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Quick Newses.

8 Dec

The first run of my first book, How to Seduce a White Boy in Ten Easy Steps, has been printed. I’ll have books in hand in a week. You can buy them from me, or from my press, Write Bloody.

I’m competing in the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam in Charlotte, NC, starting tomorrow evening. Wish me luck!

Love. ❤


Heart, Lungs, Legs (with apologies to Daemond Arrindell): WoWPS Post 4 and Final.

10 May

As an artist, I find it very easy to slip between the extremes of narcissism and self-negation, isolation and codependency. For a moment in that Green Room in Columbus, I felt really alone. A lot of poets had coaches or buddies to hold their hands: Megan brought Ayinde along for comfort, Tristan chose Baz to advise her, Eboni had Falu and Mo, Sierra had Colin,

Sierra & Colin.

and a lot of the women who’d made some kind of Finals in the past (rightfully) seemed to have a kind of preexisting sisterhood. Since I wasn’t repping a venue, and hadn’t for a good couple of years, I didn’t feel like I had folks in my corner rooting for me in the same way.

Of course, I hadn’t been alone at any point, and I wasn’t then.

Celebrating making the list.

Since I started slamming, I’ve had people holding my hand, pushing me to stay in the game and get better. Too many, far too many to name everyone, but going into this particular competition, Tony Brown gave me excellent, thorough critique on the three new poems I brought into prelims, Khary Jackson told me, as early as WoWPS the year previous, that I could definitely do it, and constantly pushed and inspired me to write more, my SF women (Mona Webb, Kim Johnson, and Lucky 7) gave me a quiet room to rest in the night before Finals,

Mona Webb, my first coach.

Copperhead Red and Andi Kauth agreed to be my posse in those restless moments when I was waiting for the final list to go up,

Copperhead Red.

Panama Soweto reminded me throughout the competition to trust my own instincts and told me wonderful jokes when my nerves were getting the best of me, and Sean McGarragle was my on-site hand-holder, meeting me outside between poems to advise me and tell me how things felt from the crowd.

Backstage proper, Megan and I gravitated to each other.

Megan's legs, two of innumerable gorgeous parts of her.

Rickman and I met in Richmond about a year ago, through Survivor, my brother and her coach. We supported each other through prelims, and as two of the dark horses in the race, coming from the same region of the country, the bond felt natural and welcome. Rachel McKibbens, who performed the sacrificial poems for the first two rounds, was a great help to me and everyone else. At one point, she comforted each of us individually, telling us all that no one could do exactly what each of us could do.

Rachel, also being fucking hilarious.

Rachel and Gypsee Yo were also two women who took me aside once I’d qualified for Finals and told me, “It’s about time,” which was totally unexpected, and brought me to tears…

But yes, we did the draw, and lo, I pulled a ten out of twelve. That’s a fantastic draw, for all of you keeping track at home. It was especially good for me given the way the round played out. One poet after another brought the dramatic, the tragic, beautiful but consistently solemn and heavy work. As the first round wore on, I got more and more restless, because I wanted to flip that energy soooo badly, and I began to worry someone else would catch on and beat me to it. Rachel saw the same trend. She kept saying aloud, to the room, “If I were a coach in this bout, I know exactly what I’d do right now. I know exactly who I’d send up,” and I knew we were thinking the same thing, and I hoped she wouldn’t offer that information up to the room. If someone had asked her, I’m sure she would have shared – but no one did. So we had a run of nine serious poems leading into mine.

And oh, it felt so fucking good to bring a funny poem onstage at that point. Stepping out into that spotlight, looking out at the full and eager house, how lovely and buzzing was that moment, especially knowing that the audience and I were on the express train to Joyville. Spot on, y’all. I felt like the Love Doctor. To me, nothing feels better than doing the right poem at the right moment, especially when it’s a funny poem – I can never get enough of that palpable relief and happiness that radiates from the audience. The judges felt me too, and I walked away with the high score of the first round.

Crazy eyes are my specialty.


INTERLUDE: How to Be a Funny Poet

WoWPS was one of a long list of competitions I’ve attended that made it apparent that lot of poets are afraid to perform funny work, especially when the stakes are high. This is justified only insofar as we as a culture tend not to give humor the respect it deserves. I talked to Mike McGee about winning his title using two funny poems out of three, and the kind of latent disrespect he felt from some of the community – as though winning with humorous work was somehow less valid. When Sonya Renee won her title, I imagine some of the same judgment was passed on her (although there were quite obviously other elements at play as well).

But laughter is as essential as tears. As a competitor, you really ought to have at least a few funny poems in your repertoire. Take my advice, darlings, and diversify the tone of your offerings. Or else I promise: if I think I can beat you and make the audience laugh in the process, I will do it every chance I get.

I was pleased, however, that a couple of different poets asked me, after competition was over, how to write a satirical poem. That’s a good look! It means I actually did get props for bringing the funny, and more poets are thinking about doing the same. It’s especially exciting, for me, to think of more women bringing funny poems, as we are generally so fucking eager to be taken seriously. These thoughts are especially for those women who want to get laughs.

1. “Funny” comes in many forms. Think about the voice you’re going for. Wry, sarcastic, deadpan, cheesy? Who/what makes you laugh? Study comedians who you like and think about why what they do works for you. If you don’t know many comedians, ask folks for recommendations. Think about your body: can you pull off physical or slapstick humor? Bringing a high-energy funny poem is often the best means of using the entire stage – and if you can do that well, you’ll reap the rewards.

2. Timing is everything. I was just talking to Baz about this. Some people have a natural sense of comedic timing. Others have to work a lot harder to make their jokes carry. Most folks mess up their timing a lot when they first begin to write funny poems, stepping on the audience’s laughter and rushing through jokes. Then there’s also the issue of keeping the momentum up and keeping the poem moving, so letting the laughs go on too long can be a danger too. It takes a fair amount of practice to learn how to play a funny poem to a room (and the laughs often come at different moments in different rooms, so some measure of flexibility is key).

3. Write your poems short. Most of my comedic poems clock in at about 2:30 if I read them straight through. That gives me a full 30+ seconds to allow the crowd to laugh.

4. Seriousness as foundation. Very few poets I know can pull off poems that are just plain silly in real competition (again, Sonya and Mike come to mind). That takes a pretty real mastery of comedy, I think. The audience generally wants to feel like you have something important to say, even if you say it with a wink and a nod. My two most reliable comedic poems (The Body Beautiful and The Miscegenator) both have an element of gravitas: the former poem flips in tone at the end and goes sincere, and the latter stays big and ridiculous but talks about a topic that people take very seriously.

5. Seriousness as spice. Ekabhumi told me that every serious poem should have a funny moment, and every funny poem should have a serious moment. This moment is what he refers to as a “release valve”, a chance for the audience to breathe. Generally I think this is very sage advice: when you give your crowd a little moment off, they tend to come back to you refreshed and ready for more.


I had a similarly lucky draw for the second round, and similarly good fortune in having style and content that contrasted strongly with my competitors’. The green room was suddenly almost empty going into the last round. My Rickman was gone, Rachel was gone, I was going first, and I was out of poems I really, really wanted to perform. I did the poem I thought was the cleanest and strongest out of what I had left, but for the first time that night I knew I wasn’t hitting it. It was the wrong poem for that moment, and I felt that the instant I started performing. I talked to Chauncey about this later, and she said that folks don’t really seem to understand just how many poems you need to get up there and stay up there, and I think she’s right. But taking fourth was a great honor for me. I’m proud of myself, and I’m super thankful to everyone who helped me get that far. I proved something to myself that night, and I walked away very happy indeed.

The End.

Individuality vs. Versatility: WoWPS Post 3 (roll the dice to check your stamina)

8 May

Recently, on Rik’s recommendation, I started watching Bleach, an anime series I’d seen around but hadn’t tried out. I’m about halfway through the series now, and y’know, it’s good. The episodes are a little more formulaic than I typically enjoy, but the devotion to long-term character development, satisfying plot twists, and overall badassery makes this a series worth watching, IMHO (if you want to watch, it’s on Hulu, and broken up into parts on YouTube. Just remember to skip the shitty theme songs at the beginning and end).

I tend to prefer anime that involves some kind of regular dueling action (swordplay, gunplay, supernatural powers, &c.). It’s fun and exciting, even when you know who’s going to win. I love the insane creativity that goes into the making of these alternate universes. Along with compelling RTV shows like Top Chef, Project Runway or The Biggest Loser, I find the anime I watch to be a great motivating tool for competition. Characters are constantly saying things like, “I’ll do my best!” or “I won’t lose!”, whether they be doe-eyed neophytes or virtual demigods.

Gonna spoil here, just a little. Bleach features a class of warriors known as Soul Reapers. Each Soul Reaper who attains a certain mastery of his/her (usually his, though there is one truly admirable woman thus far) technique has markedly different powers; these powers are halfway drawn from the spirit-inhabited swords they carry. Sort of like the patroni drawn from wands a la Harry Potter, only MUCH more dope. Kind of like each Dog of the State drawing on a different element a la Fullmetal Alchemist. Or just the old school notion of different martial artists practicing different fighting styles.

For me, maybe the coolest thing about making it to Finals was feeling I was meeting eleven other incredible warriors in battle. And dude, I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s pretty fucken extra awesome to me being in a room full of warriors with vaginas. I’d seen or sparred with all these women before, so I knew each had something really special going on, her own power, her own fighting style. And Finals was a different kind of arena than I’d ever battled in before. The previous night’s prelims at the tight, packed Writing Wrongs venue felt, before it even began, like a street fight waiting to happen, where the women who won would have to grapple, get bloody-knuckled and sweat; WoWPS Finals felt as close to the Coliseum as I’ve ever come. Neat-o!

Yeah, I respected and continue to respect all of my competitors in the context of the game. Fond as we are of saying slam is random, the random draw, ranking system, and double preliminaries make it kind of hard to ascend to finals on an absolute fluke. And okay, say Ms. Wise, Tristan, Hannah, Megan or I, or any Finals first-timer, makes it on a fluke. That doesn’t explain why most of the pack stays veteran: Sierra, Dee, Chauncey, Eboni, Nicole, Nitche, and Gypsee Yo have all done it before. On the adverse tip, I remember someone bemoaning the lack of new blood to challenge the seemingly eternal champions of slam, but I don’t see it that way at all. I think a lot of folks, once they “get” their own styles and “get” the way the game is played, are more likely to reach that level again and again, if they stay wanting it (few stay wanting it). But every Finals I see new warriors in the arena, and often enough it’s those new warriors who win the day. Amy winning iWPS last year is a great example of that, and so are three of the four top teams at last year’s Nationals (because no one thought ABQ would come back, right? or that SF and St. Paul could bring some serious shit? but Nuyo does make it pretty much every year).

I would not filthy my presently veryshiny brain with trying to imply who the Best Slam Poets are; I’m not suggesting any given Finals necessarily showcases the best motherfuckin artists in the known universe, just a sliver of the slam poets who have enough mastery of their own personal styles and mastery of the nature of the competition to score the best, given the proper circumstances. I killed in prelims at WoW using a poem that totally bombed in prelims at iWPS only a few months before (Did I get five 10s? Yeeaahhh. That has never ever happened to me before, or since, with any poem, in the four years I’ve been slamming. Still think it’s a dream).

Which brings us back to Bleach. When characters are confronted with a really dope hero or villain, Bleach uses a phrase I’ve seen in other anime series: “He’s so strong!”, but even more fun, sometimes characters say, “That…that spiritual pressure!”, which is Bleach‘s way of implying someone’s really powerful, in the zone, or on fire. What reliably puts someone in her spiritual firepower zone? Desperately wanting to win, needing to share the poems she’s brought, reading the venue and the crowd and the night well, and having practiced to the point where the odds that she’ll drop a line or fuck up her delivery are slim.

Different venues and different nights matter enormously, in the same sense that battling on one kind of terrain plays to some fighters’ advantage. If, say, Jeanann Verlee were battling Tony Jackson, on most nights I’d be inclined to give Jeanann the advantage in NYC, and Tony the advantage in Austin, because they’re both incredibly savvy writers and performers, but familiar turf matters very much.

When you’re on the road, you have to learn to adapt very quickly to different crowds and venues. Sometimes you’re more successful, sometimes you disappoint yourself, but you do better the more you get out there. Touring can definitely be an advantage in competition. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at least eight of the twelve of us up there had done some touring previous to that night – and the high representation of women who have 2+ venues to work with on a regular basis, from NYC to ATL to DEN, speaks even more to that point.

So I’d definitely say versatility is one of the lotus/cherry blossom petals (I’ve been watching anime for days) of slam winningness. This is the idea (that I heard from The Fugees first, righteous) that one should “practice many styles” or, as we say in slam, “have deep pockets” – think of Sonya Renee going from a fist-pumping anthem on a woman’s right to choose to an insanely funny adventure with a manmade cheese product. Being able to speak to different crowds – the difference between the set I choose to perform at Van Slam or Java Monkey. Knowing how best to utilize a space – Jared Paul standing on a chair at a strong focal point in the venue to command the crowd’s attention. Adaptability is key.

But even more important, I think, is having a keen sense of oneself. I’ve seen a lot of poets who have one really developed style do very well in slam – folks who just do that one thing really fucking well, and no one else does it quite like they do. If you can’t beat someone who only does one thing, maybe you need to do your thing better. Or just not slam: that’s cool too.

As far as strategy goes, I’d definitely rather try to flip or transform the trends the poets before me have set than try to beat them by following in their footsteps. They’re likely doing what they do best, which probably isn’t the same thing you do best – and even if it’s something you do better, as long as the poet who precedes you reps okay, you need to smash that representation to smithereens to make that moment really worthwhile for you and for the audience.

If you think about it, slam is just like Bleach: having a strong sense of self and a strong understanding of the weapons one carries (even given mastery of only one technique) affords a person a definite edge in battle. I felt like bowing to my eleven opponents before we’d even begun, because I knew they’d all mastered styles that I hadn’t.

So for a minute, at the beginning, it felt pretty great to have the hodgepodge of us tradeswomen or masters crowded into that little Green Room backstage, waiting for the show to begin. Then we did the draw for the first round order, and that was the moment my chest suddenly felt three sizes too small for all the suddenly rowdy fucken organs within.

A Few Notes on Competition: WoWPS Post 2

5 May

I realize that by saying WoW wasn’t that much fun for me, I was implying that competition itself isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun. In this particular instance, I badly wanted to make a finals stage and I was getting impatient, so it was difficult to relax.

But being onstage is almost always fun to me (except in those scary, scary dreams), and performing the right poem at the right moment is especially enjoyable and exciting. Other aspects of competition can be fun, too: trying to beat someone whose haircut annoys you, for example. All told, the pirate queen in me occupies a very different territory from the bleeding-heart Californian (as some might see me), but when I slam, those two aspects necessarily have to coexist. The excited, fiery part that loves to battle and loves to win, and the sweeter dreamier part that loves connecting with people.

Rambling: It’s grey out, but a beautiful morning.

I care about writing and performing and connecting well, and I care about the game. If you consider games as a means to test oneself and be social, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. If the recent past is any indication, I prefer to play Bully with John (Survivor) or Rob or Courtney instead of alone, and I never play Mario without Kate, Dave, Bekah, Courtney, Natalie, Rob or John (and we got Dad to play Mario once, right? but Mom didn’t play? but they both played some Wii Sports with us, which was cool. Emily Rose and her sister play Rock Band together, so that might be good as well.)

Suffice it to say I’m actually more interested in the interactive element of games. Khary has a sweet, funny PS2 poem in which he dreams of a “lovely Player 2” to join him, and that makes sense to me on a very elemental level. Maybe because my mom raised us to play cards together, don’t know. But I want to take a second to talk about aspects of the game of slam that I love and hate.

Winning isn’t everything, but winning is often good. Winning even the smallest slam implies a certain mastery of competition, of performance, of poetry, and love, I think. The love can be of the game itself, of humanity, of the attention and exuberance from being onstage, of moving one’s body beautifully or saying aloud words that sound and feel good together… Don’t matter. To do well, you have to love several of these things, and they’re all cool. To do noticeably well consistently, and to stay a slammer over the course of many years, I think you have to love most of these things.

I repeat: winning isn’t everything. MANY of my favorite poets, and people, don’t win a lot of slams, or don’t slam at all. I like a lot of people who like slam partly because we share a common interest/obsession, and I respect people who slam well as coworkers and competitors, but in the end, slam is a game, and no matter how much I like them, a lot of things in life matter more to me than games.

Rambling: The sun came out. Maybe I should go to the library when my laundry’s done.

Cliques suck. As much as I love my slam family goodness, I never ever want to be a Cool Kid. If we take slam as a game to a sports level, I never want to be the hot quarterback who treats people like shit because they don’t hang out with him or do the same stuff he does. The almost completely insular nature of slam annoys me, and so does tribalism; folks have a funny habit of hating on scenes they aren’t a part of. Competition seems to bring that out in people more, but I guess we’re all pretty much programmed to hate on shit we don’t immediately understand or recognize. Losing to someone or something you don’t get or trust feels really fucking bad, and that feeling makes people act badly.

Slamming brings people together. I’ve bonded really deeply with most of the folks who have coached me and the ones I’ve been on teams with, and being a part of the game helps me to respect and connect with folks who live all over the US, and also in Canada and France.

Rambling: It was good to see Sierra, if only for a hot minute. Also, I just called a pouch of Bugler “my Preciousss”.

So there you have it. A couple of things about slam. Careful as I am, I’m sure I still managed to offend someone, but I simply don’t care. My next post is going to be about Finals, I think, a little on the game, and a little on the experience itself.

Business vs. Pleasure – WoWPS Post #1

3 May

Will Evans, one of Columbus' many amazing organizers, with Copperhead Red.

Alright, humans. I’ve decided to take the month of May off Facebook in an attempt to improve my quality of life. I’m making exceptions for all stuff photo-related, and tagging folks on blogs – but I’m not responding to any comments, tags or posts on FB at this time. In other news: after years of courting, I asked myself to be my girlfriend – and I said yes. We are very much in love.

When last we talked story, I’d just finished an intensive mini-tour of New England and was on my way to Columbus for the Women of the World Poetry Slam. I was a little burned-out and ambivalent going in. My experiences with individual competition had been disappointing – and given the level of exposure I already had within the family, I wasn’t sure my investment (registration, travel, hotel, living expenses) would be well-spent. But a family reunion’s a family reunion, right? Leave it to me to let my heart come before business – at least in theory…

Family milling about before prelims.


What Makes a Great National Poetry Event

Obviously the concerns of money, relationship with the city, and all the professional stuff matter, but as a participating poet/volunteer who doesn’t really have to worry about the behind-the-scenes stuff, I have my own checklist as to what makes an event successful. The Columbus organizers did a stellar job on all these fronts.

Reasonable walking radius. Most poets don’t arrive at these events with their own transportation, so being able to walk from one venue to the next with ease is a real treat. The Columbus venues were almost all located within a few blocks of the hotel.

Good relationship with the hotel. This makes a huge difference. Nasty hotel staff have seriously fucked up some poetry moments for me. I don’t know how much the organizers can control this, except to make sure the hotel has some sense of who they’re dealing with, and to get us a 24-hour room in which to wile out. I really liked the hotel staff in Columbus. The doorman was a darling, and the cleaning staff very sweet and courteous.

Free food. Most of us are broke and don’t take good care of ourselves, so a free meal is a big deal. Especially a delicious one. Columbus offered free soul food before finals, which I hear was excellent indeed.

Appropriate venues. Cafes with sass, bars or clubs prepared to devote the evening to bouts, and accessible blackbox theaters are all fine examples. You want spots where ordinary folks will be anyway, or be near, without the poets having to compete with TVs or surly patrons for attention. The venues should also be sized appropriately, so a crowd of fifty doesn’t feel like a crowd of five. In both my preliminary venues and the finals venue, I felt the organizers had done an excellent job picking the proper spaces.

Good example of a nice, packed venue.

Good staffing. Impartial, professional volunteers make a big difference, too. Hosts make an obvious difference in the pacing and quality of a show, but all the background folks – official and otherwise – keep the event as a whole feeling organic. Columbus felt seamless.

Two of our handsome volunteers.

Asses in seats. There’s nothing more disheartening than having a room full of hot poets ready to spit – but no non-poet audience to watch or judge. This has been an issue at every national event I’ve attended – but Columbus did a good job. Bouts generally started on time, and I wasn’t witness to any truly desperate scrambling for judges.


With all that said, this was still the least fun I’ve ever had at a national event. The poetry was phenomenal, of course – what I got to hear of it. These months later, the two poems I heard for the first time in prelims that have really stayed with me would have to be Chauncey Beaty’s fruit flies poem (um, guffaw), and Rachel McKibbens’ last love poem (chills). When I’m competing, I don’t get to listen as closely or attentively as I’d like, so I’m afraid I didn’t get to hear or properly retain a lot of amazing poetry. That’s part of why I didn’t have that much fun. I was serious. I stayed serious through prelims, even after the bouts. I wasn’t around to play with my friends very much – but hey. I made it to finals stage. That was the goal all along.

Slacker is NOT spelled L-A-U-R-A.

15 Apr

My darlings, my dears,

I have so much I want to tell you about the last month or so, but I simply can’t do it just yet. After making Finals Stage at the Women of the World Poetry Slam, I went to a competition in Atlanta, moved to Chicago, started writing a poem a day for National Poetry Writing Month, and just found out I’ve been selected to be a finalist for a press that might publish a book for me. The latter means, however, that I need to submit a complete manuscript (40+ poems) in less than two weeks. I don’t have the writing juice to concentrate on that and post here – at least, not without doing the love we share a grave injustice.

Wish me luck – and I’ll be back in May.

I Wanna Be Like Mike.

16 Mar

Hey. I just took fourth place in the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Awesome. 🙂

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. 😛 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.