Connecting Lines…Connecting Minds

This past Thursday evening, I attended a social gathering at the Malden Access Television Studio. The purpose of this gathering was to bring into the light, the exhibit that is currently there until Tuesday of next week: Lines Connecting Lines.

This exhibit was put together late last year, when local artists and members of the Malden Cultural Council decided to run a contest, where local Malden poets were invited to submit poetry for selection by local area artists to use as inspiration and to be interpreted as visual art through their own applied and chosen methods.

When I first learned of this opportunity from my friend Lady J at The Malden Writers’ Collaborative. I was dismissive of it. I figured my poems wouldn’t be selected, so why go to the bother of submitting.  I lollygagged and procrastinated for a few weeks. Courting the possibility of submission, but yet reserved  in my decision to do so. Finally, in mid-December, when the deadline for submission approached, I got a bit bolder, and subdued my doubts. I relented and submitted three of my poems to the selection committee. I even got bold enough and submitted some of my poetry to a writer’s trade magazine that was also having a year-end poetry contest.

As December passed into January, I heard back from the trade magazine. They didn’t want my poems. Not yet anyways 🙂 So, I just assumed that it would follow the Malden folks would not be needing any of my offerings either. However, just when I gave up. I saw an email in my inbox from-Lines Connecting Lines. They liked two of my selections and two different artists in the community decided to use my poems as inspiration for creating new art.

I was elated, as my poetry was now inspiring other artists. This had never happened for me before: to work across artistic mediums. Sure, I’ve worked with other writers before, but this was different. Now, as the submissions were selected, all I could do was wait for the tangible parts to follow.

Last Thursday night was where the lines got connected. I got to see for the first time, how my poems were viewed and realized tangibly through the visual arts.

My first poem that was selected for the project, “Cockroaches Are Precocious”, is one I have shared on this blog in the past. It is an irreverent take on glorifying something which a majority of folks would rather not talk about. It also challenges the conventions of expectation and reality.

I was lucky enough to have a local artist connect with the piece. I turns out that year ago when she lived in Manhattan, she also found Cockroaches to be quite Precocious. When she saw my poem, she remembered a piece that she had done almost 34 years ago. Mind you, I’m 41. I enjoy the notion that a poem I created, reminded an artist of a portrait she created in 1981.

When I met Cambia Davis for the first time, she delighted me with her story of how her portrait came to be, and how my poem had reminded me of that time in her life. We were connecting, my lines, her lines, lines all the way back to 1981. This made me feel gracious for the opportunity to participate in this contest, this exhibit, this sharing of artistic expression.

Below is the portrait she created, and beside it are the lines of my poem.

Artwork by Cambia Davis paired with poem “Cockroaches Are Precocious” by Christopher Paul Hickey

You can see the scene is under a kitchen sink, where some Manhattan Roaches are dining and washing some dishes. Cambia tells me that that is a paella dish in the sink, along with some wine glasses. Her Roaches were very cosmopolitan. This seemed to fall right in line with my insistence of their precociousness.

It was a true delight to have my poem matched up with Cambia’s artwork, and to learn about Cambia’s story, as well as her process.

I was fortunate to have another artist select another of my poems. Lisa L. Sears, not only an artist participating, but also my point of contact throughout the process. She was kind, and always kept me in the loop about the happenings related to the project.

When I met Lisa, she was as wonderful in person as in email (a rarity) and her voice completely fit the cyber image of who she was in my mind’s eye. She encouraged me to read to the folks coming out of the show.

I decided  to read my poem “Sojourn” to the present audience. I was the sacrificial lamb, belting out my lines first (a spot no one wanted)

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Artwork by Lisa L. Sears inspired by poem “Sojourn” by Christopher Paul Hickey

I couldn’t see the audience because of the lights, but I could hear their mutterings and whispers and breath. I talked about a metaphorical journey, my journey, their journey perhaps.

Other poets followed, and then the artists that interpreted our poems visually took time to tell us all why they selected our poems and how they inspired them to do what they did.

This was accompanied by a looped video of all of the poets reading their poems playing in the background, while the crowd gathered, mingled, and learned of each other.

For me, this was the best part of the night, getting to meet other local artists, and finding out what made them tick. There were many great personalities among us, and of course, what crowd of creative people would be complete without some really interesting folks with interesting stories and yet more interesting characteristics. These were my people. I felt connected. The lines blurred.

We enjoyed each others company, and then returned to hear more readings by poets and then their respective artists’ interpretations of their poetry.

This culminated in many announcements detailing how this show got put together, the who’s, the what’s, the how’s, and lastly the announcement of the events winners.

Winners?

Lisa got up and started to explain that the event was in part funded by a grant from the Malden Cultural Council; and that part of that was to award prizes to participants in the show.

There were a lot of great poems and art shared that night, and I awaited to hear which of my fellow contributors would be honored.

Before I knew it, Lisa was talking about awarding a poem, and she called my name. I was stunned, and humbled, and got up to walk to the stage and shake her hand and accept the award. Lisa handed me and sealed envelope and gave me a big smile saying “Congratulations Chris.”

I went and sat back down and they announced the winner of the best in show, as applied to the art interpreted.

I was truly humbled, and didn’t believe that such a small thing could make me feel pretty damn good. It was (is) an honor to be selected for my work. This is the first such recognition. I was apprehensive about heralding it, but my wife, who is my most ardent supporter, convinced me to enjoy the honor and to share it with my friends and audience.

In my mind, everyone in the show, who helped to make the show possible, who participated and exposed a bit of themselves in the hopes of lines being connected, we all won something. We learned how rich our community is in diversity of person, diversity of experience, and diversity of life. We all gathered a communion of artists, and perhaps extended the promise of connecting our lines with others we have yet to meet, but can soon learn something from.

I look forward to sharing more, and in being less apprehensive to just take a chance and bet a little bit more on myself and what I have to offer.

Perhaps, cockroaches aren’t the only things that are precocious. Maybe, just maybe…

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41 and not half done / 41 a number prime

41

Yesterday, I celebrated my 41st Birthday. A heartfelt thank you to all the family, friends, strangers, and even enemies that wished me a happy birthday. There was an enormous response, and I felt the love. It is nice to hear from so many people. Especially, people so directly responsible for engaging me throughout my life and contributing to many dearly held memories.

As I mentioned in previous blogging years (this is my third blogging year) that I don’t feel particularly different, or older with each passing year. My sensibility still feels similar to, say, March 15, 2014, and even March 15, 1995. So where does the feeling or change of age come in?  I’m in no rush to find out in truth, albeit I have oh so many acquaintances and companions on this journey, that fall all over themselves to suggest that persons of my age, our age, are “getting old”.

Poppycock! Fiddlesticks! Blasphemers!

Denial? I don’t think so. Groupthink and small talk are fast friends, and I can hardly hold folks accountable for wanting to get out of most conversations as quickly as possibly. But, yes there is a but here: BUT, I don’t agree.

Time is relative, is it not? Granted we generally support a notion of linear time. But how I perceive time, is it not different than how you perceive time? There are a great many variables involved here, but I can’t bring myself to nod in assent every time someone throws Thor’s Hammer of resignation to chip away at my response to how I perceive time.

I get it. I, you, we are experiencing this adventure, perhaps similarly in many ways. However, I refuse to go gentle into that good night. Just like Dylan Thomas proposed, I’m raging against the dying of the light. Yes! I invoke the spirit of enthusiasm when staring down “Eventually”

Why the fa-nerk-ing hurry? I’ve just arrived here in this moment. Why shit all over it and concede that things will never be the same? It ain’t like it used to be.

Change from that moment to this moment to the next moment, that is where life lives. I love this moment. Right now.  It feels pretty good, in fact. I feel rather fortunate. My health is great, my family is great, and with an eye on being realistic within the frame of my own life, things are very damn near perfect.

If you want to converse freely on the passage of time and how it applies to your subjectivity, then that is one thing, but don’t pull me down into your pit of despair and suggest that we, you, I are getting old.

Simply: I live to live, and I don’t take measurements of time. Such measurements in an unhealthy mind only imperil our sense of mortality to the point that we live to despair what has gone and what is left, rather than what moment is living within us. Most importantly how we live within the moment we are living in right now.

This is my prime. 41, is a prime number, no shit. And next year, cleverness aside, 42 will be my prime, and here on until I no longer breathe the enthusiasm into my present moments that I now possess.

I simply suggest that our impermanence informs the importance with which we engage the string of moments that we live within from womb to tomb, and challenges us to herald all those moments as prime.

You think WE’RE getting old? Well, that is how you see it, isn’t it? I told a friend that I have not begun in years. I constantly reinvent who I am, how I see the world, and I am grateful for every damn moment. I simply think it’s okay for us to view it differently.  I only hope that folks don’t put too much weight on the journey diminishing as we progress, because that, in essence, is what causes it to diminish in the first place.

Remain young in heart, in spirit, in practice, in action. The only real progress in life is remaining happy within the only thing we truly can possess: the present.

Carpe Diem!

I love being in my prime. Linear time can suck a loaf out of my bread basket. I intend to prime it up for quite a while. 41, 42, 43…

Lines Connecting Lines

Lines Connecting Lines Flyer FINAL

If you have an opportunity, please stop by to visit the exhibit of which I am proud to be a part of. Two of my poems have been selected to be interpreted into visual arts by local artists. I haven’t seen the pieces yet, but I am very excited to see what they came up with. I hope that you can drop by and support the local arts scene.

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/-Lines-Connecting-Lines–in-the-MATV-Gallery-gives-images-to-words.html?soid=1106679983820&aid=FDcFQOzdVkk

“Lines Connecting Lines,” an exhibit of poetry and art, will be on view at MATV Gallery (145 Pleasant Street, Malden) March 17 through April 24. This collaborative project began with selected poems by local poets that then inspired area artists to create paintings, photographs and prints as an interpretation of the written into a visual form. Poems and artworks will hang side by side to enhance and extend the vision of each. All are invited to an artist reception on Thursday, March 26 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm when poets will recite poems from the show and artists will be on hand to discuss their works. MATV Gallery is open to the public Monday-Thursday, 10 am – 9 pm, Friday 10 am – 6 pm and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

Finding the right way to the write way

Sitting amidst the downtrodden in spirit on the tup-tup trolley, I tend to romanticize my life. It is what gets me through. What I can’t romanticize is how utterly un-present my downtrodden companions seem to be. Their faces buried in the glow of smart phones. Smart phones, dumb people? Harsh? I’d invite a debate on it, but I feel as though all takers would be more comfortable confronting my generalizations about life in the comments box. Tearing me down, not my ideas. That’s where we’re headed. I haven’t connected in a short while. This is sad. Every day I seek out THAT connection, THAT recognition in the eyes of others. The smiles of others. Perpetual grump seems to permeate the ridership. Whether this is justified or not, I can’t say? I’m as cowardly as they in some measure. But I still wonder. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. I see them. They are there. I don’t see through them. Grandma got on the E train to Heath Street today (do they give out Heath Bars when you get there, I’ve always wondered?) and as the train lunged forward, she peered around from a harbor to shield her from the momentum. There was none to be had. All seats accounted for by busy, busy people. Checking Facebook, and playing Words With Friends. Interaction? I saw it and logged it in my mind, being far away from the scene, yet close enough, I had faith that my brothers would surely give a seat over to such sweetness, such grace, but alas, nothing came, no interaction, no support. I vaulted from my seat from across the other side of the car and moved toward her. She was teetering and balance was elusive. A broken hip the potential enemy. Magically, the people around saw my hulking form. A threat? See something say something. Then the picture became clear to those in the immediate vicinity. Momentum did not carry her to a harsher end, but allowed for a few smiles and awkwardly place hands, and respectful acknowledgment of the seats that now came aplenty. “No trouble, no trouble, Thank you.”  Once situated in a seat, the others nearby looked at each other and half-apologized for being absent in the critical time. In the end, no harm came. All went back to their self-anesthesia. I returned to my seat. It was occupied. Luckily, Longwood leaped to the call, and I disembarked the tup-tup trolley. I tend to romanticize my life, even in small measured moments when those around me can’t afford a thought to their fellows. I wonder, yes I wonder, how far the pendulum will swing, and when I will find THAT connection THAT recognition, and whether I’m the hero or anti-hero in my own narrative. It only lasts for a moment, as I nearly walk into the person in front of me because they stopped to compose a text. I instinctively say sorry, and walk around to wait at the crosswalk. I need a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor, and I need to get the fuck outta here.