Saturday, April 24, 2010

Samantha & Khadijah Queen Create SPACE

Happening in:
NYC * L.A. * D.C. * Bal timore * Tampa Bay * Tallahassee * Charleston, WV * Kansas City * Seattle * Tucson, AZ * Detroit * and more!

SPACE: Simultaneous Public Acts of Creative Expression

Samantha Thornhill and Khadijah Queen have both done this before. Samantha stood up on a subway one weary day and belted out a poem that freed her from its weight. Since then, Samantha formed PUP -- Poets in Unexpected Places. In 2007 Khadijah set up canvas and easel in the middle of downtown Atlanta to paint the words passersby used to describe themselves, and in the process created an ongoing love affair with public performance art.

When we met up earlier this month and discussed our respective acts, we brainstormed further: What if all the creative people we knew around the country were doing what they do in public, all at the same time? The possibility was too electrifying to ignore.

Saturday, May 1. 12:01 am - 11:59pm

April is Poetry Month. But we believe poetry and the creative arts should be celebrated beyond official designations. Let's b ring the arts to the people in unexpected places with the intention of connecting positively, to use the arts to energize the public sphere.

Dancers. Writers. Artists. Musicians. Famous or not. Professional or not. Children and mothers and fathers and grandparents. Mechanics and students. Your poem or Walt Whitman's. Your song or Lady Day's. If you have a desire to participate in a live act of mass creativity, grab some friends and join in.

Choose creatively, but be respectful of the place. We want this to be an act of honoring the arts and presenting it to people when they least expect to see/hear it. Getting arrested or thrown out is counterproductive. Do ballet on the beach at sunset. Kick a poem in the produce section. Sit cross-legged and paint on top of your parked car in a parking lot. Bust out a haiku at the drive-thru. Be safe, and -- well -- creative!

If you can have a photographer or videographer document your act, great! If not, send us an email about the experience and what it meant to you. Photos are welcome also. We are creating a website where images and videos and stories will be posted.


Monday, April 19, 2010


Get a call from my a dear friend today as I am walking to the train station right after workshop with the wonderful senior citizens. When he asks how I am doing, I think of the never ending to do list lodged inside my cerebrum, the joyful checking off of things. In fact, I am headed home to finish layout for the next edition of the student newspaper I generate with 15 kids in the Bronx, an undertaking that devoured my weekend whole. I think of the stack of poems to critique in time for my Juilliard students tomorrow.

To his question I can only respond with: juggling, love, juggling.

Moments later I am underground waiting for the next train, the first of three to whisk me home. Something grabs the corner of my eye and I glance. And right beside me is a man in the blue overalls of an auto mechanic, three initials stitched into the patch on his chest, his neck and knuckles tattooed like an ex gang member.

One red, one white and one blue, ADF gracefully juggles three balls.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gig @ CSI--A day of many firsts

It was a full day of many firsts. Morning with the Juilliard actors. Afternoon with my newspaper kids in the Bronx. My third gig of the day landed me at College of Staten Island where I was to present poems and answer questions for two hours.

Now that I had a tangible purpose, this was my first time venturing to Staten Island--home of Wu-tang Clan who I danced to in Denver last week, danced hard.

At the station when I asked some women where to purchase ferry tickets, they answered it was free. I was startled and pleased. Look, I hadn't even arrived in Staten Island yet and already I felt like a tourist, a tourist in my own town. I would later learn that Guiliani, who also hailed from Staten Island explains the free ferries.

My friend Tyehimba, who invited me to read at his teaching institution was there on the other side, waiting beside his motorbike Betty, an extra helmet in his hand for me. First time in Staten Island, first time riding on a motorbike. I prepared myself for this cherry pop.

Exhilerating, vulnerable. The only two words I can use to describe riding on the back of a motorbike. At first I held on to Tyehimba for dear life, loving the breeze flying through my open helmet, making my eyes water. As I got used to the ride I began to loosen my grip on him. I knew that we would be goners if a car were to clip our back wheel. That too sharp a turn could obliterate what I know as my left hip. I learned that to ride a motorbike is to not be afraid to die.

College of Staten Island has a lovely sprawling campus full of green field and new buildings. There were posters on the doors with my face on them, advertising tonight's poetry event--two hours with yours truly. The gig was held in a school cafe, a nice vibe. The last college gig I had was in December at Rutgers-Camden, so it was nice to be in front of a college crowd again. They were a nice listening audience and responsive when they found it necessary.

My feature almost entirely consisted of odes and I rattled them off one after the other with personalizing banter in between. It was good to have that amount of time because I got to speak extensively about my friend Kenneth before sharing an ode I wrote concerning our friendship "Ode to a Flower Denied," my second time reading it in public. Overall, it felt great, as always, to share my obsession with a group of curious listeners, many of whom were wonderful enough to buy my CD's and chapbooks after the show.

Afterward, Tyehimba was kind enough to offer me a ride home on his bike. That meant the expressway, the Verrazano bridge--again, my first time. Rain fell lightly. It was us, Betty and the elements, the stunning Manhattan skyline. It all seemed within reach. And the cold air rushing at me was enough to remind me of how achingly alive it feels to be me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Classy Brothers

the last time i sat next to an interesting Brother on the plane was in 2003. i was leaving la for the east coast, magically upgraded to first class. window seat. lucky me. a brother winds up next to me. he glances at the book in my lap. he asks: my sister, do you like to read? i look at the book, look at him and say yes, thinking: now who is this lame dude? he asks: have you ever heard of a book called finding fish? i say no. he then introduces himself as the author of finding fish, antwon fisher.

on the way to denver for the awp conference, all the way toward the back, so far back you can hear the engine coughing our swanglide across the sky, so far back that if any thing were to go down, you would either die last or first, i met a Brother. we greeted one another but only connected halfway through the flight when i recognized my friend playing the saxophone on this video of a performance playing on his laptop. jazz. he is a drummer who tours the world and teaches a steady gig at a renown arts school. i let him listen to some of the tracks i'm working on (odes) and he let me listen to some of the performance. after it was all said and done we were pretty much like yeah. legit like a mo fo.

he was on his way to denver for a gig, downtown denver, a mile from where all the conference festivities were held. how could i resist taking up on his thoughtful offer providing tickets for me and company? so i sweet talked tiphanie and christian into accompanying me to this totally unexpected gift. flurried there like leaves in wind in an overpriced cab, a cabbie who laughed along with our jokes. tree island people in a cyar? god help him.

dazzle supper club was our destination, its neon pink sign. turns out neal was drumming with this world renowned jazz pianist with a nutsy last name. his fingers were silk gazelles darting across the keys, sweetening the air. so sonorous, the sound of his heart. the hairs inside my ears, used to shrinking from the painful screech of trains, were swaying fields of wheat in this night breeze. don't know much about music. don't know minor from major. just know what sounds good to me, and that night, the night before my panel discussion fed my spirit like coconut water feeds my mouth, even now as i write this.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

poetry in motion field trip

On our search for the best

classroom ever built

Darryl and I break

from Juilliard's four walls

and slow our strolls to sheepshed

meadow in central park

west hugged

by fences closed

since winter.

Skyscrapers loom

in the near distance.

Fortunate fucks.

We arrive

as the gates open.

Sun starved

actors dash

through gates,

the races of my childhood,

dropping their bags and cares

in the meadow's ample

lap, polluting

the clorophyll ocean

with their most perfect

joy. Boys will be

boys throw off

their shirts as the women lament

the sweet double standard.

Auden carves stories

into her pink moleskin.

Half clothed boys assemble

a game of touch

empty evian bottle

their pigskin. Tyrien

pirouettes. The Sisters

and I speak

on Azania,

Black people's land.

We be cliches so

unique. Danielle

hat is

not quite


but holier

than cathedral

bells. My tongue is

a bell, ringing in a full

elevator, it's door closing,

closing. We sit

on the dew and stew

haiku. Lamenting

new friends from old towns.

Mark's red shoes singing

of parsley. The rusty man

hole sleeping yards

away face up

like the dead.

Its haiku

crouches under my skin

my skin my

skin my skin

high off the sun's


E smear.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Workshop with the Seniors

Poets & Writers contracted me to teach an 8 week creative writing workshop to senior citizens, starting today! The last time they asked me to teach a senior workshop was 4 years ago, when I first moved to NYC. I adored that experience, and it will forever leave a sweet place in my memory, especially when I think of Bobbi Lynn, a woman with cerebral palsey and the heart of a warrior. Man, her pen was fierce! Bobbi Lynn went on to publish a memoir, which she had originally started in my class.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when P&W called me up again after all this time to offer another such experience. When I walked into the center, the director of senior services informed me that my workshop was going to have stiff competition--bingo. I couldn't help but smile at that. She then pointed me to a room at the end of the long vibrant hallway; she called it the therapy room. Another smile spread across my face. How fitting.

There, in the therapy room, I was greeted by a handful of people twice my age with shiny eyes, their notebooks open and ready. We fell right into lively, stimulating discussion. In a matter of minutes we traveled from Catholicism to health care to the Korean war, thanks to our veteran in the room. By the vibrations I felt like we were on our fifth week of workshop, not the first.

They had been craving this workshop ever since December, when the last one ended. Needless to say, the exchange of gratitude was the sweetest currency. Immediately I felt their trust, their trust of my expertise. They are just so open, so generous, and so game, ready to have fun with language. They brought the world to the table; everything, that got them to that point is game. Intoxicating it was to be in their presence.

I have always had an affinity for older people. I think its partly because by the time I reached 10, all four of my grandparents were dead; two of them died before I was even born. It is a void I have always walked with. What I also admire is their understanding of who they are, what they are made of and generally they could give two shits about what other people think.

We had a fun lesson today, and composed six word memoirs. Here are a few I wrote:

"Left Trinidad age seven. Returned American."

and along the same theme:

"Returned home after 20 years. Myself."

and another:

"Using the pen as a microphone."

The two hours flew. I left there smiling so hard, I thought my face was going to crack in two. I look forward to next week, and all of the wonderful writing that will emerge into the world as a result of this divine time. God knows we need it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I wish not to dread any day that passes. Because each day, even the worst days, are gifts--even if it seems broken off of something and given just so, no gift wrap, no explanation.

But here we are, back here, again. Tax season. And its time to bite the bullet with my front teeth.

All year this shoebox has been staring me. It once carried winter boots. Now it contains every bank statement, credit card statement, bill, and receipt from 2009. The box has been waiting patiently for me to open its belly like a surgeon and sort through its guts, a highlighter my scalpel.

As a writer, performer, aka independent contractor, everything is a tax write off. For the past few years, I have conditioned myself to expense everything. Every cup of tea I drink outside. Every film or play. Every book I buy or outfit I snatch off a store hanger.

It is time to go in there and make sense of it all. To reminisce on every dollar I spent last year, and see how that matches up to every dollar I earned. I hope it all works out in my favor. I am crossing my fingers and toes. Please tax gods. Please don't make me pay.