Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Manifesto-Introduction to (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals

"CAConrad's poems invite the reader to become an agent in a joint act of recovery, to step outside of passivity and propriety and to become susceptible to the illogical and the mysterious."
         --Tracy K. Smith, New York Times 

Every single human being is creative. If our creativity is an organ, we need to start thinking of it as a vital one. When we commit ourselves to nurture our artistic capacities, we improve our ability to more deeply discern the world around us and make the effective decisions needed to thrive in this world. When Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” he was asking us to understand how bringing new ideas we create for the world is always more important than stagnating under templates of previous paradigms.
           I come from factory workers, people who work long, exhausting days. The factories disturbed me as a child because everyone seemed unhappy, and I wanted another kind of life as a writer. Very early, I observed how my family became extensions of machinery at their jobs for most of their waking hours, and the toll that took on their physical and emotional lives. To cope, they developed a technique of turning off the present at work, keeping their minds in the past, or thinking about the future. The problem with such a mechanism, though, is that they cannot easily switch it off after going home. When you are raised by people who have lost the present, it may take a long time to recognize what has happened, and then when you do you will need more time to discover a way of recovering the present, and for me, that is where (Soma)tic poetry rituals come in.
           These rituals are so odd and focused that they create an extreme present, meaning that I cannot possibly think about anything except what I am doing. To anchor myself in the present, my body is essential to persist in feeling the time I am living while writing. Each ritual is a choice to become and remain present.
           I cannot stress enough how much this mechanistic world, as it becomes more and more efficient, resulting in ever-increasing brutality, has required me to FIND MY BODY to FIND MY PLANET in order to find my poetry. If I am an extension of this world then I am an extension of garbage, shit, pesticides, bombed and smoldering cities, microchips, cyber, astral and biological pollution, BUT ALSO the beauty of a patch of unspoiled sand, all that croaks from the mud, talons on the cliff that take rock and silt so seriously flying over the spectacle for a closer examination is nothing short of necessary. The idlest looking pebble will suddenly match any hunger, any rage. Suddenly, and will be realized at no other speed than suddenly.
           The last large wild beasts are being hunted, poisoned, asphyxiated in one way or another, and the transmission of their wildness is dying, taming. A desert is rising with this falling pulse. It is our duty as poets and others who have not lost our jagged, creative edges to FILL that gap and RESIST the urge to subdue our spirits and lose ourselves in the hypnotic beep of machines, of war, and the banal need for power, and things. With our poems and creative core, we must RETURN THIS WORLD to its seismic levels of wildness.
           The aim of (Soma)tic poetry and poetics is the realization of two fundamental ideas: (1) Everything around us has creative viability with the potential to spur new modes of thought and imaginative output. (2) The most vital ingredient to bringing sustainable, humane changes to our world is creativity, and this can be enacted daily.
           Something I have learned while teaching (Soma)tic rituals for over a decade is that when people find themselves stuck, no longer able to write, paint, dance, these rituals build a bridge back to that essential, more daring and innovative part of themselves. It is absolutely necessary, right now, at this very moment, to embrace our creativity. No matter who you are, having a daily creative practice can expand your ability to form the crucial questions we need to be asking ourselves about how to change the destructive direction we are all currently headed together on our tiny planet. If you used to paint, paint again. If you used to write poems, start writing again. The potential magic of this world requires our participation. I’m not a motivational speaker; I’m a poet. I’m not an optimist; I simply believe in the possibilities of our collective genius.

Friday, July 12, 2019

THE MAGICIAN TAROT CARD: We Must Understand Our Creativity Is An Organ, A Vital One

for Ian L.C. Swordy and Eleanor Swordy


The Magician is pointing toward Jupiter with one hand while the other points to Earth for grounding of the transmission.  Draw this card to be told you are brilliant, and all you need to do is finally realize you must fully embrace your creative tools and integrate them into your daily life's work, pleasure, and sustenance.  The Magician has access to all four Earth elements with the ability to draw down a fifth, and sometimes a sixth element from Jupiter.  It is time to awaken every living human's creative organ.  There are catastrophic predictions for the near future, and the only way we are going to survive and thrive together is to imagine where to best place our energies today collectively.

You must listen to your intuitive self, which flows through your heart chakra.  Listen as in trust what you are hearing, then trust yourself that you can do it.  Now is not the time to hesitate, now is the time to leap and know the forces guiding you also have your back.  For a (Soma)tic poetry ritual with the Magician in this time of ecological crisis build it progressively for 9 days, each day adding a new ingredient.  Start with how we take for granted our waste.  Liquid, solid, which are hazardous, which are biodegradable?  Start with a daily awareness of all forms of waste we produce and where we think they go, then investigate further to find out where they actually go.

The Magician offers the opportunity to experience seeing limitless potential where we used to imagine a world with very limited prospects regrettably.  A new ingredient to the ritual involves meditating on the four elements we possess in and on our bodies.  Fire: every human being is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  Have you ever been outside on a day when it is 98 degrees?  That is precisely what it is like deep inside our bodies.  Feel the warmth exit your mouth; the exiting air had just visited the flame that keeps you burning.  Earth: flesh, hair, run your tongue along your teeth, the most immediate connection to your skeleton.  Air: breathe again; imagine what must be present in the air to keep you healthy and alive.  Breathe deeply, exhale slowly until you can no longer exhale any longer, then slowly inhale until you can no longer inhale, then hold it for half a minute.  How delicious is the air?  Water: tears, saliva, blood, where are your fluids in your body right now?  Where are the fluids flowing or stored?  Now focus on all four elements of your body at once, eyes closed, quietly listening, feeling the strength and also the fragility of your body and life.

If you draw the Magician card in reverse, the solution is simple, turn around and look.  Where have you been guarding your priorities of life as a living, breathing artist?  Who are you defending them from and what kind of criticism do you fear?  Bronnie Ware was a nurse who worked with dying patients for many years and kept track of their regrets.  The number one regret of the dying is, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."  Always remember this, and let this knowledge help you find your strength.  Stand outside barefoot on the naked Earth for twenty minutes.  Understand you are a lightning rod, then write, write, write!


Friday, June 14, 2019

CRY WITH ME MISTER

Sketching plans for a new public (Soma)tic Poetry Ritual where I sit at a table with a sign that reads CRY WITH ME MISTER.  This is an invitation to cry, or to talk about the need to cry, or that they never cry, or wish they cried more, or think I'm a faggot for crying, WHATEVER THEY NEED TO SAY ABOUT CRYING!

This will not be exclusively for men or people who identify as male, but such humans are encouraged to join me in the experience of emotional release.


Friday, June 7, 2019

BODEGA MAGAZINE, issue #82

Very excited to be in the latest issue of BODEGA MAGAZINE!

Silhouette of Whisper
(Soma)tic Poetry Ritual at this link

Bathe the Door with Blood of the Centaur
Resulting Poem at this link


The centaur of my poem is Nessus, whose
radioactive blood killed Hercules.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

SUBLEVEL Magazine

Please click HERE for NEVELSON MOON TO MOON
Many thanks to everyone at CalArts and SUBLEVEL

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Nevelson Moon To Moon

for Sarah Shin


I claimed my life long ago. I saw from the very beginning how one exploits another in the world, and saw the most important thing was to claim my life totally.

Louise Nevelson's unique sculptures have enriched my life for many years, especially the large boxes composed of many smaller interior boxes, as if we were looking at an apartment building with the outer wall stripped away, or through the wall with x-ray glasses.  My favorite way to spend time with her work is to look at the entire frame as a question, and each interior section as a different clue to the answer.  From a distance, they appear to me as skeletal remains of an ancient storyboard, bones of thought.  She has often made me see the world very differently from how I thought I knew it, and how can we ask anything else of an artist?

In Denmark at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, I fell in love with her sculpture in the collection titled, "Royal Tide III."  By a giant grandmother tree outside the museum, I buried a tiny clear crystal, set in the ground vertically, with the pointy end up.  I also planted crystals outside museums with her work in Philadelphia and Kansas City. 

PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
At the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, her piece in their collection is titled "Cascades Perpendiculars 1," and is composed of wood painted black from the remains of New York City's St. Mark's Church organ after there had been a fire.  Her home for more than half a century was New York City, so it feels auspicious to be working with this particular piece.  At The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri is one of my favorite sculptures by her titled, "End of Day--Nightscape IV," also made of wood painted black.  I planted a crystal outside the museum in Kansas City when visiting the poet Anne Boyer.

Once I planted the crystals, the ritual could begin.  Together these three crystals became a Nevelson crystal grid creating a triangle stretching across America, and across the Atlantic.  I started on the New Moon, December 7, 2018, and ended on the New Moon, January 6, 2019. 

It takes 27 days for the moon to orbit Earth, making my ritual 27 days long.  The influence of the moon's 27-day cycle has embedded itself into our everyday lives for thousands of years.  27 percent of Earth's surface is land, and I have women friends who menstruate on the full moon every 27 days. It takes 27 days for a human cell to regenerate, healing through the full cycle of the moon, and there are 27 bones in the human hand.  In Sanskrit 27 is a Harshad number, which means "joy giver," and in the Kabbalah, there are 27 channels to communicate with God.  When is it a good time to mention that a man's ejaculate travels 27 miles per hour?  In this (Soma)tic poetry ritual I observed my body inside the Louise Nevelson crystal grid through the cycle of the moon.

In an interview once, Nevelson said, "I don't like the safe way, it limits you."  On the New Moon, I sharpened my boyfriend Tre's bowie knife until it could cut cleanly without snagging or tearing into flesh.  To trust someone to slice me for a poem is a risk I am always willing to take.  When I said it was for poetry I was able to convince Tre to be the one to cut me.  We did it outside under the bright dome of stars in Tallahassee, Florida.  The cut was quick and smooth along my arm, and I licked my blood and wrote notes for my poem without swallowing until the end of writing, keeping the metallic rich taste of blood pooled on my tongue.  It takes 27 days for the human cell to regenerate.  Each day of the ritual involved studying the wound with a magnifying glass as the cells increased, knitting themselves back together again.

Nevelson's sculpture boxes are the full moon seen at once.  Each section within is a story of its phases: crescent, quarter, half, full, etc.  The light of the moon is not its own, as we know, so I pushed the ritual into the source of moonlight by sitting in direct sunlight each day, feeling it on my face.  In my hand I clutched another crystal to adhere myself inside the Nevelson grid.  I closed my eyes, meditating on the moon, imagining how the sunlight that was hitting my face shared time with the same light bathing the moon on the other side of our planet.  In the United States, everyone seems to notice the full moon and loves acknowledging when it is, debating whether it was full the night before or maybe it is tonight or the next night.  In the US there is a dissatisfaction with anything less than the largest possible pie, no matter what it is, but at least I know I can get people excited once a month about the moon.

Nutrients traveling to Earth on the rays of sunlight can feed you no matter where you receive it.  You can hide in the backyard where no other humans can find you, but the Vitamin D nutrients will reach you just the same.  Standing in the middle of a crowded lunchtime city sidewalk, if you look up, face the sun with eyes closed, you will receive the same nutrients as you would have if you had been hiding alone.  There are 27 bones in the human hand.  In the sunlight I massaged my hands, honoring the work of writers, hairdressers, sculptors, bricklayers, mothers, carpenters, everyone grasping and lifting the world, and I said the names of the bones out loud:  Lunate, Capitate, Hamate, Trapezium, Scaphoid...

My birthday was inside the ritual, January 1st.  I became 53 years old while writing the poems, meditating on Louise Nevelson, imagining her sculpture boxes a question of Capricorn, depicted from antiquity as a bearded, horned goat with a fish torso and tail.  Astrologers often misunderstand the relationship between our fish-tails and goat upper bodies. Our goat upper-body strength and stamina are said to be for climbing and reaching the top, which makes sense, but the fish-tail is supposed to represent our weakness, an unstable downturn to the depths of water’s subconscious which many astrologers claim we try to avoid, and this is where they are entirely wrong.  The problem with interpreters of Capricorn who are not Capricorns is that they want to focus solely on positive attributes of our goat bodies and aspects, much the way we privilege the brain, the upper hemisphere of the body.  The lower half is dirty, forbidden, dark, our waistline the border between right and wrong, but I believe that is Christianized thought and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the lower half of our bodies.  Get into bed with a Capricorn and know why the pagan gods of Europe have goat horns because we love sex and are not the least bit swayed by monotheistic dictates of "proper" sexual behavior.  The fish-tail of the goat is not dragging us down, and it is wrong to insist that this is the world of the Capricorn: torn between our two halves.  Quite the opposite in fact!  Much like the great Sphinx of Egypt, it is not that the human head needs to tame the lion body but instead needs to harness the lion, to be at one and harmonious with the muscular, wild, fierce lion body, and this is precisely the same with Capricorn.  We are learning to incorporate our deepest feelings, to harness that underwater source of potential power, to trust and allow our strong, forceful fish-tail and all it represents to drive and thrust our upper body strength to succeed.  Whenever we Capricorns prove astrologers wrong and make our two halves work together as one we are nothing short of unstoppable!  We must not allow the suspicious doubts of others to interfere with the possibilities of self-actualization, fully embracing all we have to offer our lives and the world.

I took many notes inside the Nevelson crystal grid, and those notes became two poems, "Golden In The Morning Crane Our Necks," and "You Cannot Return A Stretched Mind."