NaNoWriMo kicks off today!

NaNo Poster2.47

It’s now National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! Although I won’t be taking part this year (to preserve the quality of other projects and the mental energy they need—though admittedly, frenetically writing a novel could be highly invigorating and re-sanitizing…), I am once again excited to find out what happens and am generally thrilled about the very idea of writing an entire novel in 30 days in the company of other literary creatives; it’s invigorating to know there’s a chunk of time proclaimed for a collective challenge to craft substantial fiction. And there’s so much great stuff on, like listings of local events, fun posters and ways to get encouragement from fellow novelists.

Good luck to all you November novel writers out there!

“You’re alive. Act like it.”

I’m not sure who said that (either Elevated! or Da Poetry Lounge),  but now perhaps what matters is that it was said, boldly as a thunderous command closing an emotionally and linguistically turbulent meditation on the modern human condition. That blazingly delivered poem charged us to again be human.

At the packed, sold-out National Poetry Slam 2013 finals, I was utterly astounded by the powerful voices slam poets gave history, social issues, personal emotions and so much more. The phrases resonating in the air thick with the energy of fandom (for these poets specifically and for poetry generally), those words wove stories that were everything from heartbreaking to uplifting. A boisterous bro duo gleefully shattered the illusion that first-time lovemaking is smooth and sweet; Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, the Riddler, etc. read their letters to Batman recounting tragic life stories, ultimately instructing him to fix the city that created them; a chorus of positivity encouraged us to celebrate how amazing life is, how remarkable it is, among other things, that our lungs and hearts often work tirelessly, unnoticeably; a substitute teacher’s mind races as he ponders over what he will tell a 4th grade girl who declares her aspirations of becoming the best tetherball player in the world, a world where not all dreams can come true, still pervaded by gender discrimination; a slam duet spun dizzying parallel stories of young siblings separately struggling with what society tells them their bodies should be and do… And far more. Sitting there, transfixed by the transformation of voice and bodily motion into sheer passion, provocation, catharsis and communion,  I could barely believe words could do all this and beyond.

Although the details of diction, rhythm, gesture and tone were crystal sharp as they were unfolding during this most astonishing of artistic evenings, that extreme clarity is ebbing, but among whatever is left as time blurs memory will be the unshakable truth that words spoken bellowed, sung, guffawed and cried on stage connected us, pulled those of us in the audience into feelings and experiences perhaps not our own but unmistakably belonging to all of humanity, dared us to look at our past, present and selves, pushed us to move resolutely and justly into the future.

If there’s a slam poetry venue near you, check it out if you haven’t already.

Here’s the short film Slip of the Tongue, one of the pieces that brought me into the world of spoken word and slam poetry.

EmTech 2012: another great conference

This past week, I spent a handful of high-quality hours at the EmTech MIT 2012 technology innovation conference. The kind of cutting-edge work people are doing these days is utterly mind-blowingly delightful, and the sort of innovation advice (with a hefty dose of humor) from experts like Ken Morse is greatly valuable (image on the left from his session). I wish people outside venues like EmTech could get a glimpse of how amazing things like pop-up book microscale manufacturing and Lytro cameras are—more of a glimpse than is offered by magazines like Technology Review (which organizes EmTech), Scientific American and WIRED. They do a great job, but there’s a raw, awe-inspiring power to hearing innovators talking passionately in-person about moving their ideas into realities. That should be part of public-school curricula.