Saturday, 18 October 2014

Think of This As Practice


Today is Kiki's birthday. She's now Six. We rolled into the day on the back of a Girls' Night. Now, our day started at six o' clock. As in, one hour after five o' clock. On a Saturday. Morning.

We read. We talked. We made room for her animated two-year-old brother. Sis and I entertained.

Then, out of nowhere, Kiki advised, "This is what happens when you get married and have children! Mmhm. Like what's happening with your nephew." As sis and I cracked up, she continued, "You can think of this as practice!"

Lol! This child.


Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro



Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hair's The Thing


I recently discovered - in a Christine Columbus kind of way - a new hair product. As with all things new that I "discover" and try and realize it's worth sharing, I shared it. I still use it, but, not as much as I did when I first started. The reason is a simple one: I like to wear my hair in many different ways. Ease of flexibility is one of the reasons I've never done the sister locks/dreads thing.

There is a certain satisfaction for me in being able to do all sorts of things with my hair: afro, chiney-bump, cane-row, pony-tail, press and hot-curl, press and pony-tail... You catch my drift. Little did I know at the time of my purchase and new interest in this product, that, as one of my sis mentioned, "It's a whole natural-hair industry out there!" I think my reply was along the lines of: "I don't want to be a part of an industry! I just want to not go "Ow! Ow!" when I comb my hair!"

My mom (one of my earliest hairdressers) had cut my hair when I was about 16-yo. You see, it had gone through the relaxing process and, true to stressing-about-exams form (at least, that was the governing theory), much of it had started breaking. So, she did what had to be done. I sported a low 'fro for much of my Lower Six year at Wolmer's Girls. On a recent trip to Jamaica, I came across a photo I had taken with Isabel, an exchange student from Spain. We were enjoying a hearty laugh, but, I could not have looked more boyish if I'd actually tried. Very low-cut hair, small boobs... The more things change. Oh! I digress.

Years later, on the last lap of reading for my degree in English at the UWI, I had to cut it low - again. Same reason: exam stress. My story. Sticking to it. Those days saw me in more chiney-bumps than the average bear. I had someone do it in twists for the graduation picture at the assigned studio. (I did not attend the graduation.) During the two years of doing the MA in Communication (without the 's') at SUNY, I wore my hair in a variety of the ways mentioned earlier. After graduation (I did attend), I relaxed it again. The Rochester, NY weather did take its toll, but not as much as an exam stress would have, I imagine.

Some time after moving to Canada, I decided to give it a break from the relaxing. These temps don't play! Plus, there had been the stressful period of unemployment shortly after relocating. Take my word for it. That is a horse of a different pigmentation altogether. So, first I tried weaving in hair. You  know, where it's sewn in? Worst. Mistake. Ever! As in, ever! I had never done that before, and that was the first and the last time. As the hairdresser took out the weave bit by bit, my resolution grew firmer and firmer. That thing was nothing short of damaging to my hair. It was a tad traumatic for someone who was severely lacking in adventures of the hair kind - never bleached it; never coloured it...  Anyway, moving right along.

On a subsequent visit to Jamaica, I had a talk with my hairdresser. She cut it and did the short twists. In a few months, it had grown so fast - beyond even her expectations. I've kept it unprocessed and I do like it. This is no hurry-come-up decision. It was, as before, borne out of necessity. But it has...grown on me. Badam tsss! :D  Here's the thing (Monk voice), I honestly don't think I could manage the "black women's hair industry" thing. For a moment I did consider selling the product, but, I...I talked myself out of it. I hear lingo describing hair types and all I can think of is that I give my hair 5/5 Ows! I am thankful, however, that the variety of styles I wear, (see above) I can do myself. Saves me quite a bit. Plus, they all suit my face. I have that kinda face. Lol! That reminds me of a scene in a Monk episode - Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater - where he joined the line-up for the speed dating. One of the women says to him: "I like your eyes." Monk goes: "Well, thank you. They came with the face." Hahahahaha!!! Ahhh #ILoveMonk.

Anyway, it did still hard fi comb! Another one of my sis told me about the Curl Enhancing Gelly product. After the second or third time trying to convince me (I was sure it wouldn't work on my 5-Ow! hair) we placed an order. In the comments section: Please hurry. Hair emergency. And, hurry they did! I'm happy with the purchase and would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to try for soft twists that last a while. Funny. This came to mind.

Now, to colour it red!

Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro





Sunday, 28 September 2014

I Should Get Out More



Last evening, I had the pleasure and honour of participating in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change poetry event. The session in which I participated was one of two that marked the event in Toronto.

Truth be told, I was a tad nervous about reading...delivering my poems to that crowd. Most of my readings, to date, have been to smaller Literary Café crowds. And, as I mentioned to the gathering last Sunday afternoon, I always feel I'm in a welcome and comfortable space when sharing my poems there. But, I was not sure whether - and how - the Toronto mix would be different. I simply counted on them being poets or lovers of poetry.

My preparation took me to a new place. I asked a (really nice) co-worker to give a listen. Well, according to her, seeing me in that element for the first time, "You're gonna kill it!" :-) Okay, so, I dunno about that. I do know I put a lot into preparing for performances and speaking events. I recorded myself; timed myself and was glad I came within 20 seconds of the allotted 15 minutes. But, it was good to see that a total stranger to my poetry didn't break out in hives.

The highlight of the evening was not the fact that everyone was noticeably quiet during my set - unlike the much chatter during those of others. (I read from my upcoming "Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years".) Neither was it the wonderful compliments I received right after and long after, in person and in email. No. The highlight of the evening was that one of my sis, Durie, was there to cheer me on. Well, she also helped me out by recording the set. Heh heh. But, I was really glad that she came to keep my company and give moral support.

Further to a few conversations I had with a couple of the organisers just before I left, it turns out I will have opportunities to deliver my poems to more audiences. I like the sound of that. It's one thing to be home, or wherever, writing. It's another to share the created pieces with others. And, the more I do share - online or offline - the fewer butterflies I have to whip into V-formation each time. Go figure.

Yeeaah. I really should get out more.


Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Your Voice Will Find You


There is a plus to writing often: One becomes better at putting one's thoughts into words. After a while, you are so in tune with knowing what you want to say, and saying exactly that. No more; no less.

There is also a plus to writing regularly. Keeping a writing date with yourself helps keep you disciplined. As you know, my dates are the 8th, 18th and 28th of the month. As you live up to your self-imposed expectations, meeting that regular commitment like clockwork, you come to appreciate that particular meaning of self-respect.

For, it is true that holding yourself to a high standard and honouring your commitment to self, show that you respect and value your own time. See,  you could easily put off doing the thing, because, after all, "It's just for me. It's not like I made a commitment to someone else." Fact is, if you don't value yourself and your own work or creative process, don't be surprised if others don't; if you're often asked to blow off your creative moment, in deference to someone else.

It is usually said that, as you keep writing, you will find your voice. I've taken that to mean, over time, you will come, more and more easily, to rest on and write about that thing that stirs you the most. That thing that makes you mist up; or makes you laugh out loud; or makes you angry; or makes you feel nothing but contempt; or makes you sad, even to tears. And you'll be so drawn to it that you find you want to write about it, even if not all the time, but, certainly more often than you want to write about other things. And, that does happen.

Over the years, I've come to realize that I take great pleasure in writing about the little people in my life. Of them all, I've written most about my niece. I've found writing about her to be joy-infusing. It's delightful, really, to have a conversation with her, then quite easily, preserve that moment by putting it into words. Who knew I'd come to look forward to writing about (and for) children? And, who knows? She might come to be amused by some of it later on. As a matter of fact, we're collaborating on a writing project. Uh-huh. Well, she's doing (most of) the talking, and I'm doing the writing. More to come. Suffice it to say, we're very excited about it!

But, also also? The biggest plus of all to writing often and regularly: Your voice will find you, at long last, ready and willing and strong and disciplined enough to carry and convey the sentiments and messages for the season. You will find, even though the fear that "everybody's gonna hate this piece!" never entirely goes away, there's far, far less of it. You will find you've grown courageous enough to not require several prompts - from yourself, or others - to "put it out there." You will find you are able, and willing, to swim against the current; say the unpopular; write your heart out, and know, finally, that it's okay. Yes, there may be reactions to what you write - some positive, some negative, and some outright snubs. And you will find you don't care about that - and wonder why you spent so much time caring about that in the past. :-) You will begin to write with clarity, saying what you mean to say; realizing those who are for you are more than those who aren't (plus, they're better looking!) learning as you go and grow, and reading the good ones. (I hear bad writing is contagious.)

And, what is more - for me, at least, where it used to come down to #writeorsuffocate - one finds that it becomes far easier to breathe.

Monday, 8 September 2014

"Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years" An Intro - of sorts.


Yaaay! First post kicking off Year 7! Yes. Yes. I am getting waaay ahead of myself. Just a tad excited, is all.

For a moment there, I was beginning to wonder whether I'd finish coining the title of this post.

There are a few writing projects in train. The one I'd like to mention tonight is the poetry. You've heard about the poetry, yes? No? Well, allow me. (I have, in fact, mentioned a bit about the poetry in a few posts, and have also shared a few poems. But, I digress.) Over the weekend, I continued to work on my poetry project. It's a book of poems spanning quite a few years. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I've decided on the title and subtitle: Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years. I also have a sub-subtitle, if you will. (If there's a more technical term, do share.) The sub-subtitle will be written in italics right under the title. I thought of it just today, so, there's no way I'm ready to share that here. But, I love you! :-)

Man, those things really added up! I'm looking at scores and scores of poems out of the lot. Like, seriously. They do, after all, span the years between 14 and 40-ish. Hence the title. Any surprises there? Okay. Who did not see that coming? As I've envisioned, the book has three phases, with a few pieces of short prose in appropriate spots. It's taking shape, from my mind to the page, and I like that.

I've had two beta readers so far. Yes. One of them was my mom. Of course. But, as thankful as I was/am for her positive feedback, it's...advisable to get feedback from folks who aren't family. The other was an editor I'd met via Twitter. I won't share much of what he said here. After all, I am thinking of asking him whether I may reproduce some of it in the book. However, one thing stood out. He said, afterward, that he felt like he knew me. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm still not sure whether that's a welcome thing. And, yet, here I am about to publish the book of rather telling poems! Hmm. For, you see, they are rather telling. I write from the heart - and wear it on my sleeve. An English Lit professor had once told me/the class: "Poetry comes from a place of deep emotion." Over the years, now and again as I wrote the poems, I'd remember him saying that. And I'd understand all over what he'd meant. The poetry itself is in the composition but you can't make that stuff up.

I'm getting the doc ready for another beta reader. Daniel Kojo Appiah is a poet from Ghana I met on Twitter. We'd had a few exchanges long before he was named the winner of the inaugural Ghana Poetry Prize in 2013. Just sayin'. He goes by the handle: @OZionn. During a quick chat the other day, the thought came to mind to ask him whether he would do it. He said he would. I'm looking forward to his feedback. I shall have to remind him not to be gentle.

As I prepare to get the poems out, I'm also getting ready to read a few of them at the upcoming 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Toronto, later this month. One of the organizers said she thought of me and so extended an invitation. We'd met at the Lit Café in town a few years ago, and she's heard me read my poems. She added, "...your poems reflect a depth and a beauty more than you realize." She said a few other heart-warming things, but I'll save 'em. :-) So, this weekend, God willing, I'll be sure to show up at the Lit Café to practise...I mean, perform. The pieces I've done there on repeated visits have been appreciated. This time around, I'll be one of the featured poets. That'll help.

(And, I simply must find a way to tie in my pen name - reserved only for the poetry - Dnafcnatgada. No. I do not know what it means. It came, quite simply, out of the air, as I pondered, at 14 years old, what my "poet name" should be. Yes, that's a silent "D", to boot. If it rings close to something in your frame of reference; your knowledge base; your linguistic armoury, or your stream of consciousness, do share.)

So, you understand my excitement. Rather, so, you understand my excitement! I'm so psyched! Getting this book published will be a huge deal for me. Always thankful for family and friends who've been über-supportive. Can almost hear a few of them going, "Finally!" Lol! Ohh, the sound of it: "A published poet." Tee hee. God continues to order my steps and each day brings me closer. And, what's that word again? Ahh, yes. Relatability.

"Funny, isn't it, how one moment can change a million after it." - Raya (Movie: How She Move)


Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro


Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Journey


Six years. My dad has a saying, "The time is moving so fast, people don't have time to age." :-) I get that. My lil home here in cyberspace started six years ago today. And, it's still under construction. As I am. As we all are. Still here? You're still a work-in-progress.

I won't be long tonight. (Don't all rejoice at once. Heh heh.) More than anything, I wanted to say thanks for sticking around; for reading each post, or most of them...even a few. When I started this blog, it was so that I'd have an outlet. #writeorsuffocate. I still keep journals. They've metamorphosed into prayer journals. But, this place in cyberspace is kinda special. It helps keep me disciplined in my writing. To be honest, I've started to breathe easier. So, the writing here has helped. :-) The journals do have their place, of course. For Him, a place apart.

Funny. An insurance agent asked me recently about my prized possessions - Jewellry? I told him nope. I do have a favourite pair of earrings going 20 years now... The stuff I treasure are more of sentimental than monetary value. Like the journals I've been keeping since I was 14. If those go, I told him, they couldn't be replaced anyway, so let's move on. He agreed. We moved on.

So, back to the outlet. This has been great. And, it continues to be great. I get to write whatever the heck I want. You've seen the posts - or not. If you're new to this blog, welcome. Feel free to scroll though the years. It's important to me that I write whatever I want. So, the subject matter and content - and, occasionally, style - do vary. From Buju to Baby Shower; from McLuhan to Marley. In the end, I would have written what was on my heart and mind. And, out of 220 posts, I'd say one - no more than two - left me a bit bothered about whether I'd said exactly what I'd set out to say.

On the cusp of the seventh year, I am thankful. I am thankful to God for this blessing to create and write. I am thankful for my life. I have been wondering how, my life being spared, the next year of writing will be shaped. What new experiences will inform my writing; whether there will be more passion about certain things; to give or not to give even more of myself and share a few testimonials, all for the sake of lending a hand. As I've said many times, one of the best things someone could possibly say to me, having read my writing - be it prose or poem - is how well they can relate. Relateability. (I keep using that spelling...)

Don't you ever wonder why it's so important for someone else to know they're not the only one who's going through a particular time of despair; a certain trial; a rough patch that seems unending? That someone else has, too? I've wondered about that. Why is it important for someone to know a certain bad situation is not unique to them? Why does it matter that Tom, Dick and Harry have made it through this? Or, are going through it as well. Good for them. This is me, and I know how it feels and they couldn't have felt this way and things could never have been so bad and so on and so forth. As I thought about it, all I came up with was hope. It's a simple answer, really. Hope that if someone else made it through, maybe you can, too. If someone else is strong enough to continue enduring, maybe you can, too. Relateability makes my heart glad, because it says, someone read my work and saw themselves in it, and were encouraged or inspired by the how I came through/am going through a similar mess; bore/is bearing a comparable cross. And yet, I'm still here! And how.

We all have something. No one has "got it all together". Some don't say much; some find an outlet and some, well, with them it's TMI. Point is, one doesn't have to be an expert in any field of study to offer a hand to hold. It's a human thing. I'm big on hand-holding in a time of despair or anxiety. Hold my hand. No words. I've found it to be comforting. I suppose that's the other thing with relateability (a tweep assured me it is a word). Hope is one thing; the other thing is comfort. Perhaps that's one way of looking at it. I'd also like my writing to be seen as offering my hand to hold.

This paragraph is dedicated to family and friends who've held my hand - figuratively and literally - on this journey.

Now, the writing doesn't have to say, "There, there," to be comforting. Even if it simply evokes a feeling of, "You know what, the way she writes? All is not lost in today's world. I'm inclined to believe everything is going to be alright." That'd make my heart glad.

The recent passing of a few famous people has reminded us that the journey of this life does not go on forever. Robin Williams' passing saddened me - for a number of reasons. Lauren Bacall's evoked tributes that reminded the world of her love for Bogey. (I also finally figured out the lyrics to Key Largo. Don't ask!) And, today, Roger Clarke, Jamaica's Minister of Agriculture, passed away in Florida, as he prepared to travel to Jamaica. Walk good, Roger Clarke.

As that line from Wear Sunscreen says, "The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself."

Here's to more creating, more writing, and more glad hearts on the journey.



Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Monday, 18 August 2014

"Holes"


Holes

There are no holes in my arms.
Like the girl - early twenties?
Pants - if you could call them that -
Maybe the Lululemon yoga sort
They had to finally recall
Too sexy; too sheer; too revealing
Shares fell after that.

Her pants - as she stooped to get
Something from her bag -
Slid below the crack. Way below.
So far down, I looked away
For shame for her.
Did she not feel cool air
Against that vanilla-pale, soft, smooth skin?

Then, as I stole another glance -
Or, maybe it was just that her move to stand
Caught my peripheral vision -
She stood
She rummaged
Pants still half-way down.

As she rummaged through her bag
Just moved to the top of the table
Her hands came into view.
They bore holes - large, healed, gaping
Waiting?
From the back of her hands to her forearms
Wherever there could be a vein.
Holes.
They held my gaze for more than the polite two seconds
When I finally looked away
I cast my gaze upon nothing in particular
Pretending I could taste
The iced tea I was sucking through a straw
Too large for that.

She found what she'd been searching for
She must have
She abandoned her bag
- Not caring, it seemed
Whether any of the hundreds of
Food court patrons
Would prove themselves untrustworthy -
Reached into the upper part of her pants
Pulled them up just a little
Before going for a refill.

It was on her return
I saw her face
Too young
Too old and long a story
Too weak
Too worn
Too familiar
Too easy to get sucked back in.

No fight
No more
All gone
What's the score?
Doesn't matter
All lives used up
Way too late to start over
Again.

As I looked around
And sipped my iced tea
I somehow managed to be thankful
There are no holes in my arms
That you can see.

- Dnafcnatgada



Claudia