Sunday, December 12, 2010

I have a poem in the newest Anti-

This is a special poem for me because it's that rare poem that not only got published, but which I regularly read.  Plus, it's the poem which I named this blog for (I seriously just noticed that).  Check out the Robotto-Mulatto's own, at Anti-.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I've been nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

Muzzle Magazine has nominated me for a Pushcart Prize for my recent poem Blackberry Harvest.  It pretty much has made my entire month.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Anymore, fall just feels like unemployment

I've been reading some of the letters sent between poets, as well as between them and their family.  Besides the schadenfreude associated with hearing dirt on what are, essentially, celebrities (Robert Frost calls Ezra Pound his "sometimes friend."  Ice cold.) there's a certain humanizing element to it as well.  A solidarity in reading that T.S. Elliott struggled greatly with his finances when he moved to England.  Especially now, that I am once again looking for work.

Really, at this point, it's more of the same.  Just frustrating that so much of time time is spent just looking for work.  Also, somewhat of a set back when a potential employer found this blog and rescinded a job interview.  Now, I can see their post on Craigslist.  Maybe that's something like seeing an ex at the grocery store, soon after the break up.

In any case, if there's writing that needs to be done, and you're not offended by my blog (which I personally find fairly tame), then give me a shout out.  I write everything.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My new favorite thing - Underwater art

There's not a whole lot that I can say about this that Two Four Flinching hasn't already said or which Jason de Caires Taylor, the artist behind these underwater sculptures, doesn't express in his own website.  But his life-size pieces astound and thrill me like nothing I've seen in quite some time.

I think a part of me has always been tangled in seaweed.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Because there's not enough good, Kentucky rap

CunninLynguists member Deacon the Villain and Kentucky rapper and honorary Affrilachian Poet (he's married to Bianca!) Sheisty Khrist are bringing it November 30th.

In Sheisty Khrist's words:

"if you are easily offended and don't understand off-hand humor and political commentary please do not watch. parental advisory. other than that be prepared to buy this album when it comes out this month. it is an amazing piece of work."

Couldn't agree more:

Also, if you're not already in the know, check out QN5 music, post-haste.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A photo of yours truly

I'll just share one for now, but my friend Ashley Ross has taken some photos of me.  Isn't she great?

Keith S. Wilson in Eden Park, Cincinnati.  Photo by Ashley Ross

Monday, October 18, 2010

For Colored Girls book discussion at Evelyn N. Alfred's blog

I won't lie; I love book discussions.  I would participate in them all the time if I could find one that read things other than best sellers or summer (that is, easy) reads.  So I jumped at the chance to participate in the book discussion Evelyn N. Alfred is leading at her blog and Twitter account.

Okay, jump is the wrong word, since I ended up 10 days behind.  But I went out and bought the book for the discussion (tip:  it's not in the poetry section, it's in the theatre section).  Anyway, now I'm caught up, loving the book, and loving that someone's tackling poetry in book discussion.

Keep an eye on Evelyn's blog; she does stuff like this all the time.  I think I've linked to her before, but this merits a second mention.  Please join the discussion.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My poem "How Like a Potato" has been published in the Fall 2010 issue of Poetrybay.

My poem "How Like a Potato" has been published in the Fall 2010 issue of Poetrybay.

I've been trying to make an effort of announcing my publications here.  I hate doing it almost as much as I hate writing or sharing my bio, but Bianca has been on me about it, and she's kind of right.

Also, I'm not entirely sure when it became available, but one of my poems, "Punch Line" has been printed in the AIDS anthology Spaces Between Us.  This was a particularly proud moment in my poetry career; the poem means a lot to me, as does the intent of the collection itself.  Check it out.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The ever-elusive poet in the workforce

I suggest you read the full post, entitled "Poetic Marketing":

Fellow Affrilachian Poet Crystal Good wrote this particular blog post a while back talking about the role of a poet in a business environment:

Today’s marketing world is built on two-way conversations and third-party endorsements. There is no room for pomp and cliché. If you are stumbling on how to tell your brand story think about the honesty of a poet and then ask yourself if you honestly understand your brand and your customer?

It's interesting that there is such a stigma between business and art.  I understand the philosophy behind it.  But ignoring businesses entirely is no more helpful of a poet than writing nothing but poetry that never makes it out of your notebook.  If there is wrong, do something.

In any case, I love what Crystal is doing not only as it pertains to legitimizing poetic force in the workplace, but also for what she does for the community in general, especially in West Virginia. Let's recognize that poets exist outside the coffee houses and classrooms.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Affrilachian Poets hit Frostburg State University Part III of III

Sorry for the huge delay between this and the last Frostburg video set.  I essentially lost, for a week, the ability to get the videos off my computer.  But here are the final two videos.  Affrilachian Poets Crystal Good and Ricardo Nazario-Colón.

Be sure to check out Part I and Part II for a selection of the whole Affrilachian performance, which included the poets Bianca Spriggs, Norman Jordan, Ricardo Nizaro-Colon, Mitchell L. H. Douglas, Ricardo Nazario-Colón, Crystal Good, and Keith S. Wilson.

Ricardo Nazario-Colón performing "Witness."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Applying for grad school is not nearly as fun as it sounds

I spent most of yesterday researching exactly what is required of me to send with the applications of all 13 of the universities I wish to apply to. What a nightmarish process.  There isn't the slightest bit of uniformity between where the websites store information.

And so many of these schools require online submissions, which seems easier than paper applications, but it isn't.  Not if you have 13 schools you want to apply to, and have to tell each of your recommenders to go to 13 different websites.

And finally, the application fee itself is pretty upsetting.  And knowing that in addition to that, I have to pay to take the GRE, then pay for copies of that, and then potentially pay my school to send copies of my transcript (not sure if I can even send as many as I need to yet.  Sigh).  It will cost me 610 dollars in application fees alone, in a field that gaurentees little financial security.  I'm honestly considering taking a second job to pay for these application fees.  Which could actually be my only job soon as I lose my current one.  More information on that later, I guess.

At the same time, this cost is paltry in comparison to what I stand to save by having multiple options of schools to attend.  You know.  Assuming I get in to any of them.  A little bleak, maybe, but it's a little difficult to get excited about a 600+ dollar hole in my pocket.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Affrilachian Poets hit Frostburg State University Part II of III

Part two of a three part video series of the Affrilachian Poets' performance at Frostburg State University, in Maryland, for their Appalachian Festival last Saturday.  Readers included Bianca Spriggs, Norman Jordan, Ricardo Nizaro-Colon, Mitchell L. H. Douglas, Ricardo Nazario-Colón, Crystal Good, and Keith S. Wilson.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Affrilachian Poets hit Frostburg State University Part I of III

The Affrilachian Poets performed at Marlyand's Frostburg State University for their Appalachian Festival this Saturday.  Bianca Spriggs, Norman Jordan, Ricardo Nizaro-Colon, Mitchell L. H. Douglas, Ricardo Nazario-Colón, Crystal Good, and I were in attendance.

I'll refrain from speaking about it, and instead give you some of our performances.  Without ado:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gypsy Poetry Slam and the Kentucky Women Writers Conference Part II

I had intended on posting this the day of, or perhaps the day after the last day of Gypsy Slam, but everything was such a whirlwind for me that I ended up getting 10 minutes of sleep in two days and sort of running through Monday in a haze.  Which says something about Gypsy Slam and the KWWC, doesn't it?

I'd never actually been to the KWWC, but after spending a late night out for Gypsy Slam, I woke up very late, finished some of my work, and drove the hour and a half drive back to Lexington to see Diane Ackerman's reading/dialog.  From conversations before the event, it sounded like most of the people there were had read (or had come to see her because of) her book The Zookeeper's Wife, but she read one of her essays.  It was on writing and nature (and many other things), and at one point she read "School Prayer," the first poem from her collection of poetry I Praise my Destroyer:

After the reading and dialogue, Laura Yes Yes asked Patricia Smith if I could come to the second workshop.  Who would have thought that just asking, I could sit in on a workshop lead by the estimable Patricia Smith.  The catch, though, was that I had missed the first workshop and had to write two poems before the following day.  So I went home, ate, worked, and then wrote, and wrote and wrote and drove back for the workshop the next day.  Maybe you missed it, but I didn't: there was no sleep between those two events.

The workshop, though, was interesting.  "Confronting the Poem That Strikes You Silent" was a lot of opening up to one another, which of course involved trust and respect, and if I do say so myself, some amazing writing.  Patricia Smith is observant and if not shrewd, astute, workshop leader, and I think everyone left with more than they came in with.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gypsy Poetry Slam and the Kentucky Women Writers Conference Part I

Some of the Affrilachian Poets hang out after Gypsy Slam.
 I have attended only a small portion of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference these last two days, but even so, it's all sort of a whirlwind of creative energy and feminine-power.  For anyone who doesn't know, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference is the longest running event of its kind in America, and this year features Diane Ackerman and (one of my personal heroes) Patricia Smith.  Plus, my Affrilachian Poet sister Bianca Spriggs runs the Gypsy Slam (an all female slam poetry event).

Yes, you can attend most the events if you're a guy, and yes, if you're within driving distance or in any way able to come to next year's event, you probably should.  It's been amazing so far.

I'm going to be completely honest though.  This is more a two part blog entry out of necessity than convenience; I need sleep.

The Gypsy Slam actually happened last night, but I want to talk about it real quick while it's fresh on my mind.  Before sleep.  Fellow NKY poet Lisa Marie Carbert did her thing.  She's really getting awesome, and it's great to see some of us represent from time to time.  Northern Kentucky rarely gets any love.  And I got to see a lot of the Lexingtonians I've come to know and love too, it was an all-around amazing event.

Afterwards, though, I got to sit down for a little while tonight with Lauren Zuniga, who won the competition (I won't even begin to talk about how breathless her second poem left me), and Laura Yes Yes, who all around rocks as a person and a poet (Cave Canem Group A what!) and we talked a little bit about how slam poetry is perceived.  That is, as something lesser than poetry.  Patrica Smith hasn't done slam in some years, but Lauren noted that a reviewer explained that Patricia Smith had transcended her slam roots.  As if slam is the first step to writing real poetry.  Poetry-as-training-bra.

Semi-random aside.  Here's Laura Yes Yes on her first set, tearing it up, and captured with a camera that has strangely rendered her as some sort of poetic spirit-warrior:

Hell, it was only earlier this week I was telling my friend and fellow poet Megan Scharff, that I believe that there are academic poets who purposely read poorly because the only people who they care about impressing are poets, publishers, and professors who are used to that kind of reading, or who are already enamored with their previously published work.  Perhaps it's the cynic in me, but I have been to too many horrendous academic readings to believe that all those poets happen to be naturally terrible readers who have never gotten any better.  There's an idea in academic poetry that alienating the audience is fine, because it weeds out those who are not serious about the blessed miracle that is the written word.

I've never believed that poetry is dying, but if it was, it would be because of academic poetry, and those who support the idea that letting the audience in is a crime.  That's not to say that all poetry need be 'easy' to understand: narrative, straight-forward, and simply-worded, though some of my favorite poetry is.  It means that when a human being is standing on stage, they can at least give the other human beings in the room the common courtesy of caring.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Should I take that online class?

I recently completed an online grant writing class, but since the initial sign-up, I've read some people's opinions on online learning in general.  I've seen  abject disgust at the entire idea of a digital classroom.  The enterprise, they say, cheapens higher education by introducing lower standard learning as if it is college-worthy.  They are usually educators themselves.

I don't know that I agree with that.  Not entirely.  I went to college.  And I'm proud of the education I received.  But there are problems in higher education that run deep, and an overwhelming number of students in it for the paper instead of the education itself.  The point of taking a class is to learn, isn't it?  If you manage to do that without throwing money at a university, the only person who doesn't benefit is the university.

I realized, though, that I went into this whole thing pretty blind.  So I've put together some questions I probably should have asked.

What do you want out of it?

The main thing you should be considering before you take an online course is what, exactly, you want out of the program.  If it's accreditation toward something, you definitely need to do your homework beforehand.  Just because a course says that you'll get a certificate, or that you'll be trained to perform a certain job doesn't mean that anybody will count the course as real training. 

You wouldn't go to a law school that couldn't lead you to a law degree, no matter how nice the teachers were. That is, unless you weren't going to become a lawyer, but to learn a little about law. 

The same goes for online courses.  In my case, I wanted to learn to write grants.  And I did.  Mission accomplished, for a fraction of the cost of taking a class at the University of Cincinnati itself.

Are you prepared for online learning?

Taking a class online is a different sort of animal than going to a classroom. Technically, I could have probably learned everything I learned from my class by reading a grant writing book.

But I didn't.  I wouldn't.  Grant writing is not so joyous an experience that I ever felt like cracking open a book and reading it for hours on end.  And more than that, if something doesn't make sense on my own, I'm screwed.  There's no professor to ask for clarification.  So taking an online course, for me, accomplished three things that studying by myself did not:

  1. I had an instructor who I could (and did) ask questions of.
  2. I had a time frame I needed to get work done within, which meant I actually did it.
  3. Strange as it may sound, paying money for the course made me take it seriously.

There are things, of course, that I missed:  Having a portion of the day specifically set aside for class.  The atmosphere itself (my living room is not conducive to learning). The ability to listen to a lesson instead of only having the option to read.  And mostly, the interaction (between students, the professor, and the lesson itself) that you get in a classroom is just not available in an online course.

Would I do it again?

Probably.  The price is right, and if I'm finding myself for some reason unmotivated toward something I'd like to learn, it seems an agreeable enough solution.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My writing process

Evelyn N. Alfred wonders:

I'm very curious about how writers - especially published ones - write. I'd like to know their whole writing process, from the brainstorm, first draft, second draft, seventy-elevnth draft, all the way up to publishing. It would be nice to know these things, to see if their advice could help me with my own writing.

I write every day.  I don't have a set amount of words, or time, that I need to write, just so long as I write one poem.  That's anything from an epic (well, for me) 3-pager to a haiku, though I almost never write anything so short, since I consider it cheating.  Cheating, that is, myself.  From time spent writing.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with a good haiku.

The process can take anywhere from half an hour to probably around an two hours, depending on my mood and the poem, though the poem depends so heavily on my mood that these qualifiers might be one in the same.

With that in mind, I tell myself I won't go to bed until the poem is done.  This means that most nights, it's the last thing I do before I go to bed.  Possibly not the best state of mind for a lot of people to write, but I've always been a night person, and poetry is exciting to me and keeps me active enough that I rarely feel tired until the poem is written.  Writing has always been exciting to me.  Reading can be.  Depends on the artist.

So it's 2 in the morning, and I've decided I need to write my poem for the day.  What do I write about?  I have three methods for topics.  The first, and most common approach I take is that I basically free write.  I start writing about whatever pops in my head, or something that I see in the room, or something that happened that day.  Method two has me write a poem specifically in response to a contest.  If there's a contest that's looking for poems for an AIDS anthology (and there was) I write to that.  And the last method is that I read a poem, and write a 'response' to it.  Either a direct answer to some question the poem asked, or what I think about when I read that poem.  Pretty much anything.

From there, it's all instinct for the greater part of it, if there is such a thing.  If I like what I've written, I'll try to do more of it, whatever it is.  Alliteration, or in-rhyme, or a theme, or whatever.  But I basically try to keep writing until I feel an end coming on, and end it when it feels right.

That's how I write the majority of the time.  I edit heavily that first night, and put it away until some undetermined time in the future, when I look through a lot of my poems at once and edit them again.  Throughout the week, I read the last three or four poems I wrote to see how I feel about them, and a lot of times, I edit those as well.

Form poems are a little different, but I still mostly do this free-write approach.  I almost never plan everything that I'm going to write before I write it.  I maybe have never done it.  I don't know that I believe that poetry can't be organic when it's planned, or can't seem it anyway.  All I know is that when a trained singer goes out on stage, the one thing that nobody can teach them is to be in that right state of mind to really hit every note the way it needs to be hit.  After a while, they just learn the place they need to be, and for me, the place that I've needed to be for as long as I can remember is fluid, and unplanned and free as I can.

Frank X Walker said, in the first writing class that I ever took, that there's no such thing as writer's block.  And I believe in that.  Writer's block isn't a literal inability to pen a word to paper, it's a fear or feeling that anything you have to say isn't worth saying.  Or else, you don't feel as if you know what to say.  But if you sit down and just write, you'll have something.  If you learned how to spell, and you can speak, you can write.

Every single time I sit down to write, I'm not crafting something spectacular.  I'm just crafting, and that's enough.

Most nights.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Final Friday with the InkTank and

Yesterday, I read some of my poetry at InkTank, an organization in Cincinnati I've been getting more involved with lately.  InkTank is concerned with matters of the community and the arts, and in celebration of Final Friday, Lisa Howe, the new director, set up a reading of work by the participants of the InkTank writer's salon which happens there every other week.  I had a blast.  Plus, there was good food, and lots of talk with writers of prose, poetry, and other kinds of writing.

I actually brought my camera, but forgot to use it.  I'm a miserable blogger sometimes.

One of my favorite moments of the night, though, involved Julie Stockman reading a moving blog entry from a blog she contributes to called CincyVoices.  Well, it was technically a blog entry, but I'd probably call it a memoir if she had not stated it as such.  Julie walked me around the Final Friday event and shared an impressive knowledge (and love) of Over-The-Rhine and Cincinnati in general.  Check out the site, especially if you live in or around Cincinnati; it's absolutely fantastic.

I'd also like to commend Julie's involvement in Price Hill's Cultural Heritage Festival.  I'm pretty damn upset I wasn't able to make it today.

And speaking of that...  This is a formal announcement of thus-far-failure of Vizionheiry's tips for working from home.  They are excellent tips; I plan on trying them again next week.  But it's good to face the facts, sometimes, and the facts are, I didn't do too well at managing my time this week.  Which leaves me with a very narrow amount of time to do this blog, and then the rest of the day spent working.  More updates as they come as to whether I am able to balance all this mess.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Press Release: Welcome the three newest members of the Affrilachian Poets!

Welcome family!  You all look out for these three:

For Immediate Release August 25, 2010 Images &
The Affrilachian Poets Welcome Three New Members
Lexington, KY— Randall Horton, Kamilah Aisha Moon, and Jeremy Paden comprise the fifth induction of members to the Affrilachian Poets. This marks the opening event celebrating the group’s twentieth anniversary which includes the the first Affrilachian conference and writing retreat in 2011.
The Affrilachian Poets have been writing and thriving in Appalachia and beyond since 1991. The term, “Affrilachia,” was coined by Walker as testament to the cultural and physical connection to the Appalachian Region from writers of color. A group of friends and colleagues who eventually called themselves the Affrilachian Poets initially met in the Martin King, Jr. Cultural Center at the University of Kentucky. Ten years later, the AP’s were the subject of “Coal Black Voices” broadcast on PBS, and the word “Affrilachia” is now an entry in the Oxford American Dictionary. 
Known for work that pays homage to family, social struggle and relationships to rural and urban landscapes, among the Affrilachian Poets are award-winning authors, academics, and activists. Group members have edited the anthologies America! What’s My Name?, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, founded the literary journalsTorch: poetry, prose, and short stories by African-American women, Pluck!: the Affrilachian Journal of Arts and Culture, and the independent publishing houses,Mythium and Blacoetry Press. Collectively the AP’s have published a total of twenty-five titles, with six collections set to be released between 2010-2011.To learn more about the history of the Affrilachian Poets and individual members, please log on to
Upcoming Dates for the Affrilachian Poets:
Frostburg State University; Frostburg, MD (Sept. 18, 2010) “Born and Bred”; Lexington, KY (Sept. 28, 2010) Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference; Washington, D.C. (Feb. 4-5, 2011)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top 5 Links of the Week (that I can remember)

Working from home means that my schedule is all up in the air and fluid.  Right now, my solution has been the opposite of what every work-from-home employee might suggest; rather than block my work time off, and have the rest of the day off, I block off my writing/research time, and work the rest of the day.

What that means is that I've been tearing through the links.  So without further ado, my top five links of this week (that I can remember):

  1. Carl Phillips on writing.  (BTW, Carl's book, Riding Westward, is phenomenal.)
  2. Daniel Nester hates the term/genre(?)/style Lyrical Essay.
  3. Are E-Books good for poetry?
  4. Getting the DL on the new Sarah Baartman flick. (BTW, Bianca Spriggs has a poem that sort of blows me away about Sarah Baartman in her new book Kafir Lily)
  5. Dwayne Betts talks poetry and the prison system.
Also, because I just read it, and it the story has me hooked enough to be reading it immediately again, check out Erin Keane's new book Death Defying Acts.  Especially if you are afraid of clowns.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Comments are the lifeblood of blogging as a community

Daniel Nester's Round Up at We Who Are About to Die alerted me to two articles, both of which basically express opinions about why Silliman's Blog recently decided to disable comments.

It became in many ways a discussion on the importance of comments in blogs. Or else, the lack thereof.  Samizdat Blog explains that in an age which is inundated with poets, poetry, and critique of poetry, many have decided to garner attention by any means necessary.  Which means, a lot of the time, logging into your favorite blog platform, finding the comment section of your favorite blog, and being a jerk.

I suppose, in the end, what we have is a failure to adjust our expectations to the new conditions under which we write poetry, and write about poetry. When the dissemination of poems and commentary was limited by the technology of print, relatively few people were able to disseminate their work, and they could imagine that the audience for what they had to say was larger than the number of other publishing writers. Now everyone with a laptop can get their work out there, but getting it noticed amid the crowd is an issue.
Lemon Hound explains that perhaps the medium demands a different sort of call and response:

A little space between digestion and response. I said earlier that I thought the right response to a great poem is probably another great poem--I think the same might be true for a post.

I tend to agree with both these statements.  There are a lot of people out there just trying to get a word in edge-wise, to the detriment of the community (depending, of course, on the person and their intent).  And yes, the best response to a good blog post is another post, just as a the best response to an outstanding poem is another poem.

But these aren't the only responses, or nobody would read poems but other poets.

Every blog, of course, is free to do what they feel necessary to function as whatever it is they function as.  But I think that at its core, no blog can ever enter the world, truly as part of the community, without comments.  Granted, this is not the goal of every site or person.  And a blog may be big enough or important enough to directly affect the community anyway.  But only in the oblique way that forces take on groups of people, instead of the organic way that communities actually thrive.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I really want to read slush. Also, updates.

I'm unreasonably eager to find a job with a poetry journal or magazine.  Reading the slush pile.  For free, probably.  I know, I should see a doctor.  But I'm not sure where to start looking.  So if you guys know of any place that's in the market, especially one near Northern Kentucky/Southern Ohio/Eastern Tennessee, hook a brother up.


  • Still doing my thing at Public-Republic.
  • Writing for, and generally thinking about We Who Are About to Die.  Check it out. Great stuff.
  • Beginning to start the application process for grad school (which means, so far, that I've cleaned off my desk so I have room to work).
  • Taking an online grant writing course with ed2go (consensus?  Cheap, and I'm learning.  Might have been cheaper to get Grant Writing for Dummies, but having deadlines and assignments is helpful, as well as a person to ask questions of).
  • Beginning to sort of help the Ink Tank write grants.
  • Working on lesson plans, or whatever I need to work on, to start leading workshops on poetry for the InkTank.

This means that a lot of things I'd like to do, such as read all my email, or read a lot more, are getting pushed back.

It's times like these where I want to bemoan the fast paced nature of the modern world, and watch a commercial about how busy being a mom is and nod my head emphatically (ignoring that I am not a woman, nor have a child), and generally just, you know, sigh a lot.

But I think the reality is that none of us are half as busy as we think.  I'm up-to-date with True Blood, for instance.  And Mad Men.  Pretty much every day, I see reruns of court shows (which means I've already seen them all once).  I lay on my couch a lot.

There are people in the world who know busy.  I don't know busy, and even when I do, it's really not so bad.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I've been made a co-editor of We Who Are About To Die

I'm not sure I've ever directly mentioned We Who Are About To Die on this blog, but I've been blogging there for a while now, at least as often as I blog here at my personal blog.  I tend to write more about literature on WWAATD and much, much less about my personal life or poetry.

If you haven't already, you ought to check it out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Technology and Poetry: Visuwords

I'm going to be all kinds of hypocritical in this post.  I can already feel it.

But I know poets who won't, or can't, write without a pen or a pencil in their hand.  They've got to feel the scrawl of ink against paper, and that's fine.  But at the same time, I suspect that a sizable portion of these writers avoid the computer screen less of pragmatism and more of some romantic notion of a poet with their pen.

I know.  Never this from a poet, right?

It's just that I can't stand how slowly a pencil gets the ideas from my mind to the blue line, and I'm quick to point out that the OGs of poetry couldn't afford paper, assuming someone had invented it yet in their part of the world.  I've no qualms with technology as a medium of creation; today's cutting edge is tomorrows romanticized.

That said, check out Visuwords.  Basically, it's something like a high-tech thesaurus.  You type in a word, and it populates a group of bubbles that are related to that word, complete with color coordinated lines showing how the new words relate to the original.

I've got mixed feelings about this site.  On one hand, it's kind of awesome jiggling those bubbles around.  Sort of like choking an octopus.  More than that, it actually seems like it could be useful.  Often, when I am stuck on a poem, or am just trying to start writing, I will write (type) a word down and begin writing other words that I think are vaguely connected to it in some way.

But I've known about this site for a while and still never use it, even as I defend my 6-year-old laptop against the Classic Pen Defensive.

In my own defense, I think that part of what makes my personal method of thought bubbles work is the process itself.  Seeing words is an entirely different experience from coming up with them yourself.

Which makes Visuwords something like a very pretty thesaurus.

But then, some people think better visually.  Some need the tactile feel of a pen in their hands.  And some of us just like throttling things as we put off writing today's poem.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cincinnati's Full Art Spectrum Jazz Collaborative

An Ohio artist named Roy Jones has been running the Full Art Spectrum for some time, but I was only recently able to finally make it.  Essentially, FAS is a meeting of artists of all disciplines: visual, written, and performance.  I've never been to anything quite like it.

The artists stand in front of the crowd, present their work, whatever that entails, and give an extremely brief explanation if they feel that the piece needs it.  So a photographer has their photo on an easel, or I will stand in front of everyone and read.  Then, rather than critique, or just clap, the audience asks questions or make comments on the work.  It becomes a discussion, something like an interactive gallery.

Yesterday was a special event for Full Art Spectrum: a show of collaborative works based on the sort of dialogue and interplay that jazz is so well known for.  Pieces hung which were the work of groups of three different artists who traded partially completed canvases and spun it their own way (a visual riff, I suppose).  It was kind of awesome, especially to someone with little to no visual artistry in his blood.

 The second sort of art that was on display was interdisciplinary.  Poets worked with visual artists in some way.  In my case, I worked with a painter named Anna Willoughby; I wrote a poem based in some small part on a discussion we had beforehand, and she painted it.

Here is the poem and Anna's fantastic painting, which frankly, I did a shitty job capturing with my point-and-shoot camera:

-based on a true story

I lost my place in conversation,
but nobody seemed to sense
the loss.  Their crowded chests
were encroached with belief.
I lifted hot and light as a balloon,
bit my tongue desperately, tried to
save face, but I watched my-
self drift away into the upward
sea, and I held my friends, my-
self mute, righted my family.

I actually performed the piece as well, and recorded it, but it's not the greatest sound quality, so instead, I will upload the only marginally better second poem that I read.  I was accompanied by the jazz band that played throughout the night (the only member of the band whose name I recall is Liz Wu).   And while I'm thinking about it, why are poetry readings done in any place that has something that needs to grind in order to operate?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cave Canem in retrospect, and my 100th post

This post won't be sprawling, can't be.  A ton has happened, but I feel like trying to grocery-list it is like trying to explain in a blog post the music of family, food, or  soul.  I don't know.  Amazing.  But I don't know.

And I met so many amazing people who kept me on my toes in ways college never did.  But to list some is to slight more. But they know who they are, and so will you, soon.  In books, and in classrooms.

And how I remember the precise moment in school when I realized my vocabulary was a burden.  This was a place of brothers and sisters who knew that feeling.  The feeling of being different, of being other.  Of being a poet, against all odds.  There were workshops in the corners of parties, spirited (in every sense of the word) philosophical debates, and so much love.

I can't list everything that happened.  I am a poet.  As I always say, if I knew how to say something better than with a poem, I wouldn't write poetry.  So maybe this, a poem I wrote for, then read at, the Sunrise Poetry reading, which itself is very telling about CC.  The last day, it was suggested that we stay awake until the sun came out, and read poetry as night transitioned to day.


Most things are bigger than me
but not all have their affect.
Not in the ways we mean
by affection, ignoring the strange
tilt of the universe, exploding
stars in my heart
the first time someone
let me be black.

It was a drug,
a motion I never stopped moaning for.
Exploiting my difference—
fed my elephant pocket change
when looking in the mirror
should have been enough.

This is how earthquakes are made:
in the chest, a faultline your
cousin split, best friend, coworker,
and it demanded family.

Family came with its own chain
dangling from the neck.
The dirt of its original birth
trailed behind, as if to say "Yes,
I have been shackled, yes I've been slave
to my own humanity but I am human.
Which means I am more than my image
even when I cling to it, even when
with it, my stomach is full.  I am free,
and I am dangerous, and I've come back.
Not for your chain, because that
is yours, but to ensure that you
are dangerous too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cave Canem in 3 days, and I hurt my back

I'll be at Cave Canem in just three days, and just my luck; I've hurt my back.  I suppose it isn't entirely a surprise, since I hurt it every so often (years unloading trucks, and slouching, I guess) but damned if that doesn't piss me off.

It reminds me, in a labyrinthine sort of way, of how as a child I used to hope for injuries and sicknesses which would save me from school so I could play video games or read.  You wouldn't believe how much I loved the chicken pox.  A sign, right there from the start, that I was either going to grow up to be a writer, or a perpetually unemployed mooch.


Change of scene.  I don't think that I've mentioned it at all on this blog, but I write for We Who Are About to Die.  I'm loving it; there's a special kind of joy in laughing at a joke that nobody you know is going to appreciate because nobody else reads contemporary poetry.  I call it the Frasier Effect.

Anyway, I wrote a recent blog at WWAATD entitled Is Kipling Racist?  Check it out.

Oh, and a shout out to Elisa Gabbert, of The French-Exit,  for suggesting them when I Twitter-asked which blogs might be looking for contributors.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Touchdown Jesus has burned to the ground

When I was still working in a meat department (which, I swear, I'll affectionately be referring to as the good-ol-days before too long) I worked with someone who was new to the area. He had just moved to Northern Kentucky, and he pulled me aside at the end of the night like he had a secret to tell. He said, in a hushed voice "Keith... How do you deal with how religious it is out here?"

Honestly, sometimes I manage to forget what part of the country I'm seated in. You know. Until we build a Creation Museum. Or until Touch Down Jesus burns to the ground.

In honor (?) of the passing of the most ridiculous sculpture I have personally witnessed, I bring to you both the original poem I wrote about the statue last year, and now, its update:

Touchdown Jesus

If you make anything big enough,
use enough styrofoamplexiglass
or whatever other strange man-made
compound (words) you can find,
if you slam it down close enough
to a major highway, give it long enough
arms, make it just the right blend of
expensive and blatant, it will show
your devotion and spirit. Just ask
Touchdown Jesus, and slap him
4 high fives, one for each part
of the trinity. And one for me.


So Touchdown Jesus is aflame,
lightning licked his mighty hands
as he reached toward heaven.

A part of me wonders how long
it'll be before the pious
pay the way back up to the sky

and the other imagines the look
on God's face when he turned
His infinite eyes to Monroe, Ohio,

and saw His own son, 62 feet high,
reaching like a babe. Big, Christian
face (made in His own image), puppy dog

eyes, skin white as most devious sin.
It must've scared the bejeebus out of him.
Enough that lightning arced and broke the sky.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Digital Chapbooks - The intersection of teaching, technology, and art.

If you haven't heard of augmented reality, you will.  And soon.

Augmented reality is a technology which modifies your environment (usually through a video screen) in some way.  It's much harder to try to explain than to see in action, but it's being developed all over.  XBox's Project Natal, smart phone compatible Polar Rose, and even a virtual box simulator courtesy of the USPS all take advantage of this new, sometimes creepy technology (looking at you Polar Rose).

But as the above video suggests, this isn't all about technology.  It's about poetry.  Or it's half about poetry.

Between Page and Screen

Between Page and Screen is doing what humans love constantly to do, which is blur the lines between anything we possibly can. It's an experiment (or is it a work of art?) in technology and poetry, and their website has this to say:
This chapbook, written by Amaranth Borsuk and programmed by Brad Bouse, integrates the artist's book and e-poetry traditions to examine the conventions by which we know an object as a book. 
I think it's cool as hell to see, but artist statements are always a hair's breadth away from being an afterthought to justify spending hours making something.  So what's the real benefit of this project?

Exposing Poetry in New Ways

The first thing I thought of was the potential something like this has in the classroom.  It's showy, it's cheap (more on that later) and it has to do with poetry.  'Nuff said.

And a part of me truly believes this.  I would have freaked the F out in elementary school if someone had brought this into the classroom.  I'd have been excited that day, and potentially excited about the next day of school, because, let's face it, if the teacher does something that's actually fun, there's always the chance it will happen again.

But a part of me thinks this is in some ways, smoke and mirrors as it pertains to children and young adults.  Watch the video again.  What are the poems about.  Which was your favorite?

Yes, I'm being a little facetious; it's a video.  Am I expecting some freeze frames to allow me, for 5 or 6 minutes, to read each individual poem?  Of course not.  But at the same time, what is impressive, and novel,  and interesting about this is not (at first glance) the poetry.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome.  And I'd actually read the poetry if I had a chance to.

But would children?

Conclusion:  Who cares? It's cool.

On a certain level, teaching is about engagement.  Between Page and Screen is no better at this than any tool, on its own.  It's up to a teacher to tie it in with real lessons, or get the kids to read.

Essentially, this IS just smoke and mirrors, but it can be a cheap way to do something interesting, too.  The demo on the website (which was easy for me to set up with my web cam and a printer) only gives you one poem, but maybe this is enough to get some freeware software development out there.  Or maybe there already is.

As a poet, I'm not terribly excited about new mediums for poetry.  I'm in love with language first, and kind of lamely crushing on technology second.  Sound systems and holograms and lasers do nothing to change what I do, or what I love.  But it is sort of nice to see that as we move forward with technology, someone is constantly finding new ways to insert what is human about us back into what can often be a creepy (looking at you again, Polar Rose) foray into the unknown.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My top three favorite poetry blogs

I'm currently working on a topic requested via Twitter.  As I get that done, I think now's the perfect opportunity to share a few of my favorite blogs.  These people are either doing what I do better than I'm doing it, or they're doing more.

Without further ado:

I think, really, the best way to describe this blog is that it's something akin to walking in on a smart dinner party where poetry or any other topic might happen to come up.  It's smart, funny, but not always about poetry.

And I'm cool with that.  Because if you're smart or funny enough, you can make me interested even in the topics I can't join in on (today's topic?  A review of smells.  My nose has three receptors.  Good.  Bad.  And Food).

Plus, from the background of the blog to the manner of discussion itself, things are about as unpretentious as it gets.  This is a great risk of dinner parties where poetry might come up.

I love being around people who are always dreaming.  Dreaming is the wrong word.  Because for all the positive connotations it has, it also implies a sort of otherworldly, unachievable destination.  Vizionheiry isn't dreaming, she's setting things up, and planning.  And fostering community.

I actually think that her blog is in some ways ancillary to her Twitter account, because so much of the fun is happening there.  But Twitter is like riding in cars and waving at one another.  And a blog is a place to rest your feet, so here it is.

A blog purely of poetry, The Storialist finds a photo every day, and writes inspired by that photo.  I don't know exactly what it is about this idea which I love, but every time I read in on what's new, I can't decide if I'd rather read the poem first, and guess at the photo, or look at the photo and see what has been done with it.

One thing I'd like to add is that I write a poem every single day.  I've been doing it for over a year now, and yeah, sometimes it sucks and you don't want to write anything. But what makes this even more impressive a venture is that Hannah isn't hiding anything (or if she is, she's showing more than she's hiding).

And of course, this wouldn't be anything more but a good idea if the writing didn't back it up.

Does anyone out there have any blogs they check regularly because of how damn good they are?  Link me!  I apparently am underrepresented my own gender here, as well as the span of blogging platforms.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

4 poems in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

I'm making more of an effort, from now on, of letting people know where they can read my poetry.  Four of my poems are in last month's issue of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cave Canem, and the Kaffir Lilly book release party.

So much to say.  First, I've been accepted into Cave Canem.  I'm ecstatic.  I tried not to think about it back when I applied, but some of my favorite poets are involved; on the faculty, or on board in some way.  Claudia Rankine comes to mind, especially.  And Walter Mosely.  You know what, I'm going to stop myself before I start rambling.  I'm this close to being a graduated fellow.  Well.  You know.  Minimum of three years, quite a bit of work, and some traveling and random expenses.  That close.

Tuesday was the Bianca Spriggs Kaffir Lily book release party, and it was tight.  Elizabeth Beck did the event planning, and it was held at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, KY.  Elizabeth did a great job.  It screamed of Bianca.  There were mermaids, and bling, and henna, and chocolate, and damn good poetry.  More on the poetry in a later post, but let me just say that if you have the money, stop wasting your time and just buy Kaffir Lilly.  Seriously.

Lastly, anyone who has a good memory or actively visits my blog or website will notice the changes.  I've made both easier on the eyes.  This blog now supports much bigger videos and pictures, which is good for everyone, and encourages me to post those things.  And finally, my website has an updated bio and list of some of my publication credits, which makes it really the only place you can currently go to see where I've been published.

Even more to come.  I'm always on some kinda grind.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Covington City Lights Poetry Slam and INKY Series in Louisville

I've had a busy week. And on top of it all, I'll be making a lot of changes to this blog. I'll be changing the physical layout a bit to make it easier to read, begin changing the format for similar reasons, and most importantly, I'll be updating, from now on, twice a week. On a regular schedule.

The beginning of this week, I attended the second Covington City Lights Poetry Slam event that my friend Samuel Phillips (BOK) runs. This year it was at Molly Malones, in Covington. Speaking of which, my old poetry stomping grounds, The BeanHaus in Covington, has been shut down. Damn this economy.

Anyway, the whole thing was pretty fun. I got knocked out the first round, but there were some good poets in the house. Black Falcon won the event, and the trophy, but there were some poets from the Greenwich who represented Cincinnati. Truth Be Told, I'm looking at you.  And let me just say how great it is to watch everyone grow.  Lisa Carbert, last year's winner, performed earlier last year at the Gypsy Poetry Slam in Lexington and her performances just keep getting better, and Sam's events are growing every day.

Afterwards, Lisa performed. And I got to see a performance which Lisa and my brother have been talking about since last year's CCL performance; Listener.  Which is one of my new favorite bands.  And the lead (singer?  rapper?  talker?) is hilarious, and an all around awesome guy.

On Thursday, I drove down to Louisville to read at the INKY series. Erin Keane hosted and really sort of complimented me by reading a bio she had researched herself. I don't know, bragging about myself always makes me feel awkward and self conscious, but having someone else do it, especially when you're not expecting it... It sort of made my day. Also, Erin is hilarious; I wish I lived closer to Louisville so I could come down all the time.

Steven D. Schroeder, editor of one of my favorite online journals ever (Anti-) read as well. I was excited as hell when I first found this out, and bought a copy of his book first chance I got.  And my badass sister-poet Bianca Spriggs came, and my editor and friend Katerina Stoykova-Klemer came, and Lynnell Edwards (I read with her at the Holler Poetry Series in Lexington) came. The house was full of some poets.

I had a blast, but I won't lie. I'm a little glad it's over. I can stop stressing.  I stress less than I used to.  But I still stress.

Oh, one last thing now that the long name drop session is over (I'm grateful, is all!). I ordered a Flip Camera with the money I made at INKY. So expect for some poetry in the near future.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

National Poetry killing me.

Not really, but close.

I love it, of course, but a sonnet a day? Plus a decision I made to read all of Shakespeare's sonnets within the month? Yeah, I have very little free time.

But I am learning a great deal about poetry by trying out form in this way. I'm going to have a lot to say about it when the time finally comes where I have free time again.

I was published in the latest edition of Hazard Community and Technical College's literary journal, Kudzu. And I was invited to read at a special poetry reading for those who were published within the journal. Plus, Bianca was their guest of honor, and a work shop leader at the Spring Writer's Conference the very next day (I attended last year's, where fellow Affrilachian Poet Mitch Douglas ran a workshop. And I got to attend my first, and thus far only, class with Gurney Poet, our poet laureate and my hero).

But let me tell you how this day went. I need it on record.

Hazard is about a three hour drive for me. So I leave at 2. Gives me an extra hour, right? Well, I go to Kroger, get some water, some strawberries and kiwis which have been pre-cut, and some dried fruit (which I eventually found out had sugar added. WTF) since it was my first day post fast. And lemme tell you, I enjoyed the hell out of that fruit.

But before I left, I decided I'd just write the address down. I've been stressing about the job interview the next day (more on that at a later date, I promise you) and the reading itself, and so on, so I just saved myself the trouble of clearing my interview clothes off my printer, and just wrote the address down, to enter into my GPS.

10 minutes, at Kroger: I realize that it doesn't have the address IN my GPS, but I've wasted a good amount of my extra time already, so I call Regan, ask her to enter it into mapquest, and tell her to read me the second to last direction. I'm essentially going to go as far as my GPS knows to get, and then turn onto the last road, which I'm hoping I can see as I'm driving up the SECOND to last road... Done and done.

2 hours: An accident on the part of 75 south of Lexington which becomes a two lane highway. A semi has crossed over into the opposite traffic and slammed into the hill to the right of us. 30 minute to 45 minute delay.

4.5 hours: That second to last road that Regan told me about? It's a gravel road that goes about 45 degrees uphill. I almost get stuck going up it, to find a trailer, and a dog. Not a college. I've figured out by now, there must be two roads with this name. I have no reception, so I drive around aimlessly until I do, stop in the middle of the road, and hurriedly try to explain to a sleeping Regan that I need new directions. Regan gives them to me (all the roads, and there are 6 of them, are numbers and not names. Argh), and I realize I am half an hour away. The event has started.

5 hours: No reception, phone is dying, but I've been somewhat in contact with Bianca. I am close, I tell her. Driving up and down one of the last roads, looking for a road that I can not find. I see a sign that says Hazard Technical. I am there, I tell her. I go to the visitor's center. Don't see a library. Talk to the people in the parking lot. They say this is the Technical campus. I want the other campus. They give me directions. Go down the road (to 65? I can't recall anymore) and keep going until you see the restaurants. You'll see a turn there.

5 hours, 15 minutes: The road they told me to get to? When I get to it, it splits. One way is directly forward, the other way is slightly to the left. I decide that, given that they didn't tell me about this, they meant for me to go straight. Straight is always the unsaid direction. No reception, so I just drive. And drive. And drive.

5 hours, 30 minutes: This must be the opposite way. I'll give it 5 more minutes, because I can't afford to turn around, then turn around again. Almost out of gas.

6 hours: I've turned around by now. And here is the college. I park immediately, run around campus until I see the library, and come inside, where Bianca is reading her poetry, near the end of the event. Bianca sees me, and in one of the most gracious acts I have ever experienced, finished her poem, pointed me out to the crowd as a poet who still needed to read, and asked if I could perform after her.

This is from the feature poet, a woman who has a new book, and deserves the final spotlight.

I go up to read two poems, and sit down, panting.

We went to a country club, afterwards, a bunch of us, faculty and poets from all over mid-to-central Kentucky. I got a very salty, but by this time, delicious salad, and I got to enjoy yet another awesome meal with fellow AP Bianca, and my second with Gurney.

I really want to express how thankful I am for Bianca (who, by the way, mentioned me in her book, and gave me an awesome signed copy) and the APs.

But for now, I have quite a lot of work to do, and quite a little time to do it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's national poetry month!

There is a kind of universal ritual that takes place this month among a lot of poets, which is the 30 poems in 30 days challenge. Oftentimes, we share many, if not all, of the poems we write during this oh-so-holy time for poetry.

Last year, I was unemployed during national poetry month, and partially because of this, and partially because I was feeling particularly inspired, I decided to write 2 poems every day. 60 poems in 30 days. It was one of my more ridiculous (and yet still, to me, good) ideas.

But I continued writing a poem a day from that point until today, and so I can't really participate in the 30 poems in 30 days challenge, and 2 poems a day seems almost pointless when I've written over 365 in the last year. So I decided to up the ante in a different manner this year.

That's right, I'm writing 30 form poems in 30 days. I'm thinking sonnets.

Additionally, a lot of the other Affrilachian Poets are participating in a juice fast for 21 days of the month. So I went out, bought a juicer and a bunch of fruit and veggies, and am participating in that as well. As a form of meditation. I have never meditated before. It's kind of distracting and painful, in an empty-stomach kind of way. Plus I have a headache that is un-fast related.

But my first fruit drink was delicious. 1 inch if ginger, 6 apples, and half a lemon. Had a kick to it, because I think I might be unable to tell the difference between 1 and 2 inches of ginger. And let me tell you, after a long day of work, knowing you have to write a sonnet afterwards, and being hungrier than hell, it is NOT fun having to go to Walmart, buy all the stuff you need to get nutrients, and then figure out how to use the damn thing.

But without further ado, my very first sonnet:

Sonnet 1

How I detested her food. My mother's
soft broccoli, lima beans. Liver and greens.
Encaged by hated vegetables. Others
ate quickly, were off, unshackled and free.

Hunger was master. I'd beg and then swill
tears from the yard concerning my next meal.
Metal cup banging badly for its fill,
I clasped her hands to drag her by her heals

Because unthankful as I was before,
I've dragged around that tinny busted cup.
With work, had little time or soup to pour.
Appeared, before, and expected her love.

Arrested—brimming now at kitchen floor,
I spill words, to her hands, when they serve more.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Know the tools of the poet's craft: Printer Edition

It goes without saying that any venture you're going to invest a considerable amount of money in deserves the same kind of special attention you give your car, or your home. But I never hear writers talk about these kinds of things; it's always about art, or the struggle, or even the business (that is, trying to land gigs or teaching jobs), but rarely the more technical side.

I'm talking about the things that can save us a ton of money, like management of resources on road trips, or filing for taxes as an artist, or in this case, getting a printer.

A while back, when I had some cash burning a hole in my pocket, I made the somewhat drastic decision to buy a new printer. Don't let this precursor dissuade you from doing the same, because it turned out to be an excellent decision, but I'm not going to act as if a ton of planning went into this; I had an old printer I hated, and I wanted a new one.

But my inability to look before I leaped is to your benefit. First things first.

Should I buy a new printer?

Good question, self. The answer to this depends entirely on what you plan on using your printer for. If you are only going to print black and white (or all text), I'd say yes, definitely. Even if you print photos or other color documents, if you are serious about printing out copies for submissions to literary journals, or copies of your novel or poetry for work shopping, I'd get a second printer just for that purpose.

See, I had a color ink jet printer. And for much the same reason that a lot of people get cell phone cameras; it was listed as a cool option, and I wanted that cool option without thinking for a second what I'd use it for.

What ended up happening was that in a 2 year period, I only needed about 2 color copies of anything. Ink jet ink dries out, so at about 45 dollars a pop for ink, those two copies cost me 90 dollars. I don't think I need a chart to explain why it's better for me to take my color documents to Kinkos, even if they DO charge far too much considering what it costs them.

What are my options?

Simply put, there are only about three options you're going to want to look into unless you have very specific (or unique) printing needs.

Ink Jet Printer

These are popular because they run so cheap. A quick Google shows me that Walmart is selling one right now for less than 30 dollars.

An ink jet printer essentially operates by spraying tiny droplets of ink on the paper, which allows for crisp and colorful options. If you're doing anything creative, this is the choice for you, because you can't do those printer-friendly iron on t-shirt transfers, color documents, or photo-quality pictures any other way.

But the downsides are many. Ink jet ink costs from 17-25 dollars, and you'll need both a black and a color if you want to take advantage of printing text for your writing, and the photo options.

What's more, ink jets dry out. If you have that color cartridge in your printer, and wait a few months before you print something in color, it is as good as dead, and it's off to the store to buy another 16 dollars worth of ink.

It literally may be cheaper just to buy a new printer every time you need to refill your ink, which is making mother earth cry as I type this, or to try to refill your cartridges (and void your warranty) yourself, which sounds like such a messy nightmare that I don't know why anyone would do it.


A laser printer operates by laying ink on a paper and using heat to burn the ink to the paper. A laser printer, which is more expensive than an ink jet uses an ink drum, which is usually more expensive than ink jet ink. But not by much. On, right now, I can buy ink for my printer, a Brother HL-2140, for 35 dollars.

So how long does it last?

Well, more on this later, but while I used to swap ink in my ink jet every 1 to 2 months (and this is before I REALLY began to print things out), I haven't had to change my drum since I bought my printer, and that was a year ago. If I'm conservative, and say that I ONLY changed my ink jet ink every two months, and that I also ONLY changed the black ink cartridge and not both, I save over 96 dollars a year in ink. Assuming that I run out of ink right this second.

And while I don't keep great track of how much paper I run through, I think it's safe to say that I run through around 20-50 sheets on an average month, and many more depending on what I am submitting or how much I'm work shopping. And for you environmentalists, I use both sides of the paper when I can. I wish our neighborhood offered recycling, and I'm not sure I actually help the environment by driving all the way down to the plant.

Multi-Function Printer

I will leave it to you, gentle reader, as to whether this is another feasible option for your needs.

A multi-function printer offers two or more services a 'normal' printer doesn't offer, such as a scanner/printer or scanner/fax/printer. This can save you money and room if you're in need of these gadgets, but on a personal level, I've always hated multi-function anythings. You know what happened when, back in the day, you bought a TV with a video cassette slot in it? When the VHS broke, you had to go out and buy a new VHS and sit it on top of your huge, ugly television set.

The same thing can happen with a multi-function printer. If the scanner breaks, you will either have to buy a completely new multi-function printer(and they're more expensive than any other kind of printer, as you might imagine), or buy a separate scanner and sit it next to your giant scanner printer which only prints.

And I know that times have changed, and the multi-function printers are actually sometimes smaller than other single-function printers. But I stand by my opinion that it's silly to have an item with extra, unworking parts for any reason. Plus, any engineer will tell you that the more moving parts a machine has, the more likely it is for something to go wrong.

So what next?

Next, familiarize yourself with the product, either before (suggested) or after you buy it. Google it, find out if people are having problems on Amazon's comment system. Really, spend about a day at this before you make an expensive investment.

When, after about 5 months, my printer said it was out of ink, I Googled it. It had lasted me more than twice as long as my old printer's ink, but I was curious about whether this was a normal period of time before replacement was necessary.

Turns out that the sensor for my brand of printer goes off way early. This is kind of shifty of Brother; I suspect that the company will claim it only wants the 'absolute best printing quality' and therefore tells you to change early. But there's not even an option to print anyway. It's flashing red light, and out to buy a new cartridge.

That is, unless you read up on it. Turns out, if I taped over the censor (which I promptly did), the printer would continue to print, oblivious to the fact that it was 'out of ink.' 7 months later, and I finally begin to see some wear and tear. The paper is splotchy with ink. So I open it up, study the parts some, and figure out what to clean, and voila. Good as new.

What's more, my printer offers a 'high-yield' ink. Whether or not this is worth the extra money, I don't know. But you can bet that when this ink finally runs out, I'll do my research.

Oh, and one last thing: both ink jets and laser printers often have an option to 'print quickly' or a 'low quality' option. This uses much less ink, and a lot of times, doesn't obviously detract from the quality of the print.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Split this Rock Finale

This day is a blur. I woke up incredibly early (7 is incredibly early to me on a regular day, but today, that meant like 3-4 hours of sleep. Who's counting?). Plus, it was raining.

First workshop. Write from the Source: Breath, Gesture, Word. Janet E. Aalfs lead this workshop, and as I told the class, I chose to attend precisely because I didn't know anything about the topic. It turned out to be sort of a writing workshop meets eastern/martial arts philosophy meets exercise in breathing and motion awareness. It was illuminating, and as someone mentioned at the end of the class, Janet's ability to make the class comfortable enough to freely try the large gestures and movements that we practiced is worth special mention. She noted that at one time in her life, before martial arts, she would have ran scared to think she'd have to speak in front of people. This was my story as well, so I'm glad that coupled with the workshop yesterday in which I performed, I was able to get behind me a few instances of my ability to, for just a moment, to completely forget my past inhibitions with the stage.

Problems happen, and the second workshop I was awaiting was canceled due to the instructor never showing up. I won't name any names, but yeah, that kinda sucked. But I moved to another workshop I had starred in my giant book of things to do, and ended up at a large panel about the Poet as a Historian. Martha Collins didn't even read her poetry, but it was so interesting a discussion on the history behind it that I was almost willing to buy her book sight unseen, and Kim Roberts' poetry has me hooked as well.

For the rest of the day, Regan and I power-sight-saw (see how tired I am?) and went to the Folger Shakespeare Library (I got to see a first folio up close and personal! It was a religious experience), the African Art branch of the Smithsonian, and.... the mall.

At the end of the night, I attended the last official literary event of the festival, a reading featuring poets Sinan Antoon, Chris Abani, Toni Asante Lightfoot (what a speaking voice!), and Martha Collins. And yes. I am definitely going to buy her book at some point. Not tonight. Ran out of money.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed Split This Rock. I attended more a lot of workshops that surprised and informed me in ways I'd never experienced. A lot of cross disciplinary things which I normally wouldn't have attended, but which I decided to give a try given the nature of the event and the suggestion of Co-Director Sarah Browning. Plus, I got to go to a ton of workshops even in the time between sight seeing. Which, by the way, was its own source of illumination. I never knew how little I knew about DC until I lived here for a few days.

I'm sure there's more to say, but perhaps in some kind of recap tomorrow. Because tonight? Nothing but sleep.

Well. After I write something, and then read.

But THEN. Sleep.

Split this Rock, the Affrilachian panels

First, let me get this out of the way. So many things went wrong today that I sorta wished more than a few times that I could just throw in the towel. I'm gonna quickly list them:

1. Woke up late due to tiredness, and therefore missed the early panels I wanted to attend.
2. Thought I could just catch the first Affrilachian panel (which I wasn't formally a part of) by driving into Washington. Long story short. Nope.
3. Driving to Washington in the early morning was horrific. And later, driving back was just as bad.
4. I forgot some not quite necessary random items back at the hotel, which nevertheless sorta threw me off my game.
5. All in all, tons of schedule conflicts, and me carrying a big stack of chapbooks etc because I don't have anything to carry them in.

But the reading itself went pretty well. It was in the Thurgood Marshall Center (which houses the former brief living quarters of Langston Hughes, which I took photos of). It was a cozy, living room style room that was filled to capacity by the end of our set. It was Ellen Hagan, Frank X. Walker, Mitch Douglas, and me performing, and I think that after all was said and done, and we had answered everyone's questions, we actually went a little over our time. I read a lot of my more overtly political stuff, which I haven't done in quite some time. Plus, I got Ellen's new book.

Oh, and I got to participate in Ellen's workshop Poetic Exploration, which was about crossing the boundaries of art. There were three groups which connected themselves to poetry; dance, theatre, and visual mediums, and I ended up in the theatre group. It was pretty awesome, actually, we each wrote some free writing from a quote or picture, then chose from that writing one or two lines. We then decided, by switching around in line, which lines would create a good poem, then created a performance based on that, using a blanket which could represent any one thing. I've never really been into the acting part of theatre, so it was a drastically new experience for me.

Oh, and I got to eat Ethiopian food for the first time. Lamb Wot. It was fantastic.

Finally, at the end of the night, I got a book signed by Patricia Smith, who I caught as she was walking out of the building where a poetry reading done by Jeffrey McDaniel, Natalie E. Illu, Jan Beatty, and Quincy Troupe was happening. I especially loved Jeffrey McDaniel's poems, and Jan Beatty.

My favorite thing about this all, besides my rapidly expanding collection of signed books, is the sheer number of performances I get to see. It's introducing me to whole new worlds of poetry and expression. Well worth the entry price.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Split this Rock day... whatever it is.

I am, in some ways, inspired by passion more than anything else, and so it's of little surprise that I was invigorated and motivated to start teaching by Adriana Sanchez and Xelena Gonzalez's Workshop: "Let Us Work Together - A Practical Guide and Discussion on Creating Community-based Writing Projects." I chose it based on a suggestion I got yesterday to attend an event I would never normally attend. I do this with food all the time; order something new. But rarely with workshops. So I tried it.

There was so much information, and so much real impact that these two women were doing in their communities that yes, I sorta feel like a tool by not doing much at all. And they handed out just about the nicest book of workshop ideas I think I've ever seen. It's so nice that I feel bad for having not paid for it.

I decided to skip the next round of workshops for the guided tour of the Capitol building which Regan had set up. It was amazing. Got about 6 poem ideas.

From there, I had intended on going to the demonstration. But anyone who knows me knows I am terrible with directions, and while my navigation has been splendid so far, I got very confused with a set of street names, and ended up wandering around for about an hour before I gave up and went to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. I hadn't been since I was a pre-teen. More poems.

And I wrapped the night up, exhausted, at a reading featuring Francisco Aragon, Lillian Allen, Nancy Morejon, and Mark Nowak. I enjoyed it, and even bought Lillian Allen's book (and it's awesome. I'm so happy I did, because I enjoyed the hell out of the Metro ride back to the hotel reading it). But I was so tired that the further into the two hours the reading got, the harder it was for me to focus properly. Next time, I'm napping before a 2 hour long poetry reading. haha.

Tomorrow, I meet up with the Affrilachian Poets. And then, it's my turn.