On Retention, or A Lesson in Meta-Learning – VIDEO Performance

Me, performing this piece live.
Me, performing this piece live on May 13th at the Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge in Atlanta, GA.

So, earlier this week, I wrote and performed an entirely fresh piece at a newer, live literature event in town. This was my first performance in Atlanta with my name on the program (whaddup progress!), and I said some pent-up, poetic things about education and accidents. (Some folks snapped, some even giggled.)

A big thank you to the Solve for X science variety show for giving me the opportunity to perform. I hadn’t written anything specifically designed for the stage in a while, and after struggling to flex those muscles once again, I felt super energized once I finally had completed the final draft of the piece I ended up performing.

Check out the video below for my performance. And shouts out to my brother for recording this and making me look good with his fancy camera!

New Home for An Old Poem – “The City of Music Refrained”

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Timothy Wildey)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Timothy Wildey)

Hey Folks!

Some great news that I just recently got wind of. One of my poems that I’d originally written for the 2014 edition of my 30/30 Challenge recently found a new home with The Five Hundred.

I’d submitted my old “The City of Music Refrained” poem for their March 2105 prompt, “Get it back on track,”  and they were kind enough to post it up on their site. So, please go check out my words over there, and maybe even consider submitting something of your own to The Five Hundred as well.

Happy reading (and hopefully more publishings to come).
— JB

My Top 6 Poems of the 30/30 Poetry Challenge 2015

So, I’ve compiled this list of six to help you get your quick poetic fix.

These are my favorite poems of my own crafting from my most recent 30/30 sprint of April 2015. They may or may not have gotten the most shares/likes/comments, but I think that these pieces were some of my most successful in the sense of rising to the challenge of most ruthlessly and lovingly excavating those parts of myself I’d been trying the hardest to guard (as was my goal for this year’s NaPoWriMo).

If you like these (or others) of my poems, then enjoy, share, and/or say things.
And thanks again for your support!
– Justin

Day 4 – The Hero’s Hand
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Marguffa!)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Marguffa!)

A poem of demons and duality.

Day 9 – When Talking to Women (Note to Self)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Brodaman)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Brodaman)

A poem to remind myself to be myself when attempting to flirt.

Day 13 – Women Ache Rain
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Mαmà)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Mαmà)

A poem subconsciously handcrafted using poetry fridge magnets, possibly deep.

Day 18 – He Took Me to a Gay Bar (for Michael)
(Photo Credit: Flickr, IPS News)
(Photo Credit: Flickr, IPS News)

A poem of love, a lesson on the origins of confidence.

Day 26 – How to Bake a Racist Cake
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Krisztián Laczó)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Krisztián Laczó)

A recipe poem that’s super easy to make yourself today!

Day 30 – Applying Myself (To Your Altar)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Ashdon McFall)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Ashdon McFall)

A poem. A rather deep, dark, and bloodstained poem.

Wrangling in My Excavation of National Poetry Month 2015

Me, posing with a gigantic print of what has always been my phone’s background. (“The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” by Hokusai.)

Dearest All,

As of the last day of April 2015, I have succeeded in completing my self-imposed 30/30 poetry dig. This means I have conquered National Poetry Writing Month for the 3rd year running! (Yeeee-hawwww!) [Please ignore the interim of 10 days that has passed since my posting about this; life gets busy out on the range sometimes.]

All cowboy-glee-noises aside, a gargantuan THANK YOU goes out to every one of you who has been reading, sharing, and commenting on my poetry. Your support, encouragement, attentiveness, and critiques are appreciated more than you’ll ever know.

As I’d mentioned in my “preamble” to NaPoWriMo15, this year I challenged myself to poetically go after the parts I’ve been trying the hardest to guard, the parts that should be most ruthlessly and lovingly excavated. And with poems that touched on my more sinister side(s), sex and sexuality, breakups and closure, awkwardness and flirting, death and dying, the saving power of friendships, paternal instinct, racism and baking, the BP Oil Spill, and ranting at things/people in desperate need of being ranted about (all while also sometimes experimenting with new kinds of form), I think I dug well, and dug deeply.

A funny thing happened as a result of this digging. My words garnered 1,263 views during the month of April, 102 views on April 28th alone (when I posted this poem, “How to Bake a Racist Cake”), and they now have an overall record of 11,034 views (and counting) — nearly 3x the exposure my poems had earned since this time last year. Though this 30/30 did not net as many views as least year’s, I think I’m getting better at walking that line between what people want to hear and what I want to say to them. And sometimes the truth is popular, sometimes it’s painful.

Looking back over my past 3 years of NaPoWriMo writing, I’ve definitely noticed both and improvement and added depth to my poetry. And the next big step from here will include submitting more of my words to more poetry journals and magazines so that they may be published, and so more folks will hopefully see them. (As they say in American Hustle, I’m building this writing career “from the feet up,” and that requires exposure.)

So I’ll certainly be writing and posting more poems, just on a more lax schedule, because the 30/30 sprint can be draining, even if exhilarating. Thanks again for all the love, and if you ever think anyone else may be moved by my words, please share with them as well.

Happy digging to you all.
— Justin Barisich
(Little Writing Man)

Day 30 – Applying Myself (to Your Altar)

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Ashdon McFall)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Ashdon McFall)

The blood has been dripping
from my fingers, for years,
with the frustration of a leaky faucet.

I must decide, now, if it’s best
to keep wrapping the same corrosion
or just gut the whole damn thing –
drain the heart of the problem,
once, and with all possible finality.


I am standing at your altar,
priests of modern poetry,
with self-sharpened knife
pressed to pulsing vein, welling,
willing and ready to drain myself
for your bemusement,
hoping for only a chance

to smear it beneath you
in exchange for instruction
in the darkest of our art.

to learn your tested techniques –
how you hold pen like ceremonial blade,
angled proper for extracting the most
from each slow, scraping, skilled incision.

[heavy breathing]

to watch where you stab the hardest
and note what gurgles up from where –
what wells of pity, pride, and pain.

[heavier breathing]

to bring the slice to my pursed lips,
to taste it all again just to describe
it better for someone else’s pleasure.

[shallow breathing]

to trace the scars where you prodded
too deeply, too truly,
never able to syphon it all back in,
to hide the extraction sites.

[shallowed breathing]

to bury your corpse when it finally runs dry,
to know you well enough to say
a few good words at your funeral,
while everyone else admires
your calculated bloodstains
pressed to pallid paper.

[emptying breath]

Day 29 – Life is an Interstate

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Chad Johnson)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Chad Johnson)

When we’re born, we all start driving.
We don’t realize it for many years,
but we’re always moving, always navigating
something to get somewhere.

We’re forever trying to get our bearings
in our different makes and models,
always learning how to maneuver
these mobile, grumbling engines –
the hearts of our burdened beasts.

At some point, we all discover the interstate,
and some learn to love the fast lane
while others take it slow in the far right.
As we cruise on by, we begin to take note of the exits,
which one offers the best stops along the way.

Some folks get off too early,
nervous that they’ll miss their old streets too much.
Others take unexpected detours and never make it back out onto the road.
Others have engine troubles and are happy to have any port in the storm.
Others blow out a tire and never recover from the shock.
Others get in small accidents that eat at them for the rest of their spinning days.

Others get run over by cars far bigger than theirs,
and they become the tragic tales of the road,
the cautionary stories that overprotective mothers
whisper into their infants’ ears as they sleep.

Others stay on too long, searching endlessly
for that next track that’ll provide the same thrill
until they’ve burned up every ounce of fuel.

Only a few actually make it to their destinations,
wherever they may be. And they’re why
we stay on the road, why we keep hunting
for where we belong, where we’ll find other cars
that rev up for the same reasons as ours.

But the secret of the interstate
is that we can’t stop seeking it,
can’t stop driving until its right for us, and us alone,
because the road will always rise up to meet us,
and, baby, our engines were born to run.

Remember, forever:
the experience of the distanced journey
is always more beautiful
than touring the same streets
until your tires turn treadless.

Day 28 – The Prophets Were All Just Really Bad Poets

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Manuel Atienzar)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Manuel Atienzar)

for once, for a change, think about it:
they called themselves “The Prophets” (cuz damn that sounds cool)
and they were all members of the local writer’s group –
39 pitiful poets trying to crack it in Jerusalem
(and represent J-town right with the might of their inkpots).

and their artistic director, J.C.,
(the one who often had the best ideas
and the most practiced performance style)
claimed that his dopest rhymes
had been rumored to cure people from time to time.

so J.C. and the Boys’ wanted to make a splash on the scene,
and the collective concocted a collaborative effort –
an old-school throwback album they titled “The Bible”
(knowing it really meant “the book,” but kept the name anyway)
because this shit was gonna be fiya and hit heavy when it dropped.

they all got sections in it, and assumed it would reach
at least gold status, sell a gazillion copies by way of cross-promotion
and word-of mouth marketing, the only way it could,
because they were all pretty terrible as solo artists,
(and, let’s be honest, nobody understood
Facebook Stone’s virality algorithm yet.)

they each dreamt of the local girls
fawning over their coolness, their wordplay
(not to mention all their sex and death and family strife),
would curl lines around the marketplace
to catch glimpses of them embodying
the voices of their favorite characters.

but here was their problem: they were
always using confusing and cryptic language,
phrasings and metaphors that don’t tend toward timeless,
making arcane references to their own favorite, sacred writer –
some old guy who’d never even managed to sign a second book deal.

when the album flopped, a sacrifice had to be made;
they’d invested too much time and money already.
Judas, the group’s most malicious M.C., had the answer.

things started turning around quickly for the group
when J.C. turned posthumous, flew to the skies,
returned to the earth, and melded
personal tragedy with artistry.
besides, he’d now made enough money
to find forgiveness in his heart,
so he made peace with his boys.

“The Bible” sold like hotcakes then,
and all of Jerusalem’s who’s who
and everybody else who wanted to be cool
bought the album on vinyl and proclaimed
to love The Prophets, even if they had no idea
what the hell they were even talking about.

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


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