Welcome To My Bed

Poetry: what I think I know.

I do not claim to be an expert on anything literary.  I am, at best, an enthusiastic novice.  I like words.  Words and I get along REAL WELL.  I'd say I read roughly one novel and one poetry collection a week. This is probably more than the average person, but I'm lucky enough to spend most of my time at work leaning against a counter with a book in hand.  Roughly five years ago, things were very different: I was new to the parentless world, at college as an art student, journaling furiously, showing none of my writing to anybody.  I read the same few books religiously (The Bell Jar, Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Please Don't Kill The Freshman), mining them for clues on how the whole words thing works.  But I did not read poetry.  Poems were a nebulous form that seemed almost evil because of how powerful people claimed they were.  You could memorize them, carry them around mentally, spit them out at anybody else like a spell, sing them to the tune of popular songs, wrap them in a love letter and use them for personal gain.  As a teenager, that power in economy was terrific and horrific at once.  I wrote poems every day, excruciatingly bad poems saturated in angst that made my few friends uncomfortable and my teachers shockingly proud.  A few of them ended up in the high school lit mag, but I had no delusions about grandiosity or success in the form.

At college, slam happened to me.  With all of its flawed format and silly hierarchies of rock star poets and gimmicky performance styles, it was exactly what I needed to make poetry accessible to me.  To make poems a scary, evil power that I too could possess.  This is what I sounded like in my early slam days:


It is embarrassing to hear myself rush, to hear how little control I have over my voice, how many things I repeat.  But this is exactly where it happened: where I found the power of poems.  The poem in the video is nowhere near my best work.  It isn't even something I can watch or listen to without cringing.  If I went back to it, there is so much I would change, so many thing I would arrange differently.  But showing this is important because it shows how much things had shifted by February of my first year as a writer admitting she is a writer.  Here, I am playing with language, repetition, a circular narrative that grows and changes and builds in a small, three minute arc.  This is important.  This play is how poems happen.  They are games you play with language to say something unexpected, but, like anything worth the effort, you have to be willing to be bad at them before you can ever hope to be good.

The immense power inherent to poems is in the things they allow you to say.  A poem, at its best, is a transgression of silence.  There is a reason why poets have been enemies of the state in countries and culture the world over since the beginning of language--poetry gives us license to say dangerous things, to say them quickly and starkly, to pare away all the white noise surrounding the heart of what we mean and present just that heart and only the heart to be consumed and sometimes these hearts make us sick.  They have an intense power when it comes to protest, witness, and education because they are so distilled.  Poems are the kind of writing that works in small strokes and creates big changes in thought.  They provide a space where huge leaps of comparison can be made, where two things before unalike are suddenly the same.  Poems travel great distances in single steps because of the way the images in them enter into a conversation, because of the way a line breaks, because of the multiplicity and music of sounds, the connotative and annotative meanings of words, the suggestion of a world much larger and more complex than what is said.

In less than two weeks, I am responsible for bringing what I now know about poems to students at my former high school.  I've been given five hour-long sessions to read poems by other that I love, poems of mine that I feel proud of, poems that might help people like me (latent writers scared of the magic they might produce) understand that poetry is far from dead.  I'm not going to talk about Billy Collins or Ezra Pound.  I'm not going to beat over the head with history.  The best way to get a kid to fall in love with poetry is to show them that it is a way to find voice in a world where everyone talks but few listen.

I could hem and haw about poems for a week-long workshop and still not be winded.  But I want to know what other people might say.  Writers, friends: why were poems an important discovery for you?

Small happies.

You can read a poem of mine here, published on the thirteenth. I recommend leafing through the whole sixth issue of Phantom Kangaroo and getting thoroughly spooked tonight before bed.



This song makes me happy, especially when it comes on at a dance night.



This show is my new favorite.

And now I'm going to work, and then to New Jersey. See you across state lines, post floating tattoo appointment and Long Island Gaga concert.

"Baby, there's a shark in the water."

The last time I posted was a little over a month ago. A little over a month from now, I will be moving into a new apartment--back to the city of my heart--for a new start.

This condition makes for a strange progression of days. Since we last spoke, I've set foot on the ground in Maine, been to a casino for the first time to see the middleweight champ defend his title, gotten my first-ever acceptance letter from a poetry journal, and chosen a new place to rest my head.

I imagine that when my sister Kaitlin and I move in together again, there will be a lot of the following:



Which is to say, shenanigans, song-and-dance, Peter Pan-related merriment.

And we'll probably belt this out together at the top of our lungs while waltzing through the pocket doors between our two living rooms, the windows swollen with afternoon sun and a view of that fat dome on Federal Hill:



I wrote a poem about my mother riding a stuffed horse in her dreams first thing this morning. I wear my happy teeth every day now.

Happy Scandal Day!

...otherwise known as "Singles Awareness Day (SAD)" or "St. Valentine's Day." I much prefer scandal to either of those depressing reasons to consume. I plan on spending zero dollars, listening to "Exile in Guyville" on repeat, and loving with the same intensity that I do every other day of the year.

But in honor of the extra emphasis everyone else is placing on love, here is a Wordle of the words this blog loves.

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And here, David Bowie leads a cultish mid-nineties arts colony of shaved head industrial types who rather enjoy mannequins.



And here, Rihanna ball-gags her detractors and wraps herself in plastic.



And here, Nicki Minaj does the fairy tale thing and is still a BAMF.



And finally, Max Bemis warbles about phone sex and religious guilt.



Watch an endless chain of John Cusack films! Take advantage of candy sales! High five Alanis Morissette! Wonder aloud who the Arcade Fire is!

However you choose to celebrate, be sure to blow a raspberry at those around you acting like it's the end of the relationship if this day isn't the most magical they've ever had.

(And in case you didn't know, the Ribcage Kids are performing at AS 220 in Providence tomorrow night. Doors at 8:45. Come be my anti-Valentine!)

Round up.

Things have been happening. Or. I am caught in the perfect storm of my own making. Since returning home from tour, I've been on a steady diet of highway driving, Boston, New Jersey, motivational speech, and wearing heels out to spite the snow. It's been working well.

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Last Saturday night, I was in Montclair, NJ with my little sister, Button, and a few friends to see Girl Talk's final installment of the All Day tour. We danced for two straight hours and, man, was it a gorgeous evening. I realized that the amount of dancing in my life is directly proportionate to my resting happiness rate (RHR, to speak in faux-medical terminology). Back in the fall, I went dancing at least once a week, resulting in a very high RHR, glowy skin, sore-but-content leg muscles, and the envy of all my dance-inclined friends. However, since the onset of the snowpocalypse, dance nights seem not only impractical, but downright silly to attend. Who wants to booty shake in rubber boots? Certainly not me. Cambridge, my home base for most dancing endeavors, is jagged with snow drifts and rife with icy patches of sidewalk. The last thing I need to finish out the winter with is a sprained ankle. Cos the only thing harder than crutches is crutches in the New England winter when you live in a third story walk-up. So, until spring, I'll have to get my dancing fix where I can. The Wellmont wasn't a bad spot for it, in spite of the Bieber squad (in their neon atrocity) gumming up the bathrooms and somehow managing to drink with X's on the back of their hands. A word of advice to the high school set: your sweat band does not make you cool, no does your homemade Girl Talk t-shirt with glaring grammar errors. Stay home and study hard! Your little brains clearly need it. Leave the partying to those of us who've earned the right after a hellish work week. When I was your age, I was at home watching the Lizzie McGuire movie and...well, maybe I should cut them some slack.

In other news, tour has legitimized my writing and performing life to my family in a way that chapbooks had failed to and now I'm getting all kinds of odd requests. My favorite one comes with a bit of backstory. My father's younger sister Casey has always been adamant about not getting married. She's had a handful of serious boyfriends that made into inside the fortress of family gatherings, but none of them ever stuck more than a handful of years. However, I am proud to announce that she's found the man she's going to marry (fanfare and all that jazz). Which means I've been invited to me first wedding. My grandmother is practically spamming all of our email inboxes with questions about ceremony and reception details, etc. My favorite inquiry thus far has been along the lines of, "Will you be bringing an escort?" The bride has been wisely absent from all of this insanity, probably off somewhere riding horse, practicing law, or actually living her life. The one interjection she did make my way is that she'd like me to read at the wedding. I'm not sure if that means Bible passages or what, but I am flattered to be the first name she thought of. Look! My first non-poetry gig gotten by being a poet! Now all I need is a desk job that doesn't frown on visible tattoos. Go, liberal arts degree, go!

In closing, my car started last night on the first try. I take this as a surefire sign of spring. And George Watsky made a new video. Kid's now been a Def Jam poet, a guest on the Ellen show and viral video phenom. Show him some love.

Perpetual motion machines.

Hello from our last morning in DC! Our time here has been both relaxing and exciting. Sam, Mckendy and I went to see the slam at Graffiti DC and got a feature by Rudy Francisco (this year's Individual World Poetry Slam champ) thrown in, all for the price of FREE.

Yesterday we went on a sight-seeing adventure on the National Mall, which involved hot pretzels, atrocious coffee, bitter wind, and a chill sesh with honest Abe. Sam got a proof of his first-ever book with a spine. I got my final evaluation for college. We have a workshop/interview/show in Richmond tonight, leaving only two more future cities for us on the road trip leg of this tour. But fear not! There are still a handful of shows in New England that will commence upon our return (one of them in Providence, the city of my heart, the day after the big ol' V-Day). The month of February will be far from a return to normalcy. I'll most likely make some drastic change to my hair--it's getting overdue for one at this point--and the Ribcage Kids will tear it up.

Speaking of which. Below, you can view the first video of me performing since the Providence Grand Slam in '09. I'm pretty proud of this one. It sold books and all that good stuff.

"I hope you already got laid today. Twice."

Good afternoon, Wednesday. You have so much room for improving things. Thus far, I hung a giant cork board in my bedroom, ate quite a lot of perfect toast, drank coffee without bringing on a migraine, AND I finished my first painting since September. I would show off this last accomplishment, but it is a gift for my guy and will thus not be revealed to the internet at large until after the giving. However, I can show you one of the elses I got up to earlier today:

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I am trying to stave off the urge to dye the 'hawk teal without help (it is taking all of my will-power), and so I gave myself a little haircut instead. I will call this period of my life the "why the hell not" phase. It began this March, the first time I rocked the mohawk. I have generally been much happier since then.

A piece of today's soundtrack, courtesy of someone bored in a Boston office (and thus blowing up my inbox):



Then there's the ubiquitous Slug speech to get me souped for an awesome awesome day full of low-key wonderful:



And I will not apologize for my jealousy towards Nicki Minaj's pastel Cruella DeVille jam going on here:



And for my next trick, I will start a philosophical debate about Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" via Justin Timberlake on my Facebook wall. (Because when you are a loudmouth, you tend to live among many other delightful loudmouths.)

See you on the flip side of the year, loved ones. Pop champagne, kiss your boo when the ball drops, break in your new heels, eat pigs in a blanket with whole grain mustard, make a glittery mess of your (or someone else's) living room. However you decide to celebrate, know you are a small part of why I do a little happy dance in the mirror every morning upon waking.

And a final warning: 2011, I am coming for you in floral leggings and shit-kickers.

Merry Happy Holiday Time!

I wouldn't exactly call myself a Scrooge, but this December has been a rough one. Tour's been creeping up in a semi-insidious way (read about the shows so far here), I've spent more time on the road to various cities or just plain in Boston than I have in my own apartment, and when I do remain stationary, work has been sapping me of my lifeblood. Being that it is my very first retail Christmas, a lot is off-kilter, which mostly means my stress levels are much higher than they should be.

In addition to my regular schedule, the past few weeks I've picked up an extra shift for the cash, meaning I work six days a week instead of the usual five. And five out of those six shifts have been closing shifts. On my day off, I've had shows or some massive errand that takes far too much energy. I have not written much of anything since finishing my undergraduate degree a few weeks ago. I haven't even properly celebrated that milestone. (Cass and I did go out for a beer with our men that night, which counts to a certain extent, but I am more than a little itchy for an epic night of dancing to sweat away all those lingering college woes.) In all, I've been a bit divorced from the whole Christmas spirit this year, quietly acquiring my gifts and stashing them in a Rubbermaid box in the hall closet, avoiding the fact that I get one day off from my life as a cash register jockey/glorified stock girl for family during a time when I am used to at least a week of non-stop family shenanigans. It's hard. The only time I've felt the proper amount of holiday cheer is when it's been snowing. And thus far, at least in my little corner of the world, that's only happened when I've been in Beantown.



Kait and I met up in Jamaica Plain over a week ago for an epic feast and a few cocktails at Canary Square on Tuesday. Now, most people who know me know I am a huge proponent of the mid-week weekend. (Maybe it's because I work for the entire real one, but I'll call that beside the point.) I am rather fond of treating Tuesday nights like Friday nights. So a whiskey sour with a sisterly gabfest and a heaping helping of food is just my speed for such an evening. Our meal was full of cheese and laughter. The burger we had killed me with delicious. The french fries were epic. The beef jerky popcorn was odd, but I ate plenty. And I gave a chapbook to our waitress. Afterwards, I took her through the freezing cold to Deep Ellum in Allston to be the first of our family to meet my man. It was snowing. And freezing. The cold was like magic. We all did a lot of wild gesticulating and emphatic explaining ourselves, had great drinks and a great time. The night rounded out with me singing along to Ryan Adams as we ventured out into the flurry again for the night.

And then there was the snow in Somerville the other day. I ran away to the Bean again (and Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Square) after a particularly rough Sunday shift (open to close during Consumer Christmas is much more brutal for those working it than I'd been mentally prepared for that day) and spent the night, waking to a morning full of the white stuff. I walked to Trina's Starlight Lounge for brunch the next noon and gleefully let the cold bite my fingers. Snow caught in my eyelashes, it finally felt like Christmas. We had what can only be inadequately described as a homemade pop tart, followed by the works, all washed down with lots of coffee. I kept straining to see the snow out the frosted window. And when I walked back to my car and drove home to NoHo for work, I was so disappointed that the snow globe effect didn't reach past Worcester. The city of my home address has yet to get more than a dusting, and for that matter, I've yet to be out in the snow in my current hometown.

I spent Wednesday watching the white stuff accumulate on my car while I baked my Grandma's Christmas butter cookies in a kitchen that isn't mine. My show in Portland got canceled because of the weather, so I had a bedroom Bloc 11 sandwich picnic and fell asleep watching Die Hard instead of performing.

Anyway, I guess the point of all this rambling is to say that I haven't exactly felt connected to the time of year. Until last night. Work was a frenzied mess, everyone in town out and shopping for last minute gifts. I left my wrapping paper in the employee closet, I've yet to pack, and I was kept up half the night by yelling from the thirsty Thursday bar crowd. However. Even though I'm not in Boston or its outliers, and even though I'm not nearly prepared for the big day tomorrow, I could hardly sleep last night for the excitement of stockings and ornaments and all of my family jammed into my gram's living room. So what if that means I'll have to brave midnight mass in a mohawk. This holiday season has been rough for me and for a lot of my friends, but it showed me that we all work hard, play hard, and have huge hearts. I wish it was possible for me to be with everyone I consider family tomorrow--the friends scattered across New England and the Midwest, I toast you! Here's to us and our crazy year!

Speaking of hearts, Jericha's been making me some goodies lately. My birthday present sheds just the right amount of nighttime light when I'm fumbling through the dark for a glass of water, and my Christmas gift took my breath away in our Christmas-lit kitchen.

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The back of the necklace says, "home is where the heart is, for the heart is a house you can hold in your hands." Amen.

In closing, I think Dickensian Kermit says it best.



Happy Holidays everyone, and a Merry Christmas if that's how you're spending tomorrow. If not, go make a snow angel at Harvard for me.

Magic morsel #48, private Idaho's.

This song came on four or so times yesterday at work. (This means someone put the 80's playlist on shuffle and then promptly forgot all about it.)



And then my mind wandered away from me (I was working in the dressing rooms and had two customers over a six hour span of time) and got really sad because this scene just kept playing over and over behind my eyes.



Thanks a lot, Gus. Now the B-52's make me cry.

Magic morsel #46, or, post-hardcore on Paper Street.



Remember when Fight Club was a cultural phenomenon and you watched it twice a night in your best friend's basement, quoting the lines with one of you as Tyler and the other as Cornelius? Kind of like how you used to divide up the singing parts in TBS songs into "Adam" and "John" and each sing one set of lyrics? No?!

...I mean, I guess growing up in Jersey, I assumed everybody listened to the Long Island bands and wanted to beat the crap out of their imaginary friends. My bad.

Gazing down at all the young and beautiful, with their questioning eyes.

Last Saturday I made a pilgrimage to the Boston outpost of the House of Blues to see Grinderman. Now, I will admit to being poorly acquainted with him up to this point in my life--Button and I have surely listening to plenty of the Bad Seeds while galavanting in our high school days, but fuck if I know which albums or how long ago that was--so I had to do the pretend-you-know-all-the-things-the-cool-kids-do dance for most of the evening.

But mostly, I spent the night mesmerized. I'm sure I've mentioned in the past that the physical sensation of live music makes me happier than most things in the world. Rock music especially. The vibrations in the air move my blood faster or something. The bass in my chest sounds like "home" more than the word itself. And this particular instance of live music, I could not tear my eyes away. Some people are just built to carry off a magical kind of stage presence, a conviction I've come to from my years in poetry. But it was at shows that this idea first entered my mind. Performance, though a construct, is something that at its core must be instinctual. To be seen, to see yourself being seen, and to then feed off that energy and use it to create an experience that would not have been possible otherwise is astonishing when properly executed. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that Mr. Cave was made for the stage, and I am glad to have witnessed him.

Take a look for yourself:



In my internet travels this morning, I stumbled across this blog post, chock full of pictures of the man, mostly in his younger days. This photo in particular made me very happy:

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I have been cleaning my room for what feels like (and is probably close to) the past three weeks, and it looks like a more color-intensive version of the same. Books and papers everywhere, clothes falling into coffee cups, typewriters strung with paper and stories half-typed. I've cleared away the dishes, but the mess does not get much smaller for all my trying. I suppose this is the way some of us will always live. It's like the mess in my head's just overflowed in the real world. Generally, I've decided to avoid it, choosing instead to melt Rachmaninoff records all morning to make new wall art. If Nick can survive the clutter, so can I.

And then there's this, which just makes the day that much better.

Punk in drublic.

The other night at dinner with the family, I made some comment regarding the fact that novelty of drinking in public had still not worn off. My cousin kindly reminded me of its illegality. I told him I did not care.

These cats don't either.

Magic morsel #44, "...cos it's better than Monopoly."



This is one among many hysterical bits and pieces from the Right Honorable Ladies' smorgasbord dinner party last night. I was running on two hours of sleep and could not stop laughing. I wish I'd recorded the stories that were told all through dinner and late into the night; not only were each of them priceless, but the verb choices were impeccable. (I know. I'm a pretty serious nerd.)

Magic morsel #42, teenage dreams.

I love the shit out of this song before I'd ever swallowed a drop of liquor, probably sometime around sixth or seventh grade.



It makes a lot of sense that my first boyfriend and 2002 Ben Kweller had pretty much the same aesthetic.

And then this is what I'll pretend actually happened to me when I got to legal drinking age, mostly because this turn towards real cold is making me long some beach time like nothing else. As much as I adore fall, I will always be such a sucker for late summer and all that windows-down, bare legs, bare feet, seedy motel kind of adventure.

What dinner parties are made of.

Last night on our day off, Jericha and I decided it was time we threw a dinner party for a few of our co-workers. No, that sounds too sophisticated. We told them to bring beer and we would make food. We christened this gathering an impromptu meeting of the Right Honorable Ladies Society, our salon that usually takes place on Thursday nights, but instead of food for thought, we mostly stuck to the dinner aspect of things. And feast we did, on my momma's old faithful baked macaroni and cheese recipe, accompanied by heaps of bok choy. We have strange tastes, but the food we make always tastes amazing.

Alongside the supply of Shipyard Pumpkin that we mostly sipped in the alley during cigarette breaks while getting hit with doors and drenched with rain, there was quite a bit of giggling for one very special reason. Jericha had a flashback to childhood (I cannot remember what it was triggered by) that lead her to the following video:



Not only did we find where MJ learned his footwork, but we asked a lot of questions that supplied endless laughs as well.

Good food, good friends, and good ol' youtube. Welcome to the typical gathering of the 21st century.