Rambles about parallels between Facebook and poetry slams

I believe we, poets and social media gurus should be seeking to change thinking.

There are severely radicalized dude bros finding their mouths in the fist bump of this colonial white patriarchy. They are growing aggressive and we are sitting on our facebooks being praised for recognizing it. I am deeply opposed to negativity being celebrated as activism and profound insight. If you are “woke” you are not automatically a saint. Even if you have intersections that aren’t white-cis-man you are not automatically a saint.

A movement that is powerful is founded on inspiration, compassion and a drive for growth. There is no power in listing problems and never fighting for a solution. That is entitlement, not activism. To be an activist, write articles, letters, march and speak out to those who do not understand the problem. Go into the world and make change. Write to your MP every day. Shut down a racist or sexist comment when you hear it and don’t expect a gold star. Don’t just feed the same angels that have fed you. There is no activism in an echo chamber, only entitlement and praise from those looking for the same thing back. Rise against, up and fight- but not to be seen and validated.

That being said, having a common ideology and sharing that with people like you is not bad. It is even good and can make you feel great. There is awesome energy in it. Especially when most other people aim to oppress, hurt or demean you. I love Facebooking my thoughts and loved slamming, there is huge inner strength that comes out of the validation. Take that inner strength out of the safe zone. Even in small ways. The more power you have, the more risk you can afford to take.

My problem with poetry slams and Facebook is that it gives you a gold medal for being loud and yet, silent. Keep being bold when you step out of the micro cosmos. Be humble even though you know all the right things.

Metaphors are literally in the mind

This is going back to this beautiful book that I read over the summer, by John Brockman who curates Smart People’s (Professors, Doctors, Candle Stick Makers) answers to extremely fascinating questions. I want to talk about this book, 2012 : WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL EXPLANATION?  and specifically throw my two cents in on top of  Benjamin K. Bergen entry.

His entry explains that beyond poetry, art or music, most of what we do and say is metaphorical. In our basic conversations, in all languages metaphors exist in how speak. There are things we say without thinking, for example morality is cleanliness: “That was a dirty trick.” And understanding is seeing: “New finding illuminates the structure of the universe.”

He points out that Aristotle and your English Teachers have told you to construct a proper metaphors you compare two things that are similar to each other in an overarching way.  So “Juliet is the sun” works because they are both radiant.

But Bergen points out the work George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in the book, Metaphors We Live By, and says all of that is bogus. Metaphoric language isn’t random and based on similarity at all, it is much more deep, elegant and yet simple.

I’m going to outline his logic for you:

What metaphors are: abstract things that you describe in terms of concrete things. ie Morality is more abstract than cleanliness. He’s clean= he has no criminal record. BUT, You cannot reverse this. Concrete things can’t be the explanation for abstractions. Metaphors don’t work like this: He’s moral= doesn’t mean he’s bathed. In semiotics, the red dress stands for sexual liberation, but sexual liberation can never stand for the red dress.

Not being able to reverse the logic suggests that there is some spooky stuff going on in here…
Metaphorical expressions stay consist regardless of the words you use. Check out this example of seeing (concrete thing) for understanding (the abstract thing): I see what you mean,” and “Let’s shed some light on the issue,” and “Put his idea under a microscope and see if it actually makes sense.” These are all different metaphors that work- ad none of the words are the same. Because there is a MAP that exists, that we DID NOT create ourselves. We’re using different language to reiterate the same psychological road map that seeing and understanding are related.
There is nothing inherently similar between “to see” and “to see understand” yet our minds think metaphorically, and these two abstractions are linked, so we can build metaphors surrounding these two ideas regardless of the language we use to describe them in. Let me go back to the Juliet example,  we can see how Juliet is the sun- where they are both “radiant”- but most metaphors are a lot more hugely complex than these similar undertones of two things. Instead, they are rooted in having two separate parts, one concrete and one abstract, that exist as road-maps in our minds, despite not having anything similar about them inherently, at all.  Metaphors become access points to describe a large idea with something tangible- and those two things are linked but not because they are similar, but because they are unconsciously and intrinsically associated in our minds with one another.
While the Juliet is the “sun” metaphor works- it isn’t as complex as these metaphors we actually use all the time. The sun metaphor is a really surface phenomena- because our brains think way beyond that. Lakoff and Johnson argue that our ability to understand the world is metaphorical where Bergen says, “You don’t just talk about understanding as seeing; you think about understanding as seeing. You don’t just talk about morality as cleanliness; you think about morality as cleanliness.”

So here are my two cents on the whole thing…


Metaphors uncover how we think.  It’s not just one thing standing for something more complicated. It is that in discovering that something can stand for something else we discover how we think, and develop a road map of the way we think. We all think metaphorically- and it is because we systematically map certain concepts onto others in your minds that we talk metaphorically. So this ability to point out these ideas as one standing for another, is just a really complicated way of showcasing the way our brains are already mapped out. So nobody actually writes metaphors, instead we discover them.

So metaphors work because they tap into a structured mapping between the two conceptual domains in people’s minds. So metaphors are way more than a linguistic device based on similarity- they are the ability to create paths which we literally UNDERSTAND/(see- (pun intended)) the world in. 

This is where I think poetry is insurmountably important, by creating new metaphors and that work, we are uncovering how life is thought of in our collective consciousness. I think that is pretty amazing. Poets literally become people that are writing out the puzzles to how humanity functions. It is a process of decoding and revealing these maps that for one reason or another already exist in everybody’s minds. It is a beautiful process of explaining, the otherwise unexplainable and gesturing to a code of humanity with your words. Creating metaphors that work, is one step closer to identifying how we process and understand the world. Poets are literal explorers of the mind, discovering and writing the map for us all.

Youth Poetry Slam Finals- On Not Making the Team

I live to perform poetry louder than the quiet acceptance of the world I witness.

*Post written after not making the Youth Slam Team in March 2017.

I was really struggling with consistently not getting ‘good’ scores at slams and not making the team hit a weird place for the old poetry ego. But I had so much love coming my way and thought I’d just share the post I made up, I can use it and be reminded again and again:

I just want to say I’m really super thankful for all of the support and checking in and messages and comments and calls and love from everyone. Doubt train is heading out of town and the tricycles are coming in. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for this support and the kindness of my friends and distant friends and loved ones. Had a nice time at the tiny trike show tonight and I am ready to boom out against all odds and make the most intense stuff i have ever made. I am ready to live like being an artist is my propeller. Though, I know I will continue to fail and fail again, something tells me it’s not because I am a lost cause. I can do it. Let’s keep going poets, musicians and painters.
Like my mom said, this is not the last time I will feel doubt because the last time I will feel doubt means I am ceasing to fight to be an artist. 

I can’t wait to be playful, mysterious, alive and burning. I want to speak poetry and write like the weight of the world is just a small crumb on my tongue. I want to boom through like language bends to my will. I want to make up a fantasy world that you can play with me in and I want it to feel like something new, bold and raw. I want to make you guys proud. Thank you for believing in me and re-inspiring me.
I am so thankful to be surrounded by brilliant artists and friends that keep me going and fighting.

Being bold, not angry


Recently I performed at three events where people called our current time, “the dark age.”  I am just going to say one thing before you go and switch to the next post, I hope the rise of fake news, the radicalization of your Facebook feed, the terror in TV news and the general human dread that seems to be floating like a collective consciousness cloud has not entered your brain. I disagree with this demoralization of our current state as a society for a few different reasons.

In a time like this, people use social media to echo about the disgust of the nation, the ugliness of it all, the horror, which I do agree is evident and omnipresent. In truth, social media fails to mention there are movements of darkness, but in a whole truth there has never been a bright period in humanity’s history for all people. People who beam about how great America used to be forget to remember for who and how. People who are nostalgic and glorify periods exclude the narratives for the folks that didn’t have such a bright time then.

Now, the difference between today and a few months ago is that people in power grow louder through easy to digest media that skews reality to make existing seem like a constant fight between good and evil when it is quite far from that. Even while Obama was president the world wasn’t the apple pie peace treaty social media keeps glorifying it as and to name a few reasons: bombs were being dropped on 130 countries murdering innocent civilians by the US, people of color were being shot by police offers, the pay gap was for the most part deeply unaddressed.

The world has never been brutally beautiful and now it stings true that there are thousands of war crimes, hate crimes, acts of systemic racism, acts of systemic misogyny being introduced into naive eyes and it is easy to get caught up in being angry, upset and drowning in fear. With more opportunity to be truly informed, there lies the opportunity that comes with it, to grow bolder as the presence of destruction grows louder.

It pains me to see people arguing over simple issues, the left hating the left without remorse, creating more “us” and “them” rhetoric between people that see the world as similarly to them as possible. This is not a time to be fighting with people who have marginally different opinions than you, or knowledge deficits, this is a time to unite, to educate, to be bold, to listen to trust-worthy sources of media and to make a change. This is a time for meaningful dialogue, to assert the stance of freedom and democracy over the loud voices demanding power and a tradition of hate.


My problem(S) with poetry slams/ Make poetry weird again™

I’m going to start by saying I love the poetry slam. It has given me more friends than I had love in my heart. I love performing. I adore being challenged by some of the bold work I have heard. I am fueled by the work that pushes me to think, feel and grow. I love the creativity and the different styles slams to which slams have exposed me. I love the community element, the event itself. I love how the poetry slam strives to be inclusive and all the organizers I have meant have huge, beautiful hearts. There is really nothing quite like a Monday night. There are so many creative, brilliant poets subverting the “genre” or “movement” from within, into something even braver.

Because I love the slam so much, and it has shaped the way which I see the world, it really does bother me when I see some problematic elements emerging in the background of this place which has been my vessel, safe haven and gateway into the larger big bad world of boldness.

I feel like people should compete in poetry slams because they have something they think is valuable, artistic and vivid to say. This is why I really loved Hullabaloo, I feel like the youth in the competition would share their voices resonated that it meant something to them. Yet there seems to be this weird disparity, between being an honest poet and being focussed on winning a slam. I feel like outside of the context of that festival, it becomes pretty easy to get caught up in wanting to “win”. And this is obviously impossible, because who doesn’t want to win? But if we all take a step back for a minute, slams are a total buffoon game, it’s just a marketing tool to promote poetry showcases. The person who wins the slam, is usually not the best poet, because how do you even rank that kind of thing?  If humanity could learn to take their masturbatory minds out of their egos for a second things might be different in this case. Honesty, has gotten lost for many pieces I have seen in the pursuit of a viral poem, or in the pursuit of getting points.  We already have sensationalist news articles, dumbed down political event videos in 30 second tidbits, and people reduced to avatars by their Facebook feeds and I don’t want to see that type of repetitive, meaningless and too-easily obliging soulless content regurgitate itself in an art form that is supposed to be built on truth. The truth is nuanced, it is complicated, and odds are it can’t fit in the pentameter of the “slam poet” because the conventions of this performance inherently limit boundary pushing.

Crowds and Facebook feeds alike, like the quick and dirty, the pain-pimp, the ego-pump, the backseat activism, the accessible and easy, disguised as effort. I love that shit too. But at its best, it’s feel good propaganda, and at its worst it’s instant empathy, meaningless rhetoric designed for a fake, robotic, silhouette catharsis. These dopamine hits with titles like 10 ways my depression is horrible or What the patriarchy taught me are hallmark art, pieced together by conventions of a made up genre- that isn’t even a genre- in a clown-car style competition where people keep coming out holding different balloon animals and everyone is desperate to call it art and get praised for it. If people want to rewrite what has already been said and not go deeper with their voice, they could make a Buzzfeed video with a clickbait title instead of a poem. But something keeps us all writing, and the desire to be heard should not be lost in the desire to “succeed” because this type of success is counter intuitive to what poetry is trying to achieve.

To me, the poetry slam on some nights, appears as a preaching pep rally of the “pained” where everyone blames the same enemy and makes “bold” statements to those who are already converted. You are not bold to go and say you hate Drumf, or Harper, or Bill C-51 on a slam stage. You are not bold to say sexism is bad. Being bold, in slam, is going up and believing in yourself enough to do a 3 minute long piece about the nuances of ladybugs. Being bold is being fired up by an outlook that has not been already articulated as safe.

That being said, we need anti-systemic racism poems, colonialism poems, poems that deal with gender and sexuality. And these are topics that affect a lot of people and should be performed about, and should be given voice to. However, I have a hard time believing that someone’s misogyny they experienced is as universal as the next poem describes it to be. There is a shield of honesty here; the poetry is mechanical and uninteresting because it’s a recyclable of the same images and the same connotations. People play it down, frequently to pointing a finger at the all encompassing oppressing evil, which perpetuates the us and them rhetoric. Then I see angry poets safe in their own community without tangible work to appeal to a non-leftist audience that they should be aiming to change with their words. The poems do not serve their purpose. In writing the perfect example of racism, the perfect example of oppression, the perfect story that ends up robotic and bow-tied, they take away the meaty parts that make this their story. Instead, these poets might get good scores a back pat and forget that the fire that made them write that initial poem, is not being targeted, is not being explored, is instead be tolerated and kept up to continue to compete in this zoo-like undefined impossible game.

I feel like slam is evolving into a competition of identity instead of poetry. People perform their identities, when they perform their poems, like they are brands.  When you’re performing a poem, unlike a written piece, people will see who  you are and make assumptions of what that poem means as a political statement. But people are making the same damn “political” statement again and again, it feels like a church. This isn’t interesting. People are molding their poetry to be what won last week’s slam, and then molding their identity and puking out the same beliefs and ideals. This is a tactic that helps nothing. For a scene that values diversity, why is the way the stories are told, the pentameter, the allusions and the portrayal of race and gender so similar? For a scene that values multiculturalism and inclusion, why are the experiences that are being shared an echo-chamber? For a scene that believes that its own worth comes from being brave, why does it point fingers at all encompassing monster instead of digging down into the nuances of the problems and exploring truth, wholeheartedly? For a movement that values diversity and inclusion- why are we pointing to a universal picture of contempt and forgetting to look outside of ourselves?


3 Reasons to #BOYCOTTSPLIT- Split Movie

I’m writing a bit of a different post today. I just came across something my Facebook Feed and am truly appalled and simply could not let this type of garbage fire be perpetuated.

I’m only providing the trailer link so people have context. I do not support this movie at all.As an artist, lover of all media art, the cinema to me represents an opportunity to explore humanness, the human condition and offer new perspective, imagination and creativity into life. This movie only injects harmful old stereotypes into the minds of young middle class movie goers. It does the same old thing, again. This is exactly what I hate about blockbuster Hollywood Silicon Valley bullshit- cinema is a failure designed to make millions, bullying, othering, and demonizing people in minority groups.

I have 3 simple reasons why this movie must be boycotted:

1. Dissociate identity disorder is NOT this. Vilifying mental illness happens all the time in movies and it’s incredibly harmful. This is probably an extreme and blatant example of that. The argument that a movie should be able to “do whatever it wants” is frankly irrational and wrong. Millions of viewers engage with Universal movies and if a movie perpetuates a stereotype about a fictional character, people who have similar traits to that fictional character will be oppressed socially as a result. A lot of people do not know what DID is, how it works or that it’s fairly common as a mental illness. A lot of people also don’t know that mental illness and mental health is a spectrum, that everyone falls on. Most people watching this movie, though not necessarily having DID will feel ridiculed because they or someone they love have had or do have a mental illness. Mental illnesses are not as depicted in the media, where they are seen as demonic, unnatural and abnormal. The reality is the opposite. But this type of “evil” rhetoric perpetuates stigma that seeps into social constructs. The News uses “mentally-ill” as a scapegoat reason to discuss a criminal, horror writers use the word “psycho” as lightly as they do “ghost” or “monster”. This is toxic, dangerous and complete failure.

2. This is easily stupid story telling. All of the harmful stereotyping and disgusting demonizing of mental illness aside, as a story it is really lazy. It’s easy to just “blame” a criminal’s act on their mental illness instead of coming up with an intriguing plot. This shows firstly a total disregard for DID disorder, secondly it shows a non-pardonable lack of research, creativity and actual artfulness. There are many reasons that could be focused on the individual as a person, instead of the individual as their illness, that could give rise to a conflict or crime. M. Night Shyamalan wrote this film and I hope that he knows he just used the easiest, safest trick in the book. Why make a film if you aren’t willing to put in the time to create real characters instead of caricatures?

3. This is a step in the wrong direction when it comes to putting mental illness into film. I think mental illness should be included in characters in shows, not in a romanticized way, not as a huge trait way, but just as this is one of the parts of this person who is an individual. A realistic portrayal instead of creating harmful stereotypes such as this movie, or movies that create the romantic suicidal art boy, mad scientist and emo teen. One connotation, or “single story” is not solving anything. While I do recognize there is growth in various TV shows and indie movies, Universal is still fixed on producing one dimensional story-lines, where people are cartoons and their all encompassing and wrongly defined trait is their mental illness. Going off on this, we need to stop having the same white man gets white girl with no personality after she rejects him, story over and over again. There also needs to stop being dead moms in every movie too. It’s so discouraging seeing the same hetero normative, patriarchy-loving, white and mental illness demonizing movie again and again making millions every single time.

This is all I have to say right now instead of just screaming into a megaphone and screaming “I hate you capitalist media” while flapping around my arms and spreading peanut butter on my chest in discouragement. This is the least I can do for now. #boycottsplit