Colliding Rhymes Reading: March 16th

Abstraction

This week has been devoted to prepping for the McGroarty Arts Center’s first annual arts festival! Part of the festivities will include “Colliding Rhythms” a poetry reading on Sunday March 16th at 3:30 p.m.

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Please, please come. The McGroarty Art Center is something of a poetic wonderland. There will be drums and poems and drinks and trees and incredible light cascading off of mountains.

I didn’t know anything about this place until Joe DeCenzo extended an invitation to participate. I didn’t know Joe; I didn’t know McGroarty. I didn’t know that McGroarty was designated poet laureate of California by the State legislature in 1933. I didn’t know that before the World Wars Sunland was created as a sort of utopian escape from the city—a place for dreamers to bed roots and grow a new life outside of lung-crushing factories. Joe knows this; Joe DeCenzo works diligently to weave California poets into the tapestry of their western heritage.

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This magical tree-house of a historic site is a home for the arts. It is well worth your time to be in this space; it truly is an inspirational place.

Inspiration is essential to any artist—any community. It is easy to get lost in the maze ofwhy poetry; inspiration is the thread that leads an artist safely out of the labyrinth.

I’ve been teaching the myth of the Minotaur—that animal that marks our genetics and our reckoning of with the self. It is ultimately a recognition of the other that leads us out from the dark passages—those spiraling corridors of doubt and fear. For this reading, I commissioned one of my students to create a costume. Her handy work is quiet fine; her spirit is nothing shy of lovely. She dreams of being a fashion designer—a maker. She doesn’t just dream; she does the work of the dream. She sews and sews and sews until her visions become tangible. With her help, I’ve been transforming into my own sense of other—my bull of reckoning.

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Oh other—bull in the darkness—my strange bread—my sideshow. For this reading I hope to give everyone who attends a little show—a little three rings of self exploration.

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I have to admit an obscene about of work goes into any artistic endeavor. Adding to the obscenity is the persistent uncertainty that comes with any creative work. I’ve been working on a character for this reading—a transformation that helps us all enter a creative space—a place of images.

Second Grade: Cell (aka Nicelle)
Second Grade: Cell (aka Nicelle)

As a child, I liked to play with image. I would often cut off all my hair; sometime assume a male name—desperately attempting to understand differences. I thought assuming the differences would help me be closer to others. I often find myself wishing I was more like my younger self; she really didn’t give a fuck what people thought. She was obsessed with how they felt—she wanted to feel as they did, no matter how different they were from her. There was some magic in that—I would like to get back to that magic. I’m going to try on March 16th; please come with me.

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AWP

 with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.
with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.

AWP. AWP. What to say about AWP? It leaves us all spinning. If you haven’t left a piece of you sanity in the assigned city, you haven’t really been to AWP. This year I left crazy umbrellas wherever I could. In retrospect, I wished I had brought more umbrellas, more poetry. It is always an issue of more with AWP. 30 umbrellas are swallowed quickly by 10,000 writers. Being swallowed is a good way to describe AWP.

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This year I convinced a few of my writing students (the very talented Trish Donahueto and Andrea Thamm) to attend. They fought with themselves over time and money spent—it’s just a conference, they objected when I described the whirl of energy, lack of sleep, and the effect that three miles of books has on a word lover. Eventually they resigned to go (maybe just to shush me up for a moment). I was delighted when we eventually crossed paths. They could no longer blink. You tried to tell us, they said. Yes, I can try but there is no way to describe what it is about this event that allows for—I am going to say it—transformation.

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The transformation is never expected; in fact the best way to attend AWP is with zero expectations. It is never the same; what you hate one year you may love the next. Some people walk away with the full recognition that life is larger than words. Some fade deeper into the folds of imagination. All is good, even if it feels like hell.

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In our own AWP troupe there was a trip to the E.R. due to exhaustion. I heard feet where broken on the giant escaladers and I witnessed several first time attendees break into spontaneous tears. Had I not been saved by Jason Cook and Maggie Hess (with their magical cup of coffee and hot crêpes) I may have entirely lost my mind in Seattle. I wish I was joking. No. This is no joke. This is AWP. But it’s not. Not really. I mean, it’s just a conference. Right?

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Okay, it’s a conference. But I don’t know of any other conference where a person’s ethics, desires, and ideas (/ bodies) are pushed to a breaking point. If you’re lucky, this four day conference strips you to your most primal self. It gives you permission to be what you want—a writer. Even more profound, it reveals who you are—the reason you write. Such epiphanies are not easy to weather.

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I find it extremely important to keep your friends close when traveling in the storms of desire. I love my Red Hen Press / LAR Family. I love the Pie Bar and karaoke nights; I love feeling like a posse of book slingers. I am extremely proud of Kate Gale, whose new book The Goldilocks Zone launched at this year’s AWP.

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I was also proud of my URC family. My UCR sister Alexis Vergalla organized a reading on a glass bottom boat that included a city race. (What?) Yes. So good. photo 3-2In an ideal world, we would all return home with three solid days to dream away the after-blur of being with 10,000+ people. It isn’t the size of the event, nor the scope, it is the whirling descent of having to face off with what and who we are.

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There is more to be said, shared, posted about all of this. Yes. I am hopeful that those of you who received umbrellas will send me photos of where the words traveled. I would love to mail umbrellas to those who wanted the extra shelter but couldn’t find it.

There is more out there…so much more. I am deeply grateful for this–this something more. Love, gratitude, and most importantly poetry to all.

n.d.