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Often while working on the daily pieces for NaPoWriMo, I am reminded of my experience of writing poetry in the Stone Age before the internet explosion. I would write a piece and many times it would feel like the page would burn my hands if I didn’t do something with it. Off to Kinko’s I’d go so I could make copies for poet friends or to send it off to the most suitable Call for Submissions. I would feel a kind of relief then, as if this urgent burst of energy now had some focus or reason to be.

The immediacy of my daily posts on the Facebook Fan Page and 365/365  more than fulfills that old urge, and is fairly confronting. I am taken aback at just how truly immediately other eyes are on these words. The commitment to write daily leaves no real time for revision, rethinking, retraction. I get to see my jagged edges, neuroses, loves, and incomplete thoughts. And so does everyone else. Really quickly. The swiftness of sharing this ongoing series of poems and the comments and conversations that come up around them is as soul-shaping as the writing.

I do feel shaped by what I write, as the inner and outer experiences shape me and prompt me to write. I have felt shaped quite literally lately, posing for a clay sculpture class. It is odd to feel sometimes like there are 10 voodoo dolls of me being molded before my eyes. I sometimes imagine that I’ll leave class subtly or profoundly different from the way I came in, and wonder about this as a metaphor for every interaction.

Here are the most recent poems:

April 6, 2011

Names

I think I’ve found the perfect candidate
for The Fool
in my personal deck of Tarot.
The role of The Devil has been taken.
I wonder what The Goddess calls me
when I can’t hear Her over the music.

April 7, 2011

Where no orgasm is unmemorable
Where the walls embrace wide auras
Where books and beings point out the Heart of Hearts
Where God sings the wailing blues
Where there are clean dishes and enough blankets
Where there are spent toys of pleasure
Where I sleep late
I begin to notice things
Where the forest holds love without need.

April 8, 2011

Uninvited

He left her a message today
Said he wanted to make amends
A sound beating never forgotten
gets icy silence in any decade
I remember being made to hear
the uninvited
My face in a journal thinking
I’ll just write
No, I’ll just sleep
How do I get out Try to
sleep
Her story my story
Any woman’s story told
is a cutting of the cord
Bloodletting
Our Burning Times
to purify
if there must be fire.

April 9, 2011

On the Lindenwold Train

On the Lindenwold train to Philly
you keep approaching to interrupt
an otherwise perfect spring fever.
Warm enough tonight
to feel cute on South St.
in jeans and short black jacket,
and at ease back home
where forsythia announce
the inevitable end to cold.
On my way to meet the poly people
same place we met once
at the inevitable start.

This train best get going.
Take me to my punk rock roots
and motley crew of a mockup family
so I forget how once last fall
I would have liked to catch you sleepy,
mojito in hand,
and me with knives in mine.
Luck held out for both of us.

Trees still bare.
I long to lie naked in the neighborhood
under natural cover,
but I will not rush this season.
It pushes me slowly along from last September,
when I lay trapped in a learning curve
of drinking and dreaming
your house demolition.

Woodcrest Station.
A musty man stinking
of B.O. and basement
chatters questions.
I am annoyed by my impulse to answer,
glad to break the tumbling thoughts
of broken intentions,
secret darknesses
that I find have left
strange nutrients.
I lap up new knowledge,
drops of blood to a ravenous bat.
I turn my head to breathe.

The box is open now.
There will be more weapons
forged with sparks of light.
I rest relieved
it is someplace else
your poisonous script will run.
My feet hit 8th & Market,
smooth in the rhythm of my streets.

April 10, 2011

Spokeswoman

Whatever ruptured yesterday
heals today
I remember or decide
there is no healing
without the wound
The wig display head
At the foot of my bed
May tell the stories better than I.
I may let her.

April 11, 2011

My bath, her shower.
Dreaming a bathroom conflict,
I caved. She’s first again.

April 12, 2011

ROYGBIV

and so I looked relieved at the black and white 32 oz. shampoo bottles lined up
perfectly on the ledge by the tub facing one direction with no more price labels
bathroom is not bad today save for some sweeping that gets left for Saturdays
Order is like meditation, keep coming back to same things same places, a mantra of stuff
at least that’s what I tell myself sometimes and I mostly really mean it
Then I wonder if it is the loving order or the allowing disarray that is the real problem if there is one, but I do know
that the closet goes by item type and order of color the way nature paints rainbows and sometimes bills get so-called filed, forgotten in front of what used to be the Zen space with the new guitar strings candles and exercise bra
It is lonely when brain is frayed, never any-questions-fried but as if a little mouse were working away nest-building
from the outside in
Putting it back together I look for the real Zen space, the one that is always there in my head find it for real without pretense no pretending something about putting in order is holy aligning with the knowing of mystics flawless grace notes and good sex. I remember overhearing Rose and Lissa laugh about my alphabetical albums, I look
for something to wear and am pleased by the disproportionate sight of purple


www.robinrenee.com

Steve Forbert

I went to see Highway of Sight, Steve Forbert’s cell phone photo exhibit, this past Saturday at the ART629 Gallery in Asbury Park. I had been feeling a little anti-social all day, so it really was a good thing to hear from Nancey, my good friend and concert-going buddy, who convinced me to quit cocooning and come out and play. Thanks, Nancey—I appreciate that! The two of us have such fun hanging out and being Forbert groupies together- How could I miss this one?

As I came in the door, I was surprised by Steve, who said hello, remembered my name and that he had seen me the week before at his show at The Record Collector in Bordentown. I am not sure he remembered that I interviewed him for the 2008 Songwriter’s Market. He couldn’t have known that a few years ago I was contemplating using the title of this blog entry as the title of a book. The book would be based on a slice of autobiography – soul-searching in the years around my father’s passing and other lesser life complications – with the backdrop of my strange pursuit of this quietly enduring folksinger. For a long time I have also wanted to write about the power, mostly positive, I think, that exists in music hero worship, and the bonds and creativity borne out of fandom. When I heard about the recent publication of I Think I Love You  I felt scooped, but whatever—I have different insights and stories to tell. There are quite a few books living in my head. One day, some of them will escape and find themselves written down, I promise.

The photos were simple, telling bits of Americana and curious things found along the trail of a touring musician. In this show, Forbert seemed to favor repeating items – like soda bottles or rows of eggs – that reminded me of early industrial innovation. I was checking out the images, wondering why an artist finds a particular fascination, or vice versa. The artist himself had been affable and talkative with attendees all evening. He managed to surprise me again and out of the blue walked up and asked, “So what’s the deal?” He wanted to know about the town I live in, and which photo was my favorite. My fave of the moment was “Glass Stems in Case.”

His question got me to confront something I had only idly mused over before:

Seriously, what is the deal?

Why this cyclical fixation (and the requisite goofy crush that goes with it) on the unassuming Steve Forbert and his live performances? I have the records and CDs, but it is mainly about the live show. I’ve seen him more in concert than quite a few of my other fangirl obsessions like Steely Dan, Gary Wilson (I know, he doesn’t play that much), and even Devo.

Though it is fun to revel in the mysterious nature of my adoration, I can say a little about what draws me:

Storytelling. Forbert is a solid craftsman of songs of struggle, love, work, and everyday greatness. He is afraid of neither politics (“The Baghdad Dream,” the ever-evolving “Oil Song”) nor humor (“Strange Names – New Jersey’s Got ‘Em)”. One of the surprising byproducts of the emergence of kirtan chant into my life was a lessening of the impetus to tell stories in song. When you are at OM, what more is there to say? I feel the stories reemerging now, and can look to the art of cutting to the core of basic human experience in Forbert’s best tunes for guidance.

He loves his career. I have heard him say more than once that he is grateful for the early success of “Romeo’s Tune” because it has enabled him to do what he likes for all these years. Another artist might be forever angry that meteoric success didn’t continue unabated. Steve seems to get that he has a good life and a really cool gig going on.

Perfect timing. Honestly, I believe this all started back in the day the first time I heard WMMR play “Goin’ Down to Laurel.” My heart melted and I was changed in some intangible way. Later, “Romeo’s Tune” was the summer love theme playing in my head as I would travel hours by bus and train to Connecticut to see a girl I was crazy about who I’d met at summer camp.

He is earnest. The language he uses is often matter-of-fact, sometimes cute, and may deal with pain, but is not meant to cause pain. He can write a personal or cultural critique without the cutting cynicism that I actually love from other artists. A Steve Forbert song is like an antidote to an overdose of bitterness. His body of work tells us that he really wants the best for the world and all of us in it, without even so much as a devolutionary twist.

Inspiration. Whenever I’m nervous about whatever it is my next move ought to be, I remember these immortal words:  “You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play.”

I recently checked out the open mic at Coffee Works.  I am still thinking about the evening, and how much value there is in musical spaces like it.  I seem to remember having left the open mic thing back somewhere when people were moving away from Joni and Dylan songs to cover Oasis and Ani.  I’ve been missing out, so I’m glad to get back to the possibility of coming out on a random Tuesday night and sharing tunes, maybe with friends, mostly with strangers. 

There were some very good lyricists there.  A decent mix of the young, the nervous, the regulars—a nice version of everything one expects an open mic to be.  As for the inevitable cover tunes, I find them either a comfort or a curiosity.  I don’t mind at all sticking around to see which oddball or overplayed tune people will pull out, and how they’ll decide to change it up.  That night, there was everything from Paul Simon to Otis Redding to Taylor Swift, which says something (positive, I think) about the fairly wide demographic.  I played “Into the Fire,” a song that has every intention of making it to my next CD, and the harmonium version of “Holy River.”  I hazard a guess that the harmonium is an instrument not often played at Coffee Works.  I had to push myself a little to not just settle for being the appropriate and expected “girl with guitar” in that context.  I’m glad I did.   

It has been a long while, but I did have a few gigs at Coffee Works, at least one where I may as well have been a radio.  Not long after that, I decided that I had learned enough from coffee house type gigs where I was likely to be treated as a soundtrack to conversation and grinding coffee beans.  Deciding to force myself into situations that demand more intentional listening or participation was a good thing.  Forgetting that there might be something good about future events in coffee house venues or even (gasp) trying again at this same place was an oversight. 

Granted, it is a bonus that the place has increased dramatically in its cool factor in my humble opinion now that people like Jeffrey Gaines, Graham Parker, and Steve Forbert have been gracing the stage.  Perhaps I shall wax poetic about my love of Steve some other time. 

In the years just after I sang and played keys in Spy Gods, there was a uniquely moving period for acoustic music – and particularly women’s acoustic music— in New Brunswick, NJ.  I played in the local cafes there sometimes, but was in a deeply quiet, incubation period of life.  I remember myself then more as a proverbial wallflower, growing internally but not quite ready to bloom with new words and music.   That time period feels remarkably similar to what I‘ve just been through, though it seems like a little more wisdom is hanging around.  Can one trust the mind that thinks it is wiser?         

I’m ready to go back to beginnings in the open mic environment to start playing some works-in-progress, even if they’re not Virgo-perfect.  That scares me, which is precisely why it is going on my Bold Steps list of things to do.  Ego-self would rather appear only on grand stages, and feels like open mics are stepping backward.  Sinking into the deeper knowing, there is value waiting for me in creation outside of a vacuum, the sounds of others daring to be excellent or imperfect, and even in the risk of being ignored in lieu of a mocha soy latte. 

Personal ashram life is allowing space for me to be more observant, more appreciative.  I have been noticing things worth exploring that have been nearby all along.  I’d believed the hype that if it’s in South Jersey it can’t really be that cool.  This was an incorrect and not so helpful an assumption.  I have a few more amusing ASSumptions to ramble on about next time.

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