“Kendrick Had a Dream”

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“Martin had a dream. Martin had  a dream. Kendrick had a dream.”- Backseat Freestyles/ good kid, m.A.A.d city

  1. Kendrick Lamar floats above cityscape,

his torso

alight with flaming angel wings.

Flying or falling, he cannot tell. He

wakes in a stupor, his eyes bright as forgotten Heavens.

  1. Kendrick Lamar unzips his pants, and

the Eifel Tower springs from between the zippers.

He proceeds to fuck the world for 72 hours.

  1. Kendrick Lamar stands naked in front of his class.

He is in high school chemistry class, and his Eifel

Tower is now just  a normal phallus. Someone

laughs. Someone shouts, “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe!”

  1. A giant eagle with the face of

School Boy Q chases Kendrick Lamar

through the desert, his legs thin as chopsticks.

As he pushes harder, the Eagle draws closer,

his claws familiar as Compton.

  1. Kendrick Lamar misses a flight to Berlin,

for he lies in a box,

a cedar box buried six feet under the ground, his body

contorting with rage and fear. His head banging

against the top of the box

as he wonders whether he might escape.

He will not escape, not until he wakes

in mid-afternoon, his bed wet

with hangover sweat,

his back still dripping as if he just climbed from a pool full of liquor,

as if only just yesterday

he woke for the first time.

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The Poetic Life: Find Meaning in Everything, Anything

Poets tend to have a prodigious talent for producing vaguely philosophical conclusions from the smallest details. Think of the greatest haikus, those crisp images that subtly invoke feelings. Even from the blue jay or the rose bush or the gravy-textured sky, we can derive meaning. At first, this sounds a little crazy, though, doesn’t it?

Your friend comes late to dinner, fixing his hair, clearing his throat—this denotes frustration. When penned down, when life is transcribed into novels, we spend hours analyzing what the text means, what we can learn from what the characters do, from how the author describes the shape of the hills in the distance or the used condoms crumpled by simmering storm drains. During our real-life experiences, however, we rarely analyze actions in such a way.

Pay attention to not just what people do, but what it could mean about them. Don’t boast that you can read minds or understand human interactions, because you can’t—everyone is an amateur philosopher, an amateur theist, an amateur poet. No one can be master in such matters.

Especially if you mean to make art, in my case to write poetry, you must watch how people act, what people say. Try to create poetry that is true to the moment, to life. Sometimes, I will sit among a group of people writing down things they say. Strange things, sometimes profound things. We spend hours hypothesizing in lively debates, changing each others’ minds inexorably, only to forget our enlightenment minutes later, the time it takes for people to leave us.

Alone, however, we should continue to consider our actions and thoughts—why do we think this way? Why do we act this way? Whether you approach this psychologically or religiously or senselessly, it doesn’t much matter, because you perceive things others have never before. Of course learn as much as you can, read as many books as you can read, but remember that only you can decide what is true or untrue for you.

We all hold an immense power to determine truth for ourselves. The only way we avoid being overpowered by the ideas of others is to constantly pay attention—life is a 24-hour lecture. Take notes.

Breathing Room

When life begins to roar, deafening who you are, it helps to seek solitude, retreat into yourself. Remind yourself beauty exists all around you– there are reasons for the things you do, reasons bigger than you. Poems clang around in your head like men with pinball hammers, ice picks, and dynamite trying to break out.

I am happy to report I have been writing regularly, though disjointedly to fit my schedules into schedules– school has recently swollen to consume much of my time. Between trying to write fiction and trying to complete school work and trying to have a semblance of a social life, I haven’t written many blog posts. I will try to remedy that this weekend, as I have been working on a multi-part post which may interest many of you.

In the meantime, I am producing fiction I might actually get paid for, which I’ll attempt to publish. While editing “In Lickskillet,” I have also written two short stories– one is not done yet. I have, however, for both a supreme confidence that you will either find them enlightening or comical or both. When (yes, I mean WHEN, not IF) I publish these somewhere, Word Salad will be the first place I post up links and information. All of this, of course, is quite exciting. I’ll report more after my Fall Break begins.

How Creativity Works: A Parable

On the dusty plain where your mind exists, you dig through the earth with crumbling fingernails searching for soil where thoughts will grow. You till the earth with a pen and are ready for the rains.

Last year’s crops were terrible, anemic excuses for crops. Tasted terrible, provided no sustenance. But the rain, the rain had been powerful. You just didn’t do enough work. This year every day, even as crops die and life becomes the toil of waiting, you work preparing the fields. The rain is coming. The winter is harsh and cold and barren, seeping the juices from your soil. All that’s left is endurance, the day-in, day-out churning of words from dirt, however malnourished.

Then it begins as a breeze, a tickling behind the ears, the neck, the ankles. Carry your hoe, shovel and sword; stand against the wind until you can see the wall of rain pounding toward you under onyx clouds, a stampede. Ride the flood.

Allow the water to crash through your veins and cleanse the dust until you are new and raw and enlightened. Strike fire with your sword as the storm overwhelms you. The speak has finally come, great streaks of lightning like Neptune’s trident in the dark. Your mind is ready, a circuit begging to be completed. So when genius and creativity arrive in the form of tumultuous storms, your tools are sharp, your mind prepared to bear crops.

Allow the storm to consume you as you consume the storm.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathanmarciniak/6285185919/

Burning to Write

You lie in your bed, trying to dose off. It is nearing two a.m. and tomorrow, you have to wake up at six to prepare for a calculus exam or to go to work. The equivalent of being flash-fried in lava. You need sleep, but then a new sentence crawls through your head. Hours ago, you might have fought it. You might have decided sleep was a better fate. But of course every night, you think these lines are genius so you wretch yourself up. Slough across the room like a survivor after a nuclear attack. You’ve left the file open because this has become tradition. You expect yourself to forgo sleep in the sake of transcribing words from your mind. Once you start, you may not stop. You may continue typing until morning. Banging out the first draft of a story or finishing a chapter or two.

You’re a writer.

Don’t worry too much if you display these symptoms. I’ve caught the bug too, a long time ago. Ever since I could hold a pencil and make the squiggly lines we call a language. Maybe this is supposed to make you feel better. Or maybe you’re smacking your head. How could you be so stupid? Who chooses a story over sleep, food, and going to the bathroom?

There comes an urgency about penning a line. A certain insatiable need. Like you’re so turned on by the thought of writing you can’t not help yourself. Satisfy your need. The urge then comes back again and again. Just in the form of lines, for me. I’ll lay awake and think of something clever. I must write it down. Once I succumb, there’s no stopping me. Am I comparing writing to something sexual, sensual? Sure. But it has less to do with the body, more with the mind. A hunger that compels you. Even when you topple over, retching up all the words, you rearrange that word vomit and try to glean a story from it. A moral.

Writers don’t get paid much. Any delusions about churning out books at your leisure will be shot down quickly. You don’t do it to eat, per se. You write for the sake of writing. Sometimes, a story or poem will contain social commentary. An overarching theme that defines human existence. A great story that we enjoy. But at the end of the day, we create art for the sake of art. No one needs writers the way people need doctors. Let’s face it: we’re purely here for entertainment. Yet even if no one read books (as sometimes might seem the case), we keep writing. Because writing is what we do.

If I Should Die Tonight

If I should die tonight in the desert

Bury me under the sands

The dunes will sing my name until my bones have turned gray

And all lips cease to speak of me

The wind will blow me across the flat lands

And I will settle as dust into the dust

From whence I came

If I should die tonight in the city

Do not throw my body in a dumpster

Hoist me up on a sail in the harbor

So that the winds can blow me away

Do not lay my body in the street

To be run over violently by automobiles

But instead send me away to where the wind can find me

And I will settle as dust into the dust

From whence I came

If I should die tonight in my bed

Don’t forget to wake me up

My bones are made for walking and death is no excuse

To lie lazily all day underneath my blankets

Gently nudge me and remind me that

I have work still to do

And that I cannot die in a bed

But rather must somewhere where the wind can somehow find me

And I will settle as dust into the dust

From whence I came

NANOWRIMO: Stop Writing!!!! Just… Stop.

It’s almost that time of year again! When all of your friends say “Hey, I should write a novel!”

Naturall, National Novel Writing Month… or NANOWRIMO: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Obviously, it’s my favorite time of the year because I lose my superiority of being the “writer” type among my friends. During the month of November, everyone is a writer.

The best thing to do, obviously, is dissuade every young person from writing. Because, honestly, there are too many writers and books, already, right? Why can’t we just take some time off from writing books? There are already too many to read. We can resume in thirty or forty years.

For the next thirty days, I challenge you to discourage your friends to write! No, seriously! Whether they have a blog or are working on a novel or even if they were poets… discourage them from making any literary progress at all. You too should stop writing. Just stop.

No… just stop writing. There are probably so many books already published that yours won’t even matter. It won’t make a dent in anyone’s life. It will sit anonymously, lonely on a shelf in some rundown used book store. It will sell out of print and not be re-printed. Haven’t we exhausted the explanation of the human spirit by now? I mean, really? Haven’t we?

If you are an aspiring writer, I implore you with a full heart to stop trying. Put down your pen, close your laptop, burn your journals, shred your poems, forget your stories.

Why don’t you go do something more productive? Where will writing get you?

You could catch up on Season 15 of South Park instead. You could weave a basket:  aren’t baskets better than books? And believe me, you will have an easier time selling a basket than a book.

Well, there is an off-chance you’ll write something semi-good. And sure, it won’t change the world, but it might change one person. It might speak to just one little human being. What you write about, how you write, they might be affected by that. They might finally be able to verbalize their feelings through your immaculate paragraphs.

But you should probably not even try. It might not get you anywhere. Sure, you CAN change the world, but what’s the point, right?

How I Write

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

— W. Somerset Maugham

As a writer, the way you say something means just as much as what you say. It’s difficult to assess something and determine it was written by a “writer.” Who judges such idiosyncrasies? Do we call someone a writer because they have published books or written readable print? Or do we gauge writer-dom by the complexity of the verbiage and the incomprehensible crux of his interminable, orbicular clause compositions?

I began considering this, having begun writing something entirely new (it’s going to be another novel, *cough, cough*). How do I write? Do I follow any specified rules or do I apply any special formulas? Every writer claims not, but in their writing, every writer implements a system. No matter how simple or complex.

Hemingway, he wants to tell you something simple, but in telling you that, he’ll imply something far more nuanced. Henry Miller wrote all of the horrible, immoral things he thought and then created a book. Dickens meticulously constructed formulaic plots and caricature characters to support his criticisms of society. Kurt Vonnegut wrote several varied paragraphs linked only by a similarly eccentric style, and TADA!

I tote a few strange rules, though not so much rules as stylistic preferences. For example, I strive never to begin a sentence with “however,” “moreover,” or “therefore.” Sometimes, the words must be used, but a sentence can be written less awkwardly by inserting the word after the first clause. While this has nothing to do with grammar, I do it still. Some things simply embed themselves in your stories and style; they stay there.

Sometimes, my style of writing fiction and style of writing nonfiction merge, sometimes to create something great, other times… troublesome. In journalistic writing, there tends to exist rigid rules that prohibit from certain behaviors. Contractions, first person pronouns, and biased statements should never be found in a news story.

I, however, write op-ed pieces more frequently:  I keep up not only this blog, but I also pen a monthly column for our school newspaper. In any pieces like that, I  give my opinion. To learn to write objectively and subjectively, though, improves writing style overall.

I proclaim opinions in the form of anecdotes. I make sense of my beliefs by telling stories. Of course, this isn’t as good as using scientific data or “textual evidence.” But to reaffirm what you already believe, it can at least convey a thought. Even if a story is untrue, if what we mean by it is, then truth doesn’t even matter. Like parables, our memories serve to justify who we are. To explain our identities.

In a fiction story, as well, we use stories as evidence. Why is this person so mean? Could it be that he has a deficiency in his amygdala or because he was abused as a child? Storytellers rely on the social causes before turning to biological ones. But it’s how our minds work. Not so much in the sense of psychology:  we are analyzing humans not on a mental level, but on an almost spiritual one. I prefer to think that the human race is more or less incomprehensible. The best we can do is… sympathize.

The best we can do to explain how we act is to tell stories. About our past or about things that never occurred.

Every writer writes differently, but what makes someone a writer, really a writer, is that through a story they hope to uncover a great

truth. The truth can spawn from the writer himself or perhaps it’s a truth about the reader, which the reader may discover through reading a book. Or maybe both, so that the act of writing is very much like telling prophecies. What you feel now, that indescribable emotion, will be felt by someone in the future when they read about what happened to you. About what you did. Somehow, a person will be touched through what you have written about.

Writers write with different inspirations, with varied “creative processes.” Some can only write in utter silence or in the peace of nature:  that’s me. Some prefer to be in the clash and cacophony of life, sprint-typing in the center of some urban Starbucks. Dan Brown, after each hour of writing, does a quick set of push ups and then of sit ups.

I often write in the nude.

Whether you rely on the night sky or hardcore drugs, every writer is striving to find the same truth.

To answer my question, how do I write… well, style hardly matters. What really matters is the intent of the person; this universal intent  binds us under the single title:

WRITER

Mutli-Cultural Reading: Spoken Word Poems

Below is a video of my performance at the multi-cultural open mic. I read two poems called “A Savage Yawp” and “American.”

I hope you enjoyed these poems, seriously. I might post videos of other performances of either separately. The second poem is defintiely one of my favorite.

The open mic was hosted by LadyVee DaPoet, as part of Poetry Matters. Poet Big Bailey videotaped this performance and posted it. Many thanks to him. You can find his channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/BiGBaileysBeats

Thanks for watching and reading.