I met Eso Tolson and Siphne Aaye last summer. Artistik Approach performed at Spillit the same night I told my Prince story. After the show, we were hanging out and I noticed his shirt said, “Embrace Your Inner Memphis.” He told me it was his own design and told me the story behind it.
I was still adjusting to living in Memphis and I couldn’t fathom embracing it. So when he suggested I buy one of his shirts my response was a crisp, “Hell No.” I’m sure folks could see snowflakes. Eso laughed it off and then we all went to dinner.
I went to the Choo Restaurant to check out Siphne’s latest mural, Connected. It is a series of train and travel-related vignettes on the side of the restaurant facing the tracks. I can’t wait for the unveiling! Eso was there, along with Darius B. Williams and Averelle Mondie–the very same people I met that summer night.
While I was hugging Eso’s neck, I asked: “Do your shirts come in a ladies’ cut? Unisex shirts make me look like a linebacker.” I am quite sure I heard the Universe giggle.
Eso suggested I stop by his table the Connect901 Holiday Pop-up shop and try a shirt on
before I asked him to special order one for me. I did and I loved it! I bought a large shirt, then graphic designer Ryan Stewart cut the shirt on me. I call it the “Chopped and Screwed” version. It was such an amazing experience! I felt so beautiful. Then Darius B. Williams went and snapped the fly ass picture of me and it was over! You couldn’t tell nothin’ me anything for the rest of the night.
I suppose I have embraced my Inner Memphis. My family is originally from Memphis. My first memories of life are in this city.
My storytelling roots were established in a wild strawberry patch thriving on the rhymic hum of my granddaddy’s air conditioning at the house on Brantley Road. It was one of the first places I visited when I returned to Memphis in 2015. FYI, you do not want to show up *unannounced* at a house in South Memphis waxing nostalgic about how your grandfather poured the driveway and raised three generations of your family in that house. Just don’t. I’m sure I didn’t get my ass kicked because I had my very pregnant cousin and her baby in the car.
I rediscovered my strength and my voice here. Memphis demands your best if you want to thrive on her shores. I’m up for the challenge, are you?
I spent Thanksgiving with my uncle’s family this year and we had such a great time. It was good to see my cousins again. My aunt Diane is the best cook on the planet!
I ate so much food, I nearly fell asleep at the table! Then I took home two plates of food, so I have been in a food coma for the past few days. So it’s back to green smoothies, kombucha and baked chicken for me! I was so focused on eating I forgot to take pictures! But here is a picture of my smoothie.
About a month ago, I scribbled some numbers on a piece of paper while I was asleep. I thought it was a dream–the urgent search for a pen write down an important number someone had rattled off to me. I’d forgotten about it until I was on the phone with a colleague this morning and they said the could never find a pen when they need one.
I checked my room when I got off the phone. Sure enough, I had scribbled the number 1185275 on an article about the sleeping habits of jellyfish.
Now, I’ve heard of automatic writing, but sleep writing?
Last night on Cambly, I met a poet, a real one. He was born in Saudi Arabia with passion and agony etched on his tongue and a hole in his heart. We spoke for an hour through the veil of a black video screen–as many people from the Kingdom do to preserve modesty in the nakedness of the Western World.
He shared his poetry with me English, then in Arabic. His work is patient and melancholy like a desert wind. It aches of life observed but not lived. It bleeds beauty. He prefers classical Arabic words to modern ones. Says the modern words don’t have the same feel. He is right.
Unfortunately, I am one of a handful of people have ever heard his verses. As a child in he frolicked in literature, dreaming only of poetry. When he turned 16, his parents told him he was to be a surgeon. Poet is not a profession, they said. So he went to medical school. He would scribble verses in his journal or on his phone. He would discard most, other he’d forget…he was a surgeon after all.
But his body began to crack under the weight of his drowning spirit. He is still in the medical field, but no longer a surgeon. He sounds happy about that. He is writing more poetry now; he shared those sparse verses with me with the intention of deleting them as well.
I begged him to save them, perhaps publish them in English under a pseudonym, so his family wouldn’t freak out. He agreed to keep them, but that was all. He sent me a link to the song, the Coffee Cup Reader, which an essential song in Arabic culture. This is the short version, the full version is about more than two hours long.
Needless to say, I am quite interested in learning more about Arabic poetry and perhaps learning Arabic as well. I think it will make me a better writer.
The first week of NaNoWriMo is over and let’s just say my progress has not been great. I’ve been working hard to finish this creative nonfiction piece called “Salvage” while battling an upper respiratory infection.
However, I have worked on my novel. I’ve added maybe 50 words to it. Yikes! Even calling it a “novel” is daunting for me. Makes it feel so massive and unwieldy. I feel like getting my mind around it and developing each scene into the full and robust images in my head is damn near impossible.
Okay so now we’ve got that little freak out out-of-the-way, it’s time to get down to business. In truth, I am not as concerned about hitting 50,000 words this month as I am with developing better, more productive writing habits and learning to use writing tools like Dragon and Scriveners.
By far the most important thing for me is to develop and maintain a writing schedule. I don’t have a dedicated writing time: I squeeze it in between work and other “important things” I have to do. That needs to change.
So I will get up an hour earlier ( then two) to write in the mornings before I do anything else, except make a cup of tea of course.
As I said finishing Salvage is the top priority, but I will make more progress on the novel. It’s really time for it to take center stage anyway.
Note: I wrote this last week, but held it back it because I didn’t consider it good enough to post. I do that a lot with my writing. So one of my goals is to get out as much content as possible and let it speak for its self.
It’s just a week away now. Nanowrimo. I’ve registered on the site and am gearing up to finish this really long fiction story that is so dear to my heart. I’ve cleared a few things off my plate in anticipation of the commitment needed to write 1500+ words per day. I’ve let go of a part-time job and I am wrapping up a personal essay I started last year but put aside because of the emotional strain of it.
In fact, I should be working on said essay right now but I am at one of the sticky parts so I’m about Nanowrimo instead. Is that simply a redirection of energies or procrastination? Not sure, but I wanted to talk about procrastination anyway, so segue…
I procrastinate. I decide either a task will take too long and must be done later or won’t take much time at all and well…I can do it later. Perhaps it is a function of our multitasking society. Or maybe I just have commitment issues—I don’t want to stick with one task too long for fear I won’t get to something more important.
So I was quite grateful for the email this morning from Novel Now about how to stay focused and in procrastination. Novel Now is one of my favorite writing sites and lots of great writing tips and insight on how to push forward with this long-term project that I’m working on.
I’ve often wondered how Iran held on to its language and culture after the Arab invasion in 633 AD. Arabic is the dominant language throughout the Middle East, yet somehow Iran still speaks Farsi and held fast to its culture.
Well, I learned how this was possible last night. I was on Cambly talking to a student from Iran and he told me the story. He said that while Iran did adopt the Arabic writing system they kept Farsi as their primary language because of a poem called the Shahnameh.
The Shahnameh, which took Persian poet Ferdowsi 30 years to write, is the longest epic poem written by a single author in the world. It details the history of the great Iranian kings. It is written entirely in Farsi and is held with such national pride, that after the Arab invasion, the Persian people clung to this poem as a part of their national identity and some say it is the sole reason that the Farsi language is still in existence today. While they did adopt the Arabic writing system, they were not letting go of Farsi because of the Shahnameh.
Children are taught to read and write using the Shahnameh. Older students memorize passages from it.
Power to the poets y’all. Power to the poets!
When I feel like being extra petty, I have to ask myself: What would Beyonce do?
by Mike Dash
De nenhum lado de todo. De todos os lados um pouco. (Drexler, J.)
Practice English with a Native Speaker
Creative Nonfiction, Writing, and the Pleasures of Reading
Trying to decolonise my mind
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