your host for the evening

This photo is only a year and a half old– an infant, if you will– but when I look at it now, it seems like it’s from a very long time ago… like 3 years or more. That’s me the first time I featured at a Busboys and Poets open mic– on the tiny stage in the old Cullen Room at 5th and K Streets, before it was expanded.

Lo and behold, this summer I’ll start hosting the open mic once a month at that location– every third Wednesday of the month, beginning on August 17th.

To get things going, I’ll be hosting on July 6th and I’ve already lined up a feature I’m tres excited about… the Beltway Poetry Slam team! Chris August, Twain Dooley, Joseph LMS Green, and Drew Law are sure to inspire as they’re ramping up to head to the National Poetry Slam in August.

Cheers!

poetry on avenues and across oceans

It may only be May but it feels like summer here in DC. To me, summer means entering my seventh year of living in the district without A/C. It also means getting out (literally and figuratively), trying new things, and exploring new ground. So I was particularly excited when I was invited to curate a poetry showcase next weekend. It’s my first time curating an artistic event outside of my beloved BloomBars community and it has also introduced me to a neighborhood I hadn’t yet appreciated.

From June 3rd through 5th, a three-day arts showcase will be held at The Blank Space SE in Anacostia. Arts on the Avenue will feature the work of six visual artists, a guided walking tour of the neighborhood, a discussion on art collection, and a poetry showcase. Check out the weekend’s featured artists and schedule of events here.

I’m looking forward to meeting more artists, connecting with more like-minded people, and hosting an event that features some of my favorite poets– Joseph LMS, Marie Elaine, Jonathan B. Tucker, Jenny Lares, and Derrick Weston Brown.

In other poetry news, this morning other DC poets and I held a Poetry Across Borders session at BloomBars and used the wonderful world of technology (i.e. Skype) to share our work with poets in Bangalore, India! You can read about it here.

Finally, no post about poetry (or music or artistic revolution) would be complete without paying my respects to the legend Gil Scott-Heron, who passed away this weekend. If you’re not familiar with his work and legacy, you can learn more about him here.

Come celebrate the power of the spoken word with us on Saturday– hope to see you there!

april showers

I guess, technically, these showers started in March but I’m quite happy to be featured in two noteworthy DC publications within the past week.

Last Sunday, The Washington Post Style section featured me (as well as BloomBars and a couple of friends) in an article by Lonnae O’Neal Parker called “Art is to these locals like the air they breathe — an irrepressible part of their lives.” Lonnae visited Poetry in the Morning earlier in the month (and had a lovely time, if I do say so myself).

Photo by Juana Arias (Washington Post)

Of course, not everything we discussed made it into the article so I just want to give shout outs to Sulu DC and Subcontinental Drift, two phenomenal arts organizations in DC (and the great folks who gave me the opportunities to perform at places like the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian Folklife Festival).

Jumping right into National Poetry Month, Beltway Poetry Quarterly is featuring four of my poems in its April issue!

Speaking of poetry, April is also known as National Poetry Writing Month (or NaPoWriMo). Join me and other local poets in the challenge to write a poem a day for 30 days!

paper cake

The year has been off to a good start from a writing perspective… which is to say that I’ve been writing! Nothing fabulous yet but I’m trying some new (for me) things.

The year has also been off to a good start from a publishing perspective… which is to say seeing pieces I wrote last year getting a little wink-wink from poetry journals. In January, I was honored to be included in Beltway Poetry Quarterly’s Langston Hughes Tribute Issue with my poem “Reverie Revealed.”

To add another tasty layer to the (vegan) cake, a group poem I co-wrote with Sulu DC co-founders Jenny C. Lares and Alex Cena — entitled “Where Are You From?” — was recently published in print and audio forms by Lantern Review.

And who doesn’t like some fruit-tastic filling in their cake? In April, I’ll be a featured poet in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, which is publishing a selection of my poems. I won’t tell you which ones but, suffice it to say, my parents haven’t seen much of my poetry yet and I’m really hoping they don’t get their eyes on some of those pieces.

Back to the pen and paper…

reflecting

I saw my friend Alaina yesterday and she made a comment that warmed me and made me laugh at the same time. Talking about birthdays and the end of another year, she said “I love reflecting! It’s one of my favorite things.”

What a year it has been. It started with New Year’s Day when my friend Mamta and I hiked 9 plus miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and back out along the same trail the next day). That was something I never thought I’d do — and there were many times along the trip back that it seemed the only thing that got me through was Mamta inches behind me, practically chanting “find your core, find your strength, you can do this.”

As the year prepares to take a bow, the community rallied to save BloomBars from losing its home — and succeeded with the help of hundreds of donors, fundraiser shows by gifted and dedicated visual and performing artists, incredible volunteer energy and support, and media attention from WPFW, DCist and NBC Washington.

And today, when I opened up for Poetry in the Morning, I saw our first snow (and couldn’t resist doing the below).

Into the new year, let’s all keep blooming…

the final countdown

Navid Azeez (right; host of monthly Cipherstock event) and Kurt Canfield performing at the BloomBars Family Reunion Fundraiser (photo by John Chambers)

This week I have witnessed some magical moments in — and connected to — BloomBars. A night of music and live art co-hosted by owner Omrao Brown at Liv on U St… a closing reception for our art auction that included performances by poets and our samba instructor… and our Family Reunion last night, which brought together artists representing everything from hip hop to Hindustani music. By the end of the evening, musicians from very different genres were discussing future collaborations (and jamming together on stage).

What’s brought so many artists and supporters together in a short amount of time is the dire need BloomBars is in to simply keep the doors open into the new year. In addition to our regular programming and these mega-bloom events, we’re also in the midst of a time-sensitive online fundraising campaign. Please support us in any and every you can – check out an event, make a donation online, volunteer at a show, and tell your friends about us.

We sometimes hear BloomBars referred to as a “venue.” It’s not. It’s a garden that can only help us grow as artists, advocates, and a community if we keep it fed and watered.

You Bloom. We Bloom.

blooming

If we’ve met at any point this year, you’ve probably heard me talk (repeatedly, ad nuseam, etc) about BloomBars. Ever since I started popping in there regularly for Seed the Sound Sunday nights last summer, I have considered it a “second living room” of sorts. Earlier this year I started hosting Poetry in the Morning, followed by Poet-Tree in Bloom, co-hosting The Garden open mic with Jonathan B. Tucker, and finally jumping in as program director. As always at BloomBars, I’ve been having a blast and meeting so many passionate, talented, dedicated artists, volunteers, neighbors, and other supporters.

Come bloom with us! After all, you bloom…we bloom.

Photo by Flickr user blinkofaneye (http://www.flickr.com/photos/blinkofanaye/4662578705/)

from the stage to the page

For the past year and a half, I’ve been immersed in the world of performance poetry — i.e., poetry that is often written with the intent of being performed on a stage (as opposed to read on a page). Until now, my poetry had only appeared in one publication… Sassy magazine circa 1992. I remember it well. After submitting many poems I’d toiled over, the magazine chose a piece I’d written in about a minute. I remember it very well, in fact–my poem appeared in the November issue (the same month I turned 17) and Mayim Bialik was on the cover.

Last week was a big one for me in the world of publishing poetry. One of my poems (and photos) was selected for publication in Bourgeon, an online arts magazine. I could not have been more thrilled…until I learned that Beltway Poetry Quarterly will also be publishing a piece of mine in its January 2011 Langston Hughes tribute issue.

To say I’m honored to be published alongside the other artists featured in these publications is an understatement.

An interesting side note–my publishing credits started with a magazine depicting the actress who played “Blossom,” and the arts journal Bourgeon gets its name from the French word for “bud.” I’m also active with a community arts space called BloomBars. Hmmm…I sense a theme here.

kennedy center & smithsonian folklife festival

This Friday and Saturday cap off two weeks of frequent (and fun!) performances. After featuring at Bloombars’ “The Garden” open mic, two Busboys & Poets open mics, a Campus Progress event, and a One Common Unity event, I am thrilled and honored to end these two weeks with a bang. A bang that tastes like curry and kimchi…pittu and pancit.

On Friday July 2nd, artists representing Subcontinental Drift will be performing at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. The show (free at 6 pm) will be streamed online and archived on the site for later viewing. On Saturday July 3rd, artists representing Sulu DC will be performing at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (free at 6 pm on the mall; La Fonda stage).

It is really a blessing to not only be able to share my poetry in such esteemed settings, but also to do so as a representative of my culture, my family, and two DC-based arts organizations that have been incredibly supportive of–and inspiring to–me.