The Work

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For as long as I have been writing poetry, I have always considered creating it “the work.” Not necessarily the hard work because some of my pieces are written in one take and then I go back, and revise or tweak as needed. Even when I struggle with writing pieces, I never considered writing poetry to be hard. That’s one of the reasons that I resisted majoring in poetry while completing my MFA, I didn’t want anyone to steal the joy of creating it from me. Creating my own collection has always been in the back of my mind but I never took the steps to do it beyond what I needed to create for classes.

But as some of you may know, that’s a project that I’m currently working on. One of the ways that I have been ensuring that I keep working on compiling the manuscript is to make sure that I am going back to it at least once every two weeks just to look at the poems and review them. I have also made myself commit to getting the work together and having a rough version printed and bound by the end of this month so that I can decide which poems will make the cut and to get second and third opinions on whether the collection is cohesive.  What I never considered was that I would be doing this without one of my closest friends who was also my number one poetry advisor. However, I am slowly but surely piecing together a collection that I love. As I mentioned in a previous post, it will contain several of the poems that have been featured on the blog and some older poems that have been revised.

Hopefully, one of my first posts in August will feature an update on my progress and a picture of the printed and bound manuscript. If anyone else has self-published poetry please feel free to share any tips you have.

 

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Who Said It Was So Simple -Audre Lorde

I selected this Audre Lorde poem because I love the title. It reminds me of being young, and a younger adult when I was trying to figure out which version of me was the real one. What I love about the poem itself, is the way she layers in the experiences and imagery making sure that the reader understands the complexities that cloud the poem.  I also love that it catalogues a period in American history and provides a glimpse int the time. In light of today being America’s Independence Day, I wanted to share something that touched on the idea of liberation. Even if only in passing.

green tree photo

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There are so many roots to the tree of anger

that sometimes the branches shatter

before they bear.

 

Sitting in Nedicks

the women rally before they march

discussing the problematic girls

they hire to make them free.

An almost white counterman passes

a waiting brother to serve them first

and the ladies neither notice nor reject

the slighter pleasures of their slavery.

But I who am bound by my mirror

as well as my bed

see causes in colour

as well as sex

 

and sit here wondering

which me will survive

all these liberations.

Won’t You Celebrate with Me-Lucille Clifton

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite poets, and although she is no longer here, we should still celebrate her life. I am so grateful for her life and words; in many ways, Lucille Clifton is one of the reasons that I continue to write. Her works resonate through me and I am always inspired by her. I have decided that my next poetry purchase will have to involve her work.

Enjoy!

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Stages of Regret

I finished this earlier today. It’s a piece that I’ve been struggling on for several months. It’s something that popped up and I felt compelled to start working on. This morning, I stumbled across it and decided to go ahead and work on it. I will probably go back to it and work on it more to fill it out a bit. I would like to make the format more uniform and possibly inject more imagery. But this rough version is very honest and sharp.

As always, enjoy!

female beside on plants

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I’m trying not to regret it
That first step towards you,
the smile, passing you my number
Wishing that I didn’t want to burn you from my memory
The way I burned old diary pages
Lamenting our love
I’m trying to pretend that this has been a learning experience
Like it’s as valuable as all those degrees
When I really just want to rewind time
And walk away at your first words
I’m trying to remember all of the good things
Not the tears, years and emotion
That we’ve put each other through
Like we were magnets drawn to one another
I wish that I regretted every moment
But the grown up version of me
Chooses to simply think of it as you sharpening me as steel sharpens steel

Amid the Roses- Alice Dunbar Nelson

Given the heat and summer, I felt that sharing this poem by Alice Dunbar Nelson would be perfect to share. As I sit here, I can smell my grandmother’s rose bushes and the current heat that we’re experiencing in North Carolina feels as though Satan is peering through all of my windows so this poem felt totally appropriate for me.

Hopefully, you’re all staying cool.

pink petal flowers in shallow focus photography

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There is tropical warmth and languorous life
Where the roses lie
In a tempting drift
Of pink and red and golden light
Untouched as yet by the pruning knife.
And the still, warm life of the roses fair
That whisper “Come,”
With promises
Of sweet caresses, close and pure
Has a thorny whiff in the perfumed air.
There are thorns and love in the roses’ bed,
And Satan too
Must linger there;
So Satan’s wiles and the conscience stings,
Must now abide—the roses are dead.

Port de bras

This is a super short snippet featuring a character who has appeared in a previous pieces that I’ve shared. I’m kind of in love with this character and I feel like she’s pulling me back to share her story. It’s a bit of a comeback story and who doesn’t love those?Anyway, meet Sin! Hopefully, I have painted a good picture of her and the setting.

woman in white dress dancing

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Sin pulled at the neck straps of her white bandage bathing suit. She felt naked even with her bottom half covered in a pair of distressed denim shorts. She stared out of the lenses of her shades at the beautiful turquoise water that surrounded her. She could feel the nervousness of the other seven women on the stage as they waited for the rest of the crew to join them. It was five o’clock in the morning and they had a full day of shooting. The sun was just rising when they were boated across the lagoon to the spot where they’d spend the rest of the day shooting. Her face automatically scrunched into a frown as the hair and makeup people came over to her to try to fight the wild nature of her huge hair; as it fought its way out of the smooth ponytail that they’d spent hours straightening and molding it into. The humidity was not her friend. Great, another thing to worry about!

Although she’d retired many years ago as a model and choreographer, Sincere Owens found herself standing in a lagoon on Malolo Island in Fiji. She’d spent weeks coming up with the choreography for this video. She’d said no initially but with a close friend producing the comeback single for R&B group Shoop and another close friend directing the video for the lead single she had no choice but to dive in. Sin had been a dancer her whole life even before her grandmother enrolled her in formal classes when she was four. She was trained in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, and African dance. It was her first love and while she’d never stopped she had long ago stopped dancing for the public; especially in videos.

Video director Nick Knife had hand selected Sin to choreograph and dance alongside the others since he was shooting a scene on a floating stage. It was an ambitious project geared to attract attention to the reunion and video so he was counting on her to come through with something amazing. The members of the group had shot some scenes on the beach yesterday and were finishing up this morning at the beach bar before they joined the dancers on stage.

They’d rehearsed the moves before their flight out and earlier in an empty banquet room at the resort but none of the ladies had danced on the type of setup they’d been delivered to this morning. The shots would be amazing given the locale but Sin just had this anxious feeling. It had been years since she’d shown the body that had been dubbed made for sin. She’d built a career on it; dancing in a few videos and marketing her own calendars. Her body had held up well. That wasn’t what she was worried about. She smoothed a hand down the bare patches of honey colored skin that peeked through the white bathing suit. Her long legs were toned and glistened from the coconut oil that she’d applied earlier. She looked down at her feet nervously looked at the scars from years of dancing pointe and took a few deep breaths. She saw the tips of Nick’s trademark black Chuck Taylors close to her toes and she looked up into his sable eyes.

Are you nervous?” he asked taking her hands in his. They’d worked together more than 20 years earlier on their first video and she’d been the first call he made when he was contacted about the video.

She smiled and shot him a grin. She wasn’t nervous just…well nervous. She still danced and still made fixes to a few routines at the center but this was different. This was big time and she did not want to screw it up. Popular dancing and dancing in videos had changed since she’d chosen another career and she didn’t want this to look dated or to mess up the video.

“Come on, you know I got you. I’ve seen the routine and it’s perfect, Sin. Here come the guys” he told her as a boat approached the stage. She could see the heads of the five members of the group and their white suits so she walked away to take her dancers through the routine once more.

The Struggle

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One of my goals for the second half of this year aside from putting together my own collection of poetry is to develop some new works. I have been working on some new poetry, but it has been quite difficult. Writing poetry has always been something that comes easily to me. The words have always poured out of me, even after midnight, when I wanted to be asleep.  However, lately I have been unable to really focus on finishing new pieces. I have started at least twenty new poems that are currently sitting in various stages of development on my hard drive. I’m reluctant to call it writer’s block because I am writing but none of those pieces feel complete.

In the hopes of fixing it, I am toying with the idea of pulling out my old craft books and trying to create based on prompts. Or looking up prompts on Poets & Writers or another site. I’ve been trying my hand at different forms of poems in the hopes that they will spark my creativity. I have been looking at tanka, blues poems, epistles, and prose poems; next I may try found poetry. I’m hoping that focusing on different types will help me complete some work. I may just have to pause in trying to create new poetry and focus on some other type of writing until the words come back.

Please share any suggestions or recommendations that you think might help.