Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spoken word therapy

Things are slow on the workfront right now. My agency, Emerging Blue, was kind enough to tell me all their artists are being affected. So I'm relieved to know it's not me. And with various projects and a few art shows to get ready for, and another possible show in Seattle (a place I've always wanted to visit so I'm crossing my fingers on this one) my schedule is full enough.

And yet...grrrr.... I find myself resisting an artistic temper tantrum these days. Might be my hormones. Or my occasional trouble falling asleep. Or my need for more sunshine and exercise. I don't know. Even an artist wants to feel needed. It's the not knowing that compels me towards the sugar aisle: when will work start to come in? Will I sell a painting today thereby giving myself more breathing room? Last week, I was so proud of myself, I bought a week's worth of groceries for $20. Tea, noodles, eggs, some fruit and veggies can go a long way. (I didn't have to spend so little. I wanted to.) At least I know, according to the news, I'm not in this situation alone. And I know from my many artistic tantrums in the past that self pity is not helpful. And I don't like how it feels, like wearing a coat two sizes too small. What's needed is a change of focus and a widening of perspective. So, today I started the search for volunteer opportunities through Maybe I'll volunteer at a theatre or a children's or senior's center teaching art. And last night I went out with my friend L. to the Starry Plough for some spoken word therapy.I love spoken word. I've tried it in the past, reading a poem and a three minute story to a crowd of supportive ears. The high I felt afterwards is like none I've ever felt from an art reception. (Not that I'd ever give up painting.) It is an open hearted give and take, an intimate connection between artist and art lover. Once, at the Starry Plough, their feature poet was this rather plump, ordinary looking man who sat quietly in the corner until it was his turn to perform. When he did he transformed entirely reading Yeats like he was Bruce Springsteen in concert.

Anyway, last night, there was a good mix of poets, young and old, male and female. This guy, can't remember his name, read a great poem about an angel called Sambo trying to save a group of gang members who threaten to shoot him in an alley.....
They shoot him anyway, and when they see him unhurt resolve to change their ways. His poem is so much better than my summarization.

This lady read a poem about dancing in Cuba. Very sexy.

As was this lady's poem. She was a newbie. Very brave.

This amazing guy had to be helped onto the stage. But when he started to read it was evident there's still a lot of fire in his eighty eight year old bones.

This guy, Kevin Sparks, performed a poem about his depression. One line stuck with me, "Those of you who are one coffee away from good morning, how are you? You are national parks in the psychic landscape. I will visit you one day." Oh! I know how that feels.
Chris Blake (or was it Drake?) was the big event of the evening. His best poem was entitled, "Porn" which caused some of us ladies to roll our eyes. From his swagger and stare he gave the impression he meant to be a jerk. It starts with HD and how porn stars are losing work because now viewers can see every wrinkle, bad makeup job and dimply flaw on their not so perfect flesh. Because of HD they now look, he said, like real women. This caused a lot of us to groan out loud. But then he goes into this long, extraordinary speech about how much he loves his woman and her flaws and what it's like to be with her, all with a rhythm and flow that mimicked, whether he intended it too or not, making love. He was awesome.

And this lady, Kat, was the night's winner. Her poems were so passionate and heartfelt she at times had to fight back tears.With $100 prize money at stake maybe I should give it another try....

Lesson learned: I am so hungry to experience life that sometimes I want to kick and scream about having to appease my appetite on a budget right now. But, like I've said before, coffee with a friend, an event that takes the focus away from myself, art, work, helping someone else, looking towards the future, these things save me time and again from falling into another dark hole. And yet this delicate balance, with my occasional stumbles, is also what helps me to be a better artist and human being. I can listen to a poet talk about his pain and empathize rather than recoil. Or another about her outrage and want to put my arm around her shoulder rather than tell her what she should do. And today I can channel my experiences good and bad into another work of art. How blessed am I.
In short: life is awesome.


  1. Thank you Cheryl, sometimes it takes a complete stranger to take me outside my little life and it's challenges. Your post did just that. Now all I have to do is find a Spoken Word event near by.

  2. Truly enjoying your blog. I like tagging along with your adventures when I don't feel like having any myself. Great post.

  3. Good luck with your upcoming challenges.

  4. Hi there, I wanted to stop by and say hello, so glad you visited me, I have not read your entire post yet but I am now and so glad we connected!

  5. Know it's tough now but you must stay with it-- checked out your portfolio and your illustrations really tell a story! Especially loved the little girl in the city, really charming; also the man with the evil smile! Very nice. And thanks for joining us on our travels!

  6. Know it's tough now but you must stay with it-- checked out your portfolio and your illustrations really tell a story! Especially loved the little girl in the city, really charming; also the man with the evil smile! Very nice. And thanks for joining us on our travels!

  7. I found your blog through La Belette Rouge, and wow! So glad I found you.

    This post is layered and lovely--inspiring. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts and archived work.


  8. Thanks for stopping by my blog and following. I appreciate it!

    I understand the 'starving' artist tantrums. While I don't rely solely on what I do to bring in our money (otherwise we would be starving) I find myself hesitant to send out work because of how slow things are becoming in the field. I hope you find something soon to help get you over this feeling.

  9. You so get it!! Yes you are blessed and artists really are incredible people! I heard it said they are saying what others are afraid to! I too get a high from hearing great spoken word, or discovering new inspirational artists! Thanks for stopping by my blog and leading me here!!
    Kudos for the 20 bucks worth of groceries!!
    Peace Giggles


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