Hot Reads 11/9/14

The theme that emerged from this edition of  Hot Reads is women who know who they are and are unapologetic. I love that. I love a woman who doesn’t follow the crowd, who goes her own way. Women like New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux, actor Frances McDormand, and the iconic Janis Joplin.

Enjoy!

From the New York Times: A Star Who Has No Time for Vanity
Tagline: Frances McDormand, True to Herself in HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’
Favorite quote: “We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species,” she said. “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal.”
Note: I like this woman’s attitude; she’s fierce and definitely her own woman.  Her acting skills belong in an elite league of strong women actors that, for  me, include Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, and Lupita Nyong’o.  If you haven’t seen Laurel Canyon, you must!

Photo via Flavorwire

Photo via Flavorwire

 

From Flavorwire: The Shocking True Story of My Life With a Flip Phone
Favorite quote: “And ultimately, not everybody has a smartphone. For one thing: they’re really expensive. I’ve been looking into it, and the initial expenditure is shocking to me. How do people afford and/or justify it? Then, regarding Apple products, it’s a lose-lose situation of predetermined obsolescence and keeping up with the Joneses, every year.” and “I find the addictive qualities of the smartphone, and how they’ve changed the way that people are present in public in cities to be somewhat disconcerting.” and…….THE WHOLE ENTIRE ARTICLE.
Note: I really liked this piece because I now know there are other anti-iPhone people like me out there. And, of course, I love that this young woman feels absolutely no peer pressure to have the latest technology.

And speaking of phone addictions…..

From HuffPo: 7 Reasons to Banish Your Phone From the Bedroom
Favorite quote: “A study published in the journal Nature last summer by Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., revealed how the artificial blue light emitted from electronic devices like cell phones, smartphones and tablets activates arousing neurons within the brain, preventing us from feeling sleepy.”
Note: I love my iPad mini and I often take it to bed with me at night and read. There’s no doubt in my mind that the longer I read the less I feel like sleeping. Lately, I’ve been choosing to read a real paper and ink book instead because I don’t want to become addicted to my iPad anymore than I want to be addicted to a phone. Plus, reading a real book at bedtime always makes me sleepy.
You really have to make a conscious decision to step away from the glowing screen.

Photo by Paul Costello for The New York Times

Dawn DeDeaux by Paul Costello for The New York Times

From The New York Times: Between Apocalypses (Interview with New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux about her Prospect .3 installation, Mothership)
Favorite quote: “At 15, Ms. DeDeaux considered herself an old master; by her early 20s, she was making installations out of telephone booths hooked up to CB radio channels. She was also part of the group that founded the Contemporary Arts Center here in 1976, she said, a year after she won the demolition derby in the Superdome.”
Note: This interview was so interesting and really sparked my interest to see Mothership. Yet another unique, independent woman!

The featured Book List is from Book Riot: Peek Over Our Shoulders: What Rioters Are Reading
When I saw Bird Box on this list it gave me the extra push to download and read it. What they said about it: “Bird Box by Josh Malerman: When a bunch of Rioters say a book is so scary that you have to put it in the freezer, you buy the book and gird your girdable parts.” What I say about it: I slept with a light on. If you like apocalyptic stories, this one is for you.

Featured poem is by Dorianne Laux whose work I’ve become somewhat obsessed with over the summer. I’m a Janis Joplin fan so when I read her poem “Pearl” from her book,  Smoke, I immediately emailed and asked permission to post it here. She graciously agreed. This poem is so good it makes me shiver. Reading this, I feel like I’m right there in the audience at Monterey in  1967. When a poem, or any piece of writing, can transport you to a different place and time so easily and so convincingly, well, you know it’s exceptional.
Here is an MP3 of Dorianne reading “Pearl” and talking about the writing of the poem. Enjoy!
FullSizeRender

Pearl

She was a headlong assault, a hysterical
discharge,
an act of total extermination.
–Myra Friedma, Buried Alive:
The Biography of Janis Joplin

She was nothing much, this plain-faced girl from Texas,
this moonfaced child who opened her mouth
to the gravel pit churning in her belly, acne-faced
daughter of Leadbelly, Bessie, Otis, and the booze-
filled moon, child of the honky-tonk bar-talk crowd
who cackled like a bird of prey, velvet cape blown
open in the Monterey wind, ringed fingers fisted
at her throat, howling the slagheap up and out
into the sawdusted air. Barefaced, mouth warped
and wailing like giving birth, like being eaten alive
from the inside, or crooning like the first child
abandoned by God, trying to woo him back,
down on her knees and pleading for a second chance.
When she sang she danced a stand-in-place dance,
one foot stamping at that fire, that bed of coals;
one leg locked at the knee and quivering, the other
pumping its oil-rig rhythm, her bony hip jigging
so the beaded belt slapped her thigh.
Didn’t she give it to us? So loud so hard so furious,
hurling heat-seeking balls of lightning
down the long human aisles, her voice crashing
into us-sonic booms to the heart-this little white girl
who showed us what it was like to die
for love, to jump right up and die for it night after
drumbeaten night, going down shrieking – hair
feathered, frayed, eyes glazed, addicted to the song –
a one-woman let me show you how it’s done, how it is,
where it goes when you can’t hold it in anymore.
Child of everything gone wrong, gone bad, gone down,
gone. Girl with the girlish breasts and woman hips,
thick-necked, sweat misting her upper lip, hooded eyes
raining a wild blue light, hands reaching out
to the ocean we made, all that anguish and longing
swelling and rising at her feet. Didn’t she burn
herself up for us, shaking us alive? That child,
that girl, that rawboned woman, stranded
in a storm on a blackened stage like a house
on fire.

_________________________________

Damn, that’s good!

Don’t forget to follow our Hot Reads board on Pinterest and have a great reading week!

This Autumn Refresh Your Wild Spirit

It’s finally autumn in New Orleans, I think, since we’ve had a couple of cool-ish days and it’s mid-October. The sky today is a blue so blue it’s like looking into infinity and the air is thin and breathable. Ahhhhh…. On days like this all I want to do is sit lie in the backyard and stare up through the trees and daydream. But the crisp, cool days are also great for revving your spirit up, for tackling projects that were too hot to handle in the summer, and (best of all) for spending some time paying attention to YOU and to what nourishes you.

I read an article on Rebelle Society, a cool website I recently discovered, that I just had to share with you. They’ve graciously given me permission to share their list of 8 Wondrous Ways to Restore Your Wild Spirit, part of a longer piece by Victoria Erickson. Sometimes we need to be reminded that the simple things are still the  best things for restoring a weary spirit. The entire article is here and I highly recommend it!

1. Garden

Gardeners are cultivators and regenerators, harvesting new life and replacing the old, stagnant energy with new seeds. Dig into the dirt with bare hands and breathe the essence of herbs and flowers into your wise body, for it will recognize them as home. Get earthy and gorgeously dirty.

***

2. Feed on raw food.

Energize, alkalize, and heal your body on a deep, cellular level. Nourish yourself with vibrant greens and fresh juices with nutrients you know the story behind; nutrients that heal illnesses instead of creating them with chemicals born in a lab.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. ” ~ Ann Wigmore

Start buzzing with aliveness from food that is also alive, and feel your body’s wisdom beat with every breath.

***

 3. Find live music.

Find the kind of music that makes your soul soar from the sound. From drum circles under ancient trees, to jazz on city streets, to underground clubs that keep people dancing through the night, music’s rhythmic beats exist to tell universal truths that awaken us from everyday hibernation. 

Have you ever seen crowds of 60,000 people at music festivals?  They sing with the bands under enormous summer skies, erupting into applause, dance, and smiles so large they ache. If that isn’t the wild, primal roar of the human spirit, than I don’t know what is. Find it, because music, my friends, is life. 

***

4. Play. 

Find the most hilarious person you know, whether it’s over social media, lunch, or the work water cooler and laugh. Even if you only have 20 minutes, take a random car ride to somewhere even more random. Dance to eighties music while you clean the house, paint the inside of your garage neon, or watch a Pixar movie with your favorite kiddo.

Personally, I love swing sets. I don’t care what your age is or how busy you are, play is essential to promote a youthful mind which is dynamic, curious, and enthusiastic, and that will open you to new possibilities which will feed your wild spirit even more.  A playful mind is fluid, creative, and of course, wild.

***

 5. Make love.

“Despite what you’ve been conditioned to believe, sexual desire is sacred and virtuous. When you and your beloved merge physically and emotionally, you go beyond the boundaries of the ego and experience timelessness, naturalness, playfulness and defenselessness.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Make love like it’s your last night on earth, gasping for air and sanity, frantic under clouds and stars and sheets. The kind of animalistic lovemaking that’s written in books that hypnotizes and captivates. The kind that’s made of heartbeats, intertwined flesh, and fiery, blazing, all consuming passion.

***

6. Get wet.

These are cures that open you in places you forgot could even open, for salt and water are a miraculous mix. Release disappointment through tears, sweat from awesome, bodily pumping movement, and swim in the soft caress of water.

These wild activities often launch you into the feeling of vulnerability and renewed power at the same time, while carrying you to a a clearer place inside your mind. Yes, there you are again, wild one.

 ***

7. Tell your stories. 

Tell stories of your childhood, of deep rooted pain, of intense loss, of blood and of your greatest loves. Tell them by firelight under violet, star-filled skies, or by sending words into cyberspace. Tell them over cups of strong espresso or glasses of sweet red wine. Tell them with tears and laughter and faith in the human race. Tell them to friends, to lovers, and to strangers.

Everyone has stories that need to be told, and there is always someone to listen. Make sure you tell your stories while you still have the chance.

***

8. Shine.

Show who you are, authentically, and completely unapologetically. Be fearless in your ambitions, goals and decisions. That energy will then spread itself into the universe and boost the human race, for one drop can indeed, raise the entire ocean.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the right to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others” ~ Marianne Williamson

And as you work on these wondrous things to restore your wild spirit, do remember that even when you’re still not quite there, you are a miraculous human warrior and that…

***All images via Rebelle Society

Femme Fatale Friday: Becky Fos

Becky and her art as featured in Borgne Restaurant.

Becky and her art as featured in Borgne Restaurant.

 

I first became aware of Becky Fos’s art on Twitter when she followed our page and her avatar caught my eye.  I clicked on through to her website and was blown away by her vibrant, colorful paintings.(She’s also on FaceBook.) I had to know more and she was gracious enough to consent to an interview. Enjoy!

First, tell us a little about yourself.

I am Texan born, a former Austinitte!  So, to some that would explain my sometimes “weird” clothes.  The city’s motto has been, “Keep Austin weird” for as long as I’ve known it.  I moved to New Orleans in 2002 and never once regretted it.  New Orleans, with it’s heritage, history and culture have completely molded me into the person I am today.  I could never imagine myself being anywhere else.  One of my favorite songs growing up was by Fats Domino, “Walking to New Orleans” and now it all makes perfect sense.

How long have you been painting?

I have been painting my whole life, for as long as I can possibly remember.  I painted on the walls of my room growing up, doodled on notebook paper in school, and now canvas.  My favorite times painting are when my son, Jude (age 6) and I set up shop in the kitchen and go to town!!!

Tell us about the materials and techniques you use.

I like to paint on canvas with pallet knives.  I like to use a lot of paint to create texture and I love color.  SOmetimes I’ve been told that I use too much color, but that’s just me.  And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Tell us a bit about your creative process. Do you start a project with a
beginning, middle and ending in mind or does it evolve as you go?

I begin with a thought or a dream.  Or sometimes a person.  I’ve been inspired by going to concerts around the city and seeing the musician up close deeply inspires me and I must create.  I see the passion on their face while creating their art, and this inspires me.  I love to capture the magic that I’ve witnessed first-hand and that’s how it starts.  So, I have a jumping off point and then it actually evolves.  I paint backwards actually because I paint the focal point first and not the background.  I know everybody is different, but that’s how I start.  SOmetimes I change the background several times.

Is art your full-time occupation?

Yes, my art is a full-time gig for me.  I also do some of the chalk art at Chef, John Besh’s Restaurant, Borgne along with the amazing, Lance Romano.

What is your earliest recollection of art as a passion?

I’ve always loved art.  I was always drawn to things sparkly and colorful.  My mom use to call me her “crow” because a crow will always seem to find that burry treasure of sparkleness.  My passion only grows.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I feel so bad about saying who my favorite artists are because I have so many friends who are artists.  But just to name a few, Keith Eccles and Terrance Osborne since they have both guided me on this path.  Bansky, Bruni and Van Gogh of course.

If you find yourself losing interest in a project do you push yourself to finish or set it aside for later? Do you have any tips you can share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a project?

Not all projects that we start do we stay 100% motivated throughout.  There are actually a few pieces that I’ll be working on at a time.  Sometimes I just have to put one down and walk away, especially when I’m feeling not motivated.  Then I start to feel defeated so it actually motivates me to go back and finish.  It’s these pieces that actually come out the absolute best and I never want to get rid of them and hold on to them.

Where in the city can we see your work?

Lozano & Barbuti Gallery at 313 Royal St in New Orleans carries my original artwork and I actually have a website that I sell my reproductions from: www.beckyfos.com

Where do you see yourself and your work in 5 years?

I have big goals that I’ve set for myself.  I like to aim high.  I plan on having my own art gallery in the french quarter right next to all the big dogs lol.  I’m aiming for the moon! 🙂

 

Professor Longhair

Professor Longhair

Women Who Write: Valentine Pierce

This is the final interview in our four-part series featuring Louisiana women poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each profile has featured a poet from New Orleans or Southeast Louisiana including interview, biography and an original poem selected for this feature.

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce is a New Orleans poet, writer, graphic designer, visual artist and actor. A bit of her wisdom: “We are all many things, a vessel of triumphs and trials, worlds within the worlds of all the people in our lives, singular wonders and curiosities of humanness.” Pierce’s debut book, Geometry of the Heart, was published in 2007 by Portals Press. She has been a resident writer at A Studio in the Woods in 2006, had her artwork displayed at Tulane’s Carroll Gallery, and performed in several productions at Ashé Community Art Center. She even won two awards from the American Academy of Community Theatres—to her surprise.

Fishwife

Melissa is a late baby,
Born in the waters of the Atlantic off the U.S. coast.
Her mid-November birth so far from land destines her
To be a fishwife, to hurl her insults at and spin herself down
Back into the waters from which she came.
No land is near enough to this child of the waters.
Even though her foul-mouthed sputterings
Come as tropical storm winds
And sheeted rain far across the waters,
By the time they reach us they are merely a severe rainstorm,
An accustomed annoyance;
Her voice echoes in the thunder but rallies no fear.
We will feel her wet, latent fury but no one
Will be running for higher or distant ground.
She will die as she was born—helpless and hopeless
In the mid-Atlantic waters in late November.

(Note on this poem: A couple of years ago I heard meteorologist Margaret Orr call a storm a fishwife. I’d never heard of a fishwife and didn’t know how it applied. I did some research and learned about fishwives and why some storms are called such. In November 2013 I finally got to use that word, which had been sitting in the word box of my mind.)

 

What is your earliest recollection of the desire to write down your own thoughts?
I don’t recall when I started writing—grade school, I guess. That’s what we called elementary school back then or grammar school.

Do you remember your first poem? What was it about?
The first poem I ever had published, according to my mom, was in the school bulletin at Joseph S. Craig, when I was in the second grade. The only line I remember is “on the outside looking in.” I remember the first poem I ever got published, in 1983. At that time it was titled “Always Strong.” I revised it so the theme was more universal and retitled “Soul of the Universe.” It was published in the now defunct Day Tonight/Night Today.

Is writing your full-time occupation?
Writing was my full-time occupation. I was a journalist for about 30 years. I was a journalist, photojournalist, layout person, editor, managing editor and press chief. I also had a weekly column, “Marrero Musings,” in the Times-Picayune for seven years. And I did freelance writing. Now my full-time job is graphic design and most of the published work is poetry. I also have odd jobs including freelance graphic design, sewing, and crafting.

Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?
Poetry is my primary genre but I write in a variety of genres from simple prose to essays to plays, to one-act-shows. I really don’t categorize my work in the sense of right now I am going to write an essay or now I’ll write a poem. I just write and let it happen. I even have a novel in progress—since July 2005. It is called “Dead North.” It got it’s name from the Federal Flood commonly known as Hurricane Katrina. It is a novel about a major hurricane. I’ve been interested in hurricanes all my life and said to myself, hey, “No one has written a novel about a hurricane.” It seems centuries ago that I read a book about a major storm that brought a bad spirit to a certain island. That was part of my inspiration. Hurricanes were the other part and I had tons of secondhand research. A month later I began to get firsthand information. I am not sure that that novel will ever be finished because going from poetry-length to book-length is a feat.

I write short stories, too. They have never been published because most need a tremendous amount of work. I did have one critiqued about 10 years after I wrote it. The ending was weak but the person who critiqued it, a writer I respect, said it would only take me about 20 minutes to fix then ending. He was right but I’ve never had it published. I have a three or four other books that are laying around in a bin somewhere, too.

I even have a whole book, a short one, called “Boundaries of a Life,” which is journaling and poetry about coping with grief. Hmmm, perhaps I need to pull that one out.

As you can see, writing is my life—paid or unpaid.

Do you have a favorite place to write or a routine that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?
Generally, whenever the muse strikes. I don’t usually decide to write, that is decided by my muses, my environment, my mood. Writing just happens for me. But, if I were to choose a place, it would be my home because there are no interruptions. I don’t have to be concerned with time, place, space. When my children were young, it was after they went to bed. Generally thought, poetry hits me in the midst of everyday living and I write it then to keep from losing it.

Where was the strangest place that inspiration hit you for a poem and how did it turn out?

Probably the seafood market that was once on St. Roch at St. Claude. I wrote a poem on a napkin with a burned out match. I can’t remember the name because I was a teenager but I still have it somewhere.

Oh, wait, once, in a restroom I pulled a paper towel off a shelf. When I had entered I wondered why so many of them were on the floor. When I pulled mine, a second one just floated down like a butterfly so I wrote a brown butterfly poem about it. Don’t know where that poem is right now.

Are there any recurrent themes in your poems? If so, why do you think that is?
I think the only recurring theme in my poems is life. That’s what I write about. The here and now, the hurt and happiness, the smiles and tears.

I am somewhat a collector of words. Do you have any favorite words?
I collect words and phrases. Often they end up in poems. Can’t think of any phrases to share but some of my words have to do with poems like Onomatapeia and iambic pentameter. I also collect names because they are amazing Like Beth Kneebone, She Ping, Cleopatra Pendleton, William Dear, Freeman A. Hrabowski III., and Jacqueline Goodchilds are just a few I have on my desk right now.

Do you have any tips to share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?
I don’t know what tips would be useful because writing is such a personal art. Sometimes you have to stay still, stay home, skip the television program to work through a piece, sometimes you have to set it aside long enough for other things to fill you mind and then go back to it because it becomes fresh again that way. Sometimes you have to leave home and go to a park or a retreat. When I had the opportunity to be the writer-in-residence at A Studio in the Woods in 2006 it was the first time in my life that I could spend every waking moment writing. And I did. I was amazed at the amount of work I completed in one month. I wish I could do that all the time. I have several friends to thank for that for constantly telling me to submit until finally I gathered up my courage and did it. My fear was that I didn’t stand a chance because there are so many great writers in New Orleans. I came back from Phoenix, AZ, where I was living with friends after the storm.
(Editors note: the storm = Hurricane Katrina)

Who are some of your favorite poets and why?
Goodness. That list is so long: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, all of the Black Renaissance poets, just about every poet in this city, the poets I recently met at the Acadiana Word Lab, most of the poets I’ve met in my life. What I like is the work, the words they put down, the sound, rhythm, music of the words, how they approach their topics whether main stream or taboo, the many ways writers write. I am probably not explaining this well because it is impossible to say exactly. I just know that poets inspire me, cause me to challenge myself, bring me great joy and sometimes bring tears to my eyes.
I have been inspired to write many poems based on hearing other poets read their work.

Finally, do you have any upcoming readings or appearances you can share with us?
My next events are workshops at the Algiers Regional Library April 19 and 26, 2p. It’s called “Stand Up, Look Up, Speak Up: How to present your work in public.”
__________________________

Thank you, Valentine, for sharing your work and your thoughts with us today.

Thanks to all of the wonderful women poets that participated in this series. It was great!

To read all interviews for Women Who Write, click here.

Women Who Write: Kelly Harris

This is the first of a four-part series featuring Louisiana women poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each profile will highlight a poet from New Orleans or Southeast Louisiana including interview, biography and an original poem selected for this feature.

Kelly Harris

Kelly Harris

This week we feature Kelly Harris. Kelly earned her MFA in poetry from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. She has been awarded fellowships by Cave Canem and the Fine Arts Work Center and won a Wendy L. Moore Emerging Artists Award from the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. Her poems have appeared in Say It Loud: Poems for James Brown, Yale University’s Caduceus, PMS, The Southern Women’s Review, PLUCK Magazine, DrumVoices Revue and other publications. The Kent State University graduate serves on the board of STAIR, (Start the Adventure in Reading) and is the editor/founder of brassybrown.com

Kelly will be speaking at The Contemporary Arts Center on April 18th in celebration of National Poetry Month and the 30 Americans Exhibition.

 

Stick Fighter
for Winnie Mandela

his breath on your neck

    his morning posture
    at the breakfast table

keepsakes of an ordinary wife

    freedom is not a love story

jumping the broom
is a weapon against those

    who see no danger in a woman

wearing a gele
crossing the threshold

    of her forbidden country

she is mad as the man
she married

can’t wait for God’s will

    demons are necessary
there must be blood

concrete to kiss
a modest woman will not have

    her name carved in stone
freedom is not a love story

               Winnie

the iron that sharpened him
all those years
               into a fist

~ ©Kelly Harris

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to choose this craft?

As a child I could always recite speeches and poems. I don’t really know how I developed the skill. I just always remember speaking somewhere and being mindful at an early age. I’ve been writing seriously since I was an undergraduate at Kent State University. I entered the university as a magazine journalism major, but it was always poetry that had a hold on me. I won a pageant contest my freshmen year. My talent was poetry, and soon after I become a poetry editor for the Black student’s publication and ran a poetry series that’s still active today. I don’t think I ever woke up one morning and said to myself, “I’m going to be a poet today.” I believe life calls us to become who we are meant to be.

Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?

Poetry is my first literary love. My blog, BrassyBrown.com, allows me to stretch my writing and of course, share my poetry. I just finished a major writing project about Black women in New Orleans that should be released soon by a nonprofit. I also do freelancing when I can. I am in the process of trying to find interest for my children’s book manuscript called “My Hoodie Keeps me Warm.” It’s the story of a group of African-American teenage boys being racially profiled. I am looking for a press for my poetry manuscript, “Revival.”

What is your earliest recollection of writing and poetry as a passion? Do you remember your first poem?

My first poem was called “Be a Leader Not a Follower.” I wrote it in 5th grade at my grandmother’s coffee table. I used to write poems in a spiral, pink Mead notebook. I threw
away many of my earliest poems because I was teased for being a poet. There weren’t a lot of poetry programs in the schools I went to. I didn’t pick up writing again until about 11th grade. I grew up in a very poor neighborhood. The great thing about my street was people were always talking, gossiping, cussing, and when you juxtaposed that with jump rope songs, hip-hop, my mother’s music collections, attending church with my family and black girlhood, it makes for great poetry.

Is writing your full-time occupation?

I wish. I’m a stay-at-home-mom and do contractual gigs in literacy, strategic planning and business writing. This may be hard to imagine, but I think becoming a mom has helped me become a better writer. It’s sharpened my attention to details and sound. To watch my 18-month-old daughter’s evolution of speech really has helped me think about language as a unit of the body.

I’m always interested in the writing process. Tell us a little about yours. Do you ponder a poem for a while, keeping it in a draft stage and working on it periodically or do you write it all at once, as the inspiration and words strike you? How much editing do you do on a piece?

I can sit and write a blog a lot easier and faster than a poem. Being a mother has forced me to write at God-awful-times, but I get it done because I do see writing as my life’s job. Most of my poems begin handwritten. When I type poems, I edit too fast. It’s just too convenient to backspace. I’m more likely to delete lines or words that may be useful later. I often do mental mapping of my poems. It helps me weed out clichés and tendencies and helps me see the possibilities for a poem.

Do you have a favorite place to write that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?

I write when and where I can, but I must admit I don’t write well in crowds or with lots of noise. Libraries used to be my ideal place, but now they are not guaranteed places of silence. There are very few public places where you can find solitude. Usually when everyone is sleeping, I am writing.

Do you have any tips you can share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?

I have an MFA in Creative Writing and I sat through all sorts of lectures about motivation and discipline. First, it takes courage to write and hard work to write well, but the writing process is a lot more complicated than that. I’ve learned that everyone is different. I’ve tried to sit down each day and write on a schedule. I just can’t do it. I’m not wired that way, and my life is too hectic for structured writing. I make sure I take in a lot of music, interviews, reading, conversations and vocabulary words so that I am stock piling ideas and energy for poems to come. I’m always working on about 3-4 poems at a time. And I keep a journal of lines I’ve never used and mental notes that I sometimes use for things I’m working on. (See photo sample below)

kelly harris graphic

Whose work has inspired yours?

It depends where I’m at in my life and what I’m writing. I recently just bought “Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth” (Mouthmark Press) by Warsan Shire. She packs a lot into a line. Recently the poetry world lost Wanda Coleman and Jayne Cortez—two amazing poets of color. I’ve been re-reading a lot of their work. I bought a Sonia Sanchez album, “A Sun Lady for All Seasons” last month and she’s really got me thinking about how to effectively use repetition and sound.

Speaking of sound … Bobby McFerrin. I’m not talking about “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” He’s amazing. To me there is no other human voice on the planet that creates sound and words the way he does. My 18-month-old taps her chest and improvises with him when I watch him on YouTube. It’s pretty funny, but in watching her and him, it’s a great lesson in the art of timing.

Where do you see yourself with regard to your writing in 5 years?

Hopefully I can increase my publishing credits and teach. I really miss teaching poetry to young people. I’ve had brief opportunities to guest instruct at NOCCA and Lusher, and I loved it.

Please share five poetry books you’d recommend.

“Blacks” by Gwendolyn Brooks (I mean, do I really have to explain?)

“Rice: Poems by Nikky Finney” (“Head Off and Split” won the National Book Award for Poetry but her other books are worth reading too).

“Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African American Poetry” edited by Dr. Jerry Ward (Former Dillard University Professor)

“How I Got Ovah: New and Selected Poems by Carolyn M. Rodgers” (Not as widely known, but should be).

“The Never Wife” by Cynthia Hogue (I bought this book at Dauphine Books in the French Quarter and had no idea there would be some poems about NOLA in it. It’s a wonderful book)

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Thank you, Kelly, for this inspiring interview!

 

Let 2014 Shine for Girls

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to write about for a New Years Eve post for this blog. Several ideas came to mind while I was showering (where I do a lot of my creative thinking!), or changing the cat box or driving to the store but none of them hit the right chord with me since I didn’t really know exactly what it is I wanted to say. Then I saw a FaceBook status by an acquaintance, a fellow poet whom I interviewed for this blog a while ago, and I knew I’d found my post. Which is really her post that needs to be shared. It screams to be shared.

Sha’Condria Sibley (aka iCON the Artist) was sharing the fact that someone had left a racial slur, the N-word, on the YouTube video of her poem “To All The Little Black Girls With Big Names”. This pissed me off, of course. Another example of haters hating on people who are different than they, an avalanche that just won’t stop. But this post isn’t only about that despicable fact. It’s about Sha’Condria’s  powerful, inspirational poem and about the kind of role models little girls need. Role models like Sha’Condria  who has written this beautiful, empowering poem and performs it to perfection with grace and conviction. Role models who won’t stand for hate and name-calling, who use their talent for good and decent reasons, to share their experiences and their wisdom, to lift up, not tear down.

So, little girls and big girls, y’all listen up and make 2014 a shining year for girls with big names and big ideas. Don’t let the haters get ya down. And Happy New Year!

Guest Blogger: Jhae Dupart on NOLA Blogger Marcia Wall of 411 NOLA

“On St. Joseph’s Day a few years back, a man and a woman stumbled upon our celebrations at St. Augustine.  I was serving food from our altar and asked them if they wanted any.  They asked me what the cost was.  I replied that there was no cost and began explaining to them the customs and traditions of St. Joseph’s Day.  They were thrilled to be with locals and partake in our traditions but noted that if it weren’t for mere chance, they never would have found us.  

 I understood what they were saying.  I am a world traveler and search out local culture when in a new place but find that tourist guides don’t do much to help me with that.  Both before and after Katrina (but especially after), people from all over the world hunger to know New Orleans like locals do.  I am a resourceful person, so I always end up getting the inside scoop but realize that many travelers don’t have the skills or time to research a place.  411 NOLA aims to remedy this for our visitors.  I want to connect people to each other, to make travel about genuine communication between people and cultures.

 Although the site is popular with people from out of town, many locals love it too.  We are a city smitten with itself like no other.  There is so much to do, so much local talent, so many hidden opportunities…people want a place where they can learn about it all.  ” ~ Marcia Wall

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Marcia Wall is the creator and administrator of 411 NOLA, a local website dedicated to all things New Orleans for New Orleanians and visitors alike. This profile of Marcia is the first in a planned series about  New Orleans bloggers: who they are, why they blog and  what they talk about. The formats will be eclectic, including interviews by myself, interviews by others and profiles by guest bloggers like the one you’ll read today by Marcia’s former student turned friend, Jhae Dupart. The NOLA blogosphere has grown by leaps and bounds since I began blogging in 2005 and I discover new-to-me bloggers almost every week writing on a myriad of subjects from politics to fashion to lifestyle and everything in between. I hope you’ll enjoy this wonderful tribute to Marcia that Jhae has shared with us and I hope you all as readers will participate by making suggestions as to which bloggers you’d like to see profiled here.

~Charlotte, NOLAFemmes creator and administrator

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I met Marcia Wall in 2000.  I was a sophomore at the University of New Orleans, and she was the instructor of the English course I took that summer. Her class centered on interactive discussion of taboo topics like gender and sexuality, making it a like no other I’ve ever had.  But her innovative approach to education isn’t the only thing that makes her a standout.  Marcia, a writer, educator, photographer, performer, activist, and founder of 411 NOLA, is a unique blend of talents that make her a welcome and integral presence in the NOLA community.

Marcia is originally from the South but grew up in California.  After graduating from college in Santa Cruz, she moved to San Diego.  But wanting to live some place that “oozed creativity,” she relocated to NOLA twelve years ago.  She quickly fell in love with the culture – “[not] just festivals, good food, and good music, [but] the close-knit feeling of the city, its ethnic and religious diversity, its sense of pride and determination, and the way each neighborhood is almost a city unto itself.”  As someone with both Southern and Sicilian Catholic heritage, Marcia found NOLA’s diverse community a perfect fit.

Her first job here was teaching English at UNO.  Since then, her focus as an educator has taken many roles, like life coach and consultant for educational programs.  To Marcia, education is about empowerment.  In her words, “I can’t teach anyone anything.  I can only help them to realize that they already know everything they need to know.”  Likewise, as an activist, she strives to enable herself and others to have a positive impact in the world.

Marcia is a modern-day Renaissance woman.  She always envisioned herself as a writer and, after school, as a photographer.  She also developed a knack for performing, transitioning from reading her funny essays on stage to creating her own hilarious comedy routine, which she’s performed at venues across NOLA, San Diego, and Los Angeles.  On top of all this, Marcia continues to dabble in other creative outlets – designing jewelry, making bath and beauty products, and experimenting in the kitchen.  As she says, “Being an artist is about manifesting one’s vision and sharing that vision with the world.  It’s about giving the world the gifts that the Creator gave you.”

It is her relationship with the Creator that sparked the inspiration for her most recent venture – the 411 NOLA website.  “One day, after I had finished doing a big consulting job for an educational program for developmentally challenged adults, I prayed to God and asked what I should do next.  In an instant, the whole idea for 411 NOLA unfolded before me.  I saw in my mind’s eye what the site would be like.”

411 NOLA is a rich info source for all things NOLA for visitors and residents alike.  Since coming online, the site has evolved to include articles, guides, recommendations, links, lists, photos, as well as an events calendar, a visitor’s guide, slide shows, products, contests, freebies, and opportunities for writers and artists.  Marcia attributes the success of 411 NOLA to faith and hard work.  When I asked how she feels about the site’s progress, she responded simply, “So far so good.  Thanks J.C.!”

Marcia, ever the visionary, is already looking to expand the features available on 411 NOLA.  “We would like to create a 411 NOLA video channel that highlights up and coming NOLA performers (of all kinds).  We are trying to develop a program that will allow users to send postcards of their adventures in NOLA directly from the site.  Later on, we hope to offer more merchandise and to host live chats and performances with NOLA writers, artists, personalities, musicians and the like.”  As the site evolves, she will continue to follow her inspiration from God.

I can’t help but be inspired by the breadth of Marcia’s talent and character.  She embodies the diversity of spirit and delightful quirkiness that makes NOLA one of a kind.  In all that she does, she continues to make NOLA a richer, more vibrant city.

Marcia Wall lives in the French Quarter with her two cats, Gracie and Boo.  When she’s not working on 411 NOLA, she enjoys traveling, cooking, exercising, and Sunday services at St. Augustine Church.  To find out more about her photography, see her photography website at See It My Way Photo.  To find out about her upcoming performances, “like” Cia’s Comedy Corner on Facebook. Follow 411 NOLA on Twitter.