When April 2022 rolled in, I saw a tidal wave of words and Poetry shout outs flood my social media feed. Granted, I follow too many Poets and Authors to count, so this isn't necessarily odd. However, the frequency of it all was just...MORE! And I loved it! National Poetry Month was in full swing and I couldn't get enough. The words were honest, positive, brutal, whimsical, personal, musical, visual and relevant in the most salient context to so much of what is going on in the world. The whole vibe didn't just make me want to grab my pen and one of my many notebooks and let some words travel from my head and heart down my arm to my fingers out through my pen and on to the page; but what I felt more compelled to do was to simply appreciate other folks work. I read some stuff; I watched some stuff. Moreover, I listened to a lot of stuff!
My journey into sound and words this month wasn't an unfamiliar thing for me. I do it often on the random. But I can't recall the last time I listened to more than one Artist's work in a sitting. Some days are just for revolution, other days are for deep feminine contemplation. Some days are for being amused by how a dude talking about playing pool and basically regaling the listener about the things my parents warned me to stay away from. So many moods and moments and glorious words to absorb about all of them from so many diverse voices, experiences! I love all of it, period. So why not pull a few of my favorites and listen to them in one sitting? Better yet, why not pull these pieces of truth together and share the moment with others? Do I dare? YES! It’s Poetry month, so let us celebrate and spread the vibes!
For weeks, I played music, I read poetry, I watched and read interviews with some of my favorite wordsmiths. Still not quite moved to write anything new of my own but rather inspired to do this episode of Sound Check. The muse that got a hold of me didn’t move me to write but to play in another space that is near and dear to my heart. A space that could not exist without words. A magical, wondrous place where that average “Joe” or “Joanne” that you may have rode into the city next to on the bus or train yesterday afternoon, transforms into a Queen, a King, a Gazelle or a human sized anthropomorphized Cat! That place where a playwright's words... imagination gets fleshed out in actual flesh on stage! Whether it be drama where there is no music other than that of a simulated old phonograph playing as a sonic ambient prop, or a fullout musical where more often than not audience participation is a normal happening as part of the show. And then there are those places in between that break our hearts while giving us joy anchored by songbooks that tell just as much truth as the scripts they are created to accompany. My God, I love the wonder and possibility of the theatre! The stage, like a blank page or composition beckoning for a lyric... is a sacred space where anything is possible. It is the space where I learned to let go of fear, be free to be me and to hold my own downstage /center, unapologetically because I can!
By no means am I special when it comes to my affection for the Performing Arts. Like so many , that world was the only one I fit into because I didn’t fit in anywhere else. As I look back, I have to note that my love affair with all of this isn’t about the spotlight. My love is based on every component. I didn’t realize this till the well-seasoned age of ten years old! LOL Ok, so I’ve pretty much known how I feel about all of it forever. But it was around ten years old that I wrote a short play for kids. Long story short; I was sitting in on a Playwright Workshop that my Mother was participating in. At the end of the first evening, everyone was tasked to go home and write a few pages, at which point I stopped taking notes, raised my hand and asked “Can I try too?” . Of course all the adults chuckled, but the Workshop leader said ” Yes, you too!”. I came back the next week with a completed short play! It was serious for me! My characters made sense and everything! As rudimentary as it was, even my outline was solid! As the Workshop was full of Actors, all of whom were stunned; on the spot everyone voted to do a table read of my little play titled: A Child's Point Of View. I was over the moon! When we were done, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And let's be clear, the grownups weren't emotional because it was kitschy and cute. I wrote about Drugs, more specifically; how the Crack epidemic was taking over my city. It scared the shit out of me when I would be out and about beyond my relatively quiet neighborhood in Queens. I had family all over the city, in not so quiet neighborhoods. And what I saw and heard, I quietly processed till I had the opportunity to write it out. So I wrote about it, and centered it on teenagers,circumstances and hard choices. Yes,I was "that" odd, old soul, takes in every detail even when I appear oblivious, kinda little girl! I am still her at my core. So yeah, those grownups, some of whom had battled with addiction themselves, wiped their tears. In between hugs and questions, I smiled and soaked in the moment. That was when it hit me, words have impact, even mine. I have been writing ever since!
NOTE: The above is an example of the beauty and necessity of Multi-generational Creative Communities! I was so very very BLESSED to be a little one in such an environment, where I was lovingly nurtured,supported and encouraged to be me, freely creative and unique. We need the Younglings and Elders, and everyone in between to connect! Wisdom that goes unshared... passed on ...not learned, gets forgotten and lost. That's tragic. This exchange of knowledge and energy is vital, and the magic...that sharing goes both ways. Just sayin...we desperately need more of it today.
How does this all relate to Poetry Month? Simple! Just as I was fascinated with dialogue and storytelling a la a script, I was fascinated with words in general. Books, magazines, signs, fortune cookies! If there were words, I was reading them and or being inspired to write. Poetry to songwriting seemed to flow the easiest. Short window of time to tell a story or convey an emotion thoroughly. So you let go! There is no room to waste time, you must hit your mark within a matter of minutes.Basically less than one page of lyrics per song when possible. So that’s how I ended up writing and arranging song lyrics. The vocal ability was just there, it was my way of communing with the stars, my daydreams and God, while sitting in my window as a child. Training and discipline came later. But my voice...I knew I could use it for more than just making melodies, I could say what I felt, what I was thinking. That way of opening up is pure, true, liberating...and is why I still write, all kinds of things, and still sing.
The truth is revealed in words. Sound also tells truth. The body in motion, yup, also tells truth! I came to learn that throughout my life observing the true souls who exist and thrive in all of that truth. But lately one name in particular has been ringing in my ears. One piece of her work, out of soooo many pieces, has been reaching the core of me lately. I have been dissecting the words of , Ntozake Shange, as she cast them out into the Universe in her Award Winning Choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Now this moment didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. I have been a fan of the work since forever. I may not have understood the gravity of it when I first saw the Movie version back in 1982 on PBS, but I knew these women felt like my Mother and her friends. These women felt like glimpses of my possible future. Perhaps not as heavy, but the energy felt like a happening, a revelation, a necessary thing to know. In many ways I was right! I hear myself, and women from my Sister circle past and present, in it. I also feel the motion, movement and musicality of it every time I listen or read it. Thus, I find the word CHOREOPOEM, to be pure magic! And I find she who called it forth into existence to be one of the most brilliant creative souls to have walked this earth. When Ntozake Shange, transitioned , I posted ” Somebody Almost Ran Off Wid All My Stuff” all over my social media. I in boxed it, emailed it, and made a nuisance of myself to those who were clueless to the work. I didn’t care! On that day, I wanted everyone to get why the loss was a big deal. And why many of us would never forget her, or allow anyone else to. Even if that meant we had to make the introduction to her and her work first. So yeah, it’s Poetry month, and I had to check back in . Hiatus be damned! This is a holiday for the truth speakers. And as a loving fan, admirer...I had to take that which was rolling around in my head and share the moment in a way that felt right for me.
So there you have it, why this episode is here,more or less. Things I must also note; during my podcasting hiatus I didn’t get to celebrate Women’s History Month, with a show. So this is my way of doing that as well. I chose to pull pieces from : Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Ursula Rucker, Jessica Care Moore, Vanessa Daou| Eric Jong, Divine Essence and Monday Michiru. The wild part is, these are just the voices that I listen to most frequently, but still barely covers the full scope of whose work I read and listen to, and have been lifted by. So many ...soooo many. But I only set up for an hour,which kept me from getting realllly open! But as this stands,YES, this is a line up of Badass Women! I had to do it! Don’t get me wrong, Lord knows, there are many men who speak the truth in their work that I hold in high esteem as well. Voices from the past like Gil Scott-Heron ( folks who know me know, he is my sanity “go to” when I need to process what I need to be doing when nothing’s doing how I want it to be doing). Felipe Luciano , The Last Poets ( every voice...foundational work ya'll!) , to voices of my generation like, Oveous Maximus and Taalam Acey, just to name a few. Much respect and appreciation for all of those brilliant, powerful men! But this moment , I needed this grown-woman moment to be what it is. And I needed to present it with a trip into one of my Happy Place, imagination factory creations, where several of my great loves could converge...words...music...the stage...movement and truth!
Lastly, but not least, as it is so current, I’ll not go too long about it. SUPREME! For my friends and acquaintances, it is no secret that I have been rooting for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, from day one of the announcement of her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. But what some of you may not know is this; by way of my Father, I grew up around Judges. New York State Supreme Court Judges to be exact. Two of the ones that were always larger than life to me were Women. One was African-American ( The Honorable Juanita Bing Newton) , and the other was White (The Honorable Joan B. Carey). They always had encouraging words for me when I would visit the courts with my Dad on his half days at work when I was out of school for Winter Recess, or Spring Recess. Those old courtrooms felt so massive then, and I so small. But I would fix my eyes to the bench where under the words “In God We Trust”, I would see either of these women seated in their robes, smiling at me, welcoming me to approach the bench just to say "Hi!". Now of course when I visited, they both would ask if I wanted to be a Lawyer and one day a Judge like them? People, I can’t lie to save my life, so I didn’t even bother. So I answered “I can see myself being a Lawyer, maybe. But I don’t think I would want to be in here all day.” What? Honesty is the best policy! LOL On different occasions both Judges invited me to have a seat in their seats or come around to see things from their vantage points. And when I tell you, it was a moment each time, that’s an understatement! I believed in those women, and Justice. I still do. And YES, I am acutely aware that far too often the Justice system fails, too many of those failed are my people. But knowing that there are those who truly stand by their oaths, believe in what is right, don’t forget where they come from, and open the door for others to come through to do the right thing...that is HOPE! Those women persevered, and did what they stepped up to do! And they gave me the kind of hope I try my best to hold on to today as I did back then.
I felt those memories come rushing in as I watched the Senate Confirmation Hearings for Judge- Brown Jackson, and the Confirmation of Judge- Brown Jackson...the little girl I once was took over and reminded me to reclaim that HOPE in a more fulsome way. I needed that as I have felt it, justifiably so, waning in recent years. At the same time, the Black Woman I am today who is all too familiar with the masterful skill passed down from generation to generation...that having to steel yourself ,and be dignified in the face of ignorance; like what so many of us witnessed during those hearings...I can’t feel anything else but SUPREMEly proud of, soon to be, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson! I am also elated for all the little girls who don’t have the access to women like her the way that I did growing up, so that even if like little me, they don’t necessarily want to be Judges when they grow up, they know they can if they want to be! They can be anything!
So here we land! I only had one hour to play! Not nearly enough time to play or say everything I wanted to. But I promise, this show is a goodie! Each piece has been a joy for me to listen to, and or read repeatedly, over the years. Each voice, literally and on the page, is powerful...honest...beautiful, and I feel were divinely created and placed in the world for us to connect with in our own unique ways to heal, be made more aware, and tap into our own truths. Each of these women are multi-hyphenates, none can be summed up by one title. They each speak to my soul and sensibilities. And it was such a treat for me to play in the idea of creating a vibe that feels like my dream Choreopoem Production come to life, sonically, with their poetic offerings! So, I truly hope that you take the time to get deeper into each voice and her words, and works beyond what I presented on this episode. SUPPORT THE WORK! If you connect with any of it seek out more from these Artists... CDs, Books, Videos, Music Downloads... go BUY IT! Nuff said. Art, all kinds of Art, makes the world sweeter and richer. All of it makes a way for representation of all of us and our stories, and ideas. As diverse as we humans are, so is our Art. It is all vital, thus we must honor it, educate people about it, share it, spread the word when we get excited about it. And for those of us who create...CREATE IT! Be inspired!
With all of that said, get into these extras I have for you below. These are just a few bits that I think will get you going if you are unfamiliar with the works played on this episode, or their respective Creators. Hell, even if you are a longtime admirer of their work same as I am, these are still really cool bits to check out. Seriously, there’s lots of good stuff to read, and watch! I may add more...
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my Blog. And BIG THANKS for trusting me, taking my hand and dancing with me across these genre lines, and through soundscapes AND words, for this SPECIAL VM&M Presents - SOUND CHECK - CHOREOPOEMS SUPREME - episode! ENJOY!
Peace Always & Only☮️❤️🙏🏿,
VM&M SOUND CHECK - CHOREOPOEMS SUPREME - Extras n Goodness! ENJOY!
The inspiration for this Special Episode of SOUND CHECK- CHOREOPOEMS SUPREME-
Dr.Maya Angelou :
( This site is a treasure trove of all things Dr.Angelou!)
NOTE: This reading demonstrates the MAGIC of Dr.Angelou. Her soul truly informed each word, each beat and breath. National Treasure... Master Griot to the world!
Nikki Giovanni :
NOTE: As people discuss book bannings for children; the one that really made my head spin was "Rosa", about Rosa Parks, written by Nikki Giovanni. So this clip is an absolute JOY for me to watch and share! Brilliance! BTW;"Rosa"is STILL available via Scholastic ( The Teacher's Store) Just sayin...
NOTE: I LOVE this clip as she gets into Mentorship, and it's importance. So much to say about this woman...pure GENIUS!
(Note:This clip...this very vibe, her voice... tone, is what I heard in her work that rewired my brain when it came to writing. For me she was that missing piece I needed with my foundation of Maya Angelou,Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni and Gil Scott-Heron. Great clip!)
Franky Rizardo Featuring Divine Essence - Time (One of my "Go To" anthems! Get into it!!!!)
Jessica Care Moore:
(This is a MUST visit...video, bio, and More! Another treasure trove of awesomeness! Brilliant!!!)
NOTE: Facts...Truth...she is the TRUTH! Get into this interview, it's a good sho nuff sit down. Inspired!
THANK YOU TO THESE WISE WOMEN...WISE WOMEN EVERYWHERE WHO CHOOSE TO USE THEIR WORDS WITH GRACE , UNAPOLOGETICALLY! YOU ARE LIGHT!
❤️🙏🏿✒️MUCH LOVE & RESPECT!📖🙏🏿❤️
🎼🎬🎭 S U P P O R T T H E A R T S !🎭🎬🎼