Agent of Chaos.

25 Feb

some Boise robots.

I’m beginning to think about getting settled again, much more so, yeah. Trolling cragslist tonight. Never ever my favorite thing, even less so when I’m not sure how my existence will look in the upcoming months. But for now I’m putting out feelers. I love this transient existence, but, paradoxically, the better I get at it, the more I fantasize about having a gym or a dojo where I regularly spar, my own kitchen, my own key, and a shelf where books and anime live.

There are times when my lifestyle contrasts starkly with those of the people I visit. Visiting Boise afforded me a great example of what can happen when worlds collide. I was staying with the incomparable Cheryl Maddalena, a fierce, honest poet and organizer.


Cheryl and I have much in common: we have similar worldviews, we often use the same content and techniques in our poetry, we both rock quirky femmey feminism on the regular, and we both developed our performance styles in the Bay. The trappings of our lives are very different, though. Cheryl has several degrees, a slam scene she founded and for which she’s responsible, a husband with a Real Job, two gorgeous little boys, two cats, and a big house in Boise to encompass them all.

Cheryl & sons.

Nice quiet neighborhood.

What would I do if I had people to take care of and big pretty things? I’m not even great at taking care of the assorted people and things already connected to me. All trappings have to be super streamlined. Anything high maintenance either gets left at home, or has to make do with getting ironed once a month/a whole bunch of text messages.

So what happens when these two worlds collide? Let’s draw a Venn diagram:

Small, cacophonous boys shock the weary traveler awake. The debaucherous visitor coerces the mild-mannered housewife into staying up til 4 AM writing and drinking beer. Cheryl makes Laura a grilled cheese sandwich with pickles and a glass of milk,

It was so delicious.

Laura stubs her cigarette butts out in Cheryl’s pretty porcelain bowl. /diagram

The other creature I spent lots of time with was Janelle.


Janelle swims around in the center of our diagram. Sometimes she’s the lightning rod of raucous, sometimes she waves in the current like algal bloom. Janelle and I ate delicious gourmet pizza, played trivia, frequented bars, beguiled strange men, watched a row of drunken patrons stand on a bar, pull their pants down, and let the bartender stick snifters to their ass cheeks…

If only I’d had a camera with a flash, I would show you proof.

When Cheryl and Janelle and I hung out together, we did things that were both enriching and frivolous, but mostly harmless, such as making earrings, or watching The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

My earrings.

When Janelle and Tara and I hung out together, we drank a lot.

Told you.

*shrugs* That’s why Janelle’s in the middle of the diagram.

Anyway, I felt like the loudest creature in Idaho. My time in Boise inspired me to coin the term, “Agent of Chaos” to describe this manifestation of myself, a blaze of honor – but also a warning, I guess. My bouts of wildness suit me because I don’t have to worry about feeding other people or making it to class on time, and because my shadow and I are in constant rapport. I have more to say about chaos, and I will tell you later, I promise.


INTERLUDE: Sonnets, Son.

Boris Pasternak once wrote, “form is the key,” actually as part of a longer quotation, but it’s a thought I return to from time to time, especially when I consider poetic structure. A teacher of mine once taught me this, explaining that learning to write poems in form can be incredibly liberating. I like the seeming paradox of that, like walking towards the wall in the labyrinth and finding a passageway.

I’ve been reading a series of new poems by this Chris Gilpin fellow, and it’s got me excited about sonnets again. Long before I’d ever heard of this wonderful monster called slam poetry, I wrote and studied the “all balls, no cock” variety (of Q-Tip fame). Suffice it to say, I read a fair amount of sonnets over the years, and the form itself does get boring unless folks sometimes break convention in one way or another.

Sonnets are especially frustrating for me, for some reason, but Chris has got me wanting to try the form out again. Who’s with me? I’ll attempt to match anyone who wants to throw down. Classic formula here, stick to the rules or break ’em as you like. Below you’ll find the first of Chris’ series (x-posted with his permission), which got me thinking these crazy thoughts in the first place. If you like this one, ask to see his others. They’re awesome, too.


The rain beats down against my roof tonight,
a-rat-a-tat-tattering finger tapping,
insistent like a salesman’s trap-flapping
“Hey-hey, buddy, you want this one, right?”
I twist the foam earplugs into my skull.
What I want is a serious sleeping pill,
but all I’ve got is this weak-ass NyQuil
which does little to beat life’s edges dull.
I’m fucked. I’ll never get a wink of sleep.
I lay entombed in sounds of wind and rain,
while ex-girlfriends dance through my tired mind.
I count them (which is more fun than counting sheep)
and smile: if I could do it all again,
I’d choose the same ones, or at least, the same kind.

Note: the Blonde Sonnets are my experiments with the sonnet form. The rhyme schemes do not necessarily conform to the standard Shakespearean or Spenserian blueprints. But they are all 14 lines long, play with iambic pentameter and attempt a volta – a shift of perspective, or tone – after the eighth line. My goal is to write them in the plainest language, with lightness and naivety, the passing thoughts of a blonde, like me. –Chris Gilpin


The work element of Boise was fantastic. The workshop I ran was small, but I loved the challenge I set for myself and those in attendance: I brought in Rob Sturma’s “For Black Girls…” from his new book, and asked everyone to try to write a poem about blackness. Yes, in the middle of fucken Idaho. My stipulations were to try to be humorous, and to avoid white guilt as best they could. The results were excellent, enlightening, and cathartic, I think. I got a good seed out of it, the short poem I’m now calling “Black Humor”. Isaac had some really good stuff going, too; I hope he’s working on that seed.

My set was alright, lots of anthems. Found myself wishing I’d taken Cheryl’s advice and gone a bit more experimental. The best part was a poem about pomosexuality Cheryl and I cowrote (on the aforementioned 4 AM beer night) and performed together.

This was our first draft.

During the slam, Tara Brenner performed some really ornate, solid work, Janelle surprised me by going dark and vulnerable, Kristen blew my mind with her innovation, and goddamn Cheryl did that poem I love about glow-in-the-dark white boys! Boise steady takes risks and sticks the landing, all while wearing 4-inch heels. That’s the sign of a grown woman, handling shit in stilettos, if need be. For my part? These boots are made for walking. Bringing the chaos to a city near you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: