Category Archives: Poetry

Sample of Scribbles from 2011: The Year of FULL

Untitled #1

So hard to keep a consistent thought in a mind buzzing with numerous triggers, disruptions, ideas, pains,
all floating.
A laugh rubbing elbows with a sob…
everything feels too close in proximity…
can barely fit a breath in between.  
So I swallow and stuff it all down, down, down to…where?
Simultaneously exposed and bare
but also closed in tight…
How do i co-exist within these two realities?
It is an act of survival because
I have apparently long passed the expiry date for mourning over a pain that happened two years ago, six years ago, in high school, before birth…before this lifetime.  
Perhaps my spirit is existing right now in some other being and is bringing that emotional residue here
to further fog up 
my already clouded window pane.
 
 

A Place of Rage

Angry.

I am angry that I am forced to walk within the confines of fear.

Angry that I have been taught to hold anxiety close.

Angry that the onus is on  me – my responsibility to stop you from staring, prevent you from approaching, stepping forward across boundaries invading my protective sphere of personal space.

My responsibility to not attract attention.  My responsibility to avoid eye contact.  My responsibility to take note of street lights and traffic and how many people I share the sidewalk with and check who those people are…do they look trustworthy?  What does that even mean? Now it is my responsibility to create markers and signifiers and PROFILES of who may be trustworthy.  My responsibility to not assume.  My responsibility to be cautious.  My responsibility to not be naive.

I am weighed down with responsibility .  Walking with careful steps riddled with anxiety, leading to a prison of confinement,

convincing myself that the risk is too great — I didn’t want to go out anyway…I didn’t really want to wear that skirt…it is kind of chilly tonight, maybe I’ll save that walk for the daytime when the stars I wanted to see are hidden but there sure is daylight.

What the fuck is your responsibility when I am left contorted and heavy  in my prison of consideration? Heavy because you never took up your fucking responsibility of choosing not to assault me.

How about you make the choice to not harass me tonight?

***Thoughts after a Friday night assault  by 5 white men on Ossington Street****

 
 

Sister-Mother-Friend

Black women.

Layered.  Contradictory.  Relationships. We reflect each other’s silent pain a little too clearly, exposing the wounds we have painstackingly dressed in flesh-coloured bandages – hidden from the casual glance but evident to the more perceptive, the more invested, the more practiced eye.  You are a reflection of my hurt, my strength, my beauty, my pride and my love.

We have travelled across waters, endured separations, survived bodily invasions…and so it is a must, a need, to hold each other up.

Please hold me up.

Untitled #2
 
Pressure.  Consistent pressure.
To be on
To be articulate
To be present
To be presentable
To be beautiful
To be available
To be enticing
To be inviting
To be open 
To be aware
To care
To love
To lie
To listen
To provide answers
To build
To nurture
To create
To cake
To call
To come
To
be
the
one
 
 

A Rock and a Hard Place (aka The Game aka The Makings of a Really Bad R&B Song)

Call me please.   I’d like to talk.
Don’t call me please.  I can’t handle talking to you.
 
Call me please.  I yearn to hear your voice.
Don’t call me please.  I can’t handle what your voice does to me.
 
Call me please so we can talk for hours and hours again.
Don’t call me please.  I can’t talk to you for hours and hours again.
 
Call me please so I can feel my heart pick up speed and pound like only you can make it.
Don’t call me please.  I can’t handle the dramatics of a pounding heart, sweaty palms and inevitable dreams of an impossible tomorrow that will follow.
 
Call me.  So I can tell you not to call me.  And you can convince me otherwise.
Don’t call me.  So I won’t have to tell you not to call me.  And you won’t have to agree and say goodbye.
 

Untitled #3

I want to stretch and stretch and stretch and wear lipstick and scream as loud as possible and paint abstract colourful creations and sew remixes onto articles of clothing and cook food that smells good and write and write and write and not feel tired all the time and have time for driving lessons and act in incredible plays and buy beautiful bedsheets and re-design my room and write and write and write and not speak to people for a while and learn new hairstyles and watch lots of good and bad movies and dance with my mummy and write letters to my homeboy and read and read and read and paint my toenails and draw storyboards for future films and stretch and stretch and stretch…

 
 
 
 

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Excerpts from “nOTES oF a cOLOURED gIRL: 32 sHORT rEASONS wHY i wRITE fOR tHE tHEATRE” by Djanet Sears

I have never formally met Djanet Sears.  I have stared at her from a distance and smiled shyly at her…but I have not yet found the courage to approach and tell her how much her writing and her work have meant to me.  I have not yet had the privilege of seeing her work on stage, but I have read Harlem Duet and Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.  I have few words to explain what those plays meant to me.  At the end of reading both, I felt changed – something which I always seek but rarely find in artistic experiences.  I also proudly own Volume II of the anthology she edited: Testifyin’: Contemporary African Canadian Drama, a collection which I searched for in vain at local bookstores and online (it was no longer in print) until coming across it one day when looking around a UofT bookstore under a Drama/English course that had it assigned (I have found so many out-of-print gems this way! Yes, yes I am a book nerd that spends hours searching shelves of bookstores looking for gems).  Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day grinning to myself and feeling so excited to have this incredible collection in my possession.  I still haven’t had much luck with Volume I, but I am sure it will come in due time…

These excerpts come from an introduction she did at the start of her published edition of Harlem Duet. Re-reading the play today, I was reminded of the sometimes irrational urge I feel to stifle my desire to write…why? I don’t know.  Reading and writing are the only forms of therapy that I have ever remained committed to….the process of reading and writing affirms my sanity within this (in)sane world.  It casts out the linear boxes that push me to the edge of cliffs and reminds me of circles and connectivity to deeper parts of self and soul.  It grounds me past concrete to earth, root and spirit.  In this introduction Ms. Sears’ reminds me of the urgency to follow this calling…

Excerpts from “nOTES oF a cOLOURED gIRL: 32 sHORT rEASONS wHY i wRITE fOR tHE tHEATRE” by Djanet Sears

7 She (djanet’s niece) must have access to a choir of African voices, chanting a multiplicity of African experiences.  One voice does not a chorus make.  And I will not wait.  8 I harbour deep within me tales that I’ve never seen told. 9  I too must become an organ and add my perspective, my lens, my stories, to the ever growing body of work by and about people of African descent.

12 An old West African proverb states that, as a people, we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors.  13 Lorraine Hansberrry is my mother – in theatre – and she accompanies me wherever I go.  14  I have been known to drop her a few lines, now and then.  15 Yes, she responds.  16 As a woman of African descent, and a writer for the stage, I stand on her shoulders.  They are a firm and formidable foundation on which to rest my large and awkward feet.

17 Acting is a craft that I have been called to by my nature.  Writing is a craft that I have chosen to nurture.  18 As a young actor, I soon realized that a majority of the roles that I would be offered did not portray me in the way I saw myself, my family, or my friends, in life.  I became consumed by my own complaining.  19 Complaining, imploring, and protesting only served to disperse my energy.

23 I have a dream.  A dream that one day in the city where I live, at any given time of the year, I will be able to find at least one play that is filled with people who look like me, telling stories about me, my family, my friends, my community.  For most people of European descent, this is a privilege they take for granted.

26 My good friend Clarissa Chandler, a business consultant, educator and motivational speaker, shared with me a process for using my nagging mind and raging heart, as a way to get back in touch with my innermost knowing and creative desires.  She identified three steps of transformation that I could use like footprints leading me back home.

27 First: identify the place of complaint (This can sometimes be evident in the complaining we do in hiding, in conversation with friends and/or in the privacy of our own minds.)  Second: Say it out loud.  Create a mantra out of it.  (Give it room in the world).  Third: locate a creative point of expression for this mantra.  28 Paint it, dance it, sculpt it, or write about it.  Why limit yourself?

30 For the many like me, black and female, it is imperative that our writing begin to recreate our histories and our myths, as well as integrate the most painful of experiences…Writing for me is a labour of love, probably not unlike the experience of giving birth.  In a very deep way, I feel that I am in the process of giving birth to myself.  Writing for the stage allows me  a process to dream myself into existence.

31 In a recent clinical study at Duke University researchers found that racist comments can not only lead directly to an overworked heart, but the internal stress caused by racism was found to tear the lining of blood vessels.  I must write to save my own life.

32 There are a great many times when I forget.  I forget why I’m doing this.  Days when the blues move from a deep cerulean to icy cold pale.  So I have the following words by Langston Hughes from “Note on Commercial Theatre,” on my wall, just above my desk, for those times when I most need reminding:

SOMEDAY SOMEBODY’LL

STAND UP AND TALK ABOUT ME,

AND WRITE ABOUT ME –

BLACK AND BEAUTIFUL

AND SING ABOUT ME,

AND PUT ON PLAYS ABOUT ME!

I RECKON IT’LL BE

ME MYSLEF!

YES, IT’LL BE ME.

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Reflections on Hip Hop Authenticity: Giving Props to the Jane and Finch Female Cypher

When my best friend Natasha Daniel and I started Lost Lyrics back in 2007, we described ourselves as an “alternative education through Hip Hop” movement.  Since then we have expanded our scope to include a variety of arts-based tools of learning.  However when we were using that tag line, we would get challenged left, right and centre over whether we were “authentic” enough to be leading a movement that was based in Hip Hop. Countless numbers of men would approach us all the time and “test” our knowledge of the culture, creating all of these universal benchmarks that if we did not reach, then we were not “allowed” to name ourselves as part of Hip Hop.

Example: “Real talks, if you don’t know the lyrics to every single track on 36 Chambers, then I don’t know if you should be teaching the yutes about Hip Hop.”

It became even more consistent when I started working at The Remix Project .  I was the only woman working in a full-time position at this organization that at the time was dubbed “the old boys club”.  Since then, other women have been hired and the organization has grown immensely in a variety of ways, but that first year was all about testing: testing from fellow staff members, participants, graduates, mentors…testing to prove that I was “worthy” of occupying this space.

I have never named myself as a Hip Hop Head…but I am definitely invested and lay claim to this culture; this culture informs my politics, my art, my way of life.  The very fact that me and Tash had the audacity/courage/ovaries to believe that we can build a movement from the ground up based in our own stories and the stories of our students IS HIP HOP.  I am now confident enough to refute the attempts of any individual to define what my authenticity within Hip Hop is – regardless of how many albums they own, concerts they have gone to, articles they have written, or “temples” they have created.

I hold my own…but there are still spaces that remain elusive for me.

I am thankful that I grew up in the Queen Latifah-TLC-Aaliyah-Foxy Brown-Lauryn Hill generation. I know that the swag of these ladies helped me to shape my own layered and complex construction of femininity in Hip Hop and the world at large.  I consistently borrowed from their who you calling a bitch-crazy, sexy, cool-age ain’t nothin but a number-Il Na Na-Ex-Factor-sensuality  as I tried to navigate and define who I was in my style, my relationships and my sexuality.

BUT it still took me 8 years after high school to break my freestyling virginity and step into a cypher for the first time.  Even (or perhaps especially) as an adult, there remained so much anxiety around whether this was a space I was allowed to/able to access and whether I was “authentic” or “skilled” enough to hold it down.  That anxiety still exists to some degree.

I really wish that when I was in middle school, or high school or that even in 2007 when we were first starting Lost Lyrics, that I had seen footage like this: basement garage footage of really young ladies just a few blocks away from my home not proving themselves but BEING THEMSELVES, holding their own space and telling their own stories, without apology…and doing it with so much swag 🙂

Thank you to the ladies of the Jane and Finch Cypher: I’m definitely inspired.

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What Can Art Do?

Reminders and re-affirmations.

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She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks by M Nourbese Philip

The name for this blog was borrowed from a poem by M Nourbese Philip which is published in a collection of poetry by the same title.  Before I even read the poem, the name captured something within my spirit. This site emerged from a newfound acceptance in my role as a storyteller.  So when considering names, this title felt so right.

she tries her tongue, her silence softly breaks by M. Nourbese Philip

the me and mine of parents
the we and us of brother and sister
the tribe of belongings small and separate,
when gone…
on these exact places of exacted grief
i placed mint-fresh grief coins
sealed the eyes with certain and final;
in such an equation of loss tears became
a quantity of minus.
with the fate of a slingshot stone
loosed from the catapult pronged double with history
and time on a trajectory of hurl and fling
to a state active with without and unknown
i came upon a future biblical with anticipation

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