Poem: Tonight, A City Alight

I wrote this poem during the North Minneapolis 4th Precinct occupation of November-December of 2015. I had gone out there a few times to drop off water, hand-warmers and other simple things to provide some comfort and warmth to those who had established a encampment there. I attended several presentations and scheduled gatherings there as well, and sometimes just went there to share in the collective sense of loss, or anger, of communal outrage and determination.

I tried writing more poems about that period of time, however nothing seems to come out right, and this was the most succinct thing that I could create so far regarding that period of time.

 

Tonight, A City Alight

A city burns,

A city burns tonight.

 

The whole world watches,

while my city goes alight.

 

They’ve cordoned off the precinct,

might as well have been a fucking warzone checkpoint.

 

But none of that matters, for we will still gather, mourn, and march.

What is stirring here,

both bold consciousness and weary fright…

 

More piercing then the gunshots is that cry,

“Not my child, not mine!”.

 

Digging deeper into the business side of things

I was able to get out of town the past few days, and with a reprieve from the daily grind, came some space and clarity to finally get back into some much needed planning and big-picture perspective of what it means to getting a book published and essentially starting my own business.

I’ve been working on a business plan for a while now, but with everything going so fast; either the daily grind of life or things that have needed to be done right away to keep the book getting printed in a timely manner, some of the bigger stuff has fallen to the wayside.

Luckily, I’m out here with my older brother, who’s well versed in businesses and what’s needed to get them started and how to keep them afloat.

This was always the stuff I understood the importance of, but have never really liked to have to do. While my publisher is amazing and is dealing with some of the heavy lifting, at the end of the day, it’s still up to me to acquire the financial backing, to make important partnerships with bookstores and gift shops, and to make sure that adequate promotion and distribution of this book has been thought through.

It’s not my strong suite, that’s for sure, but I’ll be damned if I don’t do my best at trying to figure all this out as the process goes along.

Things that I had only simply thought about before need to be really hammered out, and it’s not where my natural talents and inclination lies.

But this is the important stuff, the hard stuff that I needed to be pushed and challenged on, so it is what it is.

So, drafting out the different phases of the crowdfunding campaign promotion and advertising routes as well as starting an LLC to conduct business under for the book have been what I’ve been chipping away at the last few days, as well as trying to plan out what should happen once the book is actually in print and we have an official launch.

I’m not alone in this venture, but I do feel like I’ve got the most at stake from a financial and career perspective in regards to the success or failure of this effort. My family can’t afford another financial black hole for us, and I’m not sure how I could consider attempting to get anything else published if this doesn’t go well.

What does that mean exactly, for this thing to go well? That’s a good question.

For me, I will have succeeded if I can sell my initial print run and break even on this, and get this project into the hands of people who I think would gain some encouragement and inspiration from it. That’s basically it. Anything else above and beyond that would be awesome.

I’d also love for this project to be an avenue for bigger and better things artistically for myself and my collaborators Amber and Alicia.

None of us are doing this to become rich, but because we can’t help but to write or paint or draw.

So, I’m hoping to be able to present more of a coherent, solid project and plan going forward, which will hopefully result in better social media promotion and overall higher engagement with the crowdfunding campaign and garner more interest in the book project itself.

Poem: Do You Know?

This past year, I’ve had to really delve into new places where artists gathered and came together to create and inspire and share with each other.

It’s sad to admit that I haven’t really delved too deeply into spaces exclusively for People of Color, and one of the main reasons is that it was never a natural place for me. I’m a mixed guy who happens to look more Black then anything, and for most of my life, I’ve been able to make my way through the mostly white world with occasional people of color as good friends here and there, but never really in a group or cohort specifically for people of color.

The last few years have forced me to reconcile some things about myself and my racial heritage, and the reality that I am, in fact a Person of Color, and that I too belong in spaces, actually need, spaces where other black and brown bodies come together, where we can share our experiences, and gain insight and strength from each other, and just BE. Simply exist without all the societal issues and code-switching and shoulder-looking that comes with moving through this day and age as someone with darker complexion of skin.

This poem was created in response to a writing prompt during a session of Black Lines Matter, an amazing project that’s hosted by Black Table Arts, every other Saturday at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Do you Know?

Do you know how much sound is in this sentence…

It took me so goddamn long

To love myself?

Do you know how much focus it takes…

To open up to the world

Yet keep my shield close and at the ready each and every day?

Do you know how much patience it takes…

To remind myself

What others see when I simply drive down the street

Or walk into a room?

Too goddamn much, it what I would say.

Crowdfunding, gah

So, I have a confession to make.

When I started with my publisher, I had the goal and vision of being totally self-financed when it came to the cost of working with them and getting this book project published.

For a while, I was able to do just that; I paid my freelance editor promptly after she completed reviewing and revising the poems I was going to submit, and I was able to pay my visual artists as they turned artwork in or right afterwards.

Granted, some of this was school loan money, but still, I was able to essentially pay my way as the process went along, and I had a credit card that I barely ever used that was going to carry me through the bulk of the costs for publication.

Then, I was done with law school prematurely because of my poor grades, so there went those extra funds.

Then, my wife’s business started tanking while I was looking for fulltime work, and yep, there went all that expendable credit that I had sitting in that credit card, and then some cashed-in IRA retirement accounts, because the transition to the wife’s new company was taking longer then anticipated, and I was still looking for fulltime work, while working at a Starbucks at MSP and doing odd jobs for friends and family who needed projects done around their house or yards. It was a tough, long year, 2017.

And yet, the whole time, I continued to push forward with the book. My publisher was sending me editing and revision suggestions, which I would work on feverishly in any spare time I had, which was precious little. My artists continued to send me completed art pieces, which I would then get scanned or edited for sending to the publisher.

I was still holding out hope that, at some point, I would get the fulltime job and my wife would launch that new business, and by the time it came to move forward with the layout and final revisions and getting a cover image, I would have somehow paid the credit card down enough, or would have the additional income that I would need when it came time to start paying my amazing publisher.

But that didn’t happen. Turns out, the interest rates on my credit cards are a monster, and that my fulltime job that I eventually got 5 months ago, while amazing and generous, only covered the bare essentials financially. The wife’s business is still getting off the ground, and I’m amazed by that woman, that she still has the passion and drive to start a new venture AGAIN, while keeping our two boys alive and the house cleaned.

So, I’m writing this out on my phone at my second job, telling you all about the glamorous, exciting life of being a poet, and getting a publisher, and having this grand dream of a collaborative book project, and my confession is that, doing a crowdfunding campaign for the funding of this book was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

I don’t know why really, because it’s perfectly normal for writers and musicians and creatives of all kinds to do crowdfunding campaigns for their projects, so it’s not like it’s unusual or discouraged or anything, and it’s a perfectly fine way of getting a project funded. Hell, I give whatever I can whenever a friend or community member I know raises money for anything, so I’ve seen them work and be wildly successful.

The thing is, this book project has been the only thing that’s kept me going through all the bullshit and heartache that was 2017. The first thing I realized after the reality of not being able to continue with law school was, “well, at least I’ll have more time to focus on the book project.” When me and the wife were having painful conversations about our money situation and things were an utter mess, and separation and fear and everything came out in bitter, tearful confrontations, I knew that I still had the book project.

The book project has been my anchor, my one constant through a year or turmoil and uncertainty. Even when we weren’t able to get all of the pieces submitted in time to meet our initial deadline and weren’t able to get the thing published and launched when we first thought we would, it was still there, still something that was going to happen.

And now, now it’s closer then ever to actually getting to print, and the money needs to start being paid in earnest, and I’m gonna be holding a crowdfunding launch on the 26th.

While I wasn’t hoping to do a crowdfunding campaign, I have to say that I am looking forward to this upcoming night. Some of my friends have really stepped up and have been amazing, and it’s a humbling thing to see amazing and busy people in my life step up and give of their time and talents to making this the best goddamn crowdfunding launch that it can possibly be.

So, yet another lesson learned on this wild and crazy road to getting published: Keep going, even when it gets hard, and when you feel like you can’t do it all by yourself, reach out to those around you, because you will be pleasantly surprised by who comes through for you.

Back in October, I had the privilege to be interviewed by my good friend Caleb for his Podcast, and it was awesome/terrifying/encouraging to be able to shed some light into my life and journey regarding mental health, Iraq, alcoholism and sobriety, and of course the book project.

When it all goes sideways…

Wow, what a year.

It all started out right on track: I was in law school, I had just wrapped up the initial plan with WiseInk regarding a timeline for the creation and launch of Shadowland America, and there was the excitement of all of the good things to look forward to over the Summer.

Then, the Spring semester at William-Mitchell turned out to be my last, because of an abysmal Fall semester and a better-but-not-good-enough showing for my GPA as the Spring grades came rolling in.

So, while I was coming to terms with the end of my Law School career and what that meant for me and my family, things started going sideways for Angie and her business with LLR.

But, it was early in the year yet, I had mapped out some readings and a trip to Colorado for a pre-launch tour, and I had begun working on some other promotional ideas while I learned all about how exactly a collaborative effort worked, as I was also learning how to transition from a friend to a team leader for my editor and two illustrators.

The CO tour was amazing, even though my illustrators couldn’t make it as initially planned, it was an amazing time with friends and getting the poems out in front of people and just breathing and dealing with the lose of law school and all the aspirations that were connected to that.

With returning to MN and everything going on with Angie’s gig, I now had to get back into the world of employment. At first, this was supposed to be something part-time, nothing too crazy, but as the sales continued to go down, and money starting to get tighter, more and more time was taken up with looking for a few part-time jobs, but then it came down to finding a fulltime occupation.

Meanwhile, there was instability in the lives of my little team. Deadlines started getting pushed back due to mental or physical health issues, divorces started, kids got sick, etc. I started getting sloppy with following up and with direction, and enthusiasm and all of that positive energy started to wane for all of us.

I eventually did find an awesome fulltime job, but not before we had cashed out all of my retirement funds and sucked up all of our savings.

So, now it’s the end of December. Shadowland America was supposed to be launched into the world in it’s final carnation last month. Don’t worry, it’s still happening, most likely just in the Spring of 2018. This whole year, this whole year has been about failure and shortcomings, MY failures and shortcomings, and working on and thinking about this book project has basically been the only thing that’s kept me going.

Being there for my friends as they’ve gone through ups and downs in their lives, all while crafting amazing pieces of art for this project, or painstakingly reading and rereading and editing my poems, has been a really good lesson for me regarding community in all it’s manifestations.

It’s all still a work in progress. This book, my life, the lives of my collaborators and our families. Although I had aimed to capture the more positive, artistic and abstract elements of community, I think it’s evolved to encompasses the other, less pleasant aspects of community as well, the parts we all tend to hid from eachother or at least attempt to.

The book project is still coming together, is still forthcoming, and has been an anchor, even as it moved and shifted itself, something for me to look forward to and have some hope for.

So, I’m not giving up, and I hope you aren’t either. Find your anchor, even if it’s a shaky and shifting one.

#shadowland america#that writing life#wiseink#workinprogress#Upcoming book Poetry#Poetry and visual Arts#art#life#failure#hope