Posts Tagged ‘Nicelle Davis’

The Power of Collaboration

Tidal RiseSince 2nd grade, from the age of seven (7) I have known instinctively deep down that there were three things I wanted to be when I grew up: a singer, a teacher, and a writer, in that order. However, although I still might not be a “grown up” since I believe we must all fight the impulse to ever really become one, there are a few enduring “take away” lessons I’ve learned in the process of realizing each of these ambitions that stick with me like my AARP card. The happiest moments I’ve been privileged to experience were always shared. In studying music, my goal was to be an operatic diva. But the best things that happened always happened in rehearsals for projects that took us all outside of ourselves and our narrow, singular viewpoints, and gave us a peek at being a part of something larger. Similarly, in teaching, the times when groups of like-minded teachers had the opportunity to work together on big projects that affected the lives of many students for the good of the all form my fondest memories looking back. So, imagine my surprise when, in the highly competitive marketplace of getting into print, an opportunity to collaborate once again presented itself.

On Saturday, September 19, 2015, the results of this literary collaboration will be presented publicly at The Second Poetry Circus. The brainchild of the wickedly talented and extremely energetic Nicelle Davis, The Poetry Circus is a collaborative effortMENU that I am both proud and humbled to be a part of. No less than thirty-three poets/writers have contributed to the gorgeous chapbook that will serve as a sort of “program” to guide the audience through the evening’s presentations. The event, slated to take place at the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round in Los Angeles, CA, from 5:30 to 9:30 PM, will feature the poet laureate of Los Angeles, Luis Rodriguez, and offer readings by an incredible lineup of 32 poets, including me! There will be haiku balloons, circus performers, crafts for kids, free carousel rides, a book fair, and literary organizations all coming together to create something larger than the sum of its parts: a chance for people of all backgrounds, preferences, political leanings, and/or religious (or non-religious) persuasions to come together to experience, revel in, and celebrate ART that takes WORD as its medium.

All I can say is that this beautiful dream that is the Poetry Circus proves once again that collaboration offers more inclusion, promises more memorable results, and is a whole lot more fun than competition ever was. Not only that, but it extends to everyone who ever wanted to run away and join the circus the chance to realize that dream and participate in the magic-making that is both the WORD and the circus.Balloon2

Book Review: Becoming Judas by Nicelle Davis

Becoming JudasBecoming Judas by Nicelle Davis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hypothetically, do you prefer compassion squarely pegged, or unconventionally rendered? If your answer is, “squarely pegged,” then Becoming Judas, Nicelle Davis’ second full-length book of poems, invites closer inspection and warrants your consideration; if “unconventionally rendered” more suits your style, then this is the book for you. A fascinating foray into iconographic studies, Becoming Judas examines, interprets, questions, challenges, and re-invents the iconography of as unlikely a conflagration as one can envision — a trio of characters (still) shrouded in enduring myth: Judas, the “betrayer,” Jesus, the “betrayed (?)” and John Lennon, who imaginably stands in for “everyman.”

Contemplate for a moment if you will, the Pietá: a persistent motif and one of the most revered icons in all Christendom, which depicts a sorrowful mother cradling the dead body of her adult son. Stripped of its classic interpretation as the Virgin Mary embracing Jesus’ frame, we are left with the image of a woman, any woman, grieving over the corpse of a man, any man. In one of the most novel conceits for a poem I’ve ever encountered, Ms. Davis offers up “The Woman Who Cut Judas Down” which presents us instead with a Pietá for Judas: “This body strung/ from a branch could be anyone―/ even hers.” Looking toward our commonalities, rather than expounding on our differences, even Judas had a mother, as we all do; which suggests that whatever his “sins,” may have been, even Judas deserves a Pietá.

Another poem in the collection, “Flash: Leibovitz’s Photo of John and Yoko,” studies a type of image, the Polaroid, to explain the culture it originated in, rather than the other way around. The poet aptly describes the composition of the famed photograph, and delivers with it this account: “Together they have survived each other…His legs, bent into inverted V’s, encase/ her torso. Captured: the sight of a man becoming a shrine.” What we are looking at in Becoming Judas, then, is the content of the images, through the artistic lens of the poet’s sensibilities, as she queries aloud our insatiable need, “to conceive an understanding/ of what all this suffering is for.”

Although the majority of the poems contained herein remain accessible, (like the two previously discussed) a few are necessarily difficult, both in terms of intellectual rigor and emotional content. The images are compelling, but hard to look at. Nonetheless, like witnesses passing by a collision in heavy traffic, or viewing televised war coverage, we also cannot bring ourselves to look away. I read right through Becoming JudasBook Bite_cropped in one sitting, as I could not put down. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and found it, including the “difficult” poems, entirely worth the effort. The imagery is spectacular. And if that weren’t enough already, the pencil drawings contributed by Cheryl Gross, and the inventive use of line breaks and white space to create “concrete” poems (that form images of their own on the page) deliver value-added bonus features. I heartily recommend this book.

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