Tuning In

I work lots but share little, which any business school dropout knows is stupid marketing practice. So in breaking radio silence, here’s what I’ve been up to. First, a rough cut of a song I recorded last year with my buddy Spencer in his basement. It begins with us talking about beef roast and twice-baked potatoes.

Like everything we make together, it’s lo-fi and fun for us. Eight years ago we had a garage rock band called Natural and the Disasters. True to our name, we went through four drummers in one year. At one point, we had a drummer but no kit, so we bought a children’s set from a trailer park in Westminster for $20 that we christened The Mighty Tinies. Our final show was at Denver’s 10th UMS at the former Club 404.

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One of the highlights of having a band that year was playing a battle of the bands at Hi-Dive for my kickball league. Anyone from the league in a band was recruited (which was, like, half of us). I had a 90’s cover group called the Um Bros with musicians Ross Harada from Land Lines, Ian Short from Hello Kavita, Adam Lancaster from Curious Yellow, and Eli Mishkin from Hot IQs.

 Yell-singing our hearts out in windbreaker pants.

Yell-singing our hearts out in windbreaker pants.

 Bass jumping.

Bass jumping.

Although I can read music and play a tiny bit, I’ve never considered myself a musician. Writing words has always been far more important to me. Speaking of, I’ll put the lyrics to the above song at the bottom of the page.

Aside from entertaining the ghosts of music’s past, I’ve been writing essays about the connection between fun and death. It’s less morbidly abstract than it sounds. Stay tuned.

In October, I gave an informal talk at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design for Creative Mornings. The theme was Honesty. I talked about how it influences my work as a poet. You can watch it HERE.

Besides the swell people and free donuts, the other cool part of that day was walking next door into the Rotunda Gallery to see the Picture Me Here exhibit. I volunteered last October for the organization, which helps immigrants and refugees build multimedia story-telling skills. It was an honor to work with Zahraa Otaifah, an immigrant from Iraq and mother of a child with autism. She’s a brilliant soul and it was a pleasure to see her work on display.

That about does it for now. I hope you enjoy my song “It’s Nothing but the Everything You Believe to be True” as much as I enjoy long song titles. “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” is my favorite. Anyway:

Don’t you see, can’t you be?

The limit to the water where we all begin to breathe, oh

Don’t you see?

Oh listen to the wake

It’s the point of indecision where we all begin to quake

I found a way for me, way for me, just like I do

Am I somebody’s superstition or somebody else’s proof?

I found the mist of me, mist of me

It’s like I knew

I put your painting by the door and then back underneath the pew

So pray for me, pray for me

Just like they say

When there’s no logic to the living and the dead have gone their way

But wait

But wait for me, wait for me, and set the pace

I’ve been so tied up in the walking I almost forgot to wait

But wait, oh no, oh wait, oh no, just wait, I’ll show, the gate aglow

This might be all for me tonight

This might be the last moment that the light in me is left alight

In spite, the difference between curtains is perspective of the eye

They caught me gazing at the stars and then decried me as a spy

My spirit’s mired in wisdom but wisdom is mired in mind

And the mind gets so contorted in the curvature of spine

I find I listen when I’ve ended my internal diatribe

And the response to all my wailing is the dropping of a dime

I don’t mind the silence of the living nor the noise of the divine

I find the difference with ovation to just sitting on your spine

Is if simplicity is squalor or the best that you can find

But wait for me, wait for me

I know that if you give me just a minute than the infinite is known

It’s as simple and contorted as the nautilus exposed

The spiral of the cycle of the rhythm of the throes

Wait, oh no, oh wait, oh no, just wait, I’ll show, the gate aglow

 Don’t know who took these photos, but they get an A+ in art class.

Don’t know who took these photos, but they get an A+ in art class.

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Eaux Shucks

This month I returned to the Eaux Claires music festival to recite some poems. The good people behind the curtain put a lot of energy into incorporating arts beyond music into the program. And it's awesome.

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While last year was the over-the-top-this-is-your-life-Eleanor-Perry-Smith weekend, this festival was more, hey there festival attendees, let's have lemonade and bond over strange words I write on my couch. EXCIII offered me a quiet moment backstage with my boy Paul Simon, Wilco handshakes, and rapture in the woods with an amazing audience. EXCIV allowed me to reconnect with attendees from last year, have a poet duet with Wisconsin poet laureate Kim Blaeser, and relax enough to meet new buddies. Even cute baby buddies.

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This year I wrote a poem titled Old Dominion with the people who attend the festival especially in mind. Aside from bleeding my heart out for people who care, other standouts were the stage in the round designed by the festival's humble hardworking Creative Director Michael Brown, along with a team of artisans and architects. It was a sculptural marvel. 

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Like everyone else, I didn't know the lineup until I arrived, and I was excited to see Pussy Riot on the bill. Nadya Tolokno is an incredible woman and inspiration. Here she is about to sucker punch 12,000 people. 

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Speaking of women who light the world, some of us read famous speeches to kick off Saturday's events. I chose "Solitude of Self," which was the speech women's suffragist and activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered before Congress in 1892. When I finished reading, someone in the crowd came up to ask the name of the speech once more, then noted how depressing it was that Stanton's words were apt for our current national status.

I have loved reciting at this festival. I don't know if I'll be back someday, but it has been an honor to perform for those who were there. It's not just a place where people get bombed and show off skin, although that comes with the territory, Eaux Claires has been like summer camp where we all leave with unexpected buddies, new songs to sing, and a sense that we'll never be the same. 

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National Poetry Month

I know the nation is mourning that another poetry month has come to a close. The ticker tape parades, pony rides, and candlelight vigils will be missed. But really, I would love to see more people embrace the introspection and awe of humanity that poetry provides.

Fortunately, my cousin's girlfriend is one such person and held a poetry segment for her 3rd and 4th grade students last week. She asked me to come recite for them and talk shop. My favorite moment arose when we wrote a poem as a class. Everybody was shouting out words for our poem about being worn out, and one girl hollered: DESPONDENT. Beat drop. I stopped writing on the dry erase board, turned around, and nodding in approval said, "Nice." 

I can never turn down a chance to talk poetry with kiddos. Their honesty is refreshing. Their unapologetic idiosyncrasies are inspiring. Their brightness bewilders. I think I do pretty good hanging with them, but at the end of the day, I'm still just another pony whisperer waiting for a ride to the vigil. 

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Pink Progression

On Saturday I attended the opening of Pink Progression at the Denver Public Library's Vida Ellison Gallery. Organizer and artist Anna Kaye invited me to contribute a poem to this three-part exhibition. The show commemorates the global Women's March on January 21, 2017. Here are some of my favorite pieces in the show, which is on display until June 29.

 Lauri Lynnxe Murphy -  A Fine Mess  - Macro Digital Photography 

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy - A Fine Mess - Macro Digital Photography 

 Margaret Kasahara -  Notation  series - Multimedia and Anna Kaye -  Rosa woodsii  - Watercolor on Paper

Margaret Kasahara - Notation series - Multimedia and Anna Kaye - Rosa woodsii - Watercolor on Paper

My poem titled Lesson, No Less is projected on a screen along with poems by other local writers. Our words are bound in a collection titled Words Resist and Persist, which is for sale. Proceeds from book sales go to nine local nonprofits that support and empower women. 

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I was grateful for the chance to have an intentional, quiet moment to contribute to this ongoing global dialogue. Regardless of one's politics, I hope we can continue crafting a world where all women are treated as allies and not assistants. Cofounders and not conquests.

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Last June I recited at the Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin. What a ball. While there, I debuted my longest spoken poem to date titled Olly Olly Oxen Free. If you're interested in hearing it, I just got this recording of the poem from a recitation I did in Chicago last November. (Thanks again to everyone I met with Sofar, and especially Kelly Williams for inviting me back to our city of infamy for the event.)

New River Press Yearbook

Good news for sad times. London's New River Press has published its inaugural poetry compendium:

http://www.thenewriverpress.com/shop/2017yearbook

I'm honored they included the first poem from my unpublished collection Dunbar's Number. I've appreciated co-founder and poet Robert Montgomery's presentation style for years, and some of his writing is featured in the yearbook as well. 

New River Press

My poem is titled "I" as in the Roman numeral, not the pronoun. It comes from the group of 150 poems I wrote about the 150 personal relationships in my life, stemming from the work of anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar. I passively urge you purchase a copy of the yearbook while they last, if you want. I also have some copies of my photographic poetry book Revelry & Rhyme left. They make great Christmas gifts as opposed to another Brookstone foot massager. Let me know on your order form if you'd like me to sign your copy. Or I could simply sign your foot massager. Either way.

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