Human Collage

Where to begin?

Last weekend was nothing short of amazing. I drove to West Hollywood to meet (in person for the first time ever!) Cheryl Gross. Cheryl and I have collaborating for the past 3 years. Together we have made three books (Circe, Becoming Judas, and In the Circus of You) and two films (Circe and Becoming Judas). All of our exchanges have been through letters, emails, Podcasts, and Facebook posts. (We live in an odd place and time, no?)

Cheryl has been a guiding light and an amazing friend—yet we had never met…until now.

Cheryl, (her best friend) Louis, (my dear photographer friend) Jason Hughes, and I met in a West Hollywood. In the back parking lot we began to make some impromptu art.

Louis is covered in tattoos; these tattoos create a second skin—a tapestry of love affairs illustrated. (One of his tattoos is part of a collaboration that Cheryl and I have been working on. You can see more about this process by watching the documentary Tatt-Talk.)

Jason took pictures of this living tapestry—I took the images and projected Louis (as art) upon my skin. Then, collage artists Dawn Fox and Pavlina Janssen added paint, glue, paper, nails, and tinfoil to the human canvas. Photographers Emily Fox and Charles Hood took photos of the layering. Layers.

We brought our own stories, intended messages, and experiences to the project. For me, the project was about exploring and exhibiting basic human rights—the right to be, the right to love. (It also was a love message to a dear friend.) Art often is layered even in its intentions–isn’t that a sort of magic.

Hopefully, whoever sees what we made will bring their own visions of what it means to be human. For me, this piece is growing into a web of connections–of understandings. I attempted to write a poema about it; I’ll keep attempting to write “that” poem.

Adding to the excitement–this project continues to grow! There is a strong possibility that this piece will become a performance in the near future. :) Oh, happiness lives in possibility. There are still some details to work out, but if you are interested in seeing “The Human Collage” live, please mark Tuesday, November 27th in your date books. (We might be living poems at the Beautiful Boston Court!!!)

Best to all in hope and layers.

Place—a Pastoral of Amplified Flesh

Intersections of rivers and roads—fibrous—

vein and vessels spread beneath us—

as though we’re candles passing over

or hands plunging under

the unattainability of location. There is

a story omitted from every script –

territory synonymous with unsayable

events. Let me rephrase:

I knew a woman who burned finger sized

scars in her arms with erasers—

marking how she was pinned to an orchard—

the taking of all her fruit.

I knew a man who housed a virus—science

cut doors to his spinal cord.

Hands inside another. This man, woman,

were conscious at entry.

When they said, this hurts. No one stopped

the hurting.

A light passes over—How many hands

before a stopping place?

Photo by Jason Hughes

Next layer of photos by Emily Fox.

Ghosts and Sea Creatures: Jason Hughes Photos

Jason Hughes is a photographer in my town. (By town, I mean we live on the same dirt roads on the outskirts of Los Angeles.)

We have been working together on a project about those on the outskirts—those who exist in the in-between spaces. With the help of musician Robert Fisher, we have been cutting, molding, and sewing together multiple voices, music, and images to make an imaginary home. We are calling it Ghost World.

You can read more about it on the blog “The Bodie Project.”

In addition to Ghost World, Jason has been helping me assume the light and shadows of Circe.

In addition to Circe and Ghost World, I’m hoping to turn myself into a ghost before poetry month is over—with the help of many talented artist (including Jason) I’m going to be buried alive. Should be fun.

Long live poetry—that ghost light on the page.

Blogging On The Flight Home

The cloud cover is thick over Chicago—our plane is just above the expanse of reflective light—it seems our aircraft is held up by the storm falling below us. It will be good to return to the ground, my son, and sun of the west coast.Chicago is beautiful, vivacious, and fun—but I miss the canvas of desert sky and the erratic travels of tumbleweeds.

My son loves tumbleweeds; he thinks of them as pets. He claims they follow him home. My car is often overflowing with tumbleweeds. People throw looks at my little vehicle crammed full of sticks, but I continue to collect these runaway orbs because my son loves them (and with imagination) tumbleweeds love him back. This interplay between place and imagination is what makes the A.V. interesting—my home is an active mirage.

Perhaps building a home inside illusions seems strange—perhaps I should self-assess if my own personification of tumbleweeds is insane—or perhaps the joy found in an act of love is worth more than the sanity of not keeping tumbleweeds as pets?

Joy placed above sanity is my best description for AWP. This year, over 10,000 writers were contained within four Chicago blocks—making a momentary dream scape: miles (I mean MILES) of books to buy, bars packed with concepts and plot outlines, hundreds of poetry readings around the city. I never sleep at AWP—how could I?—I’m already dreaming.

It is the love affair between reader and books that gives birth to writers.Reading(like other biological impulses such as “s” “e” “x”) is a process that is constantly demanding a larger family. Once a person finds themselves in the recursive practice of reading, writing, reading, reading, writing, writing, rewriting, rereading, there is no way out. This process creates an urgency within a writer that never concludes—it is relentless, shrewd, and exhausting—yet without it…(I can’t even say how lost I’d be without process—to think of losing it brings me to tears quick as imaging the death of my son—which, ironically, the process has trained me to envision in concrete detail). It is a sweet torture that makes me appreciate what I have—while at the same time drives me crazy.

Welcome to AWP—welcome to insanity—welcome to four days of exhausting joy.

You know a writer when you see them. There is a uniform of unexpected color combinations and fabric choices—there are ink stains, laptops, and “the waddle” (every writer, male or female, has the gait of pregnant creature from the weight of the books they carry). Not even the Kindle can save us from the bulk of print because we writers love books. To illustrate such book love, I offered to hand-carry a large bag of books for Red Hen Press on my return flight. While at the Chicago Airport, I found it best to hold the load close to my chest (as I do my son). The bag in fact is heavier than my four-year old son, but rests like a well behaved child in my arms. I found myself clutching the bag tightly on the descending escalators—I must not drop them, I told myself. I must not drop them.

Cradling these books, I remembered how as a child I would call the library hotline—where a recording would read me a story. I would call and call and call and call—hearing the same story over and over again. My favorite story was of a boy who reaches into to a tight-necked bottle for some candy, but takes too much—after a painful struggle with many tears, the boy realizes that by letting go of a few candies his hand will again fit through the opening. Once he realizes this, by process, the boy can take as many sweets as he wants (for this story is not a morality tale against greed)—this story is about process. Then and now, this story mirrors my personal struggles—I must learn to let go, take less, and work harder. I need to stop feeling sorry for wanting and start looking for more productive ways to pursue my desires. This is difficult work—but I have the story from the library hotline giving me hope and guidance.

With an arm full of books, I wonder what potential beckons I might be bringing to their fate- intended readers. I can not drop them, repeating in my head like fear turned to mantra. All that hope and potential in our arms—in this way, books are like children—We can not drop them.  AWP is a good remind of the work being done to “take care” of books—it is a visual representation of book-love.

In truth, it takes a lot of work to write a book. It takes a lot more work to publish a book (both for publishers and writers). It take even more work (far more work than writing and publishing combined) for a book to find its reader. But all that work is part of the process—and that process offer’s a small glint of hope that potential can actualize—conversations (like humanitarian growth) continues throughout generations—and somewhere in a far-off desert, there is a little boy who is reading your story to his beloved tumbleweed*.

*It is important for my to thank Charles and Abbey Hood, as well as Red Hen Press, who made it possible for me to go to AWP this year. Thanks also to Pavi Janssen for her beautiful visual art / costume. Great thanks as well to Matt Ryan and Ken Robidoux— who made this AWP an unforgettable experience. And love to my new friend Deanna Plummer. I love my writing family.

*Please consider giving my book Circe a home–she is a voice who needs a little warmth and kindness. You can find Circe on Amazon.com.

AWP: Getting Ready To Poem You

While getting ready to pack for the Living Poetry Project at AWP, J.J. found a few poems he couldn’t part with (sorry and thank you Kathleen Flenniken for you poem “Radiation!”–I’ll be sure to make new poem objects to bring to Chicago).  J.J. was happy to color his Godzilla-poetry hand puppets while I stressed over the best way to “have a good time” at AWP. (This is the crazy part of happiness–the worry it generates. I should just enjoy the words without worry…I should…)

The more poems I turn into gifts that more gifts I want to give, so if you are still interested in “poeming” someone at AWP please send me your work. (NicelleCDavis@gmail.com).

As I joyfully find poems in my email for the Living Poetry Project (AWP), I am struck by the kindness of the authors and also moved by their stories. Every writer WANTS to go to AWP, but not everyone can afford it. Like any art, writing is expensive. I must confess, the only reason I’m able to go to AWP is because of the generosity of others. Every artist works very hard to be with art. (The idea of profit for art is foreign as an unnamed planet). Artist give to artists in hopes that art will happen. It is a terrifying exchange; the closest resemblance I have found to being a practicing artist is a professional gambler.)

I am very fortunate to be reading at AWP this year, thanks to Matt Ryan and Ken Robidoux. These two gentlemen are great publishers and even greater people. They risk much for artist to have a platform. Amazing.

I’ll be reading in costume—which seems risky to me—but I’m in love with performance and illusions—the overlapping of worlds.

Here is the rough draft of the dress—my son and the very talented Pavlina Janssen turning me into a jellyfish woman. (Are those tentacles or umbilical cords? You decide.)

See you inChicago.

Lowbrow Press Reading
Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 9:00pm until 11:00pm

Connotation Press

Weeds Tavern: 1555 N Dayton St(between Clybourn Aveand North Ave).
Nearest transit: North/Clybourn (Red line). 312-943-7815