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

UBC SLAM

Ever since coming to UBC I wanted to come and check out the slams. It’s been pretty cool to check out a new popsicle stand as the kids say. I’ve done it twice now I think and would love to get involved a bit deeper if I can.

Also one of these times includes my first 1st place, in anything ever, including a slam. Which was indeed very very wild. So far I’ve performed, the to-do-list, the omnipresent blank ghost, the news and something else new which I dropped.

I’m already making some new poetry pals at UBC, and am excited for poetic times while eating Dendy’s Bagels and making sweet iambic pentameter joke and getting moody together, because what else do poets even do?

Really ready for this year to bring some not only more Australian 5 dollar bills and tampons but also some good poet gangs to hang out with and get all kinds of miserably existential in one moment and the next be total clowns. Also want some clowns to hangout with.

ubc-slam

 

Making sweet gentle love to 2017

Here it comes.

Let the flood gates open. The belief that something can happen fill my lungs. What I want from this year, is pretty simple. I want to feel more energetic, more rested and more ready to be as bold as I need to be. I’m ready to be completely alive and bursting at the seams ready to thrive, drink some tasty organic juice and being so healthy, beautiful and burning with life. Definitely, 2016 I struggled physically ( torn MCL on crutches for 6+ weeks, weeks+ out sleeping away pneumonia, started to get laryngitis after performing excessively all of a sudden and all sorts of universe praising stuff) as well as mentally trying to strain myself pushing, pushing and  pushing I do not believe that is what I wanted. I always want to strive to cling to all of the life that is teeming in my brain, and I always try to match that imaginary answer to my own damn mind with projects, events, poems, weights lifted, writing, grades or conversations- I can’t get sleep until I succeed. The truth is, each time I achieve or find something real- that gold is pushed a bit farther away from me. Yes, this deep dissatisfaction pushes me further and further. Metaphorically. I will sleep like a rock for 14 hours unless if I’m yanked out of the coffin early. Anyways, pushing- has always been my weakness and my strength. I’m commended and congratulated and half the time I’m not sure what people will mention because of the speed. Heck, I don’t know anyone, debatably even me, who could list every project I’ve worked on this year. And for what?  I’ve been moving at this speed that has worked for my life until this point, but has had its obvious consequences on me this year. I don’t aim to be pushing, to be glorifying business, I just want to feel full.

I’m ready for a bit of a change this year. I’m ready for some pulling. If my heart is a magnet and that imaginary answer to my own damn mind will be an attractive fridge. Saying “no”, and taking in projects, moments and memories fully into my heart, reflecting lots and letting go of some of that gold for the sake of burning with life through what really matters to me, forgetting about the less meaningful shit. I’m ready to take time to rest, and do what I love not because I feel like the magnets will get weaker, but because I am so attracted to my desires, it is physically fuller. Maybe that will mean being ok with being slow, not seeing immediate results and taking more time to develop opinions and ideas. Instead of racing, with optimism, but also detachment. I’m ready to slow down a bit, take in each bite of life and chew it fully before I swallow.

I’m ready to slaughter the stick lions in my ears.

img_6188

Today’s new years was a scramble with minimal champagne and people counting down three seconds too late. I had a nice kiss, and some nice company.

A year goes by, and time to reflect and review in no particular order:

  • Pneumonia
  • Torn MCL + crutches 6 weeks after skiing accident
  • Failed to get the Loran Scholarship after finals in Toronto
    • Mental exhaustion/ constant stress/anxiety after this
    • Probably didn’t actually go away until 6 months later
      • Rashes breaking out all the time
  • Sisterly love trip to San Diego
  • Made it on the Vancouver Youth Slam Team
  • Made a bunch of money performing poetry?
  • Two bands broke up
  • Good times with the boyfriend, especially adventures in the summer
  • Won the TD scholarship!
    • The best thing that happened to me this year
  • Another Richmond World Fest organized!
  • Helped produce the Richmond Youth Media Festival Exhibition of Evolution of Media
  • Organized 1 art exhibition, 1 poetry exhibition at The Richmond Public Library
  • Took some clown classes
  • Graduated high school and SKY
  • Decided to go to UBC
  • Admitted into Bachelor of Media Studies
  • Moved into residence at UBC
  • New job at UBC
  • Performed at a TEDx event
  • Did my first powerlifting competition
  • Fell of a sled
  • Got a credit card
  • Jumped into a really cold hole by a glacier waterfall
  • Rode the Elevator!
  • Went to Bloomington Indiana during the summer
  • Went to Toronto and Ottawa for TD Scholarship Ceremony
  • Retreat to Harrison Hot Springs with the youth slam team
  • Made a chapbook!
  • Made a website!
  • Made a Facebook page

img_6190

 

Identity.. the perhaps

Here I am, approaching the end of the high school life and I am now wondering on things that I have thought I knew. But now I am starting to wonder how I truly know anything about myself and my feelings.

As throughout my high school career, I have thought, pondered and done,  and then thought and pondered some more. And throughout some thinking and then through some playing I had found little flinches and inconsistencies with my self as a human and it makes me feel like I am a fight between so close to other people and yet so solely alive in my flesh prison.

Every day, month, year I would wake up eager to become the person I see myself being. But with all this thought in the future, it only just occurred to me that I have quiet set up my life to be exactly how I would have desired it to be, a year, two years, five years ago. In this state I feel torn between existing and bursting, allowing and extending, receiving and understanding.

And now as I think forward, I wonder what is my next step in the person who I want to be?  How do I truly know who I am? How do I know what colour I like? Or don’t like? How do I know anything about myself at all? Being perplexed with my own existence is nothing new to me. But with all these complications, it is so hard to pull away the fuzz in my mind polluting, outside distraction as I once again start the journey of peeling the world down to become the exact person I hope to be five years from now. And wake up every day a little closer to living the way I wish to be.

I have learned, but not yet accepted, there are ways to know what I want myself to be, what I feel like I am and where I am going using only my body as a reminder that it knows best. Well first there are perhaps the signals from my body, the automatic responses that happens. Like when I look at the one I love I feel warmth in my body and some flushness in my cheeks.

I can assume that that is because my brain likes this person. (But then how do I know that my body knew to react like that? Is it because of something beyond my conscious mind, and if it is beyond my control is it truly me?)

I think of this so frequently, it feels like a dream on the cusp of a spiritual awakening but instead an existential nightmare. For now, it has been easier to look at the world on the outside and see what that means about my being on the inside. To see, and be seen as the clowns say.

Perhaps I will become a clown. If something makes me mouth water, it is a tasty food. If my lungs are light and with little gaps of sound, it is funny. Perhaps if people tell me I am this, or that, I can choose to listen and become what I wish to be in between.

And perhaps, some things are not meant to be thought about but only accepted.

And perhaps, thinking about this is a tiny piece of my identity that is made up with more than just chemicals and fluids but the little miracles of experience that had transformed my brain from organ to soul.