Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend in Louisville

Immediately I am charmed by the elegance of my hotel room. The moment I walk in. In an oblique way it makes me remember the old days, minus the nostalgia. You know the stories. Selling just enough CDs in one city to get me to the next destination. Sleeping on the side of the road, fetus curled in my backseat. Sleeping on airport floors and pull outs, their springs with serious appetites for my flesh.

That is not to say those days are entirely over. Hell, just last weekend in Richmond I slept on a pullout so I'm not five starring it all the way. So I just take a moment to stop and take in the days blessing. I hope I never get used to this. Because then I would stop enjoying it the way I do now, with this almost childlike wonder. I am coming to find that gratitude is the best medicine for my life right now, hence the odes I can't seem to stop writing. Though my wallet says Holiday Inn, the fact that I am here, in this five star situation means I am a five star gal, doing five star thangs. I like being cognizant of the spaces and situations that honor my writing. I felt this intensely at Hedgebrook Retreat when I walked into my own cottage. It charmed my tears from their hiding place. This wasn't nearly that emotional, just a small smile to the universe.

Professor Thornhill

Check out your girl, giving an academic lecture at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Their MFA program in children's writing invited me to come down and discuss the research methodologies I used in order to create my poem about folk singer Odetta, which is being published by Scholastic next spring in the form of a picture book.

All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely and really appreciate Spalding, more specifically Kathleen Driskell, for having me come down. It felt like talking for 45 minutes with friends about stuff that so naturally jazz me to the bone.

Sister Chairs

Here we are in the lobby of the Brown hotel, situated in the heart of downtown Louisville. The seating area is expansive with antique furniture that I would not buy for my house yet would admire in the homes of others.

Or so I thought. I found myself infatuated with this chair from the beginning. Shaped like an S, it seemed the chair had tried to say my name, but could only get out the first letter. I would have this chair in my house, and build a whole room around it in order to justify its existence. Suddenly I understand those folk that scour auctions for specific objects, once they hit it rich. Well, since I won't be taking home such a chair anytime soon, I wanted nothing more than to have a damn good conversation in it before I left Kentucky.

I got my wish. After my lecture and the banging Indian buffet dinner that followed, my homegirl Bianca Spriggs drove over from Lexington, an hour away. Initially we had made plans to go somewhere and beverage. Surprise surprise we gravitated over to the sister chairs, sat down, and fell face first into conversation. In it, we went to Africa and back.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Feature at Lyric Ave.

Richmond, VA

The Big Byrd Theatre

Lorna dropped me off at the Byrd Theatre and said good luck. The Byrd is an old fashioned theatre with a box office and a marquee reading Lyric Ave, the variety show in which I was a special guest feature. The instant I walked into the lobby, the smell of popcorn assaulted my taste buds and I tried not to look at the Milkduds staring at me from their glass prison—my movie theatre weakness.

It’s been at least 6 years since I’d been back down this way—VA, my old stomping ground. Years ago, when I still lived here, I featured for Lyric Ave; at that time, they were in a restaurant. I remembered the restaurant being long; I dislike long rooms from a performance standpoint. I looked around now at the majestic theatre, at the ushers at each door in their black attire; the winding stairs leading to the mezzanine. Lyric Ave. has certainly moved up—a testament not only to the crew’s dedication to what they bring to their community but also the community’s desire for what they do.

Consisting of comedy, drama, song, dance, and poetry, I had heard Lyric Ave was the largest variety show in the nation but I didn’t believe it until I walked through the doors to the actual theatre, which was huge and packed. It is the size of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, with a band in the pit. I was stone cold impressed. I welcomed the challenge of holding down a large space filled with people who did not necessarily come for poetry. I was also grateful for the opportunity to expose such a mainstream audience to my craft. After I checked in with the organizer Craig, dressed as a woman for a skit he was about to do, his lip gloss popping harder than mine, I explored the theatre to get a sense of the space, something I always try to do before I perform. After sitting up front for a moment, I walked all the way to the back, then ventured up to the mezzanine, reciting poems in my brain.

The Idea of Intimacy

I have been exploring this idea of intimacy. What is it, exactly? I’ve been talking this through with my friend Kenneth, through our letters. We’ve come to define intimacy as that special place where people meet. People often equate intimacy with sex which is erroneous because there is plenty of sex far from intimate. Same with poetry venues. People assume that just because a venue is small, it is intimate. But how intimate is a small venue really when people are carrying on conversation while poets pour themselves on stage? I have come to find that intimacy is not necessarily about the size of the room, but about the vibe an event creates, dictates. Despite the theatre’s size, I found a curious intimacy in it. The sound was crisp and the audience was receptive, transfixed by what was happening in front of them—whether it be a poem or a skit.

All in all, I had fun on the Lyric Ave stage, its light so blinding the audience could only be felt and heard, not seen. I revisited some oldies but goodies and mixed it in with a couple of newer poems. The 600 person audience listened attentively with pin dropping silence and they responded to me so warmly. Even though the stage was as wide as an avenue, I felt I was in a room amongst friends. Now that’s intimate.

The Response

Later on, I was told I got a standing ovation after I finished my set with good old “Locksmith.” I was backstage so couldn’t witness it for myself. Afterwards, I sold a decent amount of CD’s and chapbooks, which will all contribute to my summer fund. I enjoy connecting with folks after because as a poet, I often feel alone in my craft and it’s good to hear how my work resonates/intersects with people. It’s helpful to hear from other people’s mouths how your work communicates with them. The more specific their comments the more helpful it is. In response to my Glenda poem a few people revealed to me that they have incarcerated loved ones so it strummed a special cord in them, as that poem does in me. Based on some of my lines, one woman suspected me a Buddhist, which I had never gotten before. I guess that’s a step up from years back, in Connecticut, when a woman thought I was into witchcraft based on my lines. Well in that case, I think it said more about her than it did about me!

All in all, big ups to the Lyric Ave crew for putting on a well organized show that seeks to expose people to all different genres of performance art. I commend them for the creativity and love they put into what they do. I left feeling warm inside, and that can only mean it was a good night.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Heading to Richmond

Hello after some silence. My bags are stacked, my fridge is full, thirst insatiable, plane ticket printed, chapbooks packed, just finished teaching, on my way out, my stomach is growling, feeling full.

Busy little bee these days. The weather is fickle while I remain steadfast. Steadfast revising the hell out of this mug. Fiction has been a slow grind--sweet and satisfying. Poems pour out of me instead of sweat but I still wipe my brow out of habit. Feeling like a groundhog, creeping out the cave. Website in the process of getting seriously revamped. Sweet gig at Prospect Park Bandshell coming up. My fashion sense is evolving. I'm starting to like photoshoots finally. As my friend Moon would say, I carry myself like a loved woman. I feel loved by the people I love. And the hair is just growing.

I'm excited to be touring the US this summer with old and new poems. It's been years since I've hit the road the way I'm about to. My work has transformed beneath my fingertips and after I stopped saying what the fuck I have fallen back in love with my writing. This has been huge benefit to my spirit. For years I criticized myself so much with voices unlike my own. I've swept that many headed voice from my head with the wind itself. All of that pain has enhanced me so lovely. Feels good to be at this place where I feel comfortable sharing what I'm writing with peeps old and new. I know what I am doing now, and that understanding was all I needed. So on the road I go. It had to start in a place i can actually order sweet tea at a resteraunt. So I head to Richmond tonight to hang with sister Lorna and feature at a couple spots.

Friday May 15: Richmond, VA
Samantha features at Lyric Ave
Byrd Theatre
2908 W. Cary St
Richmond, VA
show starts 8:30

Saturday May 16: Richmond, VA
Samantha features at Richmond SlamArtspace
Zero E. 4th Street
Richmond, VA 23224
workshop starts at 5pm

This summer my desire is to travel to these cities. Any leads to poetry venues in these areas, or anywhere in general, would be very helpful to me.

San Francisco/Bay Area



New Orleans/Baton Rouge



Much Love and I will let you know how Richmond goes.

Currently reading:The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianBy Sherman Alexie