA
the injustice of all the pain
the hope of a tomorrow better than today!
Surely these impulses are as human
as believing you’re the ant the universe revolves around?
But religion is a funny concept with myriad meanings
Did you know Jesus seemed to only fight with religious leaders?
Did you know every university textbook was written by someone, or some crew
as grand and flawed as me and you?
Did you know first-class academics have been in favour of eugenics
and beautiful work has been done by ‘uneducated peasants’?
Did you not know that all the boxes break?
We’re all a little messy,
a little religious
a little pretentious
a little evangelical
a little lost
a little in need of comfort
a little in need of restraint
I’m not a fan of the labels - trust me, I try to avoid them
Can we just agree we’re all human, and we’re all kind of annoying?
Beautiful, frustrating, growing children asking question after question
thinking with our stomach, our scratches, our exhaustion
trying to sneak in a bite when we get in a fight
crying for a parent to intervene
because our knees are bruised.
So, how about we
put ourselves aside for a moment
dress each other’s wounds
make some fairy-bread
and play in the streets
'SpeakUP' is one of the things I am most excited about for 2015. I'm absolutely frothing for it.
I've been to a lot of Poetry Slams and Spoken Word nights in the past - and a lot of these events have had a significant influence on my approach to poetry and my continued pursuit of spoken word opportunities. The poetry scene in Australia is amazing, and it just continues to increase in depth and quality, as great events and performers pop up all over the place.
But as I've said to people in the past, I used to struggle with feeling a little too 'hip-hop' at poetry events and a little too 'poetic' at hip-hop events. This wasn't because of anything that anyone said or did - it was just my own insecurity and self-consciousness as someone who didn't feel like I fit cleanly into a specific category. In the last year or two I've embraced my distinct style and felt more confident being someone with influences in both categories. I'm not strictly hip-hop, but as a spoken word artist I can't separate myself from hip-hop. I'm drawn to complex rhyme schemes, fast-paced rhythmic delivery and melodic, hypnotic flows. Hip-hop is the culture and music that has shaped me most significantly as an artist.
So part of the reason I'm particularly excited about SpeakUP is that it represents what I used to crave. As a High School student I would spend my hours on YouTube watching Def Poetry Jam. To see some of my favourite rappers step away from the beat and come out on a stage looking so raw and vulnerable was a powerful thing to behold. I love the openness of spoken word and the myriad of styles that it brings to the table.
But, I really LOVE this particular place
where the VALUES of hip-hop (flippin' something out of nothin', keeping it real, confronting power imbalances),
and the STYLE of hip-hop
meet the SIMPLICITY of spoken word
and the BEAUTY of poetry.
That's unique. That's fresh. That's a place that resonates with my soul.
SpeakUP is an attempt to develop a place and space that is distinctively hip-hop influenced, whilst remaining a very open, welcoming spoken word night. It's likely that the critical mass of performers at these events will generally have a hip-hop background. And yet, having said that I don't want anyone to have the opposite experience I used to feel - I don't want any poets who don't have a hip-hop background to feel like they need to imitate or conform to that style just because the event has a distinctive flavour that is different to their own. I want every writer who steps up to the mic to walk away feeling energized, encouraged and affirmed. The great draw of spoken word has always been (and will always be) its openness and ability to bring together very diverse stories and styles.
So, this is an open event, with a lot of room for the unexpected.
But, should you choose to find yourself at The Lounge Room in Gosford on the 14th of March at 7pm, there are a few things you CAN expect.
Fresh coffee beans, friendly baristas, home-baked treats.
Hip-hop beats and smooth melodies.
Emcees, poets and people who have never performed spoken word before, getting vulnerable on a mic.
A creative community representing some of the best the Central Coast has to offer.
Sounds good, right? I'm frothing.
See you there.
Ben Procter and I used to sit in our year 7 classroom and chat about things we wanted to do in the future. Our list included travelling overseas together, living together, working together and buying a lifetime's supply of Starburst Squirts (not even sure they make those anymore?)
We've ticked off the most important ones in that list - and apart from our sugar cravings our year 7 dreams were fairly aligned with where we are at in our lives today. It always excited me having any opportunity to do something creative with my best mate, who all bias aside, is incredibly talented in all areas of film and media. Do yourself a favour and peruse through his website and see what I mean. We've both recently decided to take the plunge and dedicate ourselves to having a serious attempt at developing our artistic passions and profiles. This video represents a new season for us. It's a very simple, one-shot video, but for Ben it was a chance to try out some new equipment (a gimbal) and for myself this was a poem I wrote to launch 'SpeakUP', a monthly spoken word gathering on the Central Coast which kicked off with a bang in February.
So, simple as it may be this is representative of the season ahead and the projects it will bring.
And at the heart of it is the simple thought that our lives are cluttered, chaotic and complex - and maybe things would be a little less off-balance in this world if we all took a moment to breathe....
Grace and peace to you.