Monday, December 14, 2015

Community Poem #1 - Brick Bar

Community poem guidelines:
  • One line created by one member of the community
  • The next writer may not see the previous writer's line, use a cover-up card
  • Intended for genuine, original thought
  • Improvisation encouraged
Once poem is completed:
  • compile lines and revise accordingly for flow and feeling
  • create your own line breaks for effect and form
  • keep intact the original spirit of community interaction
  • refrain from making any additions other than suitable/substitutable prepositions
The following community poem was created at Brick bar in the Blue Star Arts complex:

Community Poem #1

In the resting of nests,
the great white heron bathes

in the waves
of the mallard's call
of pitter-pattered maelstroms,
turn-arounds and right wrongs,
and when the night owl's
tempered sugar skull
begins to rot,
confusion rides like a circle round.

Pick up the telphone
when the actor
from across the aisle
dials your number,
because lively dreams are not at night,
in the meantime
a wrench can fix things.
One-two-three, two-two-three, three-three-three,
we danced by the dim light
of candled chandeliers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hays Street Bridge Story Rap (Under Construction)

Now here's a little story that must be told,
about the Hays Street Bridge that was put on hold
by the monied, the cultured, and the powers that be,
another tragic tale of development versus community...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Signpost on Home of Frank Toudouze Before Demoliton (Found Poem)

THIS HAS BEEN
OUR HOME FOR
50 YEARS,
IT'S NOT FOR SALE.
WE CAN NOT SEE
WHY WE SHOULD BE
FORCED TO SELL JUST
TO SATISFY A HAND
FULL OF SO CALLED
BIG SHOTS. SO IF
URBAN RENEWAL
HAS THE POWER
TO CONDEMN OUR
HOME, MAY WE
SPEND OUR NEXT
CHRISTMAS IN A
TENT.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Art of Eavesdropping: Notes on the Makers



The "makers" of San Antonio, posted up at a bar a friend once called "Brooklyn Nights":

Sounds like he might have changed the song himself. Singing along to the popular melody of "Mary Jane" by Rick James, underground classic no doubt. Bartender plays along with the chord changes. But there's only so much oil in the ground, councilman. You missed the message in the music, Tower of Power. Too bad, councilman.

Councilman went to Keystone high school, he says. Not so near to east side. Left town for college. Still, visions of MLK march dance in his head: Up from the south, the homeless, disabled, wounded warriors march. From the west, the latinos march. Down from up north, the LGBTQ march. Deep from the east black folk march. Interfaith march from...some other point in town.

Multiple marches...segregation...? And the corporate commissaries? From which direction will they march, councilman?

After march, TED talks during the day. Concerts at night. All in the name of peace, prosperity, diversity, and opportunity. Opportunity was keyword. Left out autonomy. Pitch it to major news networks. Plans to make it on CNN. Drone cameras. Largest march in country is not enough. Passé topic. Downtown march, close down streets. Converging on La Villita, Hemisfair. Philanthropic effort or Business pitch?

The other from Central Catholic. Never a Marianist. Doing business in the backroom, behind closed doors.

A Tech operative enters the frame. Said he had a problem with organized religions. Boasting. Logic class in college, debate on whether religion was a force of good in the world. Catholic school burnouts turned atheists.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wires, Headlines

Intended to grab the reader's attention. To sell papers. To lead into.
This entry will share the joy, puzzlement, and amusement you may get if you too are baffled by the most oblivious and bizarre AP wires and the not-quite-right newspaper headlines found on the front pages. Here's an original take on headlines and sub-headings:



This just in:
"Public Safety" is a euphemism for law enforcement
Subheading: "Creating jobs" is double-speak for creating profits

This just in:
All wars of conquest are unjust
Subheading: This includes American Manifest Destiny

This just in:
US Airways and American Airlines set a historically unprecendented merger in air travel
Subheading: Meanwhile, half of the city of San Antonio's population has never flown in an airplane
This just in:
Public transportation is not a part of the American dream
Subheading: Which has become an American nightmare


This just in:
Maximizing profits is in no way related to managing an economy
Subheading: Whose economy is it anyway?


*work in progress*

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Forever Lying (Flashback)

If age twelve is known as the "age of consciousness" then the teenage years must be known as the "age of angst," followed by - if you're fortunate enough -  the "turbulent twenties." The July/August issue of Poetry magazine features a segment on this "angst" with essays, artwork, and poetry submitted by "self-proclaimed angsty teens."

The following is a poem I wrote and luckily saved from my senior year in high school. Long story short, a seventeen-year-old boy falling hard for a girl, already taken, only to have his heart broken and act as if it was the end of the world and for some strange reason turned to writing to express this.

I remember reciting this poem at a poetry reading at the old Cafe Revolucion spot on El Paso street to an audience with uneasy looks on their faces, the tired rolling of their eyes delivering the message of "get over it, kid." Thank God other high schoolers were present to share in my sorrow and help me to cope. Break-ups to make-ups, as we said.


Forever Lying (Written May 2004)


Forever lying next to you.
You, by the side of my dreams.
Yet as real as it seems I will not
believe it.
Only you so perceive it
as an incogitant gesture of playing this game.
Oh, what's in a name?
Replete.
Actions, I'm able to condone.
For a year I've known.
For a year she's shown,
what I've missed.
Now, forever lying,
not side by side,
but forever lying to me about what she feels inside.
With someone's heart at stake
I made the mistake and have forgotten
that this was all just a game
for two.

For the two I was playing with became one.

In this game for fun
it was me
who fell for it all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The First Rule of a Jazz Radio Show

The first rule of a jazz radio show:
If you don't know what to play, play Sonny Rollins.
And if you're not in the mood for Sonny Rollins, play Joe Henderson.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

MC - Master this Craft (Flashback)

What would it be to be an emcee? Spoken word, written June 2008.

MC
Trying to M-master this C-craft. Making it mine
Trying to...
Use these freestyle skills to pay my bills
Converting poetry into currency
A penny for my thoughts
For these inscriptions moving through time
For my two cents
Can I get a dime?
Emcees spitting their dope rhymes
Producers getting mental with their ill instrumentals:
J-Dilla. No I.D. Y Not. Pete Rock. 9th Wonder. MF Doom. The Ummah.
Oh ma. I mean oh my...
God, why am I struggling?
Striving
By any means
By all means
I'm using, you're losing.
I mean I'm losing...me
Trying to be an emcee
This isn't my usual s-t-y-l-e
Steelo. Steez. Steezo.
Jazo-O before he was Jay-Z
Riding high with Faze-O
These ryhmes are just coming to me
What would my pitch be?
To get my rhyme across
Life after line
On an on
Getting this down 'til the P.M. dawn
Yo, it's not my place
to be writing raps, keeping pace
But with this pen and journal
Something comes from within,
it's internal.
Eternal. Infernal.
An inferno I'm throwing
at you
from my mind
caught up with flowing
Getting low, down
From the subterrain
I'm doing my best to explain
That I couldn't walk up in a room and flow like
Rakim, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, Prodigy, Cannabis, Guru, Notorious B.I.G., the M-O-S D-E-Finitely,
That's not me, you see,
as a Master of Ceremony
The artist formerly known as Common Sense I'd use for defense
against a lyric attack
from Inspectah Deck or Gza Genius on the track
Kool G Rap got my back
With Raekwon I'd take on
Make noise with the Beastie Boys
Protect my own against Nasir Jones
So you can feel the wrath of Big Daddy Kane
R-A-W
That's how I'd take it to what's out there
Off air
How sweet the sound
I'd come from the underground

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Writing as Activism Prompt: May 5 (Last Session)


It was a pleasure, a thrill to host this writing lab at Gemini Ink. Thank you to Gemini Ink for allowing full creative/artistic freedom on this project. Thank you to the "regulars" - Amanda, Haley, and Jonathan - and to all other family and friends for making time to attend class. Thanks to all those out there on the world wide web for following along.

Amanda and Haley will be conducting their own writing workshop in the summer. Will post with updates.

Our last class was cancelled in lieu of the Gemini Ink Big Give S.A. all day reading session. The prompt is posted below. As always, stay tuned and spread the word.


May 5: Revolutions

  • Reading Material
    -
    Lapham's Quarterly Spring 2014 Issue (Featured Text)
    -
    Color-Coded
    - Political
    - Technological
  • Additional Reading Material
    - Revolutions in Reverse (David Graeber)
  • Common thoughts
    - Scientific definition, heliocentric
    - Revolution as uprising, insurrection
  • 20th Century Legacy
    - Spanish "Civil War" and Anarchism
    - Student movements quelled by state violence and repression
    - "...because we've always moved in the field of morality and love while people have been politically jiving with our lives. And the question is, how do we now move politically and stop trying to move morally? You can't move morally against a man like [that]. You've got to move politically to put them out of business.
    We must begin to think politically and see if we can have the power to impose and keep the moral values that we hold on high. We must question the values of this society..." - Stokely Carmichael
    - Saul Alinsky, community organizing and understanding different modes of power, referent power to people power to political power to legal power. Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio largely reflects the Alinsky model
  • Revolutions in Reverse
    - David Graeber collection of essays explains the cycle of social revolutions occurring from people protest in the streets - creating institutions reflective of mission - establishing social relations to maintain institutions, now appears, establishing social relations - creating institutions - people protest in the streets

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Writing as Activism Prompt: Apr 28 (Guest Host)

Good day,

Today Haley Johnson and Amanda Lane will be hosting the writing lab. Thanks Amanda and Haley! I will return to host the last and final class next Tuesday, May 5. Thank you to all for attending and following along online. We'll see you in May!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writing as Activism Prompt: April 21

April 21: Wanderlust
  • Reading Material
    - Story of the Gypsies also known as Gypsies: Their Life, Lore, and Legends (Konrad Bercovici)
    -
    Gypsies in the United States (Smithsonian Institution Education)
  • Americans travelling abroad
    - psychological impedance promulgated by mainstream news media outlets
  • Gypsies
    - Power structures of an irrational nature (seeking to dominate) have always looked for a societal scapegoat. For many centuries the Gypsies were the cause to blame of the larger western hemisphere.
    - "Where do the gypsies come from?" Where do the swallows come from? I am speaking of a people whose vocabulary lacks two words - possession and duty. You...cannot fathom what would happen to your own life if these two boundaries were to disappear."
    - To get "gypped"
    - Gypsy blood
  • Persecution of the homeless
    - Ordinances such as prohibiting sleeping in public

Writing Prompt:
  • Sedentary or nomadic? Describe what keeps you rooted or what moves you to spread your wings

Thursday, April 16, 2015

National Poetry Month: Melissa Kwasny

Moon has names for all her girls: Angel, Darling, Novia. Trees are
pollen merchants when green, the holy color, is at its apex. There
are baby rabbits in the night gardens, eating the world down.
There are scooters to ride after dinner. There are presents to be
wrapped in the thinnest, potable, yellow threads of light. Always,
there are books to cry over. Someone stays up until dawn, when
he smokes his cigarette on the threshold. Someone walks to the
edge of her village, as appearance goes to work on the dark. What
we remember of earth: the rain-washed centers. So that we must
have at one time seen them as panes of glass. If there are three
things that proceed from our seeing - beauty, love, and sadness - 
perhaps it is sadness that casts a shadow betwen the other
two. There are the heart people, the ones we know as children.
There are familiars, who are here to counter despair. There are
companions we recognize as a danger to us - and they might be us.
It's curtains for you, we say, closing them.

- "Clairvoyance (Moon)," Melissa Kwasny

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Writing as Activism Prompt: April 14

April 14: A Tale of Two Cities
  • Reading material
    -
    Break on Through, Abbot Kinney (The Baffler)
    -
    Is Sculley Committed to Our Future? (San Antonio Express-News)
    -
    Seventh Largest City and Little to Show for It (SA Express-News)
    -
    Gentrified East Side (SA Current)
    -
    Roots of Economic Segregation (Christine Drennon)
  • Sunbelt City
    - major industries are car dealerships, tourism/hospitality/service, highways
    - Pew Research Center reported San Antonio as the most economically segregated major metropolitan area
  • Quest to serve or sell San Antonio?
    - marketed as a cheap labor town
  • So long, Mission Trails
    - displacement of residents prompted Mayor's Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods
    - economic development, revitalization, for whom?
    - city of SA currently has no dislocation policy in place
  • Segregated school districts
    - history of segregation by property tax and racial restrictions in housing deeds in inner city

Writing Prompt:
  • Which side of the tracks do you come from? Write the perspective of your city as you see it through your creative lens

Saturday, April 11, 2015

National Poetry Month: Langston Hughes

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

- "The Dream Keeper," Langston Hughes

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Writing as Activism Prompt: April 7

April 7: On Trial

Writing Prompt:
  • Justice or Restitution? Describe a time when you've been put on trial for your convictions

Monday, April 6, 2015

National Poetry Month: Mary Oliver

Did you see it too, drifting, all night on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air,
an armful of white blossoms,
a perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings: a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
a shrill dark music, like the rain pelting the trees,
    like a waterfall
knifing down the black edges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds --
a white cross streaming across the sky, its feet
like black leaves, its wings like the stretching light
     of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

- "Swan," Mary Oliver

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 1st Marks National Poetry Month

1 Abril 2015

In reverence of national poetry month, San Antonio will be hosting poetry events all throughout April!
Check here for details: National Poetry Month SA

I'll be posting poems weekly from a number of influential works - haikus, ghazals, free verse, etc. Let us begin the celebration with stealing sugar:


We are poor students who stay after school to study joy.
We are like those birds in the India mountains.
I am a widow whose child is her only joy.

The only thing I hold in my ant-like head
Is the builder's plan of the castle of sugar.
Just to steal one grain of sugar is a joy!

Like a bird, we fly out of darkness into the hall,
Which is lit with singing, then fly out again.
Being shut out of the warm hall is also a joy.

I am a laggard, a loafer, and an idiot. But I love
To read about those who caught one glimpse
Of the Face, and died twenty years later in joy.

I don't mind your saying I will die soon.
Even in the sound of the word soon, I hear
The word you which begins every sentence of joy.

"You're a thief!" the judge said. "Let's see
Your hands!" I showed my callused hands in court.
My sentence was a thousand years of joy.


- "Stealing Sugar from the Castle," Robert Bly

Friday, March 20, 2015

Writing as Activism Prompts: March Recap






March 31: Cultural Identity
Writing Prompt:
  • What culture do you speak? Write the narrative of your unique American history


March 24: Human Nature
Writing prompt:
  • What's in your human nature? Describe the parameters wherein you see creativity or communication can flourish


March 17: The Classroom
  • Reading material
    - featured poems by Rabi'a and Rumi rendered by Daniel Ladinsky (see
    Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West), and a poem by Mary Oliver titled "The Poet Dreams of the Classroom"
    - "A school I sat in cured me of hurting others" - Rabi'a
    - "What classrooms have you lounged in; What nonsense have you traded your gold for?" - Rumi
  • The function of public schooling
    - system of indoctrination and subordination
    - preparation for the workforce or higher education?
  • Current state of higher education
    - corporatization of the university
    - student debt, average student owing between $25k-$30k upon graduation, debt surpassing $1 trillion mark
  • Contrast with structured hierarchy of formal schooling with informal educational institutions
    - Institutions arising out of a collective organic need
Writing prompt:
  • Write the vision that comes to mind for your ideal classroom


March 10: Letters
Writing prompt:
  • Write a letter to someone, alive or dead, or to something, past or present


March 3: Circles
  • Reading Material
    -
    Circles (essay) by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Viewing Material
    -
    Islamic Mysticism: The Sufi Way (documentary), written and narrated by world religions author/professor Huston Smith
    - Opening preface from documentary:
    "Going around in circles is a pejorative, a put-down. And with reason for life has its mad whirl, its deadening round. But for the Sufis, circling is the perfect motion. For the circle triumphs over time. It travels without leave-taking. It's true that going in circles gets us nowhere, but what if we're already there?"
Writing prompt:
  • Write what has come full circle in your life or what seems to be spiraling out of control

http://geminiink.org/event/writing-as-activism/2015-03-24/

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Writing Lab at Gemini Ink

Post Spring Break Recap
- With more free time available during the semester I've taken on hosting a writing lab at local literary center Gemini Ink.
- I see writing as a form of activism - I'm concerned with political activism, community organizing - and in the writing lab we engage the "Active Imagination." Poet Melissa Kwasny introduced this term during a reading last fall at Bihl Haus Arts. Inspired by mystic Sufi poetry, she takes the idea of the image further, deeper, deepening into a vision, ultimately arriving at the center of a "visionary recital" wherein we all play a part, bearing witness to a world actively, creatively occurring around us.
- Each class begins with a brief introduction to "Active Imagination" followed by a prompt.

See below for writing laboratory info. Hope to see you at Gemini Ink (111 Navarro St, San Antonio, TX, 78205). Spread the word!
Free coffee and a warm place to write—join Gemini Ink and see where your words will take you.
Unlike a formal workshop, writing labs are a time and space to write in a group setting. Share your work in progress. Get encouragement and feedback from fellow writers. As a member, you can participate in as many member-led writing labs as you like.
Open Writers
Share your works-in-progress in this peer-driven workshop.
Hosted by Dario Beniquez
Last Monday of every month, 6:30–8pm, Ongoing
Writing as Activism
Engage your creative imagination.
Hosted by Rene Jaime Gonzalez
Tuesdays, Mar 3-May 5, 2–4pm
Writing for Young Readers
Make time to scribble that story for your child, or your inner child.
Hosted by Lisa Cortez Walden
Thursdays, Mar 5-May 7, 12–1:30pm
Voice Lab
Explore many genres of writing and build your voice in a focused, supportive environment.
Hosted by Julia Jarrell
Fridays, Mar 6-May 1, 9:30am–1pm
Non-members are welcome to come check out one FREE session.  Register by emailing lcortezwalden@gmail.com.

Member Writing Labs


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Word on the Street

On the block: Houston and Navarro. A conversation between two tourists, one giving his take on the streets of San Antonio. “Tell me,” said the surly man in a thick New Jersey accent, “what kind of a city builds its sidewalks where two people can’t walk together side-by-side?” I stopped in my tracks. Looked down. Looked around. His perception all too keen. Street smarts.

Bounded by St. Mary’s to the north, IH-10 to the west, IH-37 to the east, and Cesar Chavez to the south, the downtown area streets appear to be fairly hospitable for those traveling on foot, but this soon begins to change as we leave the inner city. Even in some parts of the affluent neighborhoods of King William and Monte Vista do we find sidewalks leading to nowhere or nearly non-existent. Historical districts near to the city center no longer weave a social fabric that once housed a vibrant working-class community.

With the advent of the mass-produced automobile, car culture soon began to take precedence in the engineering of San Antonio city streets. Roads were widened to accommodate vehicular traffic thereby removing frontage space, curtailing a thriving street life. The organic cultural exchange of goods and services once rivaling New Orleans in its cosmopolitan diversity, gone. Open-air markets and plazas designed by the original Spanish missionaries, paved over and repurposed.

It was more than just sidewalks this city lost. Streets have the potential to perpetuate a healthy balance of harmony and disorder. The public realm in Ol’ San Antone used to be a wondrous place, connected by pedestrian pathways, where all walks of life would venture to congregate and interact. In essence, the street can become the destination itself.

Though it touts its national ranking of seventh largest city with a population of 1.4 million people, San Antonio is still missing key elements of intra-neighborhood connectivity and an around-the-clock system of public transportation. Instead, we operate as a network of small towns with Olmos Park, Balcones Heights, and other municipalities incorporated by annexation policy over the years.

And so I pose these questions: How can we overcome decades of social isolation and environmental deterioration promulgated by single-use zoning and suburban sprawl to forge a new community for the 21st Century? Will it be the voice of the community to shape public policy for better streets and better neighborhoods?

Perhaps we could take note from UTSA professor and author Heywood Sanders given during a town hall event focusing on the topic of gentrification, defining the term’s usage and its apparent symptoms. He proposes a fundamental shift in policy in which investment is directed towards resident and neighborhood needs, taking priority over public incentives in place for developers capitalizing on vacant and neglected property.

Designing sufficient sidewalks where we can walk together side-by-side would be a good place to start.

I’ll see you on the street.



- Commissioned article for "The City Journal" (coming soon)

Monday, January 12, 2015

LARGECOMM in 2015: A New Day

Welcome back,

to a new year. San Antonio rode through its fair share of ups and downs in the second half of 2014:



  • Our former Mayor and former District 1 City Councilman showed their true colors as self-interested political opportunists - one appointed as a federal secretary in Washington D.C., the other landing a seat in the Texas House of Representatives - taking the wind out of the sails of those supportive of urban policy development.
  • In partisan politics, Battleground Texas and the Democratic party failed to galvanize support to take the November elections, the Republican party ultimately making a clean sweep in Texas. Citizens continue to express their disdain for both parties and remain disillusioned with the entire political apparatus.
  • VIA's Streetcar was shot down. The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts got off to a running start. Uber and Lyft received a cease-and-desist letter from the San Antonio Police Department. Alamo Beer got their brewery. Henry Cisneros still chases the lost cause of landing a professional footbal team.
  • And all the while the Center City Development Office continued to cut breaks (water/energy waivers and property tax reimbursements) and give incentives (in the millions) to developers rolling out housing in the inner city at market rate of around $2 per sq ft for rent and lofts/condos for purchase starting at $250,000+, still only one out of the twenty-two developments (past and present) has accomodated Section 8 residents.
With these murky events of the past year behind us, we've arrived at a clean slate. Along with the school semester you can find me pursuing writing for various community outlets. Already in the works is an article for "The City Journal" - a print publication organized by Michael Cirlos of Humans of San Antonio. Spread the word and stay tuned.

It's a new day. And a better day is coming. The semester begins January 20th. We'll see you then.

P.S.

"There are only two ways in which a writer can become important - to write a great deal, and have [their] writings appear everywhere, or to write very little...The only thing that matters is that these should be perfect in their kind, so that each should be an event."

- T. S. Eliot