From the End of the World to the New Year: A New Start for the Living Poetry Project

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My new poetic journey (0r obsession) is on location–locating oneself in time and place–the power of proximity and the efforts of exchange. The temporal as a gift and curse of every moment lived.

I am located in the Antelope Valley–meaning, I am situated between religious compounds, prisons, schools, aerospace, and Joshua Trees. This isn’t an easy place to live, but I love it. It is a place that reminds me of my favorite poet, Stephen Crane, who writes:

I walked in a desert

I walked in a desert.
And I cried,
“Ah, God, take me from this place!”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”
I cried, “Well, But —
The sand, the heat, the vacant horizon.”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”

The desert where I live is much like a Crane poem–a voice without answers, but a constant unraveling of complications. My favorite Crane poem reads:

In the desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

I carry Crane with me. Everywhere I go, his poems go with me. I sometimes wonder if this is an exchange of time and proximity–if we are all homes to the ghost and dreams of another.

Another artist who helps me understand the desert is Noah Purifoy. Noah Purifoy was introduced to me by poet Ching-In Chen. Ching-In is a great friend and gifts everyone around her with dreams. When I saw what Noah Purifoy was able to achieve with desert trash–the transformation of shadows into sculpture–I found poetry. Poetry is words transformed to images.

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I often have my students study Leonard Shlain’s The Alphabet Vs the Goddess. Shlain claims that alphabet literacy reshape the human brain making us all left hemisphere dominate, which he sees as being more masculine in its function. An unbalanced brain he says, is the reason for the decline of feminine power. He explains:

Extrapolating the experience of an individual to a culture, I hypothesized that when a critical mass of people within a society acquire literacy, especially alphabet literacy, left hemispheric modes of thought are reinforced at the expense of right hemispheric ones, which manifests as a decline in the status of images, women’s rights, and goddess worship. The more I turned this idea over in my mind the more correlations appeared. Like a dog worrying a bone, I found this connection compelling and could not let it go until I had superimposed it on many different historical periods and across cultural divides.

This year, I want to bridge the left and right hemispheres–I wanted to forge words and images together–to stitch the mind and body together. In 2013, I’m on a quest to investigate what I’m calling, “the people of stars and the people of the earth.” I want to know what stories the horizon has to tell about the convergence of these two groups.

To begin this journey, I asked my dear friends Jason Hughes, Laura Bautista, Larissa Nickel, and Robert Fisher to help me make a 20 foot woman out of desert trash. I stayed up for a week sculpting paper flowers out of a phone book and cut feathers out of Leonard Shlain’s The Alphabet Vs the Goddess. Jason, Laura, Larissa, and I, set out to erect the structure on December 21st (the end of the world) with the intent of revisiting our twenty foot woman in the new year. Jason took these amazing pictures of Laura, Larissa, and I as the 20 foot woman. Jason has a keen eye and an understanding of the high desert that I admire. He knew the abandon silo, ridden with bullet holes, would shine like stars as the sun set.

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Photo by Jason Hughes
Modeled by Laura Bautista
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Photo by Jason Hughes
Modeled by Larissa Nickel
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Photo by Jason Hughes
Modeled by Nicelle Davis
photo
Photo by Robert Fisher

Then we left her, in the desert, to be found by others.

I wanted to see what people would do to her. We left her in a place where she could easily be destroyed. I expected her to be used for target practice or burned to nothing. What I found both delighted and broke me.

She was left untouched. Untouched! All around her was evidence of others–a hallo of empty bullet shells, fresh graffiti, and messaged written in sand by the god kids. Most tender and shattering was an empty paint can and dirty towel. A group of huffers had gathered at her implied feet–burn their heads by breathing fumes. What did the see? Whatever they saw, she remained untouched as a holly relic. “They” who found her, are a voice without answers, a voice without answers, but a constant unraveling of complications.

You Made a Ghost of Me, so I Made a Story of You

I pattern my breathing to a bird’s wings;

I see my breath as flames upon the air;

I see flames like wings against your flesh;

I see myself as pulse-efforts turned

to snow. Without you, I let little light in,

afraid I’m made of just enough to cup in-

hand. Drink again. No more of this, again.

Instead, I tell myself, this time I’ll be drank

by slow sunset. Fly fast. Fly faster. Fast to-

ward orbs of wings and arms unraveling.

Again. I think of again. We’ll know better.

We’ll pluck feathers to strum music. We’ll

want this wanting. Like song. We’ll change

repetition to refrains—sing ourselves sane.

–Nicelle Davis

The Way to LitQuake is 8 hours of Reading

I love the train. Time seems to stop on a train, while the whole world rolls before me. When traveling by train, I get to watch the sky change colors–watch the ground in all its variations–glow. I also like to eavesdrop and read on the train.  Paradise is a train.

Trains remind me of John Keats. Admittedly, most things make me think of Keats but the train has strong draw for me when making a metaphor of such a poet.

Keats, with little no money, held tight to the conviction that all people (rich and poor) deserve beauty.  The train is economical, and it is beautiful.

On the way to LitQuake I read (0f course Keats) but also the works of Kelli Allen and Jessy Randall. Kelli’s poems are terrifying—beautiful—but hollowing. Jessy’s poems are witty and inspiring.  I highly recommend reading Allen and Randall; I’m trying to pen out all the reasons why I recommend these books, but that will take time. I find writing reviews to be difficult–delightfully difficult. How to say “I love you?” It requires thought, when translating the heart.

You can watch Kelli Allen’s Otherwise, Soft White Ash (OFFICIAL TRAILER) on YouTube; it is beautiful.

I also read Juan Felipe Herrera new play/poem, which should go to a live show on the 2nd of November. Ah, this work! I must have looked like a fool from crying on the train. Juan Felipe Herrera (like Keats) writes from and for the heart.

Then I read Keats. I read his poems. I read his letters. Then I copied as much of Keats as I could onto postcards. I hid the postcards all over the train from Bakersfield to Oakland. Keats knows how to travel–he travels by the heart.

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John Keats (1795–1821).  The Poetical Works of John Keats.  1884.
28.  On the Grasshopper and Cricket

THE POETRY of earth is never dead:
  When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
  And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead         5
  In summer luxury,—he has never done
  With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
  On a lone winter evening, when the frost         10
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
  And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
    The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

December 30, 1816.

The Cups Attend a Poetry Party

What a great weekend; days of language, love, and laughter.

Not a lot of sleep, but a lot of living dreams.

Friday =ed the AAD-Writers reading.  Janet Kriegl did a sensational job at coordinating a night of words, music, and (most importantly) heart.

Friday also =ed, kids sleep over at my house.

Saturday =ed Meet the AuthorsJoan Fry brought many local authors together for a honest and instructive look at the publishing world. 

Next, the book release party for Charles and Christine’s beautiful book, 25 Tigers, was held at Sagebrush Café. This is also where the coffee cup poems made their first appearance.  

Jared Burton and his band played music and drank tea from poems.

Saturday =ed, kids sleep over at my house.

Sunday =ed a celebration of the Indian Museum and a surprise birthday party of me. The Indian Museum is an odd, yet important part of the Antelope Valley. It is a poem of a place. (It is good to be alive!)

Next, JJ and I made the trip down the mountain to have dinner with Kate and Mark. JJ and I had a sleep over at their magical home. Kate and Mark, wow, are just really good people. Kate gives me advice; because she knows I like when she gives me advice—and we both know I could use some advice.

The big questions are always—How to be a better person? How to be a better artist?

I’m still unsure if the answers to those two questions go together—but I’m determined to live my life in pursuit of kindness and expression.

Over bagels this morning, Kate explained that an important component to conversation is listening. It isn’t enough to listen to the other person, Kate explained, you have to listen to yourself—listen to what you, yourself, has to say. And DO something about the things you talking about.

Mark taught JJ that bagels taste better if you eat them like a T-Rex would attack a Brontosaurus.

All is very good with poetry.  

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The Poem Hustle: Call for Submissions

 

I leave for New York on September 13th. I would like to bring your poems with me. I’d like to hustle your word with a coat full of poems.

If you would like for your poems to be sold for the outragous price of FREE on the streets of New York, please send your words to NicelleCDavis@gmail.com.

If you are in New York, please come find me here:

From Tarzan to John Carter, Poetry is on the Move

For me, living in Southern California requires a lot of direction—Map Quest is my best friend.  In a way, having to map my way through life makes every commute an adventure.  Maps are one of the many things I love about Southern California.

This particular adventure took me to Woodland Hills where Stanley A. Galloway (a Living Poetry Project contributor) was giving a lecture on Tarzan. This was the centennial year for the creation of Tarzan (and John Carter), which had the Edgar Rice Burroughs fans in a frenzy.

It was nice to see a group of people IN LOVE with books. It was fantastic to deliver Stanley’s poem in person.

Again, I found poetry leading me towards a new (even unexpected) friendship; it was a real gift to meet Stanley—to link words with their word-crafter.

(For those of you who have requested your magnet poem, please be patient. I’m saving up postage money now in hopes that I’ll have your poems to you before November.)

 

The following weekend, J.J. and I traveled to Mark and Kate’s house for a slumber party. We planted flowers, fed chickens, hugged bunnies, and the list of magic continues. To my delight, my Burroughs adventure continued as we watched Disney’s John Carter. (What are the chances?  Two weekends of Burroughs—I’m starting to feel haunted.)

Kate and Mark are very good and kind people. They are nice to my son; that is a great gift to my family. They are good to books–devoting their lives to Red Hen Press; this is a great giflt to the world.

While J.J. and I planted flowers, we also planted a few poems. I think Mark and Kate’s yard is the perfect place for poems to grow.

More Movement

The new round of traveling poems have been ordered!!! I’m excited to send them out into the world.

In addition to the new poems (and great thanks to some dear-hearts at Connotation Press, who donated to the traveling poem project) I have magnets for the poets who gave their words to The Living Poetry Project. If you would like a magnet of your poem, please email me at NicelleCDavis@gmail.com.

More pictures of traveling poetry will be posted soon.

The Poems are On the Move

The poems are traveling…they are going…they are coming…they are turning, bridging, and overpassing.

Poems by Robert Krammer, Barbara Crooker, Christina M. Rau, Jennifer Jean, Iris Jamahl Dukle, Brittany Connolly, Jenny Doughty, Mary Rose Betten, Michael Falkner, Ada Jill Schneider, Roberta Beary, Sally Bliumis Dunn, Joan Mazza, Donna Barkman, Andrea Stout, Matthew Topartzer, Carol Dorf, Eileen Moeller, and more moving poems on their way.

I left the poems by Carol Dorf and Eileen Moeller at LACMA.

Some of the poems have been traveling with my students–going on summer vacations and sunshine adventures.

My students write:

“I even got a couple of honks (well, I hope it was for the magnet and not the way I was driving!)”

“The thought of doing something illegal with a poem was very exciting for me. I left my poem outside the Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon.”

“My poem was “Prayer.” I left it on my sister’s car because I thought she needed it.”

I’m so “moved” by people’s reactions to these traveling poems that I’ve decided to extend the project. I will be accepting poems for The Living Poetry Project until the end of August. Please send your work to NicelleCDavis@gmail.com if you would like your poems to be considered for this poetic adventure. Also, please check back periodically to see where else these moving poems go.

Magnetic Poetry: A Call For Submissions

Dear Bees Knees Friends,

This summer I would like to put more poetry in motion.

I am accepting submissions for poems and visual art to be published on car magnets. (That’s right, car magnets.)

These magnets will be place all over the Southern California region in hopes of infusing our long commute times with poetry.

Please submit your work to NicelleCDavis@gmail.com by August 1, 2012.

Best Wishes and Luck to you all.

Here is a sample of the Car Magnet:

Free Lunch and Theater: A Perfect Living Poetry Project Moment

I am losing my mind; no, I have lost my mind.

Ever since my laptop caught on fire, nothing has been the same; I simply cannot keep up with the self I have created over the past few years.  My deepest loss has been the lack of Living Poetry Projects in my life. I’m finding that The Living Poetry Project is my great source for hope. I can’t help but live poetry; even now, I am coming up with schemes for the next project and figuring out creative ways to get wifi back into my life.

Without a laptop, I’ve been reluctantly relearning how to write poems by hand; I forgot how poems originally came to me as drawings—how the poems were once crafted from the sounds of life around me, not the drive of clock-like ticking keyboard.

My writing process has slowed down.    W  A  Y     D  O  W  N.

I’m not sure if I like this slow pace—I’ve grown accustom to the mad dash of ideas—the violence of words—the hours of striking symbols onto page, only to find I have no recollection for the actually text I’ve craved.  The emergence from emergency—I miss it.

But, I’m excited to see what the necessity of paper, ink, and cursive have to teach me.

I recently had a conversation with the amazing poet, Vejea Jennings. Vejea is a slow process poet—he must engage with every single aspect of the poem before releasing it into the universe.  He watches the sound of poems in mirrors; he collaborates with other artists to understand the motions of the words; he lives his poems into existence.

Vejea’s process produces a unique product—a product of process.

To add to Vejea’s gift of great writing, he has offered his book Free Lunch as a free ebook and audio book!

As soon as I read, hear, and watched Vejea’s work, I had to share it.

Lucky for me, I was off to the theater—specifically, Moliere’s The Bungler at the new home of A Noise Within. (This show is great! Poet Richard Wibur does an amazing job with the translation. This show is all poetry.)

With the help of some lovely AVC students (big thanks to Genna and Marcella who were on the field trip with me), we hid Vejea’s gorgeous poems all over the gorgeous theater.  Nothing is more fun than an play within a play within a play.

Vejea’s Free Lunch

Free Lunch is a multifaceted art diet including a fully-illustrated ebook and a sonically dynamic audiobook. This project is free to the public and brought to you by the author Vejea Jennings, executive producers Arash Haile and Abe Cajudo, and other artists who love you like all things free.

The Living Poetry Project: Diane Di Prima

Diane Di Prima’s R.D.’s H.D. is part of the Lost & Found series. This lecture / chapbook series is delightful—and by delightful I mean my inner poetry-pirate is dancing gleefully over word-treasures retrieved from the depths of an archival ocean.

According to the project write-up:

Lost & Found: the CUNY Poetics Document Initiative emerges from archival work and contemporary textual scholarship being done by students in the English Program at theGraduateCenter of the City University of New York…

By looking in particular at extra-poetic work by writers who have come to characterized or fall under the rubric of the New American Poetry, the Initiative can illuminate still largely unexplored terrain of this essential field of 20th-century American literary history and culture…

The key is for these texts not to be chosen as historical curiosities but for their ability to intervene and intersect with conditions and interpretations of the present.

What I found in Diane Di Prima’s 16 page lecture is a map—yes, a treasure map! The compressed nature of her lecture gives significant keys to learning many new layers to poetry. It will take me 16 years to walk the pathways Di Prima offers in R.D’s H.D., but for now I have her insights on “The Poetics of Influence.”

Di Prima explains:

In proposing a series called “The Poetics of Influence” Aaron Shurin opened for me the issue of the actual creativity or poesis involved. Poesis of Influence. Simply, that the one influenced cast a selective light on the influencer. Creates or re-creates the Daemon or Genius or Star under which s/he is working by seeing and highlighting those aspects under which speak to her/him.

no two poets have ever been “influenced” by the same Dante, or the same Shakespeare. Keats’ Shakespeare and Yeats’ Shakespeare walk (stride) in different universes. One could say that in the world of the imagination the Influencer, if s/he is touched with Genius, becomes infinite, one infinity of many out of which the Influenced is free to choose the set or series which suits his/her purpose. One imagines the Great Dead who sat for Blake sitting also for Picasso or Goya. Those differences.

Imagining “those differences” is enthralling (but it is terrifying). “Those differences” echo the complications of Derrida’s Differance (the mark of the future and the past in a present moment which is neither).

She explains the relationship between Robert Duncan and H.D. as:

In one sense the H.D. Book is a book of lineage, a tracing of continuation of traditions in Robert Duncan’s life, in H.D.’s life. The ways they [influencer and influenced] run parallel, the places where they touch or diverge. As the prose itself touches, gathers itself into a node or nexus of correspondence or spins off in a thousand directions, breaks and regathers.

Yes. Yes. Yes. This is it isn’t it? “The” reason for writing—at least my reason for writing. It is family. It is always family—or to stretch the word family to the familiar—writing is an effort to maintain contact with what/who is loved—regardless of time, space, or disturbance. With writing what/who is loved can always be reached—even if such ties require complete reinventions of the self.

Writing then can be seen as a devoted practice of “loving” and “letting go.” (I’m still working on the “letting go; I’m rather a failure at that part of the process.)

If poetry is in the heights and depths—lineage is the map to reaching heights and depths. Di Prima explains,

Lineage works on us through two perpendicular planes or fields which converge in the poet. there is the influence, the Ear-Whispered Transmission through time…And there is also mouth-to-earness of our own era, what touches our living ear (flesh) through the moving air.

There will always be greater heights and deeper depths with love (and poetry). They are with “your blood and your stars.” I’m beginning to realize that when I say “I wish I could write better” I really mean “I wish I could love better.”

This Easter, I gave eggs filled with Di Prima’s words to Vegas Pirates and California Dinosaurs. (Time is collapsing with every treasure found–and with every scattered circumstance, time is the treasure found.)

Spring Blessing to All.