blog

And a time to fly by the seat of your pants

image

Nostradamus, band we crashed with, killing it on stage. Fave song: "You'd think by now we'd have learned how to treat other people" (slight paraphrase)

12.19.15
I had weekend plans, reasons to stay, excuses, the reality that I went through surgery like two weeks ago and voilà, I’m still here in Tallahassee seeing an awesome slew of punk bands and finally, finally far enough away for my brain to be quiet.

Last Saturday I saw this poet Jake read from his book of essays Blue Collar Nomad at the Civic Media Center. He had this line, and I don’t remember if it was in the essays or in one of his introductions, about moving when he felt he needed to move. There will always be reasons not to, but sometimes you just have to…go.

Of course I know how to choose path over hearth. I know how to live on passion and sky, more basic to me than rice. How do you explain to someone who hasn’t felt the tremble in their bones, the itch on the bottom of their feet? Some things are necessary.

image

image

Fire & friends & music. I met Nana Grizol and Toby Foster and a bunch of cool people and dogs. My friend Kevin and I danced like hooligans. A night that won’t soon be forgotten.

image

"Sign it to my sort of girlfriend"

Before leaving Tallahassee we stopped at The Black Dog Cafe and I got the best London Fog I’ve ever encountered in the States — when in doubt, go with the Zeppelin reference –, I took a lot of pictures of the lake and bought yarn at Yarn Therapy for Ariel and Brittany’s Christmas presents.

image

.
.
.

12/29/15
Everything got too hectic for me to finish this blog in the fervor of purpose where I started. Mum was miffed at me for leaving town spur of the moment, and then I predictably got sick, whether from sleeping in a punk house without any heat two weeks after having surgery or because my brother gave me his flu. So I'm on this green drink and hot tea and lemon water and lots of fruits and vegetables cleanse to keep from having anything inside of me that can turn into mucus. Yes, that sounds gross. It's working. I'm alive, and I'm taking good care of myself. I'm just also trying to remind myself that books are as good a way to travel as cars, as I have nowhere to go and no money to go with and am no better at sitting still.

The holidays happened. I'm grateful my loved ones are alive and well. My brother left for his semester abroad in Italy on the 27th, and my mother leaves for India tomorrow. I love my family, very very much, but I also missed my friend-family more this past week than I can say.

I've been crocheting a lot.

image

I think somehow I know how to make things special with my friends. The time with my family went to running errands, transferring my mom’s music onto her new phone, and the like. But my brother and I are starting a vlog correspondence, so I may see more of him than I did before.

Now the year is almost over. I’m oddly superstitious about New Year’s, in a way I can’t say I am about anything else. I have to have something to show for the year, and some ritual to invoke the new. But, honestly, I got top surgery, which was top of my to-do list, and that’s FANTASTIC. 2015 is the year I finally got top surgery, met Ariel and Kevin, got a lot closer with Ali and Brittany. My half-finished Goodreads list and my guilt complex will keep. I’m so grateful for my friend-family and for having a body that I enjoy living in now.

This mood of movement still grips me, a certainty that I’m best in motion, dancing or on a bus. 2016 needs to be the year when I figure out how to tour with my poetry, how to get the work done, and then play like mad. I’m sure I’ll post a goals list in a few days. I promise, for my own sake, it will be more realistic than 2015’s.

Sometimes we just need to start the journey, to feel the dirt beneath our toes…Thursday’s child has far to go….

But sometimes (now) I need to be realistic, to buckle down and get the work done, to pay the bills and live in an actual house with heating. There isn’t a real conclusion here.

I leave you on a book recommendation: I tore through Clementine Von Radic’s new collection, Dream Girl, that weekend in Tallahassee and have been trying to get everyone to read it since. I’ll do a proper review when Brittany gets done reading, but just know, Clementine tore me open and rebuilt me with those poems in the best way possible.

image

My secret garden, home.

Advertisements

The Trifecta of Healing: Boredom, Loneliness & Patience

Boredom is good for us. Play. Rest. Time for our brains to do all that imagining. Time to go inside ourselves.

But for me, personally? Ick.

Here’s the sitch (my 90s kid cred, roll with it).

I can’t work right now, and I should be applying for new jobs but I don’t know what I’ll be up for or when. My physical activity is limited. Normally I work off anxiety with physical exercise, which is currently limited to Qi Gong and rambling walks.

image

There’s plenty I had laid out for myself during these months of recovery — and I am notably doing so much better than projected — but I’m having trouble making myself sit still long enough to do any of it. I wanted to crochet presents, edit my novel, learn to play You Are the Moon on keyboard. Instead I wander. I watch Jessica Jones. I get up in the middle of episodes or paragraphs to just walk.

Am I finding out what I really care about, while the pressure is off? I don’t think so. I think without a set schedule, I’m at the whims of my house mates, often lonely and restless. I wanted to be walking all summer, and now I am, because the air has finally cooled. It’s all in the timing.

My restlessness comes from feeling like I don’t get to choose when or how I’m alone, but I can choose this place. Today I choose to walk, and write.

Tomorrow I will choose again.

image

I’m discovering some strange things about loneliness. When I was a kid, I would read for hours every day, curl up in a tree or a fort, in a closet nest, on my bed. I still do that on days off. But without anything to play hooky from, less satisfying. Unless someone is coming over, hard to care about cleaning my room.

Maybe it’s not about being alone. I get this illusion of connectivity, through twitter and Facebook and my phone. I feel lonelier with the illusion of connectivity while physically alone. For a writer, I’m a very physical person, needing affection, and the closeness and human smells of very specific people. And having my phone in line of sight actually reduces my attention span, according to several studies. I can feel it. My phone is also how I took these pictures, and I’m writing on the much more user friendly WordPress mobile app. So it’s a matter of balance — combating the feeling of being available but unwanted in the way cell phones are so good at making me feel.

.
.
.

What I need is patience.

Patience to see what shape this feeling takes when it blossoms. Patience in love, so I don’t crush or over water what I believe could be an oak tree.

image

Patience in work, while I relearn my body, and allow the healing to happen. Patience because not only does my body tire easily, but it feels like right now my mind does too.

image

Patience with my heart and mind, while I process the depth and breadth of my feelings, instead of trying to sort them and get them over with. Staring into the hearts of trees, the ripples on the water, present but still not wanting to sit with myself, it’s clear we have different ways of avoiding feelings. While I had been frustrated until recently about a friend refusing to face his feelings, I think I put my feelings on an agenda like a business item, and am surprised when I’m still feeling them, and still need to talk. We already made a decision in the meeting — why are we still here, heart?

Ah, patience.

image

The mosquitoes got me. Worth it.

And the need for patience feels so much more clear when I have nothing I have to do. Hundreds of books to read, a dozen shows to watch, projects to finish or edit or start, my brother’s graduate school application to edit, but everything unscheduled, often waiting on someone else. Without work and my time scheduled for me, waiting becomes a new kind of meditation. So I’m just…here. And just here is a hard place to be.

But it’s worth being grateful for being here. As people have time and reach out to me, I’m realizing that while I have often been lonely and restless due to a lack of control, planning more than one activity or hang out in a day sounds exhausting. I still need a lot of time to rest and do me-things. I’m applying to start massage school in a month, and I’ll have plenty of work before I’m ready.

image

For now, I breathe through this.

Love,
Charles

P.S. I’d love to know the classification of my new mushroom friend.

Cutting the Cocoon

Today is the longest day since surgery. I’ve been sleeping up to sixteen or eighteen hours a day, bonding with the bed and Jessica Jones and Alan Hollinghurst. I’ve had in depth dreams about popping pimples. Instead today I’ve been active and creating from 7:30am to…it’s looking like 2am.

Pieces return bit by bit.

I walked on the beach in Fort Lauderdale this morning.

image

Having a camera that can do my imagination justice again supports my willingness and desire to share and create. I wanted to do everything before, but it never looked quite right without the details.

image

After getting dirty and enjoying the sea breeze, I went to work on the current video project. I’ve been inspired by such a barrage of strange, different things lately, and I’m sure it will show. I’m all about strange art film though. Two of my current muses, are L’Etrange couleur des larmes de ton corps, or The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, and Selfie – A (Short) Book. Both of these have a lot to do with the nature, and even inherent violence of art, photography specifically, about expressions of the body, and with nonstandard use and abuse of film stock.

Perhaps where my theme becomes most evident is in my favorite poem from Richard Siken‘s new collection, “Portrait of Frederyk in Shifting Light.”

And everyone secretly wants
to collaborate with the enemy, to construct a truer
version of the self. How much can you change
and get away with it, before you turn into someone
else, before it’s some kind of murder? Difficult,
to be confronted with the fact of yourself.

(Read the rest of the poem. Read everything Siken has written. After you finish the blog.)

Did I mention I just got surgery? Of course Im fascinated by body horror, by the constructed doppelgänger of the selfie, by the mutibility of art and identity! And ftm top surgery (double incision…) is classified as cosmetic, which bears weight even though it’s untrue. But having my breasts removed, my chest restructured, not only makes me smile every time I look down, but also has gotten my mother to call me her son (at least more consistently). The effects are tangible. At the same time, I’m unable to do the kind of work I was doing while recovering, and am attempting career introspection and overhaul. This is a time of positive, but intense, turmoil.

And as everything does, my experience has jumbled up in my head to create art. I’m finally feeling good about making video again, and it’s everything. So after the beach I walked to Starbucks, worked on a video that involves drawing and musings on identity and a lot of selfies, and then waited in the purgatory of Christmas carols to be called into the doctor’s office — the place where my cocoon would be cut away —

image

Forgive me if I keep the results to myself a while longer. I’m (still) too covered in bandages for a selfie at the moment. Suffice to say, no regrets.

As to the art incubating inside me, video rendering on my computer as I write, that will see the light very soon. Yes, on this blog.

Love,
Charles

P.S. Thanks for stopping by.

Goals for Writing & the Blog in 2015

Fig Leaf

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.
Rainer Maria Rilke

At the beginning of each new year I like to assess where I’ve been, what I’ve accomplished, and what I want for the future. In 2014 my dad and I recorded my first poetry CD, Riverbed, I put together a full-length poetry and multi-media show with Yocheved, and Prairie published “Anansi and the Moon.” I also blogged for One Green Planet, and wrapped the first full draft of a novella I’ve been playing with for five years. 2014 has been a productive year in many respects, but also personally difficult. I struggled with believing my work was worth the effort to create and share, and would be worthwhile to other people.

For 2015, I want to take the craft, editing and sharing portions of writing more seriously, instead of hiding my work away. Of course it won’t be perfect! Of course I’ll screw up sometimes, and there are other important and more tangible ways to contribute to my community. But I know it’s worth it for me and for anyone who gets a little joy or understanding out of reading what I write.

So What’s in Store for 2015?

NaPoWriMo
To keep my poetry kosher for publication, very little gets posted on the website, but National Poetry Writing Month is the exception. Join me again this April, when I will do my darnedest to write and post a poem a day or catch up quickly if I fall behind. Can’t wait for April (and everybody else’s awesome poems)!

Collaborative Non-Fiction Health Book
My mother and I are aiming to write a book on one of our shared passions, health. We’re both excited about working together and the ideas we have so far. I want to get away from the absurdities of a lot of health stuff and focus on basic, reasonable ways to take care of yourself with a generous dose of sarcasm and punnery.

VidCon
I’m going to VidCon this year! I still need to figure out the nitty gritty, but I have a ticket for the creator track. In addition to potentially working for a local film production company this year, I’m hoping VidCon will help me improve my funky film projects and understanding of what I’m doing. And of course there’s networking.

Personal Manuscripts
I’m hoping to have the novella to the second or third draft stage where I can get feedback from a few close friends mid-year, by September if the non-fiction eats me. I also have all the poems written, I think, to put together a book I’ve been thinking about for a good while, a full-length for-publication endeavor focusing on the written word — “page-poetry,” if you will — with central themes of loss and mythology.

Blogging and Social Media
I want to stay connected! I want this to be the year with something like a regular posting schedule and more short films. The blog will update at least once a month with poetry book reviews, thoughts and helpful links on writing and the writing life. See about playing with some new ways of doing things, like podcast and visuals. And you can always say hi @poetrymytemple and FaceBook if you miss me.

What are you excited about in 2015? Are you doing or thinking about NaPoWriMo? (Not yet, probably.) Be sure to let me know  if any of you are going to VidCon, too.

How Much of Myself Should I Share?

I have these conversations periodically about how much of myself and my poetry might better be kept in journals or on hard drives, unshared. Thus far, all of these conversations have been with my mother. When I was a teenager she encouraged me to not come out, partly for the entirely reasonable fear she had that my best friend’s parents would react poorly. As it turns out, they did react poorly, but they also got over it. I wrote a poem about that conversation with her that won my first ever poetry award, a Scholastic Regional Gold Key. Another such conversation resulted in Gentle. (My mother did see both poems eventually.)

My mother has gotten better at broaching these conversations over the years, so that the last one resulted in neither one of us crying. She pointed out that she was actually less concerned about my identities as trans and queer than my “sensuality” (I talk about sex and I swear, guilty as charged). She also broached the topic as a question, acknowledging that I know more about the world of poetry and spoken word than she does, but I confess I don’t know the answer either. I tend to dismiss a certain amount of her concern because she is a children’s book author, and the kind of spoken word poetry I’m aware of thrives on identity politics and controversy. My current goal is to one day be picked up by Write Bloody, which carries my beloved Sierra Demulder and recently picked up Andrea Gibson. A poet friend of mine advised that if I want to be able to speak to the bar scene, I had better embrace the racy portion of my poetry.

Mary Lambert plays at the Wooly

Last night, April 15, I saw Mary Lambert perform in a Pride Awareness Month sponsored event downtown at the Wooly, an intimate venue well-lit with red and blue lights. She wore a floral-on-black dress with bright red lipstick, played her keyboard, and sang and talked and recited until most of us laughed and cried. A friend described her voice as “rolling around in silk.” Mary got a girl singing a love song about another girl on the radio. In rural Kentucky. Yes, she’s quite proud. Mary also made a point of performing a poem/song about domestic violence, and another deeply moving and incredible piece about rape. She not only has a piece about body acceptance in her act, but is making a Twitter (#BodyLove) campaign out of it. All of this from a woman who sang with Madonna at the Grammy’s. Does this mean the world is changing?

Mar Lambert plays at the Wooly

charles and mary lambert

I waited at the end of the line so I could heap my excitement and love on her after the show, and my time was well worth the conversation and the hug I received. She had said during the act, as part of her trigger warning for the rape poem, that people expected her to be a pop star now, but she insists on talking about what matters to her. When I spoke to her one on one, she said it was difficult sometimes, but (except for not swearing in front of minors) it was worth it to stick to your guns and talk about what matters. Keep writing, she said. Her face and signature are going to hang on my wall to ward off worries.

Last week, NaPoWriMo gave a lovely prompt to rewrite a classic poem, suggesting Black Stone on White Stone and providing Nickel On Top of a Penny as an example, both of which inspired me. That incredible reinterpretation, by Stephen Burt, perked my interest. The author self-references as “Stephanie” at the end of the poem. I kept reading through that blog for the next couple of days, finding good poems but inevitably landing on an essay-style piece entitled, “My Life as a Girl.” Stephen explores the various feminine personas they have taken on over the years, levels of gender dysphoria, and says something I relate to particularly: “I’m not sure how much of that feeling comes from having the body of a man, and how much of it comes from having a body at all.” (I am using “they” not because I think that’s what Stephen normally uses, but because I don’t have the luxury of asking what pronouns would be best in this particular context.)

Mostly, though, I was struck that Stephen says their earliest publications referenced these alternate feminine identities. Today, Stephen works as a professor of English at Harvard. And yet, poems and essays about their gender exploration are available on the internet. Perhaps it helps that Stephen is still living, more or less, as a cisgender man. I prefer to think, however, that the levels of talent, hard work, dedication, and unique ways of seeing evident in Stephen Burt’s poetry are more important to Harvard and Stephen’s numerous readers than issues of identity.

Myself and Yocheved Zenaida-Cohen held a poetry and performance art event on April 4th to celebrate the release of my cd, Riverbed (which was not actually out at the time). We got a considerable audience and a very positive reception, considering the venue and the number of competing events. Our set focused on issues of identity, relationships, social justice, and trans* lives and bodies. A friend of mine spoke with me after about getting a copy of my CD to a friend of hers, specifically because she thought my poems could help him in his transition.

And that, right there, that is why I write! That is why I share my poetry. I do love the sound of words, the feel of language, the intoxication of writing. However, my true, compelling purpose is to change lives. I want my poems to be hugs when no one else is there. I want my poems to say stay with me. To say it’s okay to be you. To say stand up and fight for what you believe in. It’s not an accident that I get asked to perform at events for Pride, ISO, and a workers’ celebration on May Day (upcoming).

First of all, writing poetry instead of novels or nonfiction about science puts me in a niche market. I think it’s worthwhile to be bold about my identity, and that my identity and my beliefs will do me more good than harm. I may never have the kind of caché that more privileged writers have, and I do not expect to be invited to speak in elementary school classrooms in Texas like my mother has (with a book about vegetarianism, a minor miracle!), but I’m doing the work that is meaningful to me. If I make it, I will make it on the platforms that matter to me as the person I am.

withlaverneAnyway, I’ve gotten hugs from Mary Lambert and Laverne Cox in the last month, so clearly I’m doing just fine.

What about you? Is this a question that you consider in your poetry, or other art forms?

Riverbed CD finally available!

Hey y’all, Charles here. Welcome, first of all, to all of you beautiful new faces who have found me during NaPoWriMo.

I’ve been working on an audio CD of poems for a few months now, and just when I had my recordings ready everything else turned into chaos. I am still not doing a physical printing (coming soon I hope!) but Riverbed is now available on Bandcamp for $8. 27 poems, professional recording. Music by Jon Ely, and the gorgeous cover art by Elan Simon Parsons.

Riverbed cover art

Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs

Dog Songs inspired me to spend time outside in this glorious spring. Since I read a good deal more poetry than I write (as it should be) I’ve decided to start sharing some of my thoughts on the books of poetry I read.

While Dog Songs lacks the complexity and edginess of most of what I read, it was nonetheless refreshing and reminded me of the distinct pleasure, oddly enough, of reading poetry by A. A. Milne.

GoodReads Review

Dog SongsDog Songs by Mary Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came to this book because I’ve loved Mary Oliver a long time, but the closest I’ve gotten to owning a dog is caring for a stray when I was 8, so I had a more removed experience with these pages than the average reader. I hadn’t expected Dog Songs to be quite so literally a collection of poems and essays solely about her dogs. This volume is a discovery, an expose of what it means to the author to have a relationship with a dog, and the specific lives and peculiarities of a few of Oliver’s companions.

I read the whole thing in probably less than an hour, loving the thick pages of the hardcover, and the elegant organization. Only the fronts of the pages are printed. While my rating clearly indicates that I found this book less stunning than some of her other books, the clarity and precision of her language did not disappoint. This volume is successful to me because she comments also on the nature of her relationship with nature, the way her dogs remind her and her poetry students of the best and deepest meanings of humanity, and because she tells a story.

My favorite passage:

But I want to extol not the sweetness nor the placidity of the dog, but the wilderness out of which he cannot step entirely, and from which we benefit. For wilderness is our first home too, and in our wild ride into modernity with all its concerns and problems we need also all the good attachments to that origin that we can keep or restore. Dog is one of the messengers of that rich and still magical first world. The dog would remind us of the pleasures of the body with its graceful physicality, and the acuity and rapture of the senses, and the beauty of the forest and ocean and rain and our own breath. There is not a dog that romps and runs but we learn from him. (Mary Oliver, Dog Songs, 117-9)