The Council of Amara Release

The Council of Amara

In less than a week, my book will be in your hands. In one way or another, I’ve been working on these stories for at least three years now, but I’d like to say in theory I’ve been working on them since the day I was born. For me, these characters came in traces, captured in recollection.

Some of these stories began in a dream — in a woman’s voice; in a woman I wrote to understand. During my senior year of college, I wrote and defended a creative honors thesis, which included the linked short stories you will have in your hands soon. I spoke about the women I’ve always desired to see on the page — strong, flawed, and feminine heroines who didn’t always get everything right, but still persevered despite their limitations. I sought to seek strength in vulnerability and in the type of traits often characterized as weak. After years of witnessing hyper-masculinized and over-sexualized women on my television, I became fed up with the narrative currently surrounding strong female characters.

So, I wrote these stories. I wrote about women who weren’t necessarily strong in the masculine sense of the word, but were strong nevertheless in all their femininity. I never imagined I’d publish these stories once I completed my thesis, but something in me told me to release them like paper airplanes onto the world.

You won’t have to wait that much longer until these stories are yours, too.

I hope in this shared, liminal space you find exactly what you need to in the words I’ve written to this page.

The Council of Amara will be yours on December 31st.

Finding a Second Home in Slam Poetry

Performing “The Mask (In Your Dreams), Which is to Say Golden Age (JFK)”

Since September, I’ve been performing slam poetry at a small, quaint place called The Film Bar. It’s exactly what you might imagine it to be — a film bar: a place, which shows classic indie film and has a fully-operating bar serving treats and your favorite drink, too.

For the longest time, I’ve written poetry in a place of solace and kept my words for the latter half to myself. Granted, I have published two books of poetry, but this experience of speaking my poetry aloud to a live audience feels different to me. Once a month, I go to the Ghost Poetry Show, sometimes to speak and other times to listen — to absorb, to contemplate the words others have pressed to the page and resuscitated upon speaking them aloud.

It’s an intimate, personal experience to say the least. I don’t think any other form of art would quite allow or even grant the level of intimacy allowed within poetry. I never knew I desired a sense of community. I suppose I believed in the myth for the longest time that most artists write alone in the dark, but I guess that’s the magic of it all.

In community, we begin and find our words alone before we share them as we are cast in spotlight. Last Thursday, I performed at the Ghost Poetry Show and I won third place. I think at the end of the day the notoriety or awards don’t really matter as much as they are greatly appreciated.

I’ve always preferred the words after when a poet or an audience member comes up to me and says, “Your words really spoke to me.”

Because more or less, they are saying your words found me when I needed them. I found a home in them and they found a home in me.

And I think that’s the greatest reward at the end of the day.

Soften this Sadness

Nobody told me how to use my voice. Nobody told me how to write my poetry although they most certainly tried to.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it’s difficult to emerge sometimes from challenging situations with a heart full of gratitude and softer eyes for having undergone such tribulations.

But that’s what I strive to do every day — to emerge sweet despite the contrast, which has informed my pathway and candid resolution.

I think that every word I share on this blog and in my life has been marked by the promise to soften to these words and moments in this liminal space.

Because the more I live, the more I’m beginning to realize that those who’ve hurt me didn’t realize they could have realized better in their lives. The way I see it, every emotion at one point existed as suppressed sadness. When I sit with that cardinal fact, I’m left speechless in all honesty.

So, I present you with this oath, this sentimental promise: I will continue writing candidly in this space because every emotion, which has passed before me was once repressed by him and her and all those who did not believe in me because they could not realize better for themselves.

Confessions From a Fountain Pen Snob

I have a confession: I’m a fountain pen user. And by fountain pen user, I mean fountain pen snob.

I call myself this because I only use fountain pens. Before I continue, I want to take you back to August 7th of 2020 as this was an important date for me. For starters, it was my 25th birthday (go me)! And on this very special day, I received my very first fountain pen from my brother for my present.

The pen, you ask? A Pilot Metropolitan in a purple color (as purple has always been my favorite color). I started off with ink cartridges and then slowly transitioned into using actual bottles of ink, which I purchased with time (more on this later).

I want to take this time to introduce another aspect of myself you may not know already. Fountain pens have been pivotal in my process of writing and in my enjoyment of it, too.

When I’m writing with a fountain pen, the process feels smooth and alchemical. There’s a close precision in the transference of ideas to the page. I wrote my first collection of poetry all on paper in my journal with my Pilot Metropolitan so it holds a special place in my heart and soul.

When I utilize my pen, I’m always in a certain mood and I choose the appropriate color to capture my mood accordingly. I’ll probably eventually write another post about the types of ink I use, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll give a brief description here.

Right now, my favorite color is Noodler’s “The Purple Heart,” which is a dark bluish-purple ink with the date of my birthday on its label (another synchronicity)! The story behind this color is related directly to the medal awarded to soldiers, which just happens to be called the Purple Heart. It’s a quick-drying ink, which is a key necessity for me as I’m a lefty and am known to smear practically everything in sight.

All jokes aside, the fountain pen and the inks I have are meaningful to me because they allow me to tap into the words I’ve always possessed within me.

They are my tools — my instruments — to make meaning in this world and I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

*

I’ve linked the Pilot Metropolitan Purple Fountain Pen and Waterman’s Tender Purple Ink (my first fountain pen ink) below since the one I mentioned in my blog isn’t available currently. If you purchase any of these products, I receive a small commission from Amazon.

The Pilot Metropolitan is a great starter pen for those interested in trying out fountain pens as its relatively inexpensive and comes with an ink cartridge already. If you’re not comfortable with using inks right away, try an ink cartridge until you get accustomed to the process of writing with a fountain pen.

Capturing Cupid’s Wings

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a while because I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to say, but I figured I’d take a stab in the dark, or as I’d prefer to view it, lean in closer to reveal the sight of Cupid with a single lantern.

See, I think it’s one thing to say you believe in miracles and then another entirely to say you’ve co-created a miracle.

Growing up, I used to hear that miracles occurred once in a blue moon — a distant reminder speaking to the mundane origins of our world and our respective lives within it.

Then, I grew up. Even so, as I progressed in my spiritual journey, I still believed in miracles — in synchronicities orchestrated by the divine: a force greater than me, and in some small way related to me.

But I had never experienced the kiss of a miracle before. I charted doves and prayed to candles — to my ancestors, to God and even to some form of a higher power. My tears formed a heart — an answered clarifier to all my questions I imposed, but still, I hadn’t seen it.

I hadn’t seen the elusive miracle latent on my cinema screen.

Until a few weeks ago.

Months ago, I knew I would be going to New York with my best friend. I hadn’t made any plans, had no idea why, but then through a series of shocking, sentimental, challenging events, I came to understand just how miracles come to be.

Because I believe we orchestrate miracles in our lives when we ask for them and when we listen to the signs of the divine. I believe we are of the divine and I believe there is nothing too large, which can compare to the magnitude of our souls.

So, I’ve written this post because I’d like to understand it. I’d like to trace the outlines of a miracle and see what it means once realized in my life.

And I think just this time I’ve traced Cupid’s wings as he departs Psyche’s reaching arms.

Will You Burn This For Me?

Love One Another By Zelda Fitzgerald

I’ve been thinking about the impermanence of art as marked by its materials, whether it be composed on paper, canvas, or any medium in between.

Sappho, a famous Ancient Greek poet, left us with many fragments as the papyrus used to contain her poetry was torn or damaged in several places, leaving up with pieces of stanzas, forever marking how we as readers interact with her art.

Then, several thousands of years later, we come into contact with writers like Zelda Fitzgerald — a talented writer and a painter, her wide-expansing talents unrecognized even to this day. She was overshadowed by her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald and her first and last novel Save Me The Waltz fell through the cracks, becoming out-of-print as the years passed. There’s so much more to cover on her history, but that’s enough for another post entirely.

What I mean to say is this: most of Zelda’s paintings were destroyed by her jealous sister and others were lost with the advent of time.

I guess I’ve been considering how time fragments memories and art as the materials we utilize to create and transcribe our art are so easily damaged, and then in other cases, artists sometimes ask others to destroy their art for them.

In the case of ignorance, millions of records were damaged in the 2008 Universal Studios Fire. (See post on Art Corner page for more info.)

Yet again, in the case of a decisive will, sometimes writers ask someone they love to burn their words for them so the public will never be able to see them again. Emily Dickinson asked her sister Lavinia to burn a chest full of her fascicles and I still think about how Lavinia did what she asked her to do and burned all those poems to this day.

I still think about what it means to lose art. And I still wonder at the distance between recovery and loss in relation to art. Because those paintings and poems are gone to us now and we will never be able to recover them; they smoldered and all we are left with now is these fragments of memory.

A wife.

A woman.

A painter.

A question.

Will you burn this for me?

A poet.

Some words on a crumbling page.

And a memory of loss sometimes captured on the page or in the paint.

I don’t think I understand the connection between recovery and loss yet.

And some part of me thinks I never will.

At My Door

I think sometimes about how everything I’ve ever lost has returned to me in one way or another and if it was never recovered then it simply wasn’t meant for me.

I lost my gold necklace with my great grandmother’s Hebrew name last night. I scoured my bedroom, went back to the park, searched by the tree I touched, but still there was nothing to be recovered.

I was certain I would find my necklace beside that white stained tree and it would be gleaming golden — victorious, I would be.

But in that moment I realized something. I have a tendency to linger, to hold onto items and memories, which bring me comfort even when they may no longer be necessary for me on my journey.

I’ve come to adopt a life motto, which is extremely simple and it is just this: what is meant for me will never leave me. It will always return to me.

I’ve failed to mention the amount of times I’ve misplaced this necklace, only for it to return to me in the most random place after a realization and a lesson had been learned in divine timing.

So, I think just this time I’ll let it go.

I think just this time I’ll leave this golden memory with the comfort that everything — every person, place, and experience, which is meant for me will never leave me and will return to my door when I’m ready to receive them.

The Critic as Artist

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I think it’s about time we’ve re-navigated the line between the critic and the artist. It’s commonplace today for artists to bemoan the critic and to complain of their lofty ideals and petty taste. In movie after movie, the protagonist often shakes their fist at the nefarious critic, accusing them of derailing their big break — their one crucial moment in the sun.

In Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Dermot Hoggins, a man intimately familiar with the thug life, publishes a novel inspired by his experiences called Knuckle Sandwich. At an awards event, Hoggins comes in contact with Felix Finch: a classically renowned critic who pens Mr. Hoggins a harsh critique. Hoggins, then, in a moment of blinding fury picks up Felix and throws him off the side of a high-story building. From this moment forward, Hoggins is revered as the man who “showed it” to the hideous critic and literally put an end to the bane of all artists everywhere.

This is a prime example of the endless war as seen in film and literature against the critic. Here is the one person who derails the success of all artists, writers, and poets. They proclaim, “Not good enough. This is trash.” They are displayed as snobbish drinkers of champagne with long blue scarfs and pointed smirks and blue eyes.

In the Critic as Artist, Oscar Wilde challenges the traditional relationship witnessed between the artist and the critic. During this dialogue, one of the characters, Ernest, proclaims, “Each new school, as it appears, cries out against criticism, but it is to the critical faculty in man that it owes its origin” (Wilde 230). Here, Wilde lays the framework for cultivating a new interpretation of the critic. Through his main character Ernest, Wilde presents the critic as a person central in the creation and later cultivation of the art and the artist as the art and artist appear to be inextricably women to one another; their fate and livelihood is simultaneous in this regard. In this manner, Wilde is cognizant of the nature of the critic and how their image and identity will always be bemoaned and critiqued. Even so, Wilde lays a case for the critic as seen throughout this dialogue.

As Ernest and Gilbert, the two main characters of the dialogue continue their discussion, they both arrive at a new understanding and interpretation of the critic. Dare I say it, they consider the artist as critic, or if you prefer, the critic as artist. (I’ll explain more later). During a pivotal scene, Ernest remarks, “The highest Criticism, then, is more creative than creation, and the primary aim of the critic is to see the object as in itself it really is not; that is your theory, I believe” (Wilde 240). This moment is crucial as Ernest argues here that the role of the critic occupies a critical, creative liminal space. In this manner, there is a kind of creativity, which weighs on the critic as they observe and account for the open space of the artist and their subsequent art. The artist cannot see their work’s shortcomings or even their unconscious contribution to the space of art, but the critic can. A thoughtful critic can. A discerning critic can. A compassionate, fair critic can.

I would argue that Wilde considers the role of the critic to be paramount to the creation, cultivation, and dissemination of art, for it is the critic who uncovers new beauty and “fills the [art] with wonder . . . [in a place] in which the artist may have left void, or not understood, or understood incompletely” (Wilde 240). This, then, solidifies the critic as crucial to the welfare of both the artist and the art. The critic celebrates the art, challenges the art, and disseminates and cultivates dialogue and discussion about the art. Moreover, if done well, the relationship between the critic and artist ought to be symbiotic and not parasitic.

As “the critic will [always] be an interpreter” it is necessary for the artist and critic to make peace with each other and set about forging a healthy, collaborative and cooperative relationship with each other, holding respect for the work each role serves in its place (Wilde 245). There is an air of respect Wilde leaves the reader with when in contemplation of the critic. In the text, through the mouth of Gilbert, he declares, “[The critic] may seek rather to deepen [art’s] mystery, to raise round it, and round its maker, that mist of wonder which is dear to both gods and worshippers alike” (Wilde 244).

In a strange roundabout way, I return to contemplating if the critic and artist will ever find peace within their relationship — if the artist will ever feel strong enough in their ego to accept the critic’s criticisms and if the critic will look upon their role of judgment with a kind of collaborative compassion and wonder. I wonder if the space in which the critic and the artist lie will ever be a peaceful place.

I suppose, then, I’ll leave you with this final point of inquiry.

Is not the work of the artist the same as the work of the critic?

Do we both seek out and observe beauty?

Do we cultivate it?

Do we tend to it?

Do we honor it from an honest space?

Magic in The Secret Garden

Front Cover of The Secret Garden, 1911 US Edition

I’ve been thinking about a statement Mary Lennox declares in The Secret Garden. She says to Colin that if he “make[s] them open the door and take [him] in like that it will never be a secret garden again” (Burnett 130).

In the very beginning of The Secret Garden, Mary keeps the abandoned garden she has recovered a secret primarily because she wants to revive it and she witnesses and recalls herself in this piece of earth.

By tending to the garden, she inadvertently tends to herself and becomes less sullen, gloomy, and alone. Mary finds solace in the bit of earth she cares for as she finds solace and a kind of love in herself.

But, I keep returning to this point of the magic in a secret garden or any secret really. I believe Mary didn’t want to share the secret of the garden because she was afraid she would lose herself in being tender and revealing an undisclosed aspect of herself to another — a familiar, a stranger: her first cousin.

When I think of my own life, I often think of the secret smiles I’ve kept to myself — those memories I’ve shared with only another — a memory no one else will be able to recover.

I think that’s what Mary spoke about at the end of the day.

There’s magic in a secret garden. There’s magic in the parts of ourselves we thought were abandoned but then tended to and watched bloom.

And there’s magic in this ancestry and me and you.

Nostalgia’s Rosy Eyes

Romantic Soul by Ron Hicks

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the role nostalgia plays in our lives as we journey forward through all our challenges and respective triumphs.

I honestly believe nostalgia comes from a desire for safety and comfort. Every time I’ve felt nostalgic in the past, I’ve noticed how the feelings I experience aren’t necessarily a desire to return to the exact time I’m reflecting back on. Rather, these scattered feelings bring me to a place of deep and earnest longing for a time when everything felt certain, warm, and comforting.

Now, in light of the pandemic and the fight/flight responses our brains all are naturally working through, it only makes sense to indulge in nostalgia for a time before the pandemic and before masks and this madness.

Every day, it appears that another area of conflict appears on our door side. Another day equals another conflict —another concern, another worry, which appears insurmountable to even us.

Given this, I’ve been reflecting on why we are nostalgic over the course of our lives. What purpose does nostalgia serve? And why do we linger in past memories through tinted rose-colored glasses?

In the end, I consider nostalgia to be laced in a moment, which never truly existed — a moment when everything appeared to be certain, brilliant, and fulfilling.

And so we return to our childhoods. We return to the playgrounds of our youth. We return to the first kisses, which caught us head over heels. And lastly, we return to the moment before everything unfolded before us.

Because even now we desire to trace the elusive “what-if’s.”

What if I had stayed in his/her/or their arms?

What if I lingered another day in a moment of sustained comfort?

I highly doubt nostalgia will ever leave us, but we might reconsider how we utilize this emotion as we face every challenge in our lives.