This Saturday, I attended my hottest poetry event yet…started off as 90 degrees when I arrived and swelled to 95 by the time I left.
Nonetheless at the base of Philosopher’s Rock and the entrance of Barton Springs…that 68-degree natural waters would’ve actually felt refreshing if I didn’t have another reading afterwards.
I first explained to the audience that as a former teacher with nearly 20 years of teaching experience,
I’d declared myself the Ignorance Slayer long ago! With impromptu musical accompaniment, I read the following poem:
4.6 billion years ago
As swirling sultry gas
Her fiery nature cooled
Morphing into a hot rock
Icy asteroids collided
With their watery mark
Mother Earth developed
A geochemical cycle
After a billion years
A biogeochemical cycle
One cycle’s products
Along come the upstart humans
Newborn babes in the wilderness
Huge frontal lobe full of potential
Toolmakers, empire builders
Tasked to be good stewards
Command the flora and fauna
Our nearly unchecked progress
Created fantastic human endeavors
And spurred demise
Now we arrogantly seek
To save the planet?
And her asteroid waters
Mother Earth will continue
Long after we destroy ourselves
We don’t gather to save her
We gather to save ourselves
From our own self-destructive ways
Our greedy five-planet consumption
As if we have four other planets
When we poison the waters
We poison ourselves
Everything we do
Good and bad
Has an impact
Mother Earth and her waters
Have existed long before us
The only question that remains
Will our sense of
Self preservation kick in
Soon enough to
Safeguard our natural resources
And save ourselves?
One of my friends, who happened to be a DJ, got politely snaked into spitting poetry about saving the Barton Springs water.
One of my favorite moments, came when the “Cool Water” quartet, who sang about water as if it were a whiskey song. As I watched, I kept thinking, “I hope I don’t have to follow them.” Of course, I jinxed myself. Luckily I’d thought about what I wanted to talk about the second time around: my preoccupation with clean water when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Before I left, I listened to a band that played many environmental songs. The usual lead singer, wearing an orange shirt, referred to me as a “modern, cross dressing, samurai.” I quickly unsheathed my sword and roared, “I’m a woman!” I stabbed him after they finished their set.
I made the leisurely drive down the street to the second poetry venue. As soon as I walked in, still discombobulated from the sweltering poetry by the pool, a group of people added to my confusion by telling me, “Your troupe just went that way.” Considering the fact that I’d arrived much earlier than I’d told any of my poets to be there, I was quite sure “my troupe” hadn’t entered the building yet. When I went to the bathroom to freshen up, that’s when I discovered the futuristic hair and clothing models. After freshening up, I posed with their sign.
About two hours later, the rest of my troupe showed up. The event organizer spoke very kind words about the Austin Writers Roulette and then went down the line to introduce all of us.
When she got to one artist, she kept stumbling over his name and he kept repeating it with a super-jazzed up Spanish accent. I finally told her that he just loved having a woman say his name repeatedly.
I introduced myself as the Ignorance Slayer. Many in the audience encouraged me to use my sword, which I said I would, especially on the poet behind me who was heckling me!
Here’s what I shared with the audience:
When I recently conducted an Internet search, I typed in the words “how to make a bomb” and got 170 million hits in half a second, but the words “how to make war” received 763 million hits in a third of a second. The words “how to make peace” resulted in an optimistic 796 million hits in nearly a minute.
So it takes a little longer to come up with 33 million more peace-making ideas than war-making ideas. If the mind is like an Internet search, you’ll think of bad ideas faster during a conflict, but have much better ideas if you think just a little longer before you act. Counting to ten should be the first peace-making idea.
And if you’re really good, you’ll write down your negative, angry thoughts. Even better, you’ll research the conflict. After all if it’s worth your anger, then it’s worth learning more about. Then, one of the best things you can do is share your results with others. It starts with you. You are the person to make the difference, if only to sleep better at night and make better choices the next day.
Fortunately there are places where people who are passionate about life can share their words. They’re called…poetry events. In and around this Awesmic City, there are weekly, monthly and annual poetry events.
I‘ve been the proud organizer of one such event, The Austin Writers Roulette, a monthly, adult, theme-based spoken word and poetry group for the past three years. I had never organized something like this before. Originally, I started the roulette as a guaranteed way to have an event where I could read and sell my first book, Tribe of One.
The first lesson I learned was people didn’t attend or participate in an event just because I wanted to make money. As a matter of fact, for the first season, I essentially paid people to show up!
Determined not to be a failure, I changed event locations twice, changed my attitude numerous times and focused more on inviting passionate people, whether they self-identified with being a “writer” or an “artist,” to participate in the roulette. I stopped charging admission and starting asking for donations.
One of the most beautiful things I have discovered is the world is full of interesting, stimulating people. Imagine how I was humbled when I discovered that the secret of the roulette’s success was not how talented of a writer I was, but how well I could organize and attract other talented people to join me on the show.
There is power in collaboration. I’m empowered when my voice is heard. I’m empowered when I hear other authentic voices. I may not agree with all I’ve heard, but I’m enriched for having listened.
Some believe that the first person to resort to violence has run out of things to say. Those who suffer in silence are afraid to speak. There’s a vulnerability to reading or performing one’s work in front of others. I invite all voices for the small price, in return, of being respectful to other voices. Within the differences of opinion and the expansion of a conversation, collaboration occurs. We can change the narrative of reality through our participation.
With the energy and hopefulness of a beauty pageant contestant who wishes for world peace, I actively promote the creative collaboration among passionate people. The Austin Writers Roulette meets every second Sunday at Stompin’ Grounds on S. Congress. Our next show is tomorrow from 4 to 6 and the theme is “Survival Stories.”
Joining me on stage today are just a few of the artists who regularly perform in the roulette.
The next poet read about a dozen poems during his time.
The next poet told three entertaining, Southern & Spanish heavily-accented narratives.
When I introduced the last poet, I told the audience, “If you’ve never done drugs before, you’ll experience it with this next poet.” He stage whispered that he didn’t write about that since it was a kid-friendly venue. I then told the audience that I no longer knew how to introduce him! He did manage to pepper his spoken word with a little cursing and one F-bomb. I’m sure he didn’t even notice. Wasn’t a problem since no kids were present.
I’d offered to join the futurist hair and clothes models, but instead, I sat back and enjoyed their creativity. I was impressed that they were part of the education and artist collaboration.