Hi everyone! On a day when I was especially claustrophobic, I started a new blog and copied everything from this one over to it. If you are interested in further updates on the things that happen to me and that I do, I ask that you please continue to follow me here, at http://www.stevenwilbur.wordpress.com. Thank you. I hope the sun shines in all your rooms.
Most people would have a different view of what recharges them than their blenders.
I am no different, and can even testify to the thorough discomfort of completing an electron chain. Lately I have rather found time alone in reflection or creativity to be the most gratifying way to rest. When I fight for the time to retreat, even a week full with meetings and commitments seems like such a privilege. This life, it is a privilege, you know. Each breath we draw, dispersing into the blood, off to the organs and back again, all right under and through our noses, is a privilege. But just as you and I did not set ourselves in motion this morning, I also cannot sustain the constancy of busyness.
My hammer misses the nail and breaks my finger. My eyelids collapse headfirst and forget to stand up. My blind finger presses the big red button (yes, that big red button). The button sends chaos down a wire to my friendships, and I leave work early, apologizing to a chemical fire of faces I love.
In that love, I encourage you as I have rebuked my mirror to find that thing that recharges you, be it quiet, or blank paper, or music, or lily and leaf, and fight for its sanctuaries, so all the other times, your pockets will be filled with the grace you need to give, and give, and give.
In this day, I am sick recovering, so much so I had to call in a substitute at work. (I, myself, am a substitute teacher. Part of me wonders if the real teacher had to come back). I have a feeling, this is only because life has been steady at my door as though there is not enough time. One could argue that there isn’t. But in the time that has passed since my last post, I have been surrounded with life. Here, I will share a portion.
From recent to not as recent:
- discussed and read poems on KSPU for the second time.
- watched one of my closest friends in Seattle baptized.
- shared the better part of a week with friends Grant Seifried and the Blacks.
- experienced my first win at a poetry slam.
- was declined for a full time math teaching job.
- chaperoned a 3-day 6th grade trip to Orcas Island (in the San Juans).
- had the honor of opening for Patricia Smith and the Seattle Poetry Slam’s Grand Slam (the finals).
- started year #23.
Once you take the clouds away, Seattle is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, let alone lived. Last night my roommates and I played beach volleyball with a steep hill of broccoli-looking trees to our left, and the Puget Sound between us and a snow covered mountain horizoned, firy sunset to our right. Sporadically throughout the evening, sailboats, tankers, and ferries hovered silently through the scene. It took less than a half hour to drive there from our house, and the beach was less than crowded. From what I hear, most nights of the summer are like this for anyone willing to receive them.
As time goes on, I am more and more amazed by how we are spoken to by the arts. Below-the-skin conversations seem to flow naturally out of poetry, music, and photography so regularly in most all my relationships (side note: not to neglect other art forms, I’m just no good at them so I usually don’t hang around in places where people who are really good at them meet :) ). I believe that one of the ways we are made in God’s image is our ability to create, and in that, we see ourselves reflected in sets of words and arrangements of pigments and harmonies, helping us to change and see what is of greatest importance. This may be one reason why gangster rap and a lot of pop music is so disappointing – it consists of a great deal of production and hype while delivering very little in the way of substance. Kind of like seeing a big fantastic parade roll in slowly to town, only to find at the center of it all an adolescent in his first year of juggling. However, when a sentiment worth our full attention is presented in artistic form, those that appreciate it can step into a place of catharsis, mourning and celebration, loss and healing. Art provides us with an altogether different and limitless world to reflect upon God, ourselves, and the world around us, like dreams. It’s kind of addicting.
I’m not sure of the capacity that art (poetry and music specifically) will play in my future, but this stage of life has made them a natural means of thought and reflection. I’m finding them a difficult, and undesirable, thing to shake.
So I share with you these two performances by Roger Bonair-Agard, originally from Trinidad, a two-time national slam champion and celebrated spoken word artist from his feature at the Seattle Poetry Slam. I recommend them both. God be with you.
is this month, as stated in the last post. Instead of posting poems here I have set up another blog at blogspot whose address is: http://www.evenwilbur.blogspot.com/ that will have a new rough draft of a poem posted every day ’til the end of April! Please feel free to read and comment with any feedback. Thank you! – Steven
For the next 30 days, for National Poetry Month, many poets will be writing and posting a new poem online everyday. This is my first as a participant in the festivities, a free-write from a Humanities class I was substitute teaching for. Enjoy!
To Chairman Mao:
I am the grass.
I have let myself down into the resistance to say “stay.”
I will play to your posters sizes of buildings.
I will bow to your limo as it kicks dust
on the feet of your prisoner lovers
but I have laid myself so virus
that even after you have
heard radio talk of my
will never dig
out my last
I will be the sore spot in your eye,
the moon in your sky as you wish
to paint yourself with stars
I am the laughter at your funeral, the gravity
as you leap for pantheon
I am the humans buried in the Great Wall of China,
I am the bee stinging your fist and I am
never letting go.
I have not written in some time, and to any that would have liked to read more, I apologize.
Much has happened in the past few months, Here’s a quick update before a longer following post:
- Went to Colleyville, Denton, Colorado, New York, and back again for Christmas!
- Was interviewed and read poems on Seattle Pacific’s radio station, KSPU. DJ Con Queso (Bekah Grim), Ben, and I had a great time! Audio of the interview can be found at kspu.org under Media > Interviews.
- Realized I’ve been Seattling into this city for more than 6 months… :)
This week I had the privilege of seeing Jeanann Verlee and J.W. Baz at the Seattle Poetry Slam and then saw J.W. Baz’s show, No One Can Fix You, Friday night at the Fremont Abbey. Over an amazing 90-minute monologue, he masterfully brought the room through past struggles and addictions in a way that had the whole room laughing one minute and silent under the weight of his words the next. The show was a seamless journey through heart-wrenching poems and painfully honest narratives. If you live close to anywhere he will be, I strongly recommend you attend the show. Check it out.
What I really want to discuss are reasons I couldn’t sleep when I got home. After the show, my friend Dave (we met while at North Texas) and I talked about the artist life over sweet potato fries and waters. We are reminded clearly in Baz’s show that sacrifice is necessary to live as an artist. On the front end, and perhaps for the rest of life, there is little financial security, even after the countless hours on the road (which, for the spoken word artist are likely spent alone), and even at home your time is dictated by the need to create both opportunities to create and for others to hear/see you perform. Also, to have enough time for honing his/her craft, it seems an artist oftentimes must forfeit his/her full time job doing something else, unless perhaps if it is related to the art. I use the word ‘must’ loosely, because I personally know seriously talented artists who also work full time, but it seems that anyone who is making waves in their respective field came to a fork in the road between ‘normal job’ and go-for-broke-on-my-art and stepped with confidence down the latter path. In brief conversations with Baz after the show, he assuredly spoke the truth he is now living – If you want something, you have to live like it’s yours, like you deserve to be there – No one is waiting for to find yet another writer, yet another sax player, yet another painter, yet another band, that is worth showcasing. Some would even argue that these are the last thing the world needs. I would argue opposite them, but this is the sad truth of world we live in.
So the artist is left with a choice. Act like you’re serious business and mean it, or enjoy your art as a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with hobbies – they are perfect for anyone wanting to enjoy an activity without the pressure of needing to perform at a certain level. Yet, while freeing in its own way, the hobby leaves those who thrive on that challenge, or as Baz put it in his show, realize “I was made for this,” wanting, and oftentimes looking in hindsight with regrets.
We enter college, or don’t, with grand expectations for the future. Learn to learn, to live, to love. We graduate, some marry, some wait, some never do. We get jobs and certificates and maybe graduate degrees. We move one time, two times, five times. Get some land. Buy a car. Buy a house if you can. Blink. 60th birthday.
This is your life. What did you do? For those at this point, to look back on ones life with pure regret would be unfair. The life you live is a life; this magnificent fact should never be forgotten. And there is still today. What do you want to learn – today? Charge those mountains as if you were in your 20s and all you have to lose is yourself. But to the people who still see 40 as the top of the hill, what hills will you die on? Where are you going? Will you thank the God who lifts the sun over our horizons for these days, for your breath, with the way you populate them? Will the candles on that cake be jealous of you for the way you glow, or will your dreams look like their smoke? Please do not misinterpret these words – I am in no way criticizing self-sacrifice for others’ sake or laying aside your passions to further justice and Love in our world. It is quite the opposite, I couldn’t be encouraging that more. The men and women who work 1,2, and 3 jobs to provide for their families live and die every day by their convictions based on the situation and need before them. The singer or business worker with a promising-future-as-Wall-Street-calls-it who moves to India to feed and heal the sick has discovered a deep something of love and the urgency of our lives, our humanity, that news headlines frequently tell us is all but gone from our world. They have given up sitting idly by, asking for direction, and obeyed what they are persuaded is truth until put on a different course. I believe we are missing something if we do not follow their example.
We must lay claim to the thresholds that are placed in front of us. Our lives are but moments. Write sentences of your memoir every time you wake, so one day we will gaze smiling at each other through old birthday candles, retelling rock-bottoms and hit-our-head-on-the-clouds ceilings, rejoicing for the ways our bodies were used to inspire and love, like fertilizers for dying earth.
I have grown weary of merely writing updates about my life, which I consider to be no more worthy of the internet than anyone else’s. So I’m not going to write an update.
“‘ All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
1 Corinthians 10:23-24
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-33
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Jesus is not after our pens and to-do lists.
Jesus is not after our smug looks in evening bathroom mirrors.
Jesus did not give us liberty for a weapon deep as words.
He is after our hearts. That we would be changed at the root of ourselves to be vessels of mercy and self-sacrifice. That we would ambassadors of the love He showed us, which knows no end.
I am learning these days that if you want someone to know what you mean, you can’t just throw out a word like ‘love’ without giving it a backbone, so,
love is doing your roommates’ chores three weeks in a row.
love is my mother and father thinking about things I might need, before I do.
love is hiding the beer when your Pakistani Christian brother is staying with you.
love is sitting through an hour of mediocre poetry to support your friend for 3 minutes,
love is caring about friends’ passions more than your own,
love is hot lemonade for a sick roommate,
love is 8 hours in an emergency room lobby,
and next day’s 8 hours of work on 3 hours sleep,
love is your bearing,
love is setting aside forty mental years to invest in a child,
love is looking through a black eye with compassion,
love is driving to Houston every weekend to sit in ICU silence,
love is obedience,
love is submission,
love is steadying a just hand,
love is dying for people who hate you,
“Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.”
1 Cor. 13:4-7
On buses, sidewalks, and in coffee shops, it feels sometimes like my fellow Seattle dwellers and I are walking down isolated hallways that just happen to be next to each other for minutes at a time. The walls are made of ipods, laptops, and planners, and we are content to marvel at them as we walk.
Today I have grown weary of writing updates because I have grown weary of my hallway.
Lord, let us represent you well.
Let us build doors where we are scarred,
food banks in place of safety deposit boxes,
and crosses where there are mirrors.
Let us love.
Hey there everybody! I don’t have much to say, just a few wonderful things!
a) I have a job now teaching math to students at their houses. Thanks, God!
b) Tickets are booked for me to be in Denton on December 18/19 and 27/28. I would love to see you on those days!
c) My roommate Brian is getting married this weekend hooray!
d) Both of the events I discussed in my last post (Poetry in Bellingham, Semi-Finals at the Seattle Poetry Slam) were awesome! I didn’t win one of the top two spots like we were all trying to do, but God is opening doors to share His love with people, which is way more important! Yipee!
e) Love, Steven
These are things coming up that I am excited about:
1. This Tuesday night after voting I’ll be going up to Bellingham to see this:Robbie Q. has a poem called “2002 Silver Chevy Cavalier” that is quite funny but I feel I can’t put it on here in case some youngsters watch it. “Dyno-Dudez” is clean and great. You may check it out on Youtube if you wish.
Anis Mojgani won National Poetry Slam Champion in 2005 and 2006. I’ve put his stuff on here before.
Buddy Wakefield won Individual World Poetry Slam Champion in 2004 and 2005. I’ve attached one of his poems below in video form
Derrick Brown has been a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, gondolier on Blind Date, magician, and weatherman (there’s a video showing clips of him doing the weather in Flagstaff, it is one of the funniest things I’ve seen to air television). I encourage you to check him out if you like laughing and great poetry.
2. This Wednesday night I’ll be competing in the first Semi-Final Round for the Slam this year. What this means is – if anyone gets first or second place on Wednesday, they secure a chance to compete for the Seattle Nationals team in the spring. As you might perceive, this would be awesome. The list of competing poets is as follows: Karen Finneyfrock, Maya Hersh, Sarah Sapienza, Greg Bee, Steven Wilbur, Jack McCarthy, Hollis Wear and Sara Brickman. If you live close to Seattle and have even a remote interest in poetry, you’ll want to be there.
Not everything has been hunky dory, but for the next few days, when guessing about my state of mind, you may safely assume I’m having the time of my life.
Derrick Brown as Weatherman
and as a bonus – Derrick Brown performing “Cheap Rent”
[Brief summary of week: I’ve been an unlikely drummer in jams on jazz standards, Billy Cobham, and Frank Zappa tunes with some killer players, written more poetry, performed poetry, interviewed, applied, heard cello playing that reminded me of how I feel sometimes about our future with God in heaven, and also done the more ‘normal’ but wonderful things that I tend to take for granted, like cooking.]
“All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” Psalm 38:9
David writes this feeling the weight of sin and worldly opposition to/misunderstanding of him. Though whatever afflictions I have experienced seem to pale in comparison to those David underwent, as I drank possibly the most wonderful apple cider my mouth has known this evening in our basement, this verse was the resonance of my heart.
What is it to long? Not to want, or think would be cool, or take interest in, or even be “totally down” with…those words are not enough. My heart is longing. Longing for God; for more; for truer, purer love; for magnificence; for the heart-thumping rivers of life patiently waiting in God’s storehouses for those He loves.
Despite what my fervor for mathematics and logic might cause people to assume, I have known myself to be a romantic at times, making the question at hand something I might address more often than some. (or maybe not, I don’t know. I’m only seeing life to the detail I see it from my perspective from my perspective. Limited data leads to shortsighted conclusions…correct me if I’m wrong…right…moving on…) For whatever reason (I say whatever reason, but really, I believe this is God’s plan for us), each new place of fulfillment leads its brother of desire for the ‘immeasurably more’ (paraphrase of an Ale James quote). It’s there. Immeasurably more, that is. God is immeasurably more.
Living more as the person God has made me to be, in the place he has prepared me to live in for this period of time, has been incredible, without a doubt, like organic Washington apple cider from a new friend. But tonight, my grateful mouth and I are up dreaming about orchards in valleys where the rivers run hot. We are longing.