As I wrap up the month and close the book slowly on my time in Edinburgh, Scotland, I look back and reflect on the poetic growth and inspiration I have gotten from the poetry community here and I realized a couple of amazing and auspicious things about this place and the people in it. I wrote in stanzas for some reason, we’ll call it habit:
I am aloud to be a poet. Period.
There is no such thing as a poet who is not yet a poet.
Just poets trying to be the best poet they can be.
That is the beauty of poetry.
I came here and identified as a poet
and was not compared to a BNV champion,
I was not degraded to a hobbyist,
and I wasn’t told that I wasn’t good enough
to take the title and claim the name.
This, is what it looks like when poetry has equality.
There is no room for hierarchy, for the adoration
of poets that make more money than they do change
more headlines than they do thoughts.
Are there poets with more experience you may ask?
But these are the same poets who will
invite you to a pub after the event and engage in poetic discourse.
They will ask you to challenge, ask, and debate with confidence
that you are being heard as a poet,
nothing more, nothing less.
These poets are the same poets that will book you for gigs
and encourage you to do better, be better, and perform more.
These are the same poets that will ask what works for you after the workshop–
These are the same poets that will actually HOST WORKSHOPS!!
This is called accessible inspiration.
Along with the many other amazing performers in the area
I hit the jackpot in Edinburgh, Scotland.
So there I sat in a pub,
with a bunch of amazing artists discussing
Poetry as she was happening in Edinburgh.
As if she was living, breathing and
wasn’t picky in inhabiting everybody.
You felt the movement and Poetry
opened her palm to you because you were
It was refreshing
to talk about the poetry I was living;
there was no obsessing over poets
we will never get to talk to or work with
Because they are too famous to spend time with us
without a substantial fee.
All the poets here are poets by their own decree.
Here, a poet is active in adding to the canon
submitting theories to poetic action.
No application is needed. A poet is a poet.
Only 5 months in this city/town
I can’t say I know every corner.
But I do know now
that I will hold proud my title
as a Poet
Spoken word artist
Extender of word
Tamer of thought
Sharer of heart.
We don’t need slam championships and
publishers to open our lips.
And as I see the American horizon
I know there are poets who are dying to speak
but they think they need the money and
need to be famous
for people to give them a listen.
I will tell them
what I learned from Edinburgh
What I learned from Loud Poets
What I learned from Glasgow
What I learned from Scotland
If you are a poet.
You are poet.
"It is hard for public education to succeed when some of the people in it are the most powerful poison"- Byakko
It was not the details of the story that pissed me off but rather the familiar narrative of educators getting thrown under the bus for trying to do the right thing. Public education needs to be dealt with less like an institution and the administrators in it need to think more like parents and less like politicians. This poem is to my Alma Mater and every educator that got slapped for fighting back...
A eulogy for public education (Thank you)
The privatization of education is daunting
To reminisce of the days of government funded
lunches and breakfasts will not ring true for my children.
They will look at me with their learning eyes
poking out of charming school uniforms.
They will have questions about my mystery meat
and free-reduced lunch is for who but
why mommy why?
And I will be forced to forget that the checks
I signed their souls with were once not needed.
The merit that was pulled out of the public school fabric
was stained in hearsay. Only stories where public education
was failing when really it was a representation
of the country since the country is the one doing the funding
But still they yelled:
TEACHERS ARE FORGETTING WHY THEY STARTED TEACHING.
THEY STOPPED PAYING ATTENTION; THEY STOPPED CARING!!
People just stopped listening.
As I balance my checkbook subtracting
my children’s tuition
I will remember and shake my head:
I will think of my mother, the educator,
the assistant principal who fought for public education
but had to resign instead
I will think of Mr. Black who literally
had to fight for students' safety
but was put on leave for protecting
I will think of Joey
who didn’t live long enough to see his advice
for my creative writing pay off
I will think of Madame Holden-Avard
who submits to getting the hope of quality education
drained out of her veins by her own colleagues
I will think of Doug
The father of my world history class shenanigans
(He did not call me his daughter because of a paycheck)
I will think of their silence.
The people who asked them to
shut up, sit down, and find a new job
for protecting what was ours.
I thank them for what they have done.
and I mourn the fact that even then
it wasn’t enough.
I will pick my kids up from school,
wash their uniforms I pay way too much for, and I
will remember who was speaking up for
the public schooling in me. And I will pray
for those who made it too hard for them to stay.
Dinner will be served to my family
on the deathbed of public education.
A moment of silence for those
who fought and still believe in it.
Dig in kids, you have school tomorrow.
I usually don’t like communicating non-poetically but I think with the inspiration that came out of last night I will have to elongate my mode of communication. Yesterday I went and participated in my first Poetry Slam in Edinburgh, Scotland hosted by the Loud Poets (more on them later). I was not entirely excited to go but as my mouth was longing for the stage I said what the hell? Might as well! But little did I know all that I didn’t know about slamming in Edinburgh and slamming in general.
I slammed a wee bit in the States, participated in Brave New Voices 2010 as a part of the Los Angeles team (thanks Get Lit Words Ignite) where my mind was blown on so many levels; I learned so much about myself: I learned about my potential and how much work I was going to have to put in to achieve what I wanted to achieve (a whole hell of a lot!). I have many people to thank for that and all of whom are too busy with their amazing poetic lives to really pay this blog any attention (lol). However, even after the rush of the scores being ran off, the pain of low scores, the addiction to approving snaps, and the roar of applause, I found out a couple things:
and for those reasons I stayed away from Slam poetry and decided to work on my writing as a spoken word poet instead. Fast forward some years and 2 plane rides later, here I am entering a Slam in Edinburgh! I thought I knew what I was in for: fake new york accents, really fast poems, and screaming that damages your throat in the long run (thanks Beau Sia). I thought I knew what to expect, I thought I knew where I would place, and I thought I knew what Slam was and could be for all eternity everywhere. How was wrong was I? Let me tell you…
Refreshing. That is the only way I could describe it. NONE of the poets sounded the same; each poet rang out with a different manifesto and creed in rhythms that resembled ABAB and speeds so varied I wouldn’t dare guess their YouTube inspiration. The topics? Completely off the charts! Masculinity, being ginger, being big-boned, not being big-boned, love (of course), and burning money even! I sat in my cushioned seat in the “poet pit” and choked on my own judgements of Slam poetry here and even back home; these poets were coming with things I have never seen before and never even bothered to look for or appreciate back home. How unfair was I to ignore these aspects in the Slam I was born in! Not only were the poets dynamic and different, the energy was so supportive! I finished a poem and received hugs! How could this be? My preconceived notions of what Slam Poetry could be were burned on the stage and blown away by the power of these poets. So much inspiration and so much more to learn. And then the surprising news, I actually won 1st place! (I was not expecting that!) Not only did I get a bottle of bubbly and a picture with a cool championship belt, but I also get a spot to compete in nationals in Glasgow (I was not expecting that either!). What a wild ride this will be! But that was not even the best part. The best part was sharing this moment with supportive friends and making new ones in the process. What I learned from this Slam is vastly different than what I learned from the last one:
If you have not heard of Loud Poets (either because you are in the States and not hip to them yet or just not listening hard enough to their declarative decrees in the UK and beyond) you should look them up, take a hint, and follow what they are doing and who they are inspiring. If I coud get the Conscious Poets Society to join forces with Loud Poets, we would be INVINCIBLE across the globe!! If you haven’t heard of the Conscious Poets Society (either because we are too far to reach your heart or you're just not hip to us yet, check out the Conscious Poets Society tab and our Facebook page for more info on the 5 College Slam coming up in April!). All this amazing inspiring stuff is below and deserves a gander. And all of this is to prove my point I have been trying and will keep trying to make for the rest of my life:
Poetic Communication changes lives and alters minds.
links worth clicking!
1. You al’right? Is not
a question but more of a:
How are you doing?
2. It is just as much
about what you gain while here
as what you leave here.
3. A romance that’s born
from a foreign backdrop is
nothing more than that.
4. Traveling as an
idea is seductive
but as fact, scary.
5. In some places the
colors burst so vibrant that
you give them new names
6. Going to a liberal
arts college has its ups, downs,
7. Friendships are born here
and raised by discoveries,
not to be undone.
8. Nothing brings closer
God’s presence than knowing that
you’ve made it this far.
9. Money is nothing
more than a nuisance to the
main goal: memories.
10. Does not matter how
many pictures I take, the
the view gets better.
This is for Jasmine
for when you bubble and boil at the sword sharp words of others.
Privilege is not their crime unless they’re persistent to be blind to it.
This is for you, when whipped with canes of their ignorance.
I wish I could protect you.
Mandate that every person who claims
you are addicted to racial issues take a class called:
Let It All Out Privilege Folks 101
So you don’t have to listen to the painful
curiosity they call innocent.
I wish I were there to give you a hug.
We could take a kickboxing class together
and silently beat the millions of micro-aggressions
that make our wrists hurt as well as our minds. If I had a
blood diamond for every time someone told me
I was intelligent and sounded white.
I would be filthy and rich.
I wish I could tell you it gets better.
Sell you on some post-racial society.
But seeing as this is happening at your college
as well as mine, I wouldn’t dare lie to family.
Instead I will tell you the truth. It gets worst.
The normative world is not going to pay you
one black cent for educating the masses.
But they will pay you billions
for holding those resentments.
I wish your biracial skin could pass
so you wouldn’t have to nudge through
other people’s explanations of you.
But your hair speaks a language the other half cannot.
My hair– even braided up– causes controversy.
They assume I can do their heads as well,
gape and touch it like a discovery,
something to be documented with fingertips
Nigga-saying (it’s in the song so I can say it),
and ignorance for ignorance’s sake
hold such a rhythm by itself.
You wonder why we poets even bother.
It could stand on its own like a song
So played out. How tiring is it to say that we are tired.
I wish this poem could tell you something different.
Deny your experiences as isolated or pass a bill that my
Let It All Out Privilege Folks 101 class be mandatory
at every PWC in the country. But reality is the one thing
that doesn’t taste sweeter the darker it gets.
Leave the ignorance. Take their education.
The stronger we get, they will have no choice but to listen.
Love even lives in an empty Sanctuary,
shoe soles echo through heating vents
older than Jerusalem.
Constantly moving, the air embraced
the already sticky pews riddled with
foreign fingerprints pressing for prayer.
A welcome pamphlet stuck out the pew number
askew to the left as if curious or pointing.
The whole building seemed to travel cyclically,
from the optical illusion of eternity in the ceiling
all the way down to the powerful pillars
that traveled back up through the organ pipes,
resembling a giant baby's first recorder.
Not a sound in earshot but for the prayer pillows
possibly knocked while taking a seat.
They were just wide enough for a knee and a tear,
they hung on a hook at the ready, like a coat
that finally can rest when you get home
and turn on the light.
Yet how can illumination have diction?
As if light bulbs didn't exist and stained glass
had a wattage, the windows burst with colors
not found in science or pigment; the story walked
on walls to the pulpit and rested at the top
in a column of three in gold.
I don't know exactly why I cried.
Maybe it was because a sanctuary
is never truly empty.
1. Cobble stone streets lend
to nostalgia but do not
support learning boots.
2. American tongues
are sharper than most countries .
Adjust to silence.
3. Blood pudding involves
dried blood sausage and science.
It’s not a cookie.
4. The Scottish accent
is a song with a beat.
Learn rhythm not words.
5. I have learned to like
potatoes and walking and
6. Parties are weekly
Monday through Sunday so sleep
is option and choice.
7. Pubs pubs and more pubs.
Ginger ale whisky and brew.
Pubs pubs and more pubs.
8. The sun rises at
9 sets at four so learn
to walk in darkness.
9. They were right to say
the chill seeps into your bones
You can’t run from it.
10. New countries are hard
to wear like places you’ve worn
before so be calm.
I woke up feeling clean.
The kind of clean you find on your teeth,
after they have picked and scratched and
scrubbed them to that white hue with sharp tools
we are all afraid of using ourselves.
The inner lining of my skin is now smooth
and finally worth leaning on.
I feel clean. I am sure this is what it feels like.
Because to know clean you must first be
friends with filthy, an acquaintance of crummy
and a distance relative callous.
I have known these things
as they have stuck to my being before,
made my insides rust and flake off
in a flurry of inconceivable nightfall
This I know. I know both.
Today, I can perceive and receive a morning of clean,
with hands visible to the valley in my own fingerprints
exposed and extended, almost transparent,
almost fragile, almost open, almost there.
Reaching for my being
Clean and clear
I guess the thing that eluded me first
Poetry didn't flow out of me like a divine diarrhea
(waiting for an open mic stage
where people are half listening
and half going over their poems praying
you don't read another one).
Is it because poetry didn't know
which pore to seep out of and witness for herself
just how lost and found I really am?
I have no idea what I am seeing for the first time
and I am without stanza or cause
Empty. Like tears that aren't mine.
I have felt fear for so long
What better to replace it with
than Jazz on rustic historic stone
shining pebbles that dare call themselves
a street in Edinburgh.
So far from home.
How many hills quietly sit or stand
in fog maybe or saturated in rainfall?
How many of those green hills–
So green that you forget that money use to rule you–
How many of those mounds of grass barely grazed,
barely walked through or driven upon,
How many of those are waiting for me?
Next to a brown road
(no need to pave what doesn't have secrets)
that winds arounds like a belt or miniskirt
no words, just road.
How many of those do you think I can run
roll down or walk in a progression
until I reach the Horizon?
the source for all the patience the hills have carried
all these years
How many hills on an unknown Scottish countryside
marked by the tiniest of the sun to hit the top of one–
How many are waiting for my back or bum to rest or
stand against the wind looking forward (only forward)
How many of those moments are waiting for me
How many of those are calling me
to just get up and go.