Seattle Spoken Word Performance & Preview

June 29, 2010

I am going to be involved in a performance called, “The Show 2010: The Art of the Duo” in which I will be its spoken word artist.  It shows on August 7th in Seattle’s Mount Zion Church on 19th and Madison at 7:00pm.  If you’re in the area, I recommend you come.  It will be great and feature many incredible artists.

As a result of working hard on this show and my novel, I have been guilty of neglecting this blog.  So, I thought I’d share my most recent spoken word piece with you.  It’s titled,

“My Name is Kaston”

My name is Kaston.  I live on a street that borders two cities and swing like a pendulum from Seattle to Jerusalem, from Darwin to Paul, Burien to Babylon, from suits to joke T-shirts to suits.  I’m trying to find God in cement cracks and crawlspaces, in peach skies and windows, under pink skirts and among change, on closed doors and electronic boxes.

I don’t pray anymore, but when I was a kid, I’d tell you He’d made the world in seven days, that he ushered my brother into front row heaven, that he’d sent Bill Clinton and that there weren’t going to be any problems anymore.  I’d race across waxed school hallways and catch worms while the sun hung high in the sky, making jungle gyms sparkle like glass castles.  I was God’s child and He helped me avoid dodge balls and blondes, helped me earn gold stars and respect, helped me make star pitcher in little league and love notes with three, perfect checkboxes back when maybe was a legitimate answer.

As I grew, I’d lie on stairs looking up at the popcorn ceiling, pretending the glitter was a net of stars and plaster bumps were cosmic Braille, winking the alphabets of God.  My prayers always began with “I know we don’t speak a lot” and always ended with “Could you make Sedalia like me again?  Could you make me more popular?  Could you give me superpowers and send velociraptors to math class so I could crush them all with super strength and speed and make everyone clap and cheer and love, all for me?  Could you make Dad come home?”

I waited on porch steps, in detention chairs, and by the phone for signs He’d heard me until I realized I’d somehow let go of His hand like a kid in a crowd.  So I’m trying to find God in creased pages and late night dinners and laughter.  I’m trying to find God buried in cereal boxes and search engines.

TV always offers to help.  They pull Him into every channel.  They say God is cutting benefits for wolves with ties, God is making bombs, God is shelling for the Crypts, God is dropping white rocks on the Bloods one thousand dollars at a time, God is punishing the gays with Katrina, God wants to amend the constitution, God is running for high office, God is going to throw a Hail Mary on this oil spill, you just wait and pray because that’s all you can do, just stay indoors and get back to those jobs, get back to the fashion of democracy, get back to investing, get back to patting yourself on the back, get back.

Images of towers falling and talking heads pound and stretch my skull and soon I just want to run away.  Somewhere.  Maybe Koh Phangan, Thailand.  Go back to those sandy markets, back to the postcard beaches and flowers in women’s hair.  And a student of mine, Kyle, is raising his hand.  He asks, “What’s the big deal about poetry, Mr. Griffin?  Mr. Griffin?”

“I write poetry because there’s nothing like the first streak of color on a white canvas, because I can unearth mountains and light the sky on fire.  Because sometimes I wake up and I want to put my mouth around the whole world like it were the bulb of a microphone and scream until the levels are China-glaze red and its pulsating core of ignorance and prejudice flattens.  Because I can load guns with songs locked in old tin boxes or unfolded from trash bins and demand that the strongest armored come forward.

Because each stanza I write takes me farther from the day my father abandoned me; because every breath I take is another chance to tell him, my mother, and grandmother that I love them and I don’t know what it’s going to be like without them.  Because poetry takes me back to the first time I held hands with a girl who loved me.  Because I’m trying to find God, Kyle, and I’m afraid I’m looking in all the wrong places.

But He’s an anthology of wisdom and I’m only on poem 109.

I’m looking for God, Kyle, and I’ve learned to take my time.”

—————-

Thanks for reading.  Posting this is a little embarrassing as it’s a first draft, but I hope you enjoyed it.


Pleasure

June 14, 2010

We carried our backpacks through bazaars on the edge of Patan without a destination.  The dirt road stretched out like a ladder to be scaled, its rungs carved by the wooden wheels of commerce.  Nepalese potteries and screen paintings of Katmandu sunsets gleamed behind bargainers waving to foreigners.  I stopped at a table of statues.  With fatigue, I ran my fingers over the fused beads of steel clumped on Buddha’s head, the color of dark tourmaline.  I paid for the figure and handed the elderly merchant an acrylic of the Temple of Lord Shiva I had worked on all of June.  She hovered her hands over the carved rose brick foundation, then the two tiered golden roof, then the silver doors.  She took one of my hands and her easy smile buoyed me in the buzzing world around me, humming of happiness displaced.

DSC_0492 by dorgel1.

Photo taken by dorgel1 on flickr


Quickly Quotable #12 – The Little Prince (via My Literary Quest)

June 14, 2010

I quite liked this post by Literary Quest and I thought I might share it. The second quote especially pertains to the writer’s excruciating editing process. Enjoy :)!

Quickly Quotable #12 - The Little Prince It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. Antoine de Saint-Exupery – The Little Prince … Read More

via My Literary Quest


Anger

June 6, 2010

They released me from underground isolation in the summer of 1972.  The citizens’ group that demanded a second review of evidence against me cheered outside barbed wire as guards unlocked my cuffs.  The warden who that morning had dug his thumbnails into my throat now waved to the public and while flash bulbs sounded like gunshots the world seemed painted in different colors.  Burner-blue sky cordoned around me like a gas oven and humidity hung like volcanic ash.  An officer in brown and blue rolled my new sleeves down to cover the bruises, but I never looked at his face.  My eyes fixed on the ink-black sidearm in his holster.  The leather dimples in its handle caught sunlight like beads of sweat and I imagined jamming the barrel far back into his mouth, pulling my index finger back into a fist, and howling before lead ripped through me.

They shuffled me into a Volvo as rectangular as a coffin and the civilians rejoiced for justice served.


Fear

June 3, 2010

His knuckles and jewelry battered against my nose and the bones in my face negotiated their positions as if they had always longed to invert themselves, to shuffle lines and sockets like new puzzle pieces.  My hands swiped at his jugular before the emerald ring hammered into my mouth, prying my teeth out in groups until I looked like a piano without keys.  Choking on saliva, my head jerked back as he pulled my collar toward his face.  Blood pooled under my tongue and canines scraped along my stomach lining, pushing up vomit as he shouted in my ears.  He was asking me questions.  I’m sure he was asking me questions.


[Update] This Week’s Project: “It’s all in your head”

June 3, 2010

“Avoiding the obvious when writing about extreme states of mind is a real challenge for any writer,” writes an anonymous contributor to What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.  “Resorting to such cliches as “his heart was in his mouth,” “she was on cloud nine,” and “he flew off the handle” is far easier than figuring out what is really happening to someone scared, happy, or angry.  You must translate the emotion of feeling into fresh, interesting language, rendering precisely or metaphorically what is taking place within the character.”

This is something I’ve gotten better and better about, particularly since the start of my novel, but truthfully, this is a continual struggle.  Characters are put in a slew of situations which push their buttons and, as a writer, it can be challenging to uniquely and perceptively describe intense emotions each time.  We writers have a lot to worry about like pacing, plot, setting… the list goes on.  And occasionally, we can fall into the trap of describing an angry outburst with a cliche like “he flew off the handle.”  It’s also hard to write hundreds of characters who all experience the same umbrella emotions like fear, anger, and pleasure in unique ways.  So, I’ve got to do this exercise suggested by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

The exercise:

“Write three short paragraphs, the first “fear,” the second “anger,” and the last “pleasure,” without using those words.” (Easy part.) “Try to render these emotions by describing physical sensations or images.” (Harder part.)  “If you want, write mini-stories, dramatizing these emotions.  Try to make your language precise and fresh.” (Hardest part.)

So I’m going to publish three flash fictions, each focusing on fear, anger, and pleasure, in that order.  Help me out by commenting on my attempts or by emailing me your own attempts at nlyfiction@gmail.com and I’ll put them up on the last day if they follow the rules above.

Let’s do it!

-Kaston