Sunday, 28 September 2014

I Should Get Out More

Last evening, I had the pleasure and honour of participating in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change poetry event. The session in which I participated was one of two that marked the event in Toronto.

Truth be told, I was a tad nervous about reading...delivering my poems to that crowd. Most of my readings, to date, have been to smaller Literary Café crowds. And, as I mentioned to the gathering last Sunday afternoon, I always feel I'm in a welcome and comfortable space when sharing my poems there. But, I was not sure whether - and how - the Toronto mix would be different. I simply counted on them being poets or lovers of poetry.

My preparation took me to a new place. I asked a (really nice) co-worker to give a listen. Well, according to her, seeing me in that element for the first time, "You're gonna kill it!" :-) Okay, so, I dunno about that. I do know I put a lot into preparing for performances and speaking events. I recorded myself; timed myself and was glad I came within 20 seconds of the allotted 15 minutes. But, it was good to see that a total stranger to my poetry didn't break out in hives.

The highlight of the evening was not the fact that everyone was noticeably quiet during my set - unlike the much chatter during those of others. (I read from my upcoming "Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years".) Neither was it the wonderful compliments I received right after and long after, in person and in email. No. The highlight of the evening was that one of my sis, Durie, was there to cheer me on. Well, she also helped me out by recording the set. Heh heh. But, I was really glad that she came to keep my company and give moral support.

Further to a few conversations I had with a couple of the organisers just before I left, it turns out I will have opportunities to deliver my poems to more audiences. I like the sound of that. It's one thing to be home, or wherever, writing. It's another to share the created pieces with others. And, the more I do share - online or offline - the fewer butterflies I have to whip into V-formation each time. Go figure.

Yeeaah. I really should get out more.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Your Voice Will Find You

There is a plus to writing often: One becomes better at putting one's thoughts into words. After a while, you are so in tune with knowing what you want to say, and saying exactly that. No more; no less.

There is also a plus to writing regularly. Keeping a writing date with yourself helps keep you disciplined. As you know, my dates are the 8th, 18th and 28th of the month. As you live up to your self-imposed expectations, meeting that regular commitment like clockwork, you come to appreciate that particular meaning of self-respect.

For, it is true that holding yourself to a high standard and honouring your commitment to self, show that you respect and value your own time. See,  you could easily put off doing the thing, because, after all, "It's just for me. It's not like I made a commitment to someone else." Fact is, if you don't value yourself and your own work or creative process, don't be surprised if others don't; if you're often asked to blow off your creative moment, in deference to someone else.

It is usually said that, as you keep writing, you will find your voice. I've taken that to mean, over time, you will come, more and more easily, to rest on and write about that thing that stirs you the most. That thing that makes you mist up; or makes you laugh out loud; or makes you angry; or makes you feel nothing but contempt; or makes you sad, even to tears. And you'll be so drawn to it that you find you want to write about it, even if not all the time, but, certainly more often than you want to write about other things. And, that does happen.

Over the years, I've come to realize that I take great pleasure in writing about the little people in my life. Of them all, I've written most about my niece. I've found writing about her to be joy-infusing. It's delightful, really, to have a conversation with her, then quite easily, preserve that moment by putting it into words. Who knew I'd come to look forward to writing about (and for) children? And, who knows? She might come to be amused by some of it later on. As a matter of fact, we're collaborating on a writing project. Uh-huh. Well, she's doing (most of) the talking, and I'm doing the writing. More to come. Suffice it to say, we're very excited about it!

But, also also? The biggest plus of all to writing often and regularly: Your voice will find you, at long last, ready and willing and strong and disciplined enough to carry and convey the sentiments and messages for the season. You will find, even though the fear that "everybody's gonna hate this piece!" never entirely goes away, there's far, far less of it. You will find you've grown courageous enough to not require several prompts - from yourself, or others - to "put it out there." You will find you are able, and willing, to swim against the current; say the unpopular; write your heart out, and know, finally, that it's okay. Yes, there may be reactions to what you write - some positive, some negative, and some outright snubs. And you will find you don't care about that - and wonder why you spent so much time caring about that in the past. :-) You will begin to write with clarity, saying what you mean to say; realizing those who are for you are more than those who aren't (plus, they're better looking!) learning as you go and grow, and reading the good ones. (I hear bad writing is contagious.)

And, what is more - for me, at least, where it used to come down to #writeorsuffocate - one finds that it becomes far easier to breathe.

Monday, 8 September 2014

"Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years" An Intro - of sorts.

Yaaay! First post kicking off Year 7! Yes. Yes. I am getting waaay ahead of myself. Just a tad excited, is all.

For a moment there, I was beginning to wonder whether I'd finish coining the title of this post.

There are a few writing projects in train. The one I'd like to mention tonight is the poetry. You've heard about the poetry, yes? No? Well, allow me. (I have, in fact, mentioned a bit about the poetry in a few posts, and have also shared a few poems. But, I digress.) Over the weekend, I continued to work on my poetry project. It's a book of poems spanning quite a few years. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I've decided on the title and subtitle: Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years. I also have a sub-subtitle, if you will. (If there's a more technical term, do share.) The sub-subtitle will be written in italics right under the title. I thought of it just today, so, there's no way I'm ready to share that here. But, I love you! :-)

Man, those things really added up! I'm looking at scores and scores of poems out of the lot. Like, seriously. They do, after all, span the years between 14 and 40-ish. Hence the title. Any surprises there? Okay. Who did not see that coming? As I've envisioned, the book has three phases, with a few pieces of short prose in appropriate spots. It's taking shape, from my mind to the page, and I like that.

I've had two beta readers so far. Yes. One of them was my mom. Of course. But, as thankful as I was/am for her positive feedback, it's...advisable to get feedback from folks who aren't family. The other was an editor I'd met via Twitter. I won't share much of what he said here. After all, I am thinking of asking him whether I may reproduce some of it in the book. However, one thing stood out. He said, afterward, that he felt like he knew me. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm still not sure whether that's a welcome thing. And, yet, here I am about to publish the book of rather telling poems! Hmm. For, you see, they are rather telling. I write from the heart - and wear it on my sleeve. An English Lit professor had once told me/the class: "Poetry comes from a place of deep emotion." Over the years, now and again as I wrote the poems, I'd remember him saying that. And I'd understand all over what he'd meant. The poetry itself is in the composition but you can't make that stuff up.

I'm getting the doc ready for another beta reader. Daniel Kojo Appiah is a poet from Ghana I met on Twitter. We'd had a few exchanges long before he was named the winner of the inaugural Ghana Poetry Prize in 2013. Just sayin'. He goes by the handle: @OZionn. During a quick chat the other day, the thought came to mind to ask him whether he would do it. He said he would. I'm looking forward to his feedback. I shall have to remind him not to be gentle.

As I prepare to get the poems out, I'm also getting ready to read a few of them at the upcoming 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Toronto, later this month. One of the organizers said she thought of me and so extended an invitation. We'd met at the Lit Café in town a few years ago, and she's heard me read my poems. She added, "...your poems reflect a depth and a beauty more than you realize." She said a few other heart-warming things, but I'll save 'em. :-) So, this weekend, God willing, I'll be sure to show up at the Lit Café to practise...I mean, perform. The pieces I've done there on repeated visits have been appreciated. This time around, I'll be one of the featured poets. That'll help.

(And, I simply must find a way to tie in my pen name - reserved only for the poetry - Dnafcnatgada. No. I do not know what it means. It came, quite simply, out of the air, as I pondered, at 14 years old, what my "poet name" should be. Yes, that's a silent "D", to boot. If it rings close to something in your frame of reference; your knowledge base; your linguistic armoury, or your stream of consciousness, do share.)

So, you understand my excitement. Rather, so, you understand my excitement! I'm so psyched! Getting this book published will be a huge deal for me. Always thankful for family and friends who've been über-supportive. Can almost hear a few of them going, "Finally!" Lol! Ohh, the sound of it: "A published poet." Tee hee. God continues to order my steps and each day brings me closer. And, what's that word again? Ahh, yes. Relatability.

"Funny, isn't it, how one moment can change a million after it." - Raya (Movie: How She Move)