On the Seventh Day of Halloween: Hiding From Monsters

On the seventh day of Halloween my true love gave to me… a reading of “Hiding From Monsters.” This was for Nina D’Arcangela‘s Ladies of Horror monthly photo prompt and isn’t included anywhere else.

Why did I write it? This was written this past June as most of us were reeling from the non-stop drama in the news. Besides the pandemic we were beset by wildfires, hurricanes, riots, Karens, rampant job loss, a crashing economy and… murder hornets. I know I’ve forgotten to include a few crises on this list.

When I was trying to write my poem for LoH, I was at a loss for words. My mind was numb and I was caught between anger, fear and disbelief. The photo I was assigned featured a desert vista, flat with no where to hide. Somehow that image and current events combined in my mind to become this poem.

This is “Hiding From Monsters,” written by me and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith for Nina D’Arcangela‘s Ladies of Horror monthly photo prompt.

Hiding From Monsters, written by Angela Yuriko Smith and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith
Music: Twelve Days Of Christmas by Alexander Nakarada
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5503-twelve-days-of-christmas
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

You can find all the 13 Day recordings as they publish here.

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On the Sixth Day of Halloween: Monster Apparent

On the sixth day of Halloween my true love gave to me… a reading of “Monster Apparent.” This poem was written in August 2019 and does not appear in my recent Altars and Oubliettes. I’ve held it back to include in the next collection I’m working on titled Post Consumer to be released April 2021.

Ryan Aussie Smith

Why did I write it? This is a very personal poem for me. Based on a real event, a woman hit a man bicycling to an Easter sunrise service. She had been partying and was intoxicated. The worst part is after she hit him she drove away. By the time he was found it was too late—he was dead. Paramedics reckon he would have probably survived if he could have gotten medical help.

This is one of those instances when I’ve used writing for therapy. I was so angry at people in general that drink and drive, oblivious to the damage they can do not only to themselves, but someone else. Ironically, years later a similar situation has returned to haunt me. My ex-son-in-law just hit and killed someone a few months ago. Again, I turn to writing to handle the anger.

This is “Monster Apparent,” written by me and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith. Published in my newly released poetry chapbook Altars and Oubliettesavailable on Amazon here.

Monster Apparent, written by Angela Yuriko Smith and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith
Music: Twelve Days Of Christmas by Alexander Nakarada
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5503-twelve-days-of-christmas
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

You can find all the 13 Day recordings as they publish here.

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On the Fifth Day of Halloween: Three Deaths

Ryan Aussie Smith

On the fifth day of Halloween my true love gave to me… a reading of “Three Deaths.” This is another written for Nina D’Arcangela‘s Ladies of Horror monthly photo prompt—I think her prompts inspire some of my best work. This one was written back in November 2018 and is included in my newest chapbook, Altars and Oubliettes, available on Amazon here.

Why did I write it? I had just read that in Mexican tradition, people die three deaths. The first is when the heart stops beating and the body grows cold. The second is when the body has returned to earth and ash. The third and final death is when no one is left that remembers your name.

Perhaps we’d all be a little friendlier if they sounded like this. This is “Three Deaths,” written by me and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith. Published in my newly released poetry chapbook Altars and Oubliettesavailable on Amazon here.

Three Deaths, written by Angela Yuriko Smith and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith
Music: Twelve Days Of Christmas by Alexander Nakarada
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5503-twelve-days-of-christmas
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

You can find all the 13 Day recordings as they publish here.

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On the Fourth Day of Halloween: Exquisite Corpse

Ryan Aussie Smith

On the fourth day of Halloween my true love gave to me… a reading of Exquisite Corpse. This was originally written for Nina D’Arcangela‘s Ladies of Horror monthly photo prompt back in August of 2018. It’s also included in my just released poetry chapbook Altars and Oubliettesavailable on Amazon here.

Why did I write it? The image is just a skeleton’s face close up. At the time I was putting together some exquisite corpse poems (find many of them here). Confusing, I know. This is not an exquisite corpse… just titled that. To make matters worse, I think I have a short story somewhere of the same title. I do like making the most of things.

This is “Exquisite Corpse,” written by me and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith. Published in my newly released poetry chapbook Altars and Oubliettesavailable on Amazon here.

Exquisite Corpse, written by Angela Yuriko Smith and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith

You can find all the 13 Day recordings as they publish here.

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On the Third Day of Halloween: The Lady in Gray

Ryan Aussie Smith

On the third day of Halloween my true love gave to me… a production of “The Lady in Gray.” This was written for the recent Poetry in the Graveyard LIVE readings that Amy Zoeller and I did at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Why did I write it? This is my tribute (and bait) for local ghost legend Lady in Gray to pay us a visit. No one knows who she is, but after I had all the strange technical issues outside the Vaille Mausoleum, I suspect it may be Mrs. Vaille herself, also a local ghost legend. You can watch the video for that here.

If poetry makes good ghost bait, be assured I’ll be writing many more like this. This is “The Lady in Gray,” written by me and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith for Poetry in the Graveyard LIVE readings with Amy Zoeller (Hipness and Outrage).

The Lady in Gray, written by Angela Yuriko Smith and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith
Music: Twelve Days Of Christmas by Alexander Nakarada
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5503-twelve-days-of-christmas
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

You can find all the 13 Day recordings as they publish here.

Posted in #amlistening, #AMWRITING, #KCLocal, #MakeItLocal, #Poetry, #ReadLocal | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On the Second Day of Halloween: Digital Djinn

Ryan Aussie Smith

On the second day of Halloween my true love gave to me… a reading of “Digital Djinn.” This was just written this week for Nina D’Arcangela‘s Ladies of Horror monthly photo prompt so it isn’t included anywhere else.

Why did I write it? When you see the photo Nina sent, you’ll understand. A woman stands in a doorway looking back. There’s tech distortions across the image as if we see her on a screen. If you look close enough, you realize she’s floating in the shadows. I can imagine finding her trapped in a thumb drive on some dusty bookshelf… waiting for freedom.

This is “Digital Djinn,” written by me and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith.

Digital Djinn, written by Angela Yuriko Smith and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith
Music: Twelve Days Of Christmas by Alexander Nakarada
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5503-twelve-days-of-christmas
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

You can find all the 13 Day recordings as they publish here.

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On the First Day of Halloween: Sympathy for Monsters

Ryan Aussie Smith

On the first day of Halloween my true love gave to me… 13 recordings he produced of my poems. This is the first, and one of my favorites because he changes his voice up to match the three monsters in the poem.

Why did I write it? This was one of the responses I did for Nina D’Arcangela‘s Ladies of Horror monthly prompt group. The photo was of tentacles reaching up from a sewer cover. It occurred to me that our reaction to monsters is usually negative… but what if they just want to be friends?

Perhaps we’d all be a little friendlier if they sounded like this. This is “Sympathy for Monsters,” written by me and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith. Published in my newly released poetry chapbook Altars and Oubliettes, available on Amazon here.

Sympathy for Monsters, written by Angela Yuriko Smith and performed by Ryan Aussie Smith
Music: Twelve Days Of Christmas by Alexander Nakarada
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/5503-twelve-days-of-christmas
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

You can find all the 13 Day recordings as they publish here.

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Tomorrow Begins The 13 Days of Halloween!

Halloween, most happy of all holidays, draws near. With it, a new tradition… The 13 Days of Halloween. My true love has prepared a series of recordings for me to share here beginning tomorrow. Prepare to deck your halls with boughs of bone and batwing.

While we wait, I improved (in my mind) upon the traditional Christmas ditty…

The Thirteen Days of Halloween

On the first day of Halloween my true love sent to me
a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the second day of Halloween my true love sent to me
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the third day of Halloween my true love sent to me
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the fourth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the fifth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the sixth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the seventh day of Halloween my true love sent to me
seven sins all deadly
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the eighth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
eight ghosts a-skulking
seven sins all deadly
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the ninth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
nine werewolves prancing
eight ghosts a-skulking
seven sins all deadly
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the tenth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
ten vampires feeding
nine werewolves prancing
eight ghosts a-skulking
seven sins all deadly
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the eleventh day of Halloween my true love sent to me
eleven witches watching
ten vampires feeding
nine werewolves prancing
eight ghosts a-skulking
seven sins all deadly
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the twelfth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
twelve heads a-tumbling
eleven witches watching
ten vampires feeding
nine werewolves prancing
eight ghosts a-skulking
seven sins all deadly
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

On the thirteenth day of Halloween my true love sent to me
thirteen cursing crows
twelve heads a-tumbling
eleven witches watching
ten vampires feeding
nine werewolves prancing
eight ghosts a-skulking
seven sins all deadly
six ghouls a-slaying
five shape-shifting Things
four murder dolls
three darkling ravens
two flesh-eating grubs
and a Chupacabra in a scary tree.

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Slam Poetry Workshop

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of doing a presentation on slam poetry to teens attending the Talk Book to Me 2020 event. It was only for 45 minutes and I felt like the topic was barely scratched in that amount of time… and my PowerPoint wouldn’t work with Zoom and the internet connection… but I still had fun. I think the teens in attendance did too. As promised last week, here’s that presentation. PowerPoint at the end.

What is slam poetry and why is it important?

Slam poetry is simply a type of literary competition. Slams were started in Chicago by an American poet named Marc Smith in November 1984 because he felt poetry had become “too structured and stuffy.”

Organizing a slam is pretty simple, and performers are judged as much on enthusiasm and presentation as they are for literary merit. Poets can compete as individuals or as teams. Judges are usually just people picked from the audience. You usually have five judges or three but you never want an even number or you won’t have a tie breaker. Sometimes the performances are just judged by audience response, whoever gets the most noise wins.

It’s important to know the difference between slam poetry, performance poetry, open mics and readings.

A poetry slam is a competition arts event, in which poets perform spoken word poetry before a live audience and a panel of judges. Culturally, poetry slams are a break with the past image of poetry as an elitist or rigid art form. While formats can vary, slams are often loud and lively, with audience participation, cheering and dramatic delivery. Hip-hop music and urban culture are strong influences, and backgrounds of participants tend to be diverse.

Performance poetry is poetry that is specifically composed for or during a performance before an audience. During the 1980s, the term came into popular usage to describe poetry written or composed for performance rather than print distribution, mostly open to improvisation.

An open mic (or open mike) is a live show at a coffeehouse, nightclub, comedy club, institution or pub at which audience members who are amateur or professional may perform on stage, often for the first time, or to promote an upcoming performance. Typically, as the name suggests, the performer is provided with a microphone which is plugged into a PA system, to make the individual’s performance loud enough for the audience to hear.

A poetry reading is a public oral recitation or performance of poetry, often by a poet that has had some renown. People are coming to hear that poets read their own work.

At this point I shared a poem I’d written for performance, Family of Broken Pieces along with one that doesn’t perform well which was Space Heater. Both are included in my latest chapbook Altars and Oubliettes, available here.

Be original in your poem.

Write for performance. Not only will you be reciting your work, but you will need to be able to communicate your message to a rowdy crowd. Avoid complicated language that may not come across in delivery.

There are many gorgeous poems that would fall flat in a slam. Simple and raw is good. Use alliteration, internal rhyme and onomatopoeia to drive home your meaning. It’s called a slam because your delivery should smack the audience and make them pay attention.

Not every poem makes a good performance. In some of my poetry I’ll use repeating lines as a sort of chorus. They’ve done well in print, but I learned the hard way not to perform something just because I like it. When you are up on that stage, you are acutely aware of the people watching you. I find repeating lines like those in a pantoum are death to my performance and my mood. They steal my fire.

Pay attention to time and delivery.

Practice your piece until you have an internal sense of your poetic timing. Most slams give you a limit of three minutes. Write your poem to fit that limit. If you try to crush too much your words will be so fast no one will understand. If you drag it out too slow you lose your audience. Keep your voice clear and relaxed, saving the higher pitches and emotion for when you want to make a point. Variation in pitch and pace make for a more interesting performance. Think of it as texture.

Mind your body as well. Too stiff and you communicate discomfort to the audience. Too much movement is distracting and also communicates nervousness. I like to think of performing in a bubble. I want to move freely in my space, but not pop it. I reserve fast movements to drive home an idea. I like to use my upper body, rolling shoulders, twisting neck with fewer hand movements. Your body communicates as much as your language. Looking at the audience and looking away both say something different. Be bold and face away from them for a few seconds. Whatever you do, you are trying to hold the attention… so be interesting. 

Don’t force movement where there isn’t any. Be sure to annunciate. Use resting position.

Perform like an actor.

Prepare your piece. Print it off and attack it with highlighters while you learn it. Highlight places to be calm in blue. I think of those as the parts where you are coiling a spring, creating tension and then you can pop it loose. Highlight your parts in a different color. Underline where you want to slow it down or speed it up. It doesn’t matter how you mark it.

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Your Best Resource to Survive 2020: Local Libraries

Full disclosure: I work a few days a week at the North Independence Branch of Mid-continent Public Library system. This doesn’t make me an expert, but I can claim that I’m a professional. I managed to infiltrate this wonderland at the end of 2019. Visit mymcpl.org.

Ah, 2020—by far the most exciting year many of us have ever experienced. Most of what we took as “the norm” is anything but. For many of us, money and opportunity is scarce, and misinformation is widely available. Who ya’ gonna call? Your local library.

I’ve always loved libraries, but I hadn’t explored one in depth since I was a kid. I’d go, check out books or movies and leave. They have grown up to be a lot more than a place for free reads in the last decade… in the last year especially they’ve become a one stop community resource.

I am pretty lucky to be a part of MCPL. They are one of the best and most progressive library systems in the US. Your library may not have all the same resources, but once you see something your community would benefit from, ask. There may be a way to implement it. If not, many libraries are becoming open to the community at large that resides beyond their physical service area.

A good example of this is MCPL’s YouTube offerings. Since the pandemic hit, they have pivoted their focus from content in buildings to building up content. Video offerings on MCPL’s channel alone offer early literacy programs for kids, physical fitness classes like yoga and chair yoga, tech classes like how to work with Excel… and all of these videos are free to anyone, not just those of us lucky enough to live here.

Check out Mid-Continent Public Library’s YouTube channel here. If your library doesn’t offer things like this, why not step in and help them?

I’ve attended more classes, seminars and events than ever in the past few months, both as student and presenter because everything is now online. No more choosing between dinner after work and a class, no cold, icy roads… and best of all no more travel time. A few weeks ago I ‘attended’ events on both sides of Kansas City back to back. When one ended, I logged onto the next. I wore my pajamas and ate dinner while I learned about marketing and then gardening in the Midwest. If you can change your perspective you’ll discover some wonderful opportunities.

Coffee for a cause? Yes!

A lot of people that visit us in the library lately are either trying to brush up their old skills or add new ones. For free, did you know many libraries offer instructor led classes that can provide certificates? Perfect for adding a bit of sparkle to your resume and boost your completive edge.

It’s worth checking to see if your library offers Universal Class or Gale Courses. Each provides a range of classes such as Office Skills, Parenting and Family, Personal Development, Pet and Animal Care, Real Estate, Science, Self-Help, Social Work, Special Education, Spiritual Studies, Teacher Resources, Test Preparation, Web Development, Writing Skills… instructor led and graded. At the end of the class you are certified in a new skill.

If you care more about the actual skill than the certification, check out Lynda.com. Video led classes to teach a variety of more tech oriented skills like 3D + Animation, Audio + Music, Business, CAD, Design, Developer, Education + elearning, IT, Marketing, Photography, Video, Web… no teachers but you can tailor your learning to what you need for free.

Besides these courses there are language learning programs like Muzzy or Mango. There are apps to check out ebooks and audio books like OverDrive and Libby. Libraries are offering subscriptions to newspapers, Consumer Reports, Chilton, genealogy, history, legal resources… for free.

Check out some of there offerings here and then see if your library doesn’t offer the same. You will probably be surprised by what your local library does offer. I often ask our own cardholders if they are aware of all the online resources we offer and they are usually shocked at how much power their library membership provides. Did I mention for free?

I just found out MCPL—
there’s an app for that!

Then there’s the usual… books and movies. Many libraries participate in Interlibrary Loan which means participating libraries borrow from other libraries. If your library doesn’t have what you need, chances are they can check it out from one that does. And, you can even check out games this way. Recently I borrowed games for PS4, XBox , Switch and Wii.

Oh… for free. Can you see a theme developing here?

During a pandemic, online is king. Look up your local library right now and see what kinds of services they offer besides books. Don’t know how to find them? Ask Google… one of my other for free resources. But that’s another post.

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