Archive | March, 2010

Fear & Loving In Little Washington.

28 Mar

I promised my next post would be about the Women of the World Slam, but it ain’t. Sue me.

I spent today walking around downtown looking at the cherry blossoms with my mom and dad.

Cute, yeah?

Spring is my favorite season in DC. It really showcases the beauty of my hometown. The cherry trees that Japan gave the city almost a hundred years ago, pink and white and pale and sweet against those dark, ornate trunks…

Are you moved? I'm moved.

To experience these beauties against the breadth of the Tidal Basin, well, that’s among my favorite sights in the world.

On this early spring day, the air crisp, the sky bright and clear, tourists were out in force. Kids flew kites around the Washington Monument, couples kissed under the blossoms, folks frolicked in paddle boats. It was a good setting for love. A good day to feel sentimental.

See the kites?

It’s my last weekend here before moving to Chicago, into the next phase of my life. I’m excited, scared and excited. I’m moving into a house and a community full of poets I really respect, and I’m hoping hard I don’t make an ass of myself. Chicago is new and strange to me. I’ll be paying rent for the first time since I left Maui more than a year ago, and while I have some money, I don’t have a job, and certainly not enough well-paying gigs to sustain myself on poetry (yet). The notion of having a home of my own is also pretty nuts for a chickadee who’s barely stayed still for the last year, to the point where she’s skittish sleeping in a bed.

Ha! When I go fear of commitment, I take it to a whole ‘nother level, punchbuggies. (This is not even to talk about men! Shall we not mention men! They are pretty and make me break things!) The only commitment I’ve been able to fully make over the past year is to poetry. Got that bit right enough for where I’m at, even though I have loads to learn. But if I want to do more for my body and words right now, I need to hold still, to perform new work regularly, to write and read and listen and learn, to train my strength and grace and eloquence. Amusing. I’ve trained myself so well to be mobile and adaptable, the notion of a day job and a home of my own kinda makes me quake. But yeah, I’m poetry’s bitch, pretty much, so I do as she says. I am so yes ma’am with this, it isn’t even a game.

***

Best Day Jobs I’ve Ever Had

As a lifelong misfit, a restless ladycakes, someone who hates taking orders (even from poetry, sometimes), and a bad liar, I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the years. Most of ’em I liked okay, actually. It’s just the having to be there, and having to be there early, that usually fucks me up. Call me princess, serve me papers, we’re good. Some jobs I really, really liked, though, and even get midnight cravings for sometimes. Poetry aside, here are my all-time favorites, based on the job itself, not perks or coworkers:

bookbinder
shampoo assistant
writing tutor
editor for online comics reviews
music librarian

Did I mention I’m a misfit?

***

So babies my babies, I fly to Chicago on Thursday. I have resumes out, and intend, at some point in the next little while, to *gasp* sleep in a bed of my own, with art of my own choosing on the walls. What’s next, my friends? Tiny Laura clones? Animals to greet me? Bennies and a 401k? Or will your heroine accept the straitjacket for a few months, only to toss it all to the wind at summer’s end (yes, straitjacket is spelled correctly, bitches)? Stay tuned. And if you get the chance to kiss DC on the mouth for me, do it. Feel her up while you’re at it. Tell her to wear pale pink sometimes, for me. ❀

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And for the record…

20 Mar

I am aware of the shit storm of controversy happening online right now, and I am aware that one of the poets mentioned in my last post is deeply involved. I’m also aware that using the term “literary” in the light that I did might make me look like an asshole, and I’m aware that I could have used this post as an opportunity to voice my opinion on any number of the manifold issues recently brought to the surface.

Fact is, I’m fucking tired, y’all. I have shit to say, a lot of it, but I am too fucking tired to open that box of joy right now. Love yourselves, and please try not to nuke each other’s faces in the meantime.

North Beast! North, North Beast!

20 Mar

Given the history of the region, it shouldn’t be surprising that the New England slam scene boasts a reputation of having some of the highest literary standards in the community. Worcester is a secret bastion of old heads who continue to take the best risks and critique with an unflinching eye, Boston a familial scene rich with sophisticates and degenerates who write with equal fervor, and Providence, one of the rare scenes in the country that shows mastery of both polemic and innovation, performance and page.

Also, happily for a touring poet (if a little taxing for a road dog pushing thirty), New England has a wonderfully compact touring circuit – so a poet can feature at a different venue in the area every night. I featured at most of the New England venues, and every one was different, every one excellent in its way. Here’s the list, not in as great detail as I’d hoped, I’m afraid. Check out the shows for yourself, though. They all book consistently great features every week (brushes dirt off shoulders).

I’m not sorry that this post is long. LOOOOOONG! Nah, dude, I’m not sorry. Learn to read more than a paragraph at a time. Novels and shit. Print this out if the glow bothers your eyes, I won’t sue. I did 5 shows in 5 days, switching cities every time, so you can surely read about ’em: that part’s easy. Take a break in the middle and walk your cat, if you must. The words will be here when you get back.

MONDAY – The Dirty Gerund – Worcester, MA

Ralph's Diner.

This is a relatively new venue, started by Alex Charalambides and Nick Davis, sort of the up-and-comers of Worcester’s organizers.

Nick & Alex

The previous night, I’d watched Khary feature at The Poets Asylum open mic, which had a totally different feel.

Poets Asylum.

Where the PA is very calm and composed, housed in a cafe with discerning but quiet onlookers, the DG is a somewhat raucous bar space with a band backing the poets (if they like). The volume runs high, as does the humor, but I found folks really are prepared to listen. The open mic, unsurprisingly, featured a variety of work, from the surreal to the prosaic, much of it quite good indeed!

Alex and Nick ask their features to prepare two 20-minute sets for before and after the break – which is a lot more poems than most spots, and it’s a unique format, too. I loved doing this show. I love featuring in grown folks’ spaces so I don’t have to censor myself, and I typically do really well in bars. I love making people laugh. Plus I’m pretty comfortable riding chaos, yeah, and I like a big response from my crowds. It was also really, really fun performing with Shane and his band; they brought out totally different aspects of poems I’ve been doing for years, and made them feel fresh to me.

The Gerund also fed me a big ol’ cheeseburger (no I did not order a McGee, boo me) and fed me a couple of beers, which is always a lovely touch on top of the feature stipend and merch sales. People loved me, they bought books, and I remade friends (I love you, Bobby Gibbs! I love you Alex!)

The beautiful Bobby Gibbs.

and made new friends (cartwheel for us Nick Davis, do a backstroke for me Danielle, blow us a kiss Marwan). I wish them all luck and love. They treated me like royalty, y’all, definitely check this show.

That night I slept at Mike McGee’s for the last time. *sighs*

TUESDAY – Got Poetry Live – Providence, RI

This show is run by two of my oldest friends in the performance poetry world: Ryk McIntyre and Tony Brown. They’re also two of the poets whose opinions I most respect, and go to for critique pretty much every time I put a draft into the ether. Ryk and Tony put together a little show in a cafe with an intense core of real poets and real poetry lovers.

Tony & Ryk

Among my highlights: Ryk performing “Touch Creatures” and a hot new rumination on the nature of the afterlife, Tony rocking his punk anthem, Nataly Garcia’s crazy awesome kidney piece (keep an eye out for this woman, for your own good!),

Nataly

and a poet coming up to me after the show and saying, “You’re holding tension here,” then touching a spot on my spine that made me sit up straight, then smiling and saying, “Relax. It’s all coming together,” then he left.

This guy.

My very own mystic of the moment, I like that. After the show, Ryk thanked me for doing a really energetic feature even though the room wasn’t packed to the gills – but it is always a question of quality over quantity.

It was such a joy to hang out with Ryk and Christopher Johnson afterward. The two of them are on some odd couple shit, and it’s kinda delightful. Besides, hanging out with fellow professionals after a feature is one of my favorite activities, and both these men are good friends.

Christopher & Ryk

I crashed in Ryk’s basement that night, and got to mingle with Autumn and Melissa the next day.

WEDNESDAY – Boston Cantab – Boston, MA

The Cantab

The Cantab is one of the country’s legendary venues, so it’s among the shows that freaks people out. Was I among the freaked-out? *shrugs* Yeah, a little. At first, I tried to compose an Impressive Set, one that would let the poets know for sure that I Deserved To Be There. Then… I toyed with my set list, and toyed with it some more, and finally rested on a set that, actually, was pretty comedic and performative. Zombies and fucking and Alanis Morisette, y’all. πŸ˜‰

The open mic was epic, like two hours long, but crazy good. Unfortunately, nerves dictated that I miss much of it. I found it cool that the Cantab has, what, five hosts who rotate in through the course of the evening!? Highly unusual, but it works: all the hosts are professionals to the core, and they work well together. The star, of course, is Simone Beaubien, whose composure and class hijack everyone’s eyes and ears. Such a pleasure to see her do her thing.

Simone

The slam was hot. Heard a poem from Meaghan Ford that made me wish I could transform my 4-minute poem “Chamber Music” into a 6-minute poem, incorporating some of her brilliant ideas.

Meaghan

And Oz Okoawo? *shakes head* He’s a beast. Ridiculous. I was sitting close to the stage at the end, and I could see Oz trembling as he performed each of his poems. That’s commitment to craft, y’all. Those of you in Boston who “have” to slam against this guy on the regular: use it. You couldn’t ask for a better sparring partner.

Oz

We went to IHOP after, yeah, and ate things. April Ranger was crazy nice to me, dudes and dudettes. She kinda lit up when we talked, which was cool, because people say great things about her all the time. I spent a peaceful night in her Lady Palace (her house, not her vagina) in Jamaica Plain.

April & Audrey at IHOP (oh my).

THURSDAY – Providence Poetry Slam – Providence, RI

AS220

I took the train back down to Providence for my AS220 feature. I’ve done this show before, and it’s one of my absolute favorite places to showcase my range. One of my stage homes, yeah, where I feel really comfortable and loved. They have the literary bent of New England, but years of ridiculous effort on the part of Jared Paul and a few others make this an extremely energetic show. On this occasion, I only performed a few poems: it turned out to be one of AS220’s semifinal bouts as they prepare a team to send to the National Poetry Slam. So I performed my little set and walked away – to a standing ovation. That’s two now, for those of you keeping track at home!

Megan Thoma rocks just as she was reputed to rock. She’s got the words, the style, and the dinosaur arms (YES). To this day I’m pondering the nature of anal sex. Seriously, it’s good to hear a poet go unabashedly funny and smart and sexy librarian.

Thoma

Sam Teitel? This kid’s got funk. The good kind. Structurally the most innovative poet I’ve seen command a crowd in ages, and it was smooth, y’all. Nick Davis showed balls (not literally [ahhh, Providence joke!]) and sheer magic, taking every risk and rocking every emotional potential the crowd had to offer. Christopher Johnson? ha. A little smile creeps up on my face when I see veterans holding back on their firepower, just a little, just enough. Must say he schooled everyone on that last poem; he knows exactly what to do with that crowd. Johnson is unfuckwitable when he wants to be.

Chris schooling the crowd.

Any North Beast poets I talked to over that week who mentioned being baffled by what Providence wants – look at how Jared hosts. Look at what Chris does. This is not a passive crowd; they’ll listen, but they want to fucking rock.

And I want to say for the trillionth time I love love love love Jared Paul. I think he was the first slammaster to ever offer me a feature, something like two years ago, and he has always had my back. There, I feel better now. πŸ™‚

Jared & Sarah

After we ate great pizza, and everyone was beautiful.

FRIDAY – The White Haus – Jamaica Plain, NY

White Haus wall.

This was the first time I performed at a haus party (yes, I’m funny). The White Haus is an artists’ collective that features impromptu events all the time. It’s a very cool place, one of those spots that blooms controlled chaos.

Maybe my favorite.

I love places where artists are given free reign, I just love ’em. It reminds me of when I was a teen and I wanted to turn my room into the Amazon rainforest.

Same basic idea, right?

The woman who set up this show? Casey Rocheteau, a friend of mine from the college days who I hadn’t seen since then. So we had a squealing reunion in her kitchen while she cooked umm, DELICIOUS tofu.

Casey is cooler than you.

Not the Wind! Not the Flag!, a band from Toronto, did an atmospheric soundscape of a set which everyone really enjoyed. Then Casey opened up with a set of calm, intensely personal poems that had our little audience visibly leaning forward for more. Jamie followed with a set of dark, dreamtime poems from his manuscript, and I was nodding, and very pleased indeed, because his work has noticeably grown in ambition and grandeur. I hadn’t heard either of these poets in several years, and how happy it made me to see they’ve been working continuously since then, and their voices are resonant on an entirely different level.

J*Me

I closed the night with a range of poems and songs played very intimately, like bedtime stories. Love performing for poets. It’s such a deep pleasure to know that they get what I’m doing. It feels especially great to get props from the New England poets and organizers because, like the Bay, they feel like my poetic family. That’s where I first learned about slam, and that’s one of the places I’ve felt happiest bringing the love home.

***


That was my last New England feature, and the end of my tiny tour. Next post: the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Columbus, OH.

I Wanna Be Like Mike.

16 Mar

Hey. I just took fourth place in the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Awesome. πŸ™‚

Also awesome? I spent most of my time in Worcester at Mike McGee‘s house. He is one of my favoritest people in the whole wide. I’ll probably make Mike blush a little over the course of this post, but not embarrass him too much, I hope.

Mike McGee & the Tapioca Pearls.

When I was in Worcester, I read a brief article by Seth Godin (whose blog you should check out on the regular, btw), and damn is it good. Assuming you’re too lazy to click over and read those three paragraphs, I’ll paraphrase: Godin’s idea is that genius is actually innovation, “the act of solving a problem in a way no one has solved it before.”

I like this tons, mainly because I endorse the idea that everybody has the capacity for brilliance, that it isn’t the dominion of those born with high IQs or families of scholars and rocket scientists. Godin’s definition suggests that there are infinite manifestations of genius, and that it can and does come from everywhere.

So Mike McGee’s a genius. Not to suggest that Mike McGee does not have a high IQ and is not the offspring of rocket scientist scholars, not at all, my friends. But I’ll tell you some of the OTHER reasons why. Stylistically, he’s become one of the world’s best performance poets – and he’s done so using comedy as his primary vehicle. That was an unusual competitive tactic the first time Mike took a title, and it’s unusual now, seven years later. The truism that, “if it bleeds, it leads,” holds firm in slam, and your comedy has to be pretty fucking sharp to buck that trend.

Poets need tools, fools!

More than that. If, as Andrea Gibson has claimed, poets get paid to “talk for a living,” then let’s say outright that Mike is a genius of talk. He’s good at talking to people in ordinary life, yeah, whether it be by putting on a voice or character, remembering the names and details of any of the thousands of folks he meets in any given year, or by taking the standard slam poem and turning it into fucking impromtu gloriousness. Hit the link and watch. The sound quality ain’t great, but it gives you some sense of how correct I am. πŸ˜› I’ve seen Mike perform this poem ten times, probably, in different venues, and every time it’s totally different, funny in new ways, and it always, always kills. Because Mike talks and poems in a way no one else has thought to do before, and no one could properly imitate, although many try.

One of the reasons I like performance poetry is that so many of us who do “this” well do “this” in very unique ways, drawing from schools as diverse as stand-up, hip hop, page poetry, church, dance, theater, indie rock, performance art, and more. To get really good, you kind of have to be yourself. It’s a funny, bastard art, and it rewards hybridization and innovation – if not always immediately or directly; some of our greatest slam poets have achieved little in the way of national titles, but used what they learned to innovate in other fields that needed fresh perspective.

But one of my favorite things about Mike McGee is that he’s so awfully generous. He gives great hugs. He listens. He answers any and every question, especially about poetry, because he wants to help. Mike got his start in San Jose, got big, and returned to his hometown for some time to help host the local slam and get it moving again. He’s lived in Worcester for the past year, hosting Kitchen Sessions (mentioned in my last post), a happening that showcases high-caliber and developing local and touring talent for free, in Mike’s house, hosted by the man himself.

I watched Mike setting up for the show that night, sorting through Chex Mix with rubber gloves,

Mike & Chex Mix.

meeting and greeting, hosting, talking and talking and talking, cleaning up afterward, and it was then, at the end of the night, that I finally saw it. He was tired. Mighty Mike was really, deeply thoroughly exhausted. That’s when the level of his giving finally struck me, and I felt more honored than ever to be his friend.

Mike's chapbooks. A treasure trove of you and me.

Mike makes the world better. He wants us to laugh, and he wants us to feel important. He wants lots of us to tour, y’all (or travel, at least). Mike’s the one who talked me into touring for real. He gave me my resolve to do this.

See? Iiiii....can go anywhere...!

I probably wouldn’t be writing this now if it weren’t for Mike. He’s one of many amazing people who’ve told me I’m a good poet, and I deserve to be loved. And he makes me feel strong, yeah. To innovate. To see new places. To do the funny. To bring the kindness. I will always endeavor to do so.

Genius may be having the idea to inventing nuclear fission, microeconomics, or artificial hearts, but none of those things suits my skill set at this point in my life. If I can be like Mike – if I can bring brilliance, laughter, love, generosity, and understanding into the world around me, I will have lived, and well.

This is what genius means to me.

Also…

12 Mar

WoWPS Rankings: First Night.

You wouldn’t know it from my last post, but I’m currently at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Columbus, Ohio. The standings after the first night of prelims have me in 13th place (out of 72, I believe). Wish me luck, butterbeans!

Oh, New England!

12 Mar

Worcester.

The day after the Nuyo, Khary and I traveled (by train, the best way) to New England. I stared longingly out the window a lot. I hadn’t been back to Massachusetts – besides a transfer or two at Logan or South Station – in five years. Gorgeous, gorgeous Massachusetts. Purple and blue woods, little frozen lakes and ponds, breezes heady with sweet ice and rotting leaves. Late winter nostalgia: I miss the comfort in being sad. The deep aloneness of genuine winter that’s impossible to find in California or DC, how it ebbs and flows from melancholy and to joy as the seasons turn. The abandoned farmhouses and brick millhouses scattered in the quiet woods, sometimes peppered with graffiti, the places where kids go to feign boredom and smoke pot.

Here live Lauras sixteen to twenty-three, and all the people she loves and walks and talks with in these woods, the words they speak feeling very important, everything relies on their finding the right words… People she kisses, laughs, reads/writes and makes love with, trapped here forever. In real time, all of us are scattered now, and, but for sightings brief and occasional, almost entirely lost to each other.

Bittersweet is one of my favorite flavors.

Worcester view.

Yes, homecoming. I saw my first poetry slam ever in Worcester, back when the naturalist and I had just begun to be in love, and we still made each other happy – just happy. The Massachusetts poets were my first. Ryk McIntyre and Bobby Gibbs were at that first slam, and Bill MacMillan hosted. Iyeoka and Oz Okoawo were the first features I ever saw, at Hampshire College, followed by Tony Brown, Corrina Bain, and Sou MacMillan. Boston’s Cantab was the first Big Venue I ever attended, where I saw Jack McCarthy, Simone Beaubien, Eric Darby, and J*Me read for the first time. It would be a while before I saw Jared Paul, but I competed in a slam for the first time on his stage (long before it stuck), at the Providence Poetry Slam at AS220. The Worcester Individual World Poetry Slam was the first national event I attended, where I met Gabrielle.

Tony.

Tony picked us up from Worcester’s big beautiful train station. He’s a great first face to see. We’ve been friends for years and years, sharing poems and critique and love and snarkiness. We drove over to the house he and Missy share with Mike McGee, and the bunch of us sat around and talked for a while, unwinding a little before Mike’s Kitchen Sessions.

Missy.

***

INTERLUDE: Best Songs About the United States

Born and raised in this country as a conscientious female of color at the end of the twentieth century, I’ve had plenty of occasion to be embarrassed about my national identity (in an earlier entry, I mentioned how silly I find the concept of having national pride). It wasn’t until the night of 09/2001, when one of the deans at my college, who was trained as a storyteller, spoke to a group of us at the arts house about what genuinely is beautiful about this country, culminating in a moving rendition of “This Land is Your Land”. Since then, I’ve been very aware that my favorite songs about Americanness are songs that celebrate the place for itself. Here are a few of my favorites that meet those criteria. I’m not linking to music here, but finding renditions online should be very simple.

This Land is Your Land is one of those songs that feels really timeless, like it could’ve been around forever – but Woody Guthrie wrote it in 1940! I know, right? This might be my all-time favorite song about the US, because it celebrates the whole of the land, “from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters”, and gives custody of the land back to we the people. Never fails to move me, never fails to get me singing along.

Country Roads, by John Denver, is another gorgeous song about place. And anyone who’s ever driven through the countryside of West Virginia knows just how stunning the landscape around those parts truly is.

Autumn in New York, by Vernon Duke. Sweet, melancholy, a lovely portrait of the busy city in its quieter moments.

Oh Shenandoah is one of those songs I wail sometimes. The melody is so rich with longing – and the lyrics happen to refer to the area of the country from which I hail, so this is a special favorite of mine.

Mount Pleasant, by Tuscadero, is, of course, even closer to home. I fucken adore this song. It captures the sensibility of DC in the days when I was growing up, a pure celebration of the city for itself.

New England, by Jonathan Richman, is the song to which the title of this entry refers. Hilarious and beautiful in its simplicity, this song always gives me palpitations and crazy nostalgia.

What are your favorite songs about the United States as a place?

***

That night, a bunch of Mike McGee’s friends gathered in his kitchen to read poems. I heard a lot of innovative and well-crafted work that only reinforced the stereotype of New England as a literary mecca. I performed what I think is my best poem, if a difficult one to read (The Kunstlerroman of Roger Bonair-Agard, the Greatest Lover In the World), and got a very good response, especially from Victor Infante, who’s definitely difficult to impress. Khary did an hour-long set (!) that showcased his beautiful strangeness, his adeptness with the language of the brain and body, and his quirky humor. It was a real pleasure to see him perform a full feature for the first time.

Khary preparing his set.

I have some video from Kitchen Sessions which I’ll upload soon, I promise. I missed a lot – the battery on my little camera died after forty minutes or so – but there should be a bit of sweet footage I can share with y’all.

Kitchen Sessions poster.

Do me one favor today: take a minute or so and appreciate something of the land, even a manmade part, if you want. The oak trees in your suburbs, the lake nuzzling your city, the sun gleaming off the face of a skyscraper, the mountains or vast plains you can see in the distance when you look a particular way. Just let something beautiful and still enter your mind for a moment. When we rode through the Massachusetts countryside, I realized just how long it’s been since I gave myself a chance to really do that. But theoretically, one of the best things about being a poet is giving yourself an opportunity to allow that stillness into your life, more and more, looking more and more closely at what surrounds us, and what we take for granted, every day.

Love.

Outside Mike's window.

The Holy Host.

3 Mar

The Nuyo.

If we continue with our supposition that slam is like church, then the host of a show is the chief medium through which the holiness of poetry and performance is (potentially) transmitted. The host absolutely sets the tone for the night. I’ve seen hosts stack the outcome of competitions by messing with the order of lists, introducing or commenting on poets’ work with bias, or even actively leading the audience in cheers for their preferred poets.

I don’t want to dwell on that, though. More elementally, the host is the conduit through which the show most clearly expresses its style, preferences, and openness. According to Ekabhumi’s experiments in Berkeley (and I think this usually bears out), a female host, by her very presence, encourages more women to grace the stage. A black host makes poets of color feel more welcome. The host can also guide the mood of a show by opening/closing with particular songs or poems, and choosing particular poets to sacrifice or perform in the open mic. Even if the host makes no conscious effort, her personality and attitude affect the audience by her interactions with them. What she does deeply affects the mood of the room and the feel of the show.

I visited the Nuyo briefly about a year ago, so I’d seen Mo Browne open, as she usually does, but the night Khary and I cofeatured, Mo was on tour in Cali.

The beautiful Mo Browne, very much missed.

Luckily, Jive Poetic was around to host in her stead. He got the night going the same way I’d seen Mo do, in what must be a Nuyo standard, bumping BBD’s “Poison”, getting the audience singing, dancing, and energized before the poetry even started. Throughout the night, Jive was generally just really fucking fun and sweet. He made all the poets feel noticed and special, even as he teased them, and himself. I definitely want to go back and see Mo host a full night, but I’ve seen enough of both of them to confidently say the Nuyo features two of the funniest, most dynamic, and loving hosts in the country. I’d put both Jive and Mo in my top five.

Jive hosting. Note the Carleton sweater.

***

INTERLUDE: Staying Healthy On the Road

I know I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth posting again and again. Most poets I know, even those who don’t tour, are terribly unhealthy: we eat badly, tend not to exercise, take substances that fuck us up and generally wreak havoc on our bodies. I’ve suffered from all kinds of awful ailments while on tour. My back has gone out (Boise), bedbugs have gnawed on me (Esalen), I’ve suffered from TMJ Disorder (Austin), and I’ve gotten debilitating colds (St. Paul, notably). I’m pretty hardy, all told, so I pity the fool with a weak immune system. Being on the road is stressful as is, then poets come into contact with a lot of people, a lot of germs, and switch climates and environments all the time.

At the risk of being obnoxiously punny, let’s consider another spin on the word “host”. A host, in the biological sense, is a carrier for a parasite. Keeping that in mind, think of your body-soul, what have you, as being in steady contact with all kinds of stuff that’d be happy to jump in your body and ride around for a while, maybe devour you a little, with no regard for whether it hurts you or slows you down. I’m not trying to exacerbate anyone’s OCD here, but the reality of being on tour is that this stuff is going to try to get at you.

Here’s a list, then, of commonsense but crucial tips to stay at your best and brightest while you’re out and about.

Sleep. Get as much of it when you can. It won’t always be possible to get a ton of deep sleep, but it’s recently been proved that REM sleep actually is cumulative, so you can actually make up hours that you miss.

Keep It Fresh. Whenever you get a chance to eat fresh fruits and veggies, do so. Again, you won’t always have the chance to eat anything healthier than a wedge of iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing. Consider fruit and vegetable juices, or using frozen fruits (same nutritional value as fresh fruit) to make smoothies when you’re staying at someone’s house.

Supplements. Emergen-C does excellent things to the body. Taking a packet when you begin to feel sick or before a night of heavy drinking can ward off disaster. The packets are also super small and lightweight, so they won’t mess with the weight of your bags. Also, as per Paulie Lipman, carry a packet of slippery elm lozenges, found at most health food stores. If you find your throat or voice is beginning to wear out, one of these tablets should fix you up, at least long enough to get you through your feature.

Simple Exercise. Setting up a simple routine for yourself is a great idea. Even if it’s just a series of stretches, Sun Salutations, for example, this is a great way to get the kinks out of your body and stay limber for your time onstage. Even something as small as going for short walks around the venue or the neighborhood where you’re staying can really get the Jet Blue/Greyhound/Amtrack/driving knots out of your body. Also…

Unsketchy Massages. People like touching poets, I guess, and there are a lot of givers on our community, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to find.

Use Condoms. Assuming you’ve ignored the “unsketchy” caveat above, and assuming you’re sexually active, rubber up. If you don’t have any sex on the road, you can still use condoms, to make indestructible water balloons, for example.

Smoking. Don’t start.

Drinking & Other Drugs. Moderate.

***

The Nuyo was excellent. Even given the nasty snow coming down, we had a full, attentive house. Logan Phillips, whose work I hadn’t seen in years, ripped a couple of poems that made me really wish I were staying in New York to see one of his full feature sets with Verbobala, his cross-border poetry troupe.

Logan.

The slam itself showcased a range of solid work, from my Canadian geek crush Duncan Shields,

Duncan.

to the tender, fervent Rock Wilk, to several poets I’d never heard before, including Savant, who won the night.

Rock and Savant.

I was a little nervous about sharing a feature with Khary. His poems were rockstar, as expected, especially his excellent strange hip hop ode.

Khary Jackson.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find I held my own, even with a good dose of new work in the mix. Opening with “Rut” was really fun, and reading “Chamber Music” for the first time satisfied me immeasurably.

After the show, a lot of women came up to me and thanked me, especially for performing “Maneater”. These glowing lady fans are becoming more and more a mainstay as I grow on tour, and it’s exactly what I want. I want women to see me onstage and realize they can be funny and sexy and bold too, if they like. Being a conduit or a carrier for this message gives me strength to keep doing what I do. Hallelujah. Amen.