When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution May Reflection

May has been a month of extreme growth and development, for both myself personally and for When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution open mic. Huge, Wonderful, Incredible changes. 2012 will be a year I remember for a long time (and the year’s not even over!)

First of all: in the spirit of taking risks, embracing the punk aesthetic that I love so much (yet find myself terrified to fully embrace), and celebrating 2 years of When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution as an open mic–I dyed my hair pink. Let me repeat that one more time, in case you are skimming over and missed that previous line. I DYED MY HAIR PINK. Not pastel pink. No light or subtle colors for me. This is the first time I’ve ever dyed my hair like this, and there is no halfway point on this. As soon as I promised myself that THIS was the month that it would happen, I knew that the only way to do this would be as bright and bold as possible. and voila. The whole process was made exceptionally easy thanks to a friend of mine who generously agreed to help me make this the best experience ever. She did such a great job! The success of this is so much a part of her excellent abilities, and you’ll have to excuse me, but she is amazing. Her name, if you’re curious, is Tami Porter-Jones and she’s a pretty fabulous writer, and her first book is out and available on amazon. If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, of stories with characters who draw you in, and great writing, then you should for sure check out her book, which is available on amazon or right here. Do yourself a favor and get in on the action.

So yeah. My hair is now bright pink. And I’m loving every second of it.

This month has also made me acutely aware of how important starting the When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution open mic/community was. It’s been an incredible two years, full of a lot of wondering “am I doing the right thing?” and “is this going to last/be worth it?” The answer was always pretty obvious, but here, two years later, the answer is unquestionable. YES. It was. And it’s an amazing community of writers/performers and I’m so grateful to see how it’s grown and developed, with such an amazing group of core supporters and new people at the same time. There is DEFINITELY a reason this little open mic with a huge spirit won City Weekly’s Best Poetry Open Mic in 2012.

A little food for thought, should anyone outside of Salt Lake read this post/about the awesome that is WSSIHtR: Don’t spend your time wishing that something like this existed in your area. Seriously. All it takes is the guts to start your own revolution. You say you want a space dedicated to creative women writers and musicians? Make it happen. Talk to your friends. Talk to venues around your town. Coffee shops, bookstores, libraries–find somewhere! And the best part about organizing an open mic that people don’t really tell you (especially when you’re *just* starting out) is how freakin’ easy it is. Bring the passion. Bring the support. Advertise as much as you can over facebook. Invite everyone you meet. Post fliers everywhere. And most of all: BE THERE. Be ready for nights that ROCK, where the talent is so dynamic and contagious that you’re freewriting poetic verse by the end of the night even though you’ve never been a poet. Be ready for the nights where it is your small core group sharing stuff in a supportive environment, testing out new/old material among friends. Be prepared for these and everything in between. Most of all–be persistent. In creating a community like this, it’s you who has the role of the fearless leader. Without you this wouldn’t exist. Don’t give into your fears. Embrace that inner pit bull, grab the bone and GO.

They say that you are your own worst enemy. What they don’t say ENOUGH is the more important message that the movie Whip It conveys.

YOU ARE YOUR OWN HERO.

It’s up to you to create, to bring people together, to make a scene, to start your own damn revolution….so what are you waiting for?

This message is absolutely something I’ve learned over the trials and successes of running the When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution open mic, and if you are interested in more information, in starting your own variation on the theme, please feel free to let me know, either in the comments or an email at rebelgrrrl.theblog at gmail.com

Final thought for this post: having a project like WSSIHtR has been a really interesting way to track my growth. The very first open mic two years ago, I was so terrified being onstage, in front of people. SO terrified. And now here I am running City Weekly’s Best Poetry Open Mic and just last weekend I hosted the Salt Lake City Women of the World Poetry Slam qualifier. That was unquestionably the biggest thing I’ve done to date. The community and spirit of slam was actually part of my influence in starting WSSIHtR, and hosting a slam event is COMPLETELY different from an open mic–at least in terms of format. The general idea is the same. Thanks to my two years with WSSIHtR, thanks to my learning to come to terms with being in front of people, sharing my own words, my own spirit, and offering myself up to the altar of the creative community has taught me a lot. And I rocked the slam as the host. So much fun. It was definitely a learning experience in terms of the stuff that was different from slam to open mic, and I was far from perfect, but I did my best to keep up the energy and got the hang of it pretty well. For me being onstage is a unique experience. I am myself, but amplified. Weird sentiment but totally accurate. I don’t really disguise myself in a character created exclusively for the stage, and for me I think it works. It’s definitely more vulnerable, when people are seeing you pretty much as you are, but once you realize that you’re in control, that you’re the driver and by the way, you’re kick ass, it’s pretty fun. It’s getting to a point that works that is the real challenge. And it doesn’t come overnight. But damn is it a learning experience, and one that leads to more self-knowledge, more self-confidence, and a bigger appreciation for all the little steps that led you to your state of knowledge.

It’s on that note that I’ll end this blog with a BIG GIANT shout out to everyone past and present who has helped make When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution such a huge success. While it takes one person to lead, an open mic like this cannot exist without a supportive and engaged community. And everyone adds to the spirit that is built up over time. 

Also–the future is shining pretty brightly. When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution is getting better every day.

–One last note, and I ended the May WSSIHtR open mic with this idea–When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution started on a dare, on a vague notion that something like this could happen and work, but no certainty whatsoever. It’s through dares like this one that hidden paths can be uncovered, that monsters can be defeated, that we can learn to overcome our fears. So for the month of June (and beyond?)–be daring. Have you always thought that your hair would be cooler neon green? Screw convention–do it! Have you been wanting to do something but you keep convincing yourself out of it? Stop rationalizing your fears. Dare yourself to do one thing every month that scares you. Just try. Even if it’s not the best experience in the world, you’ll have learned something. And we live once. What are we living for if we’re too cautious? Too safe? Give yourself permission to start your journey to flight.

When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution May Events

The month of May means one thing to me, and one thing only. The ever-growing When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution open mic is now another year older.

As of the last Saturday of this month, When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution will officially be 2 years old. And that means the whole month of May is going to be an incredible, event filled month! And here’s a run down of what we’re planning so you can add them to your planner or smart-phone and plan on being there!

Friday May 18, 2012, 7:30 pm @ Kafeneio Coffeehouse: Words of Temptation–An Erotica Open Mic 

There is nothing more liberating than talking about those topics that are so often seen as forbidden fruits. Sex and sexuality and freedom to explore is the thing that made the TV Show Sex and the City so very popular, yet it’s still something many of us only talk about with people we know or certain circumstances. This month we will be having a very special evening full of words that ooze passion, desire, and temptation. The evening will be hosted by the sultry and sensual mistress of Salt Lake City Slam, DeAnn Emett (who I wrote about here along with the rest of the 2009 slc slam team).

The event will also act as a fundraiser opportunity for the Salt Lake Slam team raise money for Nationals this year, which are all the way over in North Carolina….Charlotte, NC to be exact. And if you’re excited to send Salt City Slam down to nationals this year, don’t worry, you do not have to wait…you can help them right now by clicking on this link! If everyone who reads this were to donate one dollar and everyone they shared this link with would donate a dollar and on and on….eventually all those dollars (or $5/$10) would add up!

This will be an event not to be missed! For one thing, how often is there an event like this in Salt Lake City? Not often enough, in my opinion. And if this is successful, we’ll definitely consider making this an event that’s scheduled again in coming months.

Tuesday May 22, 2012, 9:00 pm @ Club Jam: When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution–Date With the Night Party!

The road to making this open mic what it is has not been the easiest. There’s been a lot of work involved, a lot of planning, and a lot of anxiety. Yet it has continued to grow and expand beyond my imagination and i expect that it will continue to grow even beyond this.

So this–this is an opportunity to celebrate several things. First–most obviously–the continued presence of Salt Lake’s feminist-riot grrrl-infused open mic in the scene. For this fact alone, there will be a birthday cake. I can’t promise anything as far as the cake goes because I do have yet to order it, but I can tell you that it will most likely be vegan and it will be bought from a local store. When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution is a local open mic and continues to support local businesses, especially those businesses that are made of awesome.

This party will also be a celebration of persistence and feminism and the kickass women that make up our community. There will be some great drinks, great company and delicious cake, so do come out and celebrate the little open mic that refuses to go anywhere.

Saturday May 26, 2012, 7:00 pm @ Jitterbug Coffee: When She Speaks I Hear the Revolution Open Mic

Join WSSIHtR for words/music/ideas and concepts that will delight and inspire. The community of When She Speaks is indeed a revolutionary one, and is also one of incredible diversity. Poets, novelists, fiction writers, comedians, and musicians have all found a home at this open mic, and anything that can be performed is certainly welcome. While WSSIHtR was founded on the concept and continues to celebrate the act of bringing the creative women of SLC a home to share their works, it is not an exclusive open mic and is open to everyone, no matter how one identifies or where they are in their artistic process. The scariest part of being at an open mic is in the sharing and we are all nothing but supportive. This is a place where writers and musicians can expect to share and grow and network with each other, and the space aims to be a safe, supportive environment for EVERYONE.

The open mic lasts between 2-3 rounds and is always a lesson in expecting the unexpected! This month’s will be extremely special as it will mark the 2-yr anniversary of this spectacular event, so don’t miss out!

Finally: A Special Announcement. Or two.

I will be hosting the Salt Lake City Put Your Mouth Where the Word Is Poetry Slam WoWps Qualifier. I’m so excited to be hosting such an amazing event! Put Your Mouth Where the Word Is continues to be one of Salt Lake’s biggest slams and continues to bring in great features from all across the country and draws some of the best and brightest of the local slam scene! This will be especially exciting for me given that I will have an opportunity to be part of the process that ends up with a Salt Lake based qualifier for the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2013! So yeah. This is gonna be an incredible event. The only unfortunate thing about this particular slam is that there can only be one victor. I’m going to have to convince all of the other competitors to try and storm wowps 2013. Salt Lake can totally take over the 2013 wowps. ooh. I really like that idea…..(mwahahaha)

So in conclusion: if you can take Tuesday, May 29th off of work, call in sick, or something, then you should do it. Put Your Mouth Where the Word Is will be taking place on Monday, May 28 and it will kick so much ass that you’re gonna really need some extra sleep the next morning. Stay tuned for more details.

And a final note: WSSIHtR is making a zine! Be part of it by submitting your art/prose/poetry/feminist rants/etc to rebelgrrrl.theblog @ gmail dot com. Go ahead, go for it! There is currently no theme, though if some of you wonderful readers want to suggest themes and one of them rocks so hard that it’ll just have to happen….well, you could earn a cookie and a dedication in our latest zine.

Art Matters: An Interview with Dominique Ashaheed

There’s something sacred about the art of poetry. It’s more than just putting words to paper. It’s an art that can convey emotions/thoughts/history in ways that people don’t always expect. Sometimes it’s shocking, sometimes transcendent. And some poets have that direct line to making poetry spiritual & inspirational. 

Dominique Ashaheed is one of those poets. If you haven’t heard of her–don’t worry. She’s still relatively new to the scene, although she is already creating waves around her. She began slamming in February 2011 and already has two national claims to fame: first when she qualified for Denver’s Slam Nuba team that won the 2011 Championships and then again when she claimed the national title at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in March of 2012.

I was lucky enough to witness her performance at the Women of the World finals. She was incredible. She held the stage and whenever she came up to perform, she commanded the stage. The audience was held captive in her capable abilities, following the anger, following the pauses, following the poignancy and urgency of every word.

So like I said, no worries if you haven’t heard of her, but shh. Listen up. This is your time to introduce yourself to her. And now that you’ve been introduced, be sure to follow her adventures through her website 

INTERVIEW:

1.  I understand from your bio page that your entry into slam is pretty recent, and you’ve already made such huge waves. I understand that the form of slam poetry was a suggestion from a friend but I was wondering: what was it about slam poetry that drew you in and held you? 
Indeed I was extraordinarily skeptical about Slam. For me, there was something very disconcerting about assigning a numerical value to what someone wrote and then elected to perform. How can you so whimsically judge a poem? I struggled with that and struggle with it still. I also didn’t like what to me looked like pantomime and theater as opposed to an authentic rendering. And I still think Slam contains that. I chose to slam because my longtime friend Ayinde Russell persuaded me to try my hand at it before I concluded that it had no value. Simple enough concept. And it doesn’t hurt that I am competitive.
2.  As a relative newcomer to slam, how does it feel to have made the impact that you have, both at Nationals with Slam Nuba and this previous March at Women of the World Poetry Slam? 
I am humbled by the “impact” I have made on Slam both on Nuba’s championship winning team and as the Women of the World champion. I am still unpacking it all lot be honest. I don’t have a clear answer as to why people respond to me/my work the way they do. I am often surprised. I write for me and I am unafraid.
3. What has it been like to be part of Slam Nuba? And what makes Slam Nuba special?
Being a part of Slam Nuba was an interesting exercise in compromise and creative stretching and growing. All of us are so different. So very very different. We write differently. We approach writing differently. Our voices are so very much our own. There are no borrowed voices on Nuba. All of us had to figure out how to honor our own unique voice and process as well as marry that with four other voices and perspectives to say something meaningful. I think what made us special is that we pay real attention to intention. Why we write. Have we said it well enough? Clearly enough? I also think we worked harder than other folks. We rehearsed on average for about 12-15 hours per week for four months. And we had an incredibly committed and critical coach in Jen Rinaldi. She never allowed us to take the easy route. Or the convenient one.
4. Tell me a little bit about your various art projects. I understand that you’ve been involved as a vocalist and are part of Free Verse in addition to your poetry. Tell me a bit more about Free Verse as far as its founding and what sort of magic happens under the Free Verse banner. 

Free Verse is the Spoken Word Duet consisting of me and Ayinde Russell. We work because we know each other. We are family. There is a synchronicity that makes the writing process organic. We both love music and rely on it for our own specific well being. We sang together in a choir in high school. We had similar experiences growing up in the same Northea
st Denver community and attending elementary, middle, and high school together, in almost all white environments. The cultural scarring was rather deep for us both. We write about that. We write as a means to meet barbarism with beauty. It’s awesome.
5.  I understand you are a program coordinator at a Peace Jam, which sounds like an amazing non-profit. How did you get involved and what do you do with Peace Jam? Does your work with Peace Jam have an effect on your writing/art? 
I am proud of my work with PeaceJam. I have always been good in a classroom. I have always loved working with young people. I am, by design, an advocate for children and folk whose voices have been relegated to the margins. PeaceJam allows me to be my best self and to do work that I believe in. It supports my writing the way everything else does. The writing is the stuff that is my life, all of my life. The people in it. The experience of being woman, being black, being a mother, being. Just, being.
6. Speaking of inspirations, who are some of your inspirations? What keeps you writing/creating when circumstances get tough? 
I draw inspiration from everywhere. I am inspired by my mama who is in every way supernatural and wonderful. I am inspired by my children who show me what I need to work on and what I am doing right. I am inspired by my husband Taj who is brilliant and supportive and strong and whose love is all encompassing. I am inspired by my history, personal and cultural. I am inspired by my community. By music. By faith. By my own resilience.
7. Why do you create/perform? 
Um…I create/write because I will die if I don’t.
8. Between family/art/work, you must be pretty busy. How do you manage to do all that you do without going crazy? 
I do go crazy. I AM something of a nut job. But there is a lot of beauty in the madness and I am grateful for all of the things I negotiate and the hats I wear. I have an abundant life. I have the whole world in my hand for real. And I ain’t mad at it.
9. What lies ahead for you as far as your slam/art ventures? Where can people look out for you? 
I don’t have a hankering to slam right now. My first year out I got a championship on a team and another individual championship with WOWPS. I’m good. I am interested in reading without the distraction of time constraints and scoring. I’m sure I will change again but for right now I’m feeling complete. I am interested in coaching or being support but that’s about the sum of it right now. I am doing a lot of traveling and performing for colleges and universities throughout the country with Ayinde. We have been getting a lot of bookings and I have been and will be very busy for quite a while.
 
10. For those who are developing as writers/poets–what words of wisdom do you have? 
Only wisdom I can offer to writers is to keep writing and keep reading. Be vigilant about it. Write everyday. Make it be as important to you as eating and sleeping. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. But for me, the things I was refusing to say cluttered up the things I was trying to say. I stopped the internal critique. Did away with the fear. And the words were waiting for me…and it’s a blessing. One that has saved my life.
Videos:
(the video angle is a bit odd on this one, but keep in mind: this is the poem that sealed her victory at the Women of the World Poetry slam. Haunting to the core, it will remain with you after the video is done.)

Slam Tuesday: A Quickie

Here’s the deal. Writing about the Salt City Slam team made me realize how awesome it is to hear from the poets themselves, to let them talk about their passions and why they do what they do. So I’m going to try to line up some interviews for this segment so that it’s not just me talking about slam poets. It’ll be much cooler that way. But, I will give you a few good pieces of slam poetry so you don’t feel too gipped:

“Black Statue of Liberty”-Jessica Care Moore


and to go with Jessica Care Moore’s poem, we have something equally inspiring–a 5th grader reciting “Black Statue of Liberty” from memory. This is just beautiful

“Instructions for a Body”-Marty mcConnell

“All We Have”–Carlos Andrés Gómez and Savion Glover

Slam Tuesday: Penny Arcade

Time to move outside SLC and check out some talent outside of Utah. And where better to start then NYC? I recently recieved a book in the mail called “Verses That Hurt”, which is an anthology of poems from the NY Poemfone Poets-who will make up a later slam-related blog entry. The book opens with a few pieces by the NYC performance artist known as Penny Arcade (real name: Susana Carmen Ventura). Prior to this book, I’d never heard of Penny Arcade. But she caught my attention with the very first poem included, the first few lines which I’ll share here:

Manifestopenny arcade

Here is my personal message to all of you
careerist, slime bucket, fame seeking, sychophantic,
backstabbing, envying, self serving assholes
who are littering the downtown scene in ever increasing
numbers while you choke the creativity out of yourselves as
you turnoff thousands of potential power of the word
lovers by the oxygen you use up on the performing stages of
New York City…

And the poem goes on thus–assertive, demanding, and completely blunt and to the point. The other poems included in her section are very similar. With just a few pieces, it’s clear Penny Arcade is a strong feminist poet who’s not afraid to declare her independence as a freethinking, sexually liberated woman-and loudly.

In addition to making her voice part of the NYC poetry scene, she’s been an actress (she had a role in Warhol’s Women in Revolt) and she’s written/produced several original one-woman shows, becoming well known even outside of the US. The act that took her from being just a New York-based artist to being PENNY ARCADE, someone talked about in art circles left and right, was her work, Bitch! Dyke! FagHag! Whore!

The piece has been performed in the states, including Off Broadway, and in multiple other countries, including England and Scotland

Says TheaterMania.com: “The piece blends political humanism and erotic dancing to respond to the politics of sex and censorship. Originally created in 1990, the show had a prolonged run Off-Broadway and started an international queer/alternative erotic dance/burlesque movement. Arcade hires local erotic dancers in every city she presents B!D!F!W! to expose the dancers and their art form to their own communities.”

Basically: what Penny Arcade has achieved in the span of her career (which is still continuing) is what most artists and dreamers aspire to. Art that is more than just art. Art that goes beyond the artist and makes a resounding impact in the surrounding community and beyond.

For more info on Penny Arcade, please visit her website: Penny Arcade.


More audio of Penny Arcade can be found here.

Penny Arcade

NPS 2009: Double Trouble Poetry Edition Pt 2

Part 1

It’s with a lot of hesitation that I write this final post in this particular series. It’s been a lot of fun, both in chatting with the SLC poets and in featuring their poems. That said, that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from these cats again, because if I have any say in it, you will. Plus there is a whole wide world of slam poets who are taking poetry to new forms, challenging minds and imaginations, so you’ll be getting to hear more voices every Tuesday (Slam Tuesday, anyone?)

Please leave comments if you’ve read and enjoyed these entries, I’d love to hear from you and I know the poets would appreciate any feedback you have. Let me know if you have favorite poets that you’d like featured, cities to feature, etc.

The last of the Salt City Slam team poets left to feature is none other than the dynamic performance poet Michael Dimitri. Seeing him perform is something you won’t forget anytime soon. He blends words into beautiful pieces that leave the audience inspired and full of hope. As with the other poets, choosing just one poem to feature is practically impossible. But there’s some good news: if you like what you see here, you can obtain more. In addition to purchasing the Salt City Slam book (which features every single one of these poets, 2 pieces each), Michael has his own merchandise available. His more recent chapbook is “Bravado of the Imagination”, and he has an older bit of work, “An Unbearable Gift” which comes in both CD and book form. The CD includes pieces the book doesn’t, partly because there are tracks with backing music. And being a CD, you get to hear Michael in action. For more information on how to add some works of poetry to your collection (by all of SLC’s poets), visit Salt City Indie Arts. Remember, buying stuff by these artists goes to a great cause:

Supporting local art.

Like it or not, we do live in a world bogged down by consumerism, where math and sciences often tend to overshadow art (which classes are cut first when a school is having budget problems? Art & Music). So support your local artists. Support ART.

And now, onto the poetry. Take these words-not only Michael’s, but all the featured poets-and remember them. And if they inspire you, then write your own works. And keep writing. And if you have a place to share your work, do it. Find a community in your area. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

SOS
by Michael Dimitri

I am sending you an SOS emergency thank you
a thank you for the human to human recognition

because I’ve been lost before
in that stained glass undercurrent of the ocean
like there was a plexiglass reality between us
almost as if there was an internal interrogation box
my stomach sat in like a convict of knuckles-
guilty of feeling too deeply

& I am her & I was him in his complacency

& I used to feel like the metaphor
of submarines who couldn’t relate to the drift
of words hung up there in the air
like the shells of black seagulls pinned
with black nails to a scarecrow
of an even darker sky

& language itself was a self-inflicted taboo
that grew into gnarled hands that could
wrap a painful contraband of confusion to the dark
every corner of the inside

Subjects like death & lost loves
were symbiotic creatures that hid
in the hard parts of the back of my throat
that I had to learn how to swallow

Like this was an unsafe place to say things like:

“Listen, I feel like when a soulmate
dies, everything seems less colorful.
Like a bright blue sky has suddenly been painted grey.
Like a rose as beautiful as it may be, will one day decay.”

But you say things like this for too long
but too short to have made peace with it
and even the most sympathetic ears
in a certain colloquial language
have a designated off-button

But I’ve found that the more times
I’ve stepped up to an environment
that wants to share poetry
I’ve been caught in the solace
of motioning momentum
with each unique story that I hear
like the crashing glass symphonic
beauty of a kaleidoscope
shattering into refraction of answers
to the questions I keep asking
so I keep asking in response
to the answers I’m receiving
the momentum of breathing
that between us can facilitate
a healthy module for healing.

So I’m sending you an SOS emergency plea
to keep unlocking the locks that hold back
your skull from thinking
unlatch the armor built on the core of your skin
Take off your fingers
Take off your hands
Take off your arms

because when you get right down to it-
the burning of the heart
is the only thing you need to hold a pen to the paper
splash the print of verbal pages you carve
from the marrow of your blood
cut from something that keeps you living
like an IV cable coming from your heart
to my ears

DEAR HUMAN
I’m not ashamed to say that I need you.
That your poetry means something to me.

But really?
What I’m trying to say is:
is that when you speak
you can paint an entire landscape
that can hold you up when you try.

Because really-
what I’m really trying to say is:
is the truly beautiful & magnificent
thing about wanting to build hummingbird lips
is that when you are ready…

I mean this…

you can fly.

NPS 2009 Final Day: Double Trouble Poetry Edition pt1

Today marks the last day of National Poetry Slam 2009. The semifinalists who will be looking to take the honor of being The slam team of 2009 are as follows: San Francisco (The City Slam), St. Paul (Soapboxing), Albuquerque Poetry Slam and NYC (Nuyorican)

Congrats to all the finalists! And congrats to all 2009 NPS participants. As the slam mantra goes: “It’s the poet, not the score, that matters.” And can you even imagine the poetic caliber that came together in Miami this year? It’s mind blowing.

Congrats to SLC and the poets for representing this city in a great light by bringing great art to a bigger audience! And thanks to them for letting me do this series. It has been a lot of fun sharing their poetry on this blog, and I’m sad that it’s over.

With that said, I’m going to end with two poets instead of one, since today’s it for NPS ’09 and I would miss someone if I just ended on one. So today’s Salt Lake Poets are Josh McGillis and Michael Dimitri.

Both of them are brilliant minds in their own right, so keep reading. And for those of you in Salt Lake or in the area, I cannot say this enough: Come out and support local poetry! Every Wednesday at Mestizo and every Saturday at Baxters. And if you have enjoyed what you’ve read by the poets, contact Salt City Indie Arts-the poets featured here plus a variety of other Utah based poets have Chapbooks available-so you can add some original SLC poetry to your collection. And when someone asks about the books, you can shrug and say, “Didn’t you know? SLC is THE place to be for slam poetry right now.”

And with no further ado, some poetry.

Ellipses
By Josh McGillis

You ask, “Why is your poetry so dark?”
And I tell you, “Ma,
The world is a beautiful place,
All ya gotta do is look around and see it for yourself.
The way the stars look like a series of ellipsesOrion
And create a pause for tomorrow to have a fashionable entrance,
That’s poetry.
I just don’t see things that way.
My heart beats in breakdowns.
I believe in beauty in paradoxes
Like how the person that brought me back to life
Left me a sticky-note reminding me what it felt like to die.
I try to keep it honest
My mouth is a mediocre set of wind-chimes,
And most times they’re singing calmly,
But the winds that push themselves through this music maker are fierce.
The storm is building
When I write, Ma,
That’s when the rain hits.
Violently.
The release,
Like a sudden keystroke off a piano in an empty ballroom.
Catharsis.
Hope means more to me than happiness,
Because happiness is overlooked,
Taken for granted,
A Christmas gift you play with the first day you get it,
But toss aside the next morning.
See, Ma,
I don’t live off sunshine.
I spend most days in a tunnel
Where the only light source drifts in from the exit.
Sometimes it seems so far off that walking to it may take weeks,
But the light is always there,
I thrive on it,
The light turns my eyes into projectors,
Reflecting off the lenses and casting images of tomorrow
On the walls that surround me.

Now look,
I’ve invited you here for two reasons.
The first is to show you that it’s not as dark as you think.
I know you worry, and I needed to show you that I’m okay.
The second is a little more complicated.
I’m always hearing about the things you’d like me to  change,
And now it’s my turn.
I worry about you too,
So consider what I have to say as lessons in hope.
All I’m asking is that you listen to what I have to say,
I know you have more experience in this life than I do,
But please,
Allow yourself to get a little lost with me.

Mom, you’re a beautiful woman, and I wish you could see that.
So first, I want you to look into the mirror and tell
yourself you’re pretty.
Then I want you to say it again and again until you believe it.
Every time that you look at yourself and say you’re fat,
I can hear a little piece of you die off,
Like the petals of a flower that doesn’t get enough water.
Second, I want you to make a list
Of every dream you’ve ever given up on.
When you wake up each morning,
I want you to cross one off and create a new one at the bottom,
But don’t give up this time.
Third, I dare you to trace each letter of the word LOVE
Along the scars on your wrists
And forget about the mistakes you’ve made.
You don’t have to do it right away,
These things take time…
Just work on it for me.

I know that sometimes you don’t think you’re doing your job right,
But know that a year and a half of sobriety is all that I’m askin’ for,
So really,
you’re doing just fine.

I know that it will only be a matter of time until you ask me again,
“Why is your poetry so dark?”
And I’ll have to tell you, “Ma,
You and I are both in the same program,
One day at a time,
And judging by those ellipses in the sky…
We’ve almost made it.”