Returning to Creative Communities

A few days ago, I headed out to a local park where my brilliant poet friend, Lorenz Mazon Dumuk, was hosting Glowing with the Moon, a summer open mic series that invites poets, musicians, performers, and other creative souls to come out and share their work. It’s one of my favorite open mics, mostly because Lorenz creates such a warm, welcoming, and fun space. 

When I arrived, however, it was just Lorenz and me, so we sat on the park bench and spent two hours chatting about what was going on in our lives, what kind of creative work we were doing, and our current trajectory. We talked about how we approach our poetry and other kinds of writing. We talked about poetry that bullies, forcing the reader or listener down a path and leaving no space for anything outside the focus of the words themselves. We laughed about poop in poetry, both as a subject and as an analogy for writing, how a writer might find themselves blocked up and need some fiber-full reading to help loosen things up. We talked about poetry with spirit and poetry grounded in the flesh and bone reality of grass and stone and wind and bone. And we celebrated the fact that we both have new poetry books coming out sometime within the next year. 

Then we read poems to each other, each giving something that we’d written recently, and we found ourselves delightedly jealous of each other’s unique way of approaching words. And as the Earth cartwheeled backwards, hiding the Sun behind trees and horizon, with the peach light splashing upon the dappled clouds, I was so grateful for this small moment of creative community — two poets sharing a joy of words and the world. 

Back in April, I attended another event — the Poetry Invitational 2023, held at the San Jose Museum of Art and hosted by Tshaka Campbell. For the event, poets are invited to select art from the current exhibition and write an ekphrastic poem about the painting or sculpture. During the poetry readings, the audience follows the poets through the various exhibits of the museum, and each poet reads their poem next to the work of art that inspired it. 

This year’s Poetry Invitational featured Keana Aguila Labra, Sophia Rodriguez, Joseph Jason Santiago Lacour, Tureeda Mikell, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Asha Sudra, Lorenz Mazon Dumuk, Arlene Biala, Robert Pesich, Minerva Kamra, Jen Siraganian, and Chris Locsin

Lorenz Mazon Dumuk reads his response to "Weep" by artist Kelly Akashi. Bottom Left: Sophia Rodriguez reads her response to "Sky Cathedral by artist Louise Nevelson. Bottom Right: Asha Sudra reads her response to "Swell" by artist Kelly Akashi.)

The last time I attended an in-person event of this sort was before the pandemic. I used to go to open mics and readings often, and returning to this community was wonderful. I saw so many familiar faces — poets and artists whose work I admired. We smiled and said hello before joining the flock of the audience as we flowed from room to room like a murmuration of starlings. 

And again, I found myself grateful — for the art, for the reading of poetry, for the community that inspires me to want to experiment and create new work. 

I often joke with family and friends about the fact that I could be a happy little hermit. Just put me in a cottage in the woods with a ton of books and I would quite joyfully live in isolation, reading, writing, sketching, and walking among the trees, as well as watching movies and making and playing video games. 

But attending these events reminds me how important community is for me. Whether it's just listening to the words of other poets and writers, joining in and reading my own work on the mic, or sitting down and discussing the creative process and the things we love — these moments are so inspiring to me. 

If I were to add one thing to my discussion of goals for 2023, it would be that I would like to attend more literary and creatively engaged events throughout the year. This could be readings, open mics, game writing meetups, genre conventions, workshops, or whatever else might continue to help me connect with the creative communities that I love so much.

Are creative communities important to you? Do you need them in person? Or does online work, too? 

Speaking of Goals – A Brief Check In

With all the great multitude of projects I have on my plate (both personal and freelance), one of the things I'm still working out is balancing my time and energy, so that all of the work gets done in a timely manner. I've done well prioritizing the projects I'm working on based on the criteria i outlined. Though, this has led to me mostly working on freelance work for clients as opposed to progressing personal projects that have been back-burnered. 

Adjusting how I spend my time in and around my work is an ongoing process. 

Outside of writing and creating, I am making strides on trying to move more. I've signed up for a gym and a personal trainer, who keeps me motivated and has taught me a number of things I can do on my own, as well. I'm also feeling like it might be time to get back into running. 

Other areas regarding journaling and incorporating more spiritual practices into my days have been a bit hit and miss. I manage to do these when I think of them, but go through most days without having done either. An are for improvement. 

How are you doing with life and goals lately? 

A Tiny Piece of News

I created a Ko-Fi account. While this does allow me to accept donations (one time and/or monthly), the main purpose for this is that it allows me to set up a shop for selling signed copies of my books (as well as possibly other work in the future). 

Book of the Month

In Something is Killing the Children, a graphic novel by James Tynion IV (writer), Werther Dell’Edera (illustrator), and Miquel Muerto (colorist), a game of truth and dare leads a group of kids out into the woods — but only one comes back alive. It's brutal, bloody, and viscerally violent scene, made all the more terrifying with the realization that other kids have gone missing.

When a mysterious young women with intense eyes that have seen too much arrives in town, she promises to hunt down and kill the monsters. But with families desperate for answers and revenge and the town spiraling into paranoia and desperation, events quickly grow out of her control,  growing more and more deadly — and leading to a violent an tragic end.

This graphic novel is beautifully illustrated and brutally gory, with the horror being as much about the aftermath of such violence as it is about the monsters themselves. I'm also very interested in this world and the strange society our mysterious hero is a part of. I'm looking forward to reading more.

More on the books, shows, and games I loved recently can be found in my Culture Consumption for July 2023.

Good Reads

Ocean Vuong, author of the novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and the new poetry collection Time Is a Mother, provides a number of fantastic insights about the art and craft of writing poetry — but I am most fascinated by his thoughts on writing with purpose, rather than the expectation that the poet keep writing:

I may be alone in thinking this, but I truly don’t believe that a writer should just keep writing as long as they’re alive. I see my career not by how much I can produce but by how the work can get me to where I can meaningfully stop and be satisfied with what I’ve done. I’m more interested in stopping well rather than endlessly creating.

"Everyone writes tropes," notes Brandon Applegate in his essay on the Nightworms website. "Everyone."  

Blair Hurley explores the spaces held at the edges of a scene, spaces rich with conflict and storytelling potential:

It will always be difficult to look past the ready-made scenes we have internalized from books and TV: the break-up scene, the interrogation scene, the dinner party scene, the falling in love scene, the bad sex scene. No matter the genre, we have a catalogue of expectations about how a given scenario will unfold. The bailiff says, “All rise,” and you know the courtroom drama that is about to unfold. But the fact remains that people are living their lives outside these tightly circumscribed spaces. People are waiting in the parking lot, stamping their feet in the cold while they wait for the lawyer to arrive. People are washing their hands side by side in the restroom. People are lingering after the party has ended, helping to clean up, because they are close enough friends to do so. People are digging for their coats in the pile on the guest room bed, talking quietly about the people they wish hadn’t come. There are so many rich opportunities for original, inviting conflicts if we just take the time to peer around camera number one.


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