Sunday, January 23, 2011

To: being seen and hesitating to be heard.

So if it's one thing I've learnt about being here is how to assert my femininity. Especially with regard to poetry circles and circuits and cynics. I looked at this video a friend had posted a few days ago, and it really made me think of how I had shied away from the idea of just trusting my own abilities and taking control of a situation.

For instance...whenever there had been a (non-smiths of course) cypher of sorts or just music and people just jumping on, back in T'dad, there would hardly be any women in there, neither on the music, nor the voice....with the exception of some background harmonies...myself included.

An instance happened a few weeks ago that sort of woke me to this habit and how it had affected me. We were in Best Buy after a show with Carvens Lissant and Joshua Bennett (these men are awesome btw, you should check their work out on the tube) and they had found this guy getting down on some keys in the piano section of the store.

When I went over they started vibesin on it, then two shelves away, another man comes in with a bass guitar, carvens starts singing, joshua spits and then goes, "...Jump in Arielle" and almost instantly, without even thinking about it, I declined. The idea of this has haunted me since then. What is it that I'm so afraid of? That night I conjured in my head, every possible justification for why I reacted that way. None of them really make sense.

We are afraid to sit at the table. We are afraid of being fearless. Back home it was because we were waiting to be asked, nicely, to feel like we were not imposing, to feel that sense of inclusion. fluff it. Time for that is gone too.

On to being the woman my foremothers were praying for.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To: surviving the attitude problem of the fourth season

1) Try not to be born on an island. Snow flakes are less welcoming than the sea surf they float like, and will read the riot act to your toes and not caress your now perfect-oval bootprints.

2) You will thank God for the three 60% cotton blouses in your cupboard with sleeves going past your shoulder caps.

3) Google 'bubble jacket'.

4)You will reserve the expression "white as snow" for areas outside of Brooklyn and Mary's lamb on a good day. Think of applying primer to wet black paint.

5) You will empathize with the Jamaican bobsled team in 'Cool Runnings'.

6) Blast music in your headphones so that your joints have a good reason to be shaking like this.

7) Forget about taking that hair-cut you were contemplating a month ago.

8) Do not complain about bad heating in your apartment if you can't afford a 20% rent increase.

9) You will write a letter to your local bank/sponsor/parents explaining that you didn't account for winter clothes in your estimated school expenses.

10) You will change your mind about this letter while you are writing the last sentence.

11) You should remember that the cold has a reason, and so do you.

12) ...but one should not expect the wind to be reasonable.

13) Think of the last time you cracked the ice-tray and a block of ice (or two) slid across the kitchen floor to the other side of the room. Now, think of yourself as an upside down piece of kitchen floor, on the bed of a huge ice-block. See how boots and streets interact.

14) The dry blood in your nostrils every morning is actually a good sign. Thank God your nights are warm.

15) Studies have proven that couples break up most in the fourth season. It helps to have the other half of your couple in a second season state of mind so that your heart is kept warm. be continued.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John

Saturday, January 15, 2011

To: school mornings on the step with you.

girls wear uniforms to school
because of you.
seam-ripper of a chest,
too much bosom and blossom,
too much woman in girlhood years,
that they would break your hour-glass
and tell you how time
doh come back. like that
Maracas sand stabbing the heels
in your school sneakers
next morning in assembly.
watched you lose your stripes
to a green band maxi
I know the way how City Gate
makes you think there's only one way
to get to where you want to go.
the way you shovelled through
gravel in your eyes
to wake yourself from
backseats in PNM rallies
how you could trap these
secrets in the fullness of your hips
to pull yourself up
like the 3 inches of your skirt hem
the way you released them
to cover the bruises on your thighs
true that they always had eyes for you.
I had mistaken your decay for some kinda purfume,
and never understood why you sectioned your hair
to cover the deep in your eyes like that.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To: My Anti-American Backfire.

For all the clarity that it's worth, I now understand why I have not created any performance poetry since I've left my real house. I was talking to this Ghanaian guy i met last week and he's like, "what you mean NY gave you a block, there is sooo much stuff out here...what is overload?"

and well...the African made me think a lil. After all my thinking I've observed that it's not because I'm dialect/accent-shy or super reserved in a non-conservative society, it's the fact that my mission all these years has been to effectively reverse the effect of Americanization in my country and what it has done/is doing to our young people.

As I explained a few blog entries ago, it was the fact that I exerted so much effort into creating work that was uniquely local, in order to locate that uniqueness that is in fact Trinbagonian, when confronted with an american audience, I am at a loss. It's how I cringe at hearing the Caribbean girls in the church choir trying to sing and ad lib like Beyonce or how I reflex-frown at the West Indian utterance of the word 'Summer'....DESPITE the fact that all these things are now legit, because Caribbean girls who grow up in America WILL sing and speak like Americans, and Summer IS an actual season here.

I have trained myself for more than five years to reject everything American because of how it was invading my piece of earth. Now I'm on their own turf and my body hasn't surrendered to this context of living. It is in my nature to not assimilate into this place....and that has it's benefits and burdens. On the upside...I maintain my full identity, straight back to Taino and Kalinago days. On the flip-side, I don't remember how to confront audiences anymore. American audiences anyway.

Who put the death in dilemma?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

To: my coming back here.

we come back to this
like a watering hole
oasis of sandy miracles
how I manage the whole weary of me
to hold nothing but heavy breath.
can't carry more than i can carry.
the way your sunsets
burn deserts to the ground
the mornings you don't find
me, beautiful
in the cold of when i need you
most,in the quiet of
angry storms of dust
raging my wilderness.
didn't think
we would still
come back to this.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To: home being where the voice is.

Sometimes the wideness of a horizon is scary. Just the sea and you, you know?
I am thankful that I have for the most part kept quiet and to myself, it comes in handy these days. That works well off-stage.

I have found myself in such a strange place when coming to performance poetry. I have written no new performance pieces since I came here, most likely because of my resisting the notion of having to re-construct how I create work or broaden my motives when it comes to my writing. I have spent so much time and energy creating culture-specific work back at home, that when coming to here, it's like I hardly even know where to start.

I have an enormous sense of my schooling here being a temporary process and something that will pass before I know it. It's like I want no connection with the place, and everything is transitory. My anti-assimilationist attitude is the very thing creating writing problems for me. If what I believe in is about communicating a message, then communication is paramount to that goal, and communication can get culture-specific at best.

It goes beyond the issue of dialect and accent and references, because those obstacles should only propel me. It's the idea of not being clear about what it is I want to accomplish here. Over the last 5 years it was the restoration of a culture, working towards a sort of 'healing' from where we were at that point as a country (Trinidad). That goal becomes somewhat irrelevant here. Inapplicable.

One might argue that there are things that stretch over from place to place...God, gender, pan-africanism, anti-capitalism, environmentalism....but all these ideas work within a context and a way of reaching people. It's hard to end up doing something you love in a place you've always hated.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

To: you upon waking.

the busy of eager heart
drowning red ochre
in the guided weight
of your devotion,
turning your back
to a prayer rug,
she warns to never face skyward
when you are dreaming
in the dark like this.
shifting body canvas
knit on the lap
of Nehanda
and her girl-children,
nights at a time
on quiet moons.

The way morning
could shape you,
do war with your shaddows
and first light dawning
from the ending eclipse in your eyes.
spilling smiles onto
solemn lips,
a glimpse of miracles
in your breathing
there is a tone-deaf way of seeing
you this beautiful
beyond colour
beyond speaking.
quiet in my nativity.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John