I Wrote an Article on Spoken Word Poetry, It Got Published on YARN

[Photo Credit: Flickr / Garry Knight]
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Garry Knight]
Hey folks, remember that time a few months back I mentioned how I’d become a Poetry Reader for YARN? Welp, yesterday the journal decided to publish to its young adult audience one of the first spoken word pieces it has accepted (whaddup progress!). And since I’ve learned a few things about the art over the years, YARN asked me to write an article/blog post about it. And then they published it on their website, in conjunction with a video of that spoken word piece, and now I’ve got words about words getting out into the worlds. (Score!)

I’m honored that YARN would give me the opportunity to wax prosaic about poetry, specifically about spoken word/performance poetry and all our collective endeavors to help it receive the recognition it deserves as a legitimate art form. I talk about that, the “page vs. stage” dichotomy, and — more personally — about how the art has, quite literally, changed my entire life’s trajectory. (Shouts out to Vandy Spoken Word for making that happen.)

To read the article (with its long title of “On Spoken Word Poetry: Learning to Project Your Voice in the Shadow of Another’s”) over on YARN’s website, click here. 

New Home for an Old Poem, Part 3 – “The Pup That Made Me Paternal”

The Wee Baby Cappy, or Young Captain Alejandro (9 weeks old)
The Wee Baby Cappy, or Young Captain Alejandro (9 weeks old)

Y’all, my words have been putting in work recently, so I have some more great publishing news to share on their behalf. Another one of my poems that I’d originally written back in 2014 has found a new home with The Five Hundred.

I’d submitted my old “The Pup That Made Me Paternal” poem for their May 2015 prompt, “Are we there yet?” and they were kind enough to post it up on their site. (I also hope they’re kind enough to forgive me for sharing about it 3 months after the fact.) So check out my words over there, and maybe even consider submitting something of your own to The Five Hundred as well.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to all that goodness, The Five Hundred is currently putting together a print retrospective chapbook of the top pieces of writing it’s received over its past 5 years of existence. And out of the literal hundreds of people who’ve submitted over the past half-decade, the editor has thought my stuff good enough to be inked into existence forever! If you’d like to chip in toward making this printed awesomeness a reality, head on over to their GoFundMe page and throw some digital nickels at it. The list of contributors is phenomenal.

Happy reading, writing, and gifting to you all.
— LWM / JB

To The Rich White Frat Boys I’ve Been Mistaken For

[Photo Credit: Flickr / BadJonni]
[Photo Credit: Flickr / BadJonni]

You’ve never known nothingness –
to have your world washed away,
to hear silence, complete and actual silence,
because even the background birds
and crickets couldn’t manage survival.

You’ve never known what work is –
sweat and grime and filth caked on skin,
leave it there for the protection.
The sea will accept you as one
when you return to her.

You’ve never known sacrifice –
more than hard choice forced between stones,
but the loss of self, of love, of life
for the sake of something, anything more –
abandonment in exchange for betterment.

This similar surface we share cannot be shed,
but all things have been given to you since conception,
and appeasement never seems to sate little tyrants.
This is what separates us,
has always separated us,
and will continue to separate us.

You’ve never had to take every scrap of success,
every sip of kindness, every last drop
of independence and act grateful for it,
like it wasn’t something I had to steal
away from you, darting out the back doors
of your fathers’ mansions, the moon wild in my eyes.

Do not pity me, I ask not for it
and it will bring you no comfort.
Just remind them we are not the same,
remember it when you see me seated
across the table, gripping your last silver knife,
and considering where to plunge it.

Glass Organs (A Tanka)

[Photo Credit: Flickr / Andrew Katic]
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Andrew Katic]

we are not fragile
glass organs born from lightning
pack body with sand
there’s healing after heartbreak
the soul has never shattered

[Note: A proper tanka can be read beginning to end, as well as end to beginning, and make sense both ways, perhaps even with different meanings.]

All Our Hazy Rhetoric (VIDEO and POEM)

[Original poem written in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act. Performed at Java Monkey Speaks poetry open mic in Atlanta, GA on August 9th, 2015. Words below.]

She takes a long drag from her cigarette
and releases the smoke into the night air.
It hovers thick over Atlanta.
We sit atop the roof of her building downtown,
each downing our third beer,
letting the conversation flow
wherever it feels needed.

Politics interjects, and the circus of candidates
closely follows. I tell her how
I’ve never voted for a president,
and really didn’t plan to.

She holds her breath and lets the tobacco
work its magic. But her eyebrows
tell me everything I need to know.

I can see the unmistakable disdain,
the coddling look of pobrecito
mixed with anger over the waste.

I begin preparing myself for the assault
that is soon to follow. I wait, ready
for the infuriated strike, but her eyebrows
shift, and all she says is Why?

I’ve fought this battle before of different fields,
and I launch my strategic artillery
like a political symphony.

The Electoral College is its own literacy test.
And the hurdle is reading how to trust ourselves
to care enough to know more
of the back-channeling politics than the polished front
presented to us in Civics class.
Because our governments don’t trust us
to make the right choices, so they really only
let a few members choose. A government
for certain people, of certain people, by certain people.

She lets me finish and then responds
to my litany like a chorus:
Justin, you have to vote.
Justin, you have to vote.
Justin, you have to vote,
for me.

***

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act passes.
President Lyndon B. Johnson says the word negroes
so many times in his announcement speech,
as if telling a man what he is isn’t awkward enough.

In 2013, the Supreme Court extracts the teeth
from the very same Voting Rights Act –
like a backwoods southern dentist with homebrew anesthetic.
Literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses rise
from their graves and cryptic-crawl back into the house.
Of the ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said
Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the V.R.A.

This hubris, this arrogance, is the inbred cousin
of the one that first told us that our children
should only be allowed to try
the ice cream that matches their skin,
that only one will stain your weekend shirt.
Because every Sunday is bloody
from Selma to Montgomery
and Jim Crow still stands out in the middle
of his southern corn rows and crop circles
scaring those who never learned,
or never remember, our history.

I wanted to tell you that
we’re generationally gaining our humanity back.
That the great white nation has returned
from its great white flight and learned
something of other winds.
But I’m not so sure anymore.

It has been 50 years since we first wished
upon a 1965 star, and we still have to whisper
progress to ourselves with every passing century,
or else the wish may get lost in all our hazy rhetoric
and never have a chance to come true.

The Slow Heal

[Photo Credit: Flickr / RougeEtNoire]
[Photo Credit: Flickr / RougeEtNoire]

she said elaborate
and i tried
to make her remember
the dark dazzle
of delirious
the child’s crush
of eternity
the desire to devour
every night
wild in her belly
hot and honeyed above
the bitter prisoners
we have since become

[Poem crafted using poetry magnets.]
[Poem crafted using poetry magnets.]

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau

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