Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Foundations of ITIL v3

AFTER MAKING THE CHOICE TO SELF-STUDY for the ITIL v3 Foundation Exam (as opposed to paying for a prep course), the next decision was to find study materials.  My colleagues who'd obtained the Foundation certification had done so via prep courses offered by their employers, so unfortunately they weren't very helpful in recommending study texts.  So, after reading a dozen or so reviews of different texts on Amazon, I settled on Van Haren Publishing's Foundations of ITIL v3.

The book comes with study questions at the end of each chapter and then a comprehensive practice exam at the end.   The actual ITIL Foundation exam is scored Pass/Fail, consists of 40 multiple choice questions, and only requires a score of 65% to pass.  I supplemented the study guide questions with those at  And reading the book twice and taking practice tests until I was able to get an 80% consistently on the exam (after about 2 weeks of study), I registered for the real test.  (On the real test, I ended up scoring a 76%.  Which is to say, the test questions were of comparable difficulty as the actual test.)

For project managers who have obtained the PMP certification and are familiar with PMI's PMBOK text, you are familiar with how dry and abstract body of knowledge/best-practice texts can be.  Foundations of ITIL v3, while not ITIL's 'official' body of knowledge, reads with the same abstractness.  Since there are few real-world examples in the text, this type of abstractness can pose as a barrier to making connections among the various concepts and in determining what is, or isn't, important.  The text is laden with acronyms and definitions and Visio-inspired pictures, which can be abstruse if you've never worked within an ITIL-practicing organization.  Fortunately, I had worked in a (few) ITIL-practicing organizations. :-)

As with PMI's PMP exam, you are advised to not rely on your workplace experience to answer questions, but to instead answer questions in the manner in which ITIL prescribes.  I agree that this is true, but it does help to have worked in an organization that has a service desk, that uses a Change Control Board, that has roles for Transition Manager, etc. as this helps to put meat on the concepts, making them more digestible.

The book is organized into the five phases of the Service Lifecycle (pictured above).  Needless to say, the names of these 5 core areas should be memorized, and, while you don't need to memorize the corresponding processes and functions within each, you should at least be conceptually familiar with the process and function definitions.

Click on each link for tips on preparing for each core area.

All in all, the book, paired with the practice questions from was more than capable of prepping me for the exam.  I give up two thumbs up.

Monday, December 29, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Service Transition

SERVICE TRANSITION IS TO ENSURE that the agreed services are deployed from Service Design to Service Operation effectively.  It entails the following processes:

  • Transition Planning & Support
  • Change Management
  • Service Asset & Configuration Management
  • Release Management & Deployment Management
  • Service Validation & Testing
  • Evaluation
  • Knowledge Management
Key Concepts

  • Configuration Item (CI): an asset, service component, or other item that will be controlled by configuration management (e.g., a user's desktop is a CI that would have a Configuration Record stored in a CMDB which would indicate 
  • CMDB (Configuration Management Database): a database used to store configuration records of Configuration Items.
  • Release: a set of new or changed CIs that are tested and will be implemented into production together.
  • CAB (Change Advisory Board): an advisory consultation body that meets to advise the Change Manager assess, prioritize, and schedule changes.  In the case of an emergency change, a smaller advisory board, the ECAB (Emergency CAB), would make the decision.
  • 7 R's of Change Management: 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Service Operation

THE PHASE WHICH ITIL REFERS TO AS SERVICE OPERATION is what is typically called steady state, or business as usual.  After a product or service is introduced into production, Service Operation entails the processes which support keeping that product or service available in the production environment:

  • Event Management
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Request Fulfillment
  • Problem Management
  • Access Management
  • Facilities Management
  • IT Operations Control
  • Application Management
  • Technical Management

In addition to these processes, it is also essential to understand standard roles in Service Operations such as:

  • Service Desk Manager
  • Super User
  • Incident Manager
  • Problem Manager

While project managers are typically not thought of in the context of Service Operations, it is important to recognize that project managers do often perform duties which work closely with Operations, such as in the case of major infrastructure upgrades or the deployment of new procedures, which often leverage project management techniques to ensure a clean handoff from Service Transition into Service Operation.

Key Concepts:

  • Problem vs. Incident: An incident is something that needs to be resolved immediately. This can either be through a permanent fix, a workaround or a temporary fix. An example of an incident would be a server crash which causes a disruption in the business process. If a server is used only during office hours, a crash after office hours is, strictly speaking based on the definition, not yet an incident since the no service was affected. It becomes an incident only when the outage extends to the hours of use.
  • Problems however are not incidents. An incident can raise a problem, specially if there is a high possibility that the incident might happen again. In the case of a server crash after office hours, the crash is a problem. This is a high priority problem because if this problem is not resolved, this will become an incident.
  • The 9 activities in the incident management process are useful to know:

  • Problem Management entails:

  • Workaround: A method of avoiding an Incident or Problem, either by employing a temporary fix or technique that means a Customer is not reliant on a Configuration Item (CI) that is known to cause failure. 
  • Service Request: a general description for a request from a user for information, advice, a standard change, or access to a service. These occur on a regular basis and involve little risk (e.g password resets or installation of software on a workstation) 
  • Service Desk: A service desk is a functional unit with staff involved in differing service events. These events come in by phone, internet, or infrastructure. It's important to note that it is a SPOC (Single Point of Contact) for IT users and it deals with all incidents, access requests, and service requests. It can organized in many ways, depending on the needs of the organization: 

Culinary Capers: African Chicken Peanut Stew (Week 1)

In week 1, I tried African Chicken Peanut Stew.   I think I bit off more than I could chew, literally.    The recipe seemed straightforward enough, but it was the first time I'd used canned tomatoes, ginger root, and peanut butter in a dish.

The dish called for browning the chicken legs in oil in a skillet before adding it to the stew ingredients.  I browned about 5 drumsticks for this purpose, but I wasn't confident that they were done all the way through.  While the dish called for adding the chicken to the stew bone-in, I opted to remove the chicken from the bone before adding to the stew, so I could inspect that the chicken was thoroughly cooked.  And sure enough, one of the five drumsticks was undercooked with blood at the bone.  Would the chicken have finished cooking in the stew?  In hindsight, probably so, but I threw the bloody piece out.

I like to think I have an adventurous palette, but the finished dish, which I served in a bowl with jasmine rice, made me a little nauseous. I couldn't quite put my finger on the culprit. I tried the dish again as leftovers the next day and still had the same feeling.  Then, I went back and reviewed the recipe, which called for cooking for 1 hour and 55 minutes--except I only cooked it for 55 minutes.  I suppose that's what puts the stew in stew!  I'm thinking that the ingredients didn't have a chance to fully combine together because I removed the heat too early.  Reading is fundamental.

I'll try this dish again in April, but I learned a couple of things here:

  1. When browning the chicken legs in the skillet, I'll cook them longer and leave the bone-in.
  2. I would've preferred more bites of chicken in the stew.  Next time, I'll add a couple of more drumsticks next time.
  3. Knives!  In removing the fat from the chicken, I realized my knife game sucks!  I need to invest in some proper knives.
  4. I didn't thoroughly peel the skin off of the onion and the ginger root, which left annoying bits of skin in bites of the stew.  I'll be more meticulous about peeling them in the future.
  5. While I've always hated seeing people post pictures of plates, I need to take pictures.
On to week 2!

Culinary Capers: Black Man Cooking (Week 0)

SO, I'M A BLACK MAN FROM the South who grew up in a family with very "traditional," i.e. sexist, gender roles where, on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, men refined their jive-talking and armchair quarterbacking in the den around the TV and women spun their stories and generational recipes around the stove in the kitchen.  I remember the rare occasion as a boy where I'd cross the imaginary lines into what in my family was considered the "woman's domain." The way my entrance into the kitchen would stop time and stop conversations made me feel like a White man who'd accidentally entered into a Black club.  I may as well had stumbled into the jungles of Thailand or the countryside of Poland; it was that bewildering and strange.

As I got older, I learned that there were many Southern men who, on the contrary, were rather good cooks.  And as I became a young adult, I marveled at the new wave of male TV chefs--Emeril Lagasse and Justin "ga-ron-tee" Wilson.  And despite my otherwise progressive and feminist leanings, it took decades for me to undo the mental shackles that stood between me and having the confidence to consistently work a stove to do something beyond boiling an egg.  So, for 2015, I'm committing to become a "better" cook, by cooking at least one dish per week, and blogging about it.

To baseline expectations, I'm starting out having never worked an outdoor grill and my idea of spaghetti is, much to my embarrassment, taking store-bought Ragu, mixing in some ground meat, and pouring it over the noodles.  I eat out--a lot.   I have a few recipes I've followed over the years to create edible meals, but not in a way where I'm confident in cooking for company.  So, to build suspense, I'll put a challenge out to myself.  Can I become a good enough cook in time to host Christmas dinner?  Only time will tell!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Continual Service Improvement

IF YOU'VE EVER WORKED IN AN ORGANIZATION that uses Lean Methodology, then you've got a running start into the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) phase.  CSI concerns itself with:

  • measuring and analyzing service level achievements by comparing them to the requirements in SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
  • Recommending improvements in all phases of the life cycle.
  • Introducing activities which will increase the quality, efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction of the services and the IT service management processes.
  • Operating more cost effective IT services without sacrificing customer satisfaction
  • Using suitable quality management methods for improvement activities.
CSI accomplishes this via measuring and monitoring;
  • Process Compliance
  • Quality
  • Performance
  • Business value of a process
Key Concepts/Methods/Tools:

  • Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle: Deming's 4 steps which guide process improvement.
  • Metrics: Measurable attributes which determine whether a variable meets its target.
  • CSFs (Critical Success Factors): high-level objectives essential to meeting a business mission
  • KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) can be qualitative or quantitative and help to define whether the CSFs are being met.
  • Benchmark: An agreed upon metric which is considered a baseline (may be determined from industry standards/best-practices)
  • Gap analysis - Determines where the organization is now and the size of the gap of where it wants to be.
  • Balanced scorecard - includes different perspectives on organizational performance - customer, internal processes, learning and growth, financial, etc.
  • SWOT Analysis - Looks at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of an organization/component.
  • Swim-lane diagram - Visualizes relationships between process and organizations
  • 7-step Improvement process:

Sunday, December 07, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Service Design

THE GOAL OF SERVICE DESIGN IS TO PROVIDE the design and development of services and their related processes.   If you work in IT project management, this typically encompasses everything from after the signing of the contract thru the just before deployment into production.  In SDLC terms, this encompasses Analysis, Design, and Build.  (Testing and deployment activities would generally fall in Service Transition.)

Whereas Service Strategy typically dealt with what would go into the portfolio of offerings to a customer, Design begins with the demand for new or changed requirements for the customer which would typically fall within the pre-defined portfolio of service offerings.  The Four (4) P's of People, Products, Process, and Partners define how the what gets delivered, including:

  • Design of Service Solutions
  • Design of the Service Portfolio
  • Design of the Architecture
  • Design of Processes
  • Design of Measurement Systems and Metrics
Service Design also concerns itself with:
  • Development approaches - waterfall versus Agile (incremental and iterative)
  • Service Delivery Model (insourcing vs. outsourcing vs. co-sourcing, etc.)

As with PMBOK, the ITIL Body of Knowledge structures itself around processes.  In the Service Design phase, the corresponding processes are:

  • Service Catalogue Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Capacity Management
  • Availability Management
  • IT Service Continuity Management
  • Information security management
  • Supplier Management

For in-depth explanations on the processes, I suggest this link.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Help Us, Make It Stop

FOR THOSE WHO ARE GROWING TIRED of hearing Black people cry about being oppressed, I have a challenge for you: Help us. Make it stop.

The American Civil Rights movement was successful, not only because of the protests and outrage of those whose rights were abused, but also because of allies in majority communities who used their power and influence to help bring about revolutionary change. Help us. Make it stop.

You hear ignorance in your circles, make it stop. You learn of abuses of power, make it stop. You see police brutality in Ferguson and Staten Island, make it stop. We are grieving. Our blood is in the streets. If you really believe in Black humanity, if you really believe that your rights are our rights, if you believe in America, speak out, rally, protest, hold this system accountable. Help us. Make it stop.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Service Strategy

The goal of Service Strategy is to determine how to think and act in a manner which provides value to the customer.  The way I like to think of it is, How does an organization determine what it will offer in the marketplace. It answers such questions as:

  • What services to offer to customers? (self-service portal, support via online chat, 1 year history of reports, etc.)
  • How to differentiate from competitors? (Will our organization seek to be best in class for a specific service such as data storage?  Or will we seek to distinguish ourselves by being a one-stop shop offering a wide portfolio of services?  Or will we pride ourselves in offering the least expensive solution among our competitors?)
  • How to create value for customers?  (Has the customer expressed a desire for a cloud computing solution?  If so, offering the customer more local physical data storage isn't necessarily offering value.)
  • How to make a case for strategic investments? (Based on the strategy, what are the most effective ways to invest capital?  Do we invest in a network upgrade this year?  Or do we open a local office in Seoul to support our growing customer base there?)  It is worth noting here that any budgetary questions/considerations will typically fall into the Service Strategy area.
  • How to define and improve service quality?  (Should the service desk answer resolve 90% of calls on the first try?  Should the network target 99.5% uptime?)
  • How to efficiently allocate resources across a portfolio of services?  Can the same service desk be cross-trained to support multiple services as opposed to having multiple service desks in different locations?)
It consists of 3 processes:
  • Financial Management - How to guarantee efficient and cost-effective service delivery.
  • Demand Management - How to preduct the purchase of products to balance demand with resources.
  • Service Portfolio Management (SPM) - How to manage all service management investments while balancing risks and costs.
Key Concepts

Value Creation: Value is determined by the customer's perception and combines the utility of the service/product and the warranty of the service/product.

Utility vs. Warranty: Utility (fitness of purpose) is what something does.  For example, the utility of the iTunes applications is to organize media (videos and music.)  Warranty (fitness for use) is a guarantee or insurance that a product/service will meet its requirements.  

ESP (External Service Provider) vs. ISP (Internal Service Provider) vs.Shared Services Unit: An ESP is a service provider that provides IT services to external customers.  An ISP is a service provider within your own company.  .  A Shared Services Unit is a service provider that provides shared IT services to more than one Business Unit within the same company.

Service Assets include:
  • Resources (hardware, software, money, people) used to deliver an IT service, and 
  • Capabilities (education, training, and knowledge learned about the customer over time that is difficult to replicate by a competitor)
Service Portfolio consists of:
  • Service catalogue: The actual and available capabilities of the service provider, which are offered to the customer.
  • Service pipeline: The future capabilities which are under consideration or in development for a specific market or customer.
  • Retired Services: Those capabilities which have been phased out or withdrawn.
Implementation of the Service Strategy ultimately leads to changes in the Service Portfolio, which introduce risk, which is an uncertain outcome which aligns pretty closely with the PMI definition of risk.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Artistic Obsessions: To Muse or Lose

IN HIS ESSAY COLLECTION, TRIGGERING TOWN, VICTOR HUGO wrote, "Most [poets] write the same poem over and over"--i.e., that most writers have a particular obsession, some well they keep dipping the bucket into over and over again. These obsessions make for the stuff of many a literary doctoral thesis, applying not only to the work of poets, but to short story writers and novelists, to visual artists and filmmakers.

In looking at my own work over 20 years, I see my obsession is race: what is it exactly, who defines it, who benefits from it, what are its consequences, how does it perform in American society, how does it perform in different areas of the world. As Sherman Alexie says in the attached quote, the writerly obsession can be a prison, especially as one seeks to grow as an artist. For myself, even when I sit down to not write about race, I feel its heat in the corner glowering, "I see you ignoring me."

So, my question to you, writers and other artists, What are your obsessions? And how do you break away from them? Or do you allow them to consume you, as say, an August Wilson with the city of Pittsburgh, a William Faulkner on Yoknapatawpha, or Toni Morrison on the subject of race?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Post-Election Blues?: We are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

ON TUESDAY, MANY OF US went to the polls to choose a candidate to "represent our interests" in Washington, DC, or in our respective state capitals. Many of us woke up on Wednesday morning disappointed that the results didn't turn out in our favor. But truth is, the most significant decisions in our lives happen on a much smaller scale, where we have more agency--in our community, in our household, in our mind.

When the politics of the world don't go our way, we still have choices: we can roll over and wait until the next election cycle, or we can invoke the spirit of our nation's founders. When Protestants in England found their voices silenced, they dreamed, they acted, they eventualized the United States of America. 

If the recent election didn't go your way, instead of wasting away, waiting years for election cycles, waiting for leaders who reflect your values, this is the time to become most active--in your art, in your family, in your church, in your self. If you're feeling shut out of the mainstream, look to organizations such as these for inspiration on being the change: Kundiman, Cave Canem, Nuyorican Poets Café, Busboys and Poets, The Watering Hole, Moore Black Press Publishing Inc., Sundance Film Festival, Def Jam Recordings, Svaha Paradox Salon, and Charis Books and More/Charis Circle.
As Mahatma Gandhi says, "Be the change that you wish to see," or as June Jordan reminds us, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A River Runs Through The Valley: Darkness and the Creative Process

THROUGHOUT MUCH OF MY LIFE I'VE BEEN an optimist--a silver-lining, bright-side-of-things kind of guy. But life inevitably presents us with obstacles, valleys, and storms that challenge our faith, beliefs, and entire sense of being. My old self sought to fast-forward through those darker experiences to get back on a "happy note."

But how dull would life's song be if it were only played with one bright note? Or if the pianist only tickled the twinkly sounds of the right hand, played in a major key? How much deeper is our experience when we honor our darknesses and play them in a balanced composition? Not every darkness is an ailment: a stage, a soil, a skin.

I know a river runs through the valley. And I've seen the wildflowers there.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ayo Features at Marlee's Coffee and Tea

COME JOIN ME Tuesday, 10/7/14, 7:30 P.M. at Marlee's Coffee and Tea where I'll be doing a 20-minute poetry set as the feature for the Open Mic, hosted by Miss Haze.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

TEDxPeachtreeSalon Talk Now Up on YouTube!

My TEDx talk, "Poetry 2.0: Poems for a Digital Age," is now available for viewing on Youtube.  You can now view it here:

Saturday, August 02, 2014

For your listening pleasure, here's me chatting it up with Sandy Weaver Carman and June Cline about poetry & inspiration on the latest installment of Happiness Recipe:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: On Saturday, 8/16, I'll be teaching an online course, "Poetry of Protest: the Social, the Political, and the Otherwise," hosted by The Watering Hole Poetry Group! Learn more at:

Register at:

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Electronic Corpse Highlighted at TEDxPeachtreeSalon

On Tuesday, 7/15, I'll be sharing the wonders of Electronic Corpse at TEDxPeachtreeSalon.  Purchase tickets here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Electronic Corpse Featured at Extract(s)

Three poems from Electronic Corpse: Poems from a Digital Salon are featured today at the online mag, Extract(s)’ “Daily Dose of Lit” section:

“#62: First, are you our sort of a person?”

“#115: Japanese scientists unveiled a robot that plays the violin,” and

“#30: Somebody keeps track of how many times.”

Read all about it here!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

State of the Re:Union Episode feature M. Ayodele Heath, Derrick Brown, Cristin Aptowicz, and Kevin Burke!

CHECK OUT AL LETSON'S State of the ReUnion episode 'When Words Matter: National Poetry Month Special', featuring me sharing some poetry and talking about my  influences.

The full episode also features Derrick Brown, Cristin Aptowicz, and Kevin Burke. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

Electronic Corpse ATL Book Launch May 3!

TWO YEARS IN the making, this anthology Electronic Corpse: Poems from a Digital Salon features collaboratively created poems by 84 contributors of all experiences and geographies – from state poets laureates to casual journalers; from Pennsylvania to Georgia to South Korea, India and South Africa. In 2012, inspired by the early 20th century French surrealist parlor game, Exquisite Corpse, M Ayodele Heath began hosting collaborative poetry-making sessions, or digital salons, on his Facebook page. To date, more than 150 poets participated in these virtual events. Heath chose the very best 50 poems, out of hundreds, to carefully catalogue, assemble and preserve. Published by Svaha Paradox Salon of Pittsburgh, PA.

Featuring solo and collaborative readings from contributors including: Christina Springer Collin Kelley C.G. Brown( Corregan Brown) Dan Veach Jennifer Balachandran Jon Goode Ashlee Haze Robert E. Wood Rupert Fike Sharan Strange Teri Elam Theresa Davis, and more! Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Of Ash & Dust' in Winter 2014 Issue of 'Digital Americana'

The audio version of 'Of Ash & Dust: a Tribute to the Crew of STS-107, Space Shuttle Columbia' appears in the Winter 2014 issue of Digital Americana.

Friday, February 21, 2014

World Premiere Screening of Full-Length Documentary, "3-Minute Activists; the Soul of Slam"

ROSWELL, Ga. — Atlanta-based Cogitate Productions, in association with Mad Mouth Media, is proud to present a special, free screening of 3-Minute Activists: The Soul of Slam, a new feature-length documentary filmed entirely on location during 2013's Roswell Roots Festival.

The screening, part of this year's festival—which features 24 exhibits, concerts, workshops and competitions—is scheduled for 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Aurora Cineplex, 5100 Commerce Pkwy., Roswell. (Event was originally scheduled for Feb. 12, but postponed due to snow).

A question-and-answer session with selected filmmakers and featured poets will immediately follow the film.

The documentary includes performance pieces from the 2013 "Slammin' in the Suburbs" poetry event, as well as in-depth interviews with and discussion among some of the Southeast's premier spoken-word poets, including Jonida "Gypsee Yo" Beqo, Theresa Davis, Ashlee "Miss Haze" Haze, M. Ayodele Heath, Gabe Moses, and long-time political poet and spoken-word legend Alice Lovelace.

3-Minute Activists: The Soul of Slam is a thought-provoking conversation regarding the activist roots of spoken-word poetry. It's also a collection of emotional contemporary performances—some funny, some infuriating, some tear-inducing, all heart-felt and real— underlining the continued social commentary indicative of the artform.

A trailer for the documentary is available at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

$1000 Grand Prize Roswell Roots Slam, Thursday, 2/20/14, 7:00 P.M.

: 6:00-7:00PM
(Must sign-up in person at the event. Sign-up list closes at 24 participants.)

Competition begins: 7:00 pm

Host:  M. Ayodele Heath

Historic Roswell Cottage
972 Alpharetta Street
Roswell, GA 30075

1st- - $1000
2nd - $200
3rd - $100
4th - $50
5th - $25

NOTE TO POETS: Change in format for this year (2013 going forward)

1st round (24 poets): 1-minute time limit
2nd round (14 poets) : 2-minute time limit
3rd round: (7 poets): 3-minute time limit
4th round (3 poets): 4-minute time limit

After the 1st round, scores are wiped clean.
Then, the prizes will be given based on cumulative scores over rounds 2, 3, and 4.

What are the rules?

-Each poem must be of the poet's own construction;
-No props or musical accompaniment
-If the poet goes over time, points will be deducted from the total score (0.5 points for each 10 seconds over the grace period);

Sunday, February 09, 2014

REVIEW: Educated Gangster 101: a Spoken Word Hip-Hop Musical

DECATUR, GA: Poet/Playwright Tommy Bottoms' Educated Gangster 101: a Spoken Word Hip-Hop Musical is a glimpse into the radical mind of Dr. Ugly (Tommy Bottoms), an eccentric, schizophrenic professor whose life mission is to socially engineer the “new-nigga” for the new millennium.

Tommy Bottoms, Playwright
Set in 21st century Atlanta at the fictional Nat Turner Institute, this freewheeling social comedy follows Dr. Ugly as he teaches a course to re-engineer the minds of two experimental test subjects: neo-conservative Raekwon Jackson (Cola Rum) and suburban sorority girl Jazmin Love (Theresa tha Songbird). Rounding out the cast of characters are co-faculty members, Nation of Islamist Malcolm Farrakhan (Malik Salaam) and corporate Ivy-leaguer, Madam Beautiful (Tamika “Georgia Me” Harper), along with Dr. Ugly's thugged-out split personality, A Pimp Named Felonius Nigga (Derrick “Abyss” Graham).  The plot is somewhat secondary as Bottoms explores a no-holds-barred conversation on the current state of Black America—one that tickles the funny bone as skillfully as it opens the third eye.

The storyline updates Black Arts movement concepts with a Web 2.0 twist, and provides a slick platform for Dr. Ugly to provide a history lesson for the Crack generation, one that will never appear in any history textbook.  Waxing poetic on subjects including the destruction of the Black family, the legalization of drugs, the economy fueling the prison system, and the media's reappropriation of the Black male image, Bottoms uses comedy as counterbalance to play out Dr. Ugly's well-intentioned aim of awakening Raekwon and Jazmin to consciousness, to see themselves in the context of Black struggle in a way that will ultimately uplift and transform their people.

The spoken word numbers, which range from a cappella solo pieces to musical group poems backed by the complementary CJ Baker Band, are woven nearly seamlessly into the fabric of the dialogue, so much so that you're sometimes transported halfway into a poem before you realize it. While I was familiar with some of the material from the cast's individual spoken word repertoires, the poems were integrated so well into the dialogue that they seemed to emerge organically from the play's text.

Red Summer, Director
Under Red Summer's direction, individual performances were stellar, as dialogue morphed into spoken word cadence, into outright song--from Jazmin Love's bebop-inspired riffs in "Superman" to A Pimp Named Felonius Nigga's hip-hop inspired lyrics to Raekwon Jackson's homiletic, Baptist delivery.  Each performance was a masters class in itself. Malcolm Farrakhan and Madam Beautiful's performances also did not disappoint, setting the audience afire with amens and applause.

The cast carries the torch originally lit by African griots, passed on through the poets of the Black Arts movement, dropping science in the tradition of the best Golden Age era Hip-Hop artists—Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, and KRS1.  This is edutainment at its finest.

Starring: Malik Salaam, Tamika Harper, Tommy Bottoms, Derrick Abyss Graham, Theresa Tha Songbird, and Cola Rum

*This review was of the world premiere performance on 8 Feb 2014 at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center in Decatur, GA.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Electronic Corpse Anthology Launches Indiegogo Campaign

Electronic Corpse: 

Poems From A Digital Salon

On September 7, 2012, inspired by the early 20th century French surrealist parlor game, Exquisite Corpse, I began hosting digital salons: group poetry writing exercises on my Facebook page (Syllabic Sundays, Metaphoric Mondays, Wildcard Wednesdays, and Free Verse Fridays).

To date, over 130 of these exercises have been created by poets of all experiences and geographies – from state poet laureates to the casual journaler; from South Carolina to South Korea to South Africa. We've selected the best and are raising funds to spread the word about this forthcoming collection:  Click here to donate!