Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sphinx Poetry Reading: 2/2 @ 8pm in Oakland

So I'm reading my poetry again on Tuesday at the Sphinx Cafe in Oakland. This is a weekly reading series organized by Kayla Sargeson and Jan Beatty. I have to hand it to them, it's tough work putting together one reading, so I can't imagine doing it weekly. I feel honored to be involved and as a bonus I get to read with Arlan Hess, poet and editor of Paper Street Press. Fun!

I haven't decided what I'm reading just yet. I'll prepare later today, but I have a good idea of what I want to read. I might unveil a version of a very new poem I'm working on that is a bit different than my more recent stuff. I'll also read some of my work from last semester and some old favorites. I might even develop a spontaneous speech impediment and pretend I'm Spiderman. I'll feel out the crowd first though. Here are the deets below. Hope you can be there!

Sphinx Poetry Reading Series
Tuesday, February 2nd @ 8pm
Sphinx Cafe in Oakland
Featuring: Arlan Hess & Yours Truly

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Are you as busy as I am?

It's unclear whether Outer Space is as busy as I am right now. Perhaps that fact that it hasn't answered yet is a sign of it being preoccupied with the stuff of space: creating supernovas, swallowing objects into black holes, and being infinite. The outer stuff of my life has also moved into full orbit these days. Work is picking up speed as I start some new projects with my students. Grad classes are full-speed-ahead with lots of writing and reading. Even my personal life is moving along after my successful solo trip to NYC and an upcoming adventure to California to visit the boy.

This past week I have also noticed my inner life take a stressful turn. It seems that during the most sacred part of my day, bedtime, my thoughts take on a never-ending stream-of-consciousness momentum. I lay in bed, trying to relax, focusing on my breathing, and progressively relaxing muscles. But the thoughts stay. They seem to have no where to go, so they stay inside my head bouncing off my brain and showing up in my tense shoulders each morning after a night of terrible sleep. That is, if I fall asleep. I've ended up averaging around 5 hours for the past few days. It all came to fruition Thursday evening (which is like my Friday) when I had what was probably the worst stress headache ever, and I skipped class to rest. But sleep would not come. I woke up Friday morning when my alarm, which I forgot to turn off the night before, went off at 6:45am and I could not fall back to sleep.

As someone with an attention disorder, I have learned that medication can only take me so far. So that's where my behavior changes come into play. I've set up my life in such a way that I can accomplish things with minimal distractions. I am highly organized, I don't have a lot of stuff around and I know myself well enough to manage my environment so that I can be most productive. This includes making sure I'm well rested, because being tired, hungry, itchy, sweaty, dirty, messy, cranky, or wired will set me off course.

I don't give myself enough credit though. I can focus. Even if I am a little [insert adjective]. Just as long as I am doing more than one thing at a time. If I'm reading, I should also be highlighting and taking notes. If I'm writing a blog post, I am also relaxing my shoulders with a hot compress. When I'm on the phone I'm constantly tidying up. Multitasking is my best friend.

I think this is why writing feels natural to me as a form of expression. Writing is multitasking. Even as I'm typing these words I'm thinking about what I'll be saying next. When I'm editing the line breaks in that poem I'm thinking about the beginning and the end, the shape, sound and hidden meaning. When composing an autobiographical essay, I've got all this material swirling around inside my head just waiting to be pulled out of orbit and put on the page.

Maybe that is where my sleep deprivation lies. All that time spent tossing and turning, wishing sleep to come, I should instead just get up and write. Even if it just means making a list of things to remember. This is part of the experience of living-like-a-writer; being willing to know yourself well enough to throw it all out the window and risk being tired the next day, because perhaps what you have to say at 1am needs to be put down, even if it only leads to sleep. Even if no one else ever reads it. That act of putting words down even at the most inconvenient times will mean the difference between being just someone who writes now and then and being a writer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New York here I come! Again!

I've been invited (or perhaps invited myself) to be a part of the Typewriter Girls show in NYC this Sunday. I'll be performing, playing the part of God (who else?) and perhaps running the Exquisite Corpse. If you are in the area, please stop by the Bowery Poetry Club at 6pm tomorrow night! Below is a fun video from the last TWG show.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

This year I have resolved to exercise, to be more organized, and to be less perfectionist. How's that for a fun balancing act? As I attempt to "live like a writer" I also get to know myself better, consider when are the best times for me to be productive. Consider how I can best devote my time to fruitful writing. Google calendar has helped me visualize my schedule in blocks of differently colored time, as pictured here. Blocks for work, exercise, studying, lesson planning and (in pink) for writing. The picture doesn't even show you my evening schedule of classes. But I've got my priorities in line. Four days a week I have scheduled a three hour block of time for writing. I'm being optimistic.

This morning I actually woke up early around 7am. After 30 minutes of attempting to fall back to sleep, I decided to get up and write. This morning I've been reworking some old poems, both from last semester and also from years ago. I even radically revised a two year-old poem and while it's not there yet, it is much improved. One thing I accidentally found was an old journal where I found some poems about love and the things in my head at the time. I was pretty obsessed with the the fall season for a while and it really showed in a lot of my writing. I just found an letter I wrote to myself last January. Pardon the melodrama:

January 7, 2009
Dear Laura,

This has been a difficult week. Realizing that you've lost sense of who you are and what you want out of life - that can be a big deal. There are a lot of things you want from life. New experiences, new people, new faces. Conversation, coffee, delicious food, friendship, satisfaction. You want excitement with stability. I want to be able to take care of myself. If I've learned anything it is that I don't want to be back here again. Scared and lonely. I'm sure I will be both of these things again, but not of my own doing. I will make choices to move my life in a new path. I want a career. I want love. I want a home, people, family, meals - however that looks for me. I want those things. I want to love myself. I want to find solace and peace in the things I need and have and want and strive for and work hard for.

To put this into context: I had just quit a tedious desk job at a company that stopped paying me. Shortly thereafter it went out of business. I also was ending a long term relationship, although the actual breakup happened about a week later. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and for the first time as an adult I was alone.

So while parts of the letter might not make sense (it was difficult not to revise it), I look at these words now and I realize it was my resolution for 2009. I was reminding myself of my real self. My real needs. I put into writing the things I wanted from life. I love how partway through I switch from second to first person. Stating the "I want..." was an important change. It was a kick in the ass, so to speak.

While I won't list all the ways I made this letter come to life, I will say this: I put something in writing and then I made it happen. I got out of a bad relationship. I got into graduate school. I became a teacher. I fell in like and then in love. I didn't compromise. I made choices to move my life. It has been moved.

I think it really affirms my decision to be a writer. I know that the words on the page did not really make these changes. But there is something about holding a pen in your hand and pressing it against paper and letting your arm-wrist-hand move your thoughts outside of you, a collection of thoughts. Thoughts into action.

I guess this year's resolution to be more organized and start jogging is kind of lame in comparison. Maybe I'll keep working on last year's resolution and just tack this years on to the end of that letter... "I want to be realistically organize, to be healthy, to take care of my physical self, to get in shape." There. Another kick in the ass.