Monday, August 21, 2006

Java Monkey & Jungle Jitters (or, Ayo, the Punk A$$ed B*tch)

I REALLY APPRECIATE ALL OF YOU WHO BRAVED THE RAIN (and the long distance charges, Ch_rryl) to come out to the Java reading last night. It was great seeing the familiar faces (Collin, Rupert, Karen, Kodac, Lady, Brian, Lisa), but it was also nice to see so many new faces. I speak for all Black people when I say this:

You were a great audience. (Had to be there.)


Why did you cut it short? Ch_rryl asked.

Well, I suppose I had a case of the jungle jitters. I had a brand new sequence of 4 AIDS poems I was going to read, but I felt like I'd been on stage a long time. When I reviewed my set after sitting down, I realized that I'd only read 6 poems. Oh, well, there'll be other features.

Anyhoo, for those of you who came in search of the sorts of banned cartoons that inspired my poem, "Americana 2," here is one called Jungle Jitters:


BLUE said...

when sound is the dominant sense, you *see* a lot differently than if you had your eyes to see for you. as i listened, i *saw* something large descend into the Java space. not unusual for an ayo performance. usually, though, you, the performer, submit to it. use it to connect the world to your song. last night, i saw the latches on a half-packed suitcase closing ... a voice in the haunted house saying get ouuut! and you did. who/what was it in the house?

M. Ayodele Heath said...


Blue, what you perceived was an artist in an identity crisis. I must say that I was unusually nervous about last night's performance, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it - that is, until I arrived at work this morning.

I am being pulled in 3 very major directions. There are the the "street" expectations of me as a spoken word artist, the "academic" expectations of me as a soon-to-be MFA graduate, and the "corporate" expectations of me as a project manager. I didn't realize what an effect my new position at work is having on my psyche. I spend 40+ hrs a week "performing" as a PM in meetings and conference calls, compiling spreadsheets, managing details, speaking in the icy baritone of business.

The consequence: The artistic "I" feels like an exile in my own body.

I could feel, during last night's performance, the exile wander out and begin to recognize some familiar landscape. And I could see the ocean shining at the end of the shuttle poem. And I looked out at the faces, and I pondered whether to dive into the AIDS sequence, but I could hear the landscape cry back, "Don't go in there. There is darkness in those waters." And so I punked out.

I actually read the AIDS sequence to myself when I got home, and I realized that I had turned away from a possible breakthrough. My corporate identity has taken too much of my life.

The further along I get in this journey, the more imperative it is that I reconcile all of these identities. C_nver__t _ed__ is in the house, and I need to deal with it, one way or another.

daguru said...

"It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others. . . . One ever feels his twoness,-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." - W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963)

Collin said...

You know you could read the phone book, Ayo, and I'd be there to listen, but damn, I wanted new stuff and you rolled out the greatest hits. I could FEEL your indecision from the stage about whether to go on, but I knew the moment you started "The Mission" you would close with that. That's such a tough act to follow anyway.
Cecilia and I have had the conversation about falling back on the greatest hits, because we know they get a reaction and they are "tried and true," but eventually it just becomes a cop out.

I want to invite you to read at Portfolio Center this fall, but you better not even set foot in the door with the greatest hits. I want those AIDS poems and whatever else you've been working on. And if those Yankees are stripping you of your music, you know I'll be the first bitch to tell you. :)

M. Ayodele Heath said...

Okay, Collin. Here's a promise:

I will not read a single poem written pre-New England College at the Portfolio Centre.

But you have to promise me that you'll tell me afterwards if you don't like what I'm doing.


I appreciate your frankness and your support.

M. Ru Pere said...

what a great conversation - and amazzing that Blue "got" that moment of indecision after the Mission piece - I thought the pause was just a long exhalation which was needed after those incredible death moments - but also, please remember that Java is always full of new faces and during your set I was checking out some reactions to the so-called greatest hits, and lemme tell ya, those "kids" were a bit blown away and changed, their minds opened to the possibilities beyond "anger work" . . .