Thank you to the great Michael Broder and Indolent Books for publishing my poem, dear america.
I’m excited to perform a brand new piece!!!
LaMama Theatre / 74 E. 4th St/ NYC / 8pm/ Monday April 17th
$10 BUY Tickets HERE
Poetry Electric gathers some unique artists to share their wonderful spoken words.
Performances by HD Artemis, Phyllis Capello, Heather Eatman, Heide Hatry, Nicole Goodwin, Aimee Herman, Jane LeCroy, Indigo Moon (Kate Hess), Clea Rivera, Ilka Scobie, Sandy Simona, & Susan Spangenberg
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
HD Artemis – Priestess, Poet, Producer. A relational artist, primarily exploring the intersection of experiences between subject and object, the mystical and the mundane, and people, places and things. She uses various forms in order to provide an outlet for her creative expression including creating images in stained glass, folding origami, writing and producing events that bring people together for meaningful reasons.
Phyllis Capello is a NYFA fellow in fiction & a winner of an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. Her work appears in: “The Dream Book,” “From the Margin,” “The Milk of Almonds,” “Ping Pong Magazine,” “Embroidered Stories,” “Well & Often Press” & in the college textbook, “Reading, Writing and Reacting.” She entertains children & families in hospitals. Her poetry collection, “Packs Small Plays Big,” is forthcoming from Bordighera Press.
Heide Hatry is a New York based German artist, whose work transforms, transcends, or transgresses the customary relationship of artist to both audience and art. Among her fundamental preoccupations are identity, gender roles, the nature of aesthetic experience and the meaning of beauty, the effects of knowledge upon perception, and the human exploitation of the natural world. She studied and taught art at various schools in Germany while simultaneously conducting an international business as an antiquarian bookseller. She has curated numerous exhibitions, has shown her own work at museums and galleries around the world, has edited many printed books and art catalogs and 4 books document her own art. Her most recent book, Icons in Ash is accompanying her exhibition at Ubu Gallery (until May 12)
Aimee Herman is a Brooklyn-based performance artist, poet, and writing/literature teacher at Bronx Community College. Aimee has been widely published in journals and anthologies including cream city review, BOMB, nerve lantern, Apogee and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books) with two full-length books: meant to wake up feeling (great weather for MEDIA) and to go without blinking(BlazeVOX books). Aimee hosts a monthly series in NYC called Queer Art Organics, featuring LGBTQ writers and performers and plays ukulele/vocals in the poetry/band collective Hydrogen Junkbox. For more, go to aimeeherman.wordpress.com
Jane LeCroy: NYC based poet, singer and performance artist who fronts the avant-pop band, The Icebergs, and the psychedelic experimental music project, Ω▽Ohmslice. She has toured with: the SF based all women’s poetry troupe, Sister Spit. Jane is a poet-in-the-schools through Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Her chapbook, Names, published by the art-book house Booklyn, in the award-winning, ABC chapbook series, was purchased by the Library of Congress along with her braid! Three Rooms Press published, Signature Play, a multimedia book of lyrical poems, nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The Icebergs just released their debut album, Eldorado, from http://www.ImaginatorRecords.com available everywhere (iTunes, Spotify, Band camp Amazon etc.)
Indigo Moon (Kate Hess) is an emcee, spoken word poet, and vocalist, whose passion is to cultivate authenticity. Her first poem was published at the age of 11. She released her 1st soundscapes EP, “Lucid Earth,” this past winter, besides other promotional tracks. She is in the process of releasing other recordings of various genres, such as hip hop, dub, and house. Indigo Moon represents synthesizing the light and darkness. “Moments R Movements…We R Rhythm.”
Clea Rivera is a writer and actress. Her solo shows, Food Of Life, and No Vacancy, both premiered at La MaMa’s Poetry Electric series. Her ten-minute multi-character play, Bistro Blues, was produced and performed in Los Angeles last fall. As an actress, Clea has worked extensively in regional theatre, in NYC ( Lincoln Center Institute, Women’s Project), and with Ralph Lee’s Mettawee River Theatre Company. She is a regular collaborator with musician, Harry Mann, with whom she is currently developing The Bard And The Blues.
Ilka Scobie is a native New Yorker whose recent work appears in Brooklyn Rail, London Artlyst, Poetry in Performance and the anthology Resist Much Obey Little. She teaches poetry in the NYC public school system and is a deputy editor of Live Mag.
Sandy Simona is an international, interdisciplinary, multimedia artist & physical storyteller currently based in New York City. Her award winning solo show, LOST IN LVOV, has performed nationally (NY, NJ,LA) and internationally ( Poland, Estonia, Canada), awarded Best SATIRE (featured in American Theatre Magazine) Sandy’s writing, choreography and devised work has been shared and performed nationally in the US at The Guthrie Theater, CalArts (LA), Highways (LA), LA Mama ( NY) and Internationally at The Au Brana Cultural Centre (France), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival( Scotland),Teatr Syerna (Poland), and Monomafia (Estonia) Sandy is a physical theatre choreographer, Professor/Educator teaching Acting & Movement in NYC/NJ & frequently travels to teach in festivals along side sharing her work. Most recently Sandy was a featured teaching artist & performer at: “The BIG IF” in Barcelona, Spain.Www.lostinlvov.com & www.sandysimona.com
Susan Spangenberg is a painter, writer and actor who performs under the name, Shyla Idris. Stay tuned for the upcoming performance of her solo show, ‘RUN. HIDE. BE QUIET.’ with Poetry Electric Series, Fall 2017 at La MaMa. susanspangenberg.com
first published by great weather for MEDIA
Audre Lorde asked, “what are the words you do not yet have?”
I ask my students to bring to class the largest sack they can find. Made from forest or skirt or their least favorite weather pattern.
But it must be the curvature of empty, I add.
I arrive early and some of the students are sucking on the neon haze of their cell phones. One travels their neck and shoulder to places I’ve never been to before because of the music collected in the drum of their ears.
When it is time, I ask them to clear their desks of everything but their sack.
(They are quite used to these odd requests from me.)
I am wearing pants, color of crushed moss, with long-distance pockets.
Dig long fingers—once described as emaciated pianos—down deep and lift out as many question marks as I could fit inside.
I dump them onto desk and ask my students what they see.
Lines. Curls. Arches. A mountain?
Each student receives a question mark to place into their sack. The ones who insist get more.
We walk around the room with our voices, practicing how to use our question marks.
Lorde wrote, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
I urge my students to rise. They clutch their sacks, which beg to be filled.
Here is when I begin the list of what will go inside our sacks:
- the discolored fist-marks on skin
- the hisses, hauntings, hunted parts of us
- mirrors or any reflective glass that forgets to disclose our most important bits: our insides
- every pronoun that mispronounced us
- all the no’s incorrectly heard as yes
- our childhood (optional)
- the memory of that time someone told us to let go of reaching because arms are never long enough to get us out and through
- every single box which has boxed us in
- that scar hidden behind a different one, shaped like an EXIT sign
- the words: I can’t
Our muscles grow vocal chords, working hard to lift what now overflows.
Some students are still confused. Several are crying.
Audre Lorde reminded us, “We were never meant to survive.”
So I ask my students, what can we do to remain?
I can tell them all about how classrooms felt like cliffs to me and I jumped more times than I can remember. That the few times I remained were because a teacher gave me a sack to fill with words. And questions. And dreams. And poems.
I can tell them that I still hoard questions marks in my pockets and beneath my tongue because there is so much I do not know and cannot claim to understand.
I can tell them that for every time I was incorrectly pronounced, I could feel my mouth’s zipper get thicker and stronger and tougher. Creating my invisibility.
But it’s not about me. So, I wait for them to decide how to feel. How to react. How to respond. Give them paper to write on and words to read to fuel their question marks.
To keep them here a little longer.
Which keeps me here too.
previously published by great weather for MEDIA
When can we start to admit that the more doors we close on people—locking them out—the more ledges we are, in turn, building for them to jump from.
This doesn’t need to be political.
I ask my students: Raise your hand if you went to the bathroom today. They look at me, inquisitively, wondering why I would ask such a personal question.
Slowly, they all raise their hands.
Then, I say: How many of you paused at the rectangular sign announcing who gets to enter? How many of you didn’t relate to the word or image announcing a gender you may not prescribe to? How many of you just held it in because a possible urinary tract infection made more sense than entering a room that didn’t include (or welcome) you.
This doesn’t need to be political.
This is simply about a universal human function. In fact, maybe our bladders can be the thread that finally sews us all together, reminding us we are human. We are not the same, but we connect. We all just need to urinate sometimes.
In a recent article in the NY Times, Janet Mock wrote, “When trans students are told that they cannot use public facilities, it doesn’t only block them from the toilet. It also blocks them from public life.”
If you’ve ever gone camping, I mean, without the nearby showers and stalls, real wilderness without wifi signal, simply stars and moon and occasional bear sightings. You’d know that there are no separations. The earth doesn’t care about what gender you identify as. The soil does not lean toward a particular political party. It exists for you to dig your fingers into. To squat over and pee. To dig your hole and…well, I think you get it. Maybe this is why I love camping so much. Because I can be my loudest version of wild. Be naked (at times). I am not woman or man or ma’am or girl. I am just flesh. Wild and free.
I wasn’t supposed to still be here; I think this thought almost everyday about all the ways I have tried to erase myself. And all the ways government and others have tried to do the same.
I just want my students to remain. To feel embraced in a world where walls are replacing welcome mats. It is difficult enough to exist without all these question marks growing inside a body and mind.
For me, it is not UTI or bust. Though I linger at times and wish for more options, I walk into the F room. Women’s. Ladies. The one wearing the dress.
I try not to make eye contact with anyone, circa 1990s high school gym locker room.
I walk into a stall and squat. Try not to make eye contact with my vagina because we are so often not on speaking terms. I just need to pee. Wipe. Pants up. Flush. Wash hands without engaging in mirror contact.
We all do this. We all go to the bathroom. So, why not make it just a little less stressful and offer more options. Take the signs down. Or add another one like: FOR ALL.
I’m not interested in starting a campaign to investigate the obscene amount of urine splattered on toilet seats. I just want people to feel more welcome nowadays.
And I only want ledges to be homes for pigeons, not humans who’ve been pushed out, whose bodies have become politicized. Perhaps we need to take the time to ask: Who are you (today)? How do you feel? What do you need in order to be who you are for even just one more day?
first published by great weather for MEDIA
It is similar to when you are in high school. You are in the cafeteria and the smells of imposter pizza and imitation chicken nuggets lead you to almost forget about your deafening hunger. You’ve got your lunch and your over-stuffed backpack and your quintessential post-pubescent pimples and you’re ready to search out a table to sit at.
Usually, you’d be sitting with _______, but you are no longer speaking because of _________ or __________, but probably because ___________ said ______________.
So, you sit elsewhere and pretend that person who you used to call your best friend simply no longer exists. This friend who knows that you used to pick your nose and then eat your findings. Who knows that you had a crush on Judith Light from “Who’s the Boss”. Who knows that you sometimes forget to brush your teeth and hair. Who knows simply all of you (thus far).
You pretend to easily digest your lunch even though you ache. Even though this friend who was like part of you is like a stranger now.
It is like that.
Except this isn’t high school and the friend who held the other half of your BFF charm is your body. Yeah, it’s like that.
But here is the twist.
Cut to twelve years later or fifteen or twenty and you see this friend and you don’t know how to act. Can you just say hello after all this time? Do you pretend you didn’t spread rumors about each other and that most (if not all) were true?
Somewhere in my twenties I had a massive fight with my body and banned it from sitting at my lunch table. What I mean to say is: I ignored IT. Gave IT away to strangers. Handed IT over to people who didn’t even care enough to learn how many vowels are in my name. Dressed IT up, even though the lace was itchy and the push-up was too pushy.
It doesn’t matter why (that’s another month/another poem/another story), but what matters is I let go of IT. I stopped addressing IT, asking IT questions: Does this feel ok? Am I mispronouncing you? What is off limits?
After years of the silent treatment, I started to call my body QUEER. It felt slanted, but not exactly toward anything specific, just away from WOMAN. Away from GIRL. Away from SHE.
I covered up the parts I gave away. I ripped off my pronoun. I cut my hair. I grew out my hair. I asked my breasts to stop addressing me. I grew attracted to those who slanted too. I liked the ones who understood what it was like to be engaged in bouts of silence with their bodies. I liked not having to explain why I cried every time I was touched.
For me, I just wanted to erase everything I had done to IT. Hide the parts that had been broken into (by others and myself).
And then. One day—it happened to be a Saturday—I saw IT. We sort of made eye contact, but both immediately turned away. I almost didn’t recognize it; it had been so long.
When I was old enough to get a tattoo (18), my friend and I (who shared the same birthday) went to a small shop on route 9 in a strip mall in New Jersey, and got inked. She got a fairy on her lower back. I got the WOMAN sign.
I was not yet OUT (lesbian) but a FEMINIST and excited by my breasts which were finally growing on me. I wanted to look like her and all the other girls in my school.
Eighteen years later, I added to that woman sign because it didn’t quite speak the truth of how I saw myself. So, I added a MALE to the FEMALE and suddenly I felt a little better.
On this Saturday, where my body and I began to slowly break the silent treatment, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. So many years of reticence. I had forgotten how to approach it.
ME: It’s you, isn’t it?
MY BODY: Yeah.
ME: I…I’m not sure if an apology is—
MY BODY: There’s nothing to be sorry about.
ME: But I stopped talking to you.
MY BODY: And I stopped listening.
ME: Is it too late?
MY BODY: Why don’t we go for a walk?
ME: Can I…can I hold your hand?
MY BODY: As long as you don’t let go this time.
She stops me while I am breathing in the first steps of morning. Aftertaste of coffee and cold on my tongue. Asks me, “Are you happy?”
I hate this word just like I’ve grown to hate the words Facebook and gluten-free and No offense, but…
Even so, I do not hesitate to answer, “No, I’m not.”
It felt refreshing to be asked this question, especially when she waited to hear what I had to say.
Especially when she confessed that she wasn’t either.
Especially when we stood inside each other’s words of fear, hopelessness and loss.
I tell my students that it’s important to talk to strangers because once you share words, then the strange is gone. And invisible is seen. And you start to recognize the similarities in each other.
I’ve recently located a drawer inside my body that has torn open. Warped and wooden and wild, this drawer is. Loaded up with anger.
I’ve run out of pillows to scream into. I don’t own any punching bags beyond this piece of paper I keep jabbing with my gut. I don’t know how to diffuse it.
I look up synonyms for happy because I just can’t commit to that word: jolly, untroubled, blithe, chirpy, on air, pleased, tickled [pink].
After there were no words left, she hugged me. I inhaled her scent of essential oils: jasmine, frankincense, myrrh mixing with my patchouli and caffeine. I wore her smell on my dry, dry skin all day.
I’d settle on feeling okay, these days. And sometimes I do. I may never get to happy or elated or even beatific. But as long as you stick around to hear my answer, I don’t mind you asking me if I am.
My mouth is having an affair. It has let a non-degreed dentist inside it, stretching it far past its ability and now I have the aftertaste of sore and bothered.
My father always knew when I relapsed because my nose would be cracked and red. Eventually, he stopped asking. Instead, we’d meet at our regular lunch spot, talk around addiction to remind each other there is more to life than pain.
When I go to the dentist, the other students gather to try and understand the trauma of my mouth. The professors ask questions; my teeth become a pop quiz for what happens when one flosses with stolen pill carcasses for too many years.
Once, my father asked me why I kept putting holes in my body (reference chapters eighteen through twenty-three: The Piercing Years). He’d wince at the hoops and studs and glare of jewelry distracting my skin. I never really knew how to answer. To let the screams out?
My mouth is called child-sized. They need to make an impression of my teeth and no mold is small enough to fit inside me. They stretch and stretch and I wonder if this is what childbirth is like.
Eventually, I stopped taking drugs and cleared my body of jewelry. The addiction will always remain, but all the holes closed up.
I want to tell my dentist that I like the way his facial hair grows and that if I could wake up with a beard, I’d leave it alone. But one day, I woke to find a long, blond hair growing from my chin and it seemed too lonely, so I asked my spouse to take it away. Maybe I have a difficult time committing to the in-between of things.
The last time I consumed “the bad drugs”, I was watching a friend’s dog for a weekend. It was her way of thanking me. The calendar called it Valentine’s Day and I might have preferred chocolate, but it didn’t stop me from consuming.
I tell my father that I have been writing non-traditional love poems. He asks me what that means. I say: the kind of love that runs away from flowers and announces the beauty in mouth sores and cavities. It hurts when I laugh because my mouth is still healing. It hurts when I laugh because I am still learning how.