Monday, June 18, 2012
The Lord Have Mercy Show
A Mother's Grief.
A Mother's Love.
The healing power of words.
After performing poems for 10 years in places as spread apart as Berkeley and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and in venues as varied as Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, Chicago's Green Mill Jazz Club, Borders Bookstores and BarB hiphop club in Santa Fe, I felt that it was time to take an artistic risk. I perform my poems by asking myself how the poem wants to be performed. I memorize it while considering the character I am portraying: is she feisty and bold, subdued with grief, bowed or uplifted by fate, moving and transformed, sensual and yearning, questioning, questing, affirming, contemplative, remembering? I accentuate the rhythm of the lines and language with movement, ritual, shawls, long skirts, aprons, and jewelry to bring attention to my hands as they gesture. There are the times when my ideas didn't work: the time the shawl wrapped around me and the mic, incapacitating my movements; the time I totally went blank even though I had performed the same poem to the previous English class; the awkwardness of my steps and my balance after hip surgery that was very different for me after being accustomed to heels, a passion for dance that led to late nights at the disco in my youth, and even rooftop bars in Puerto Vallarta in 2006.
But the nervous sensation of my stomach doing flips with worry that I will get it right, that I will connect with my audience, are no longer noticeable. Of course I still feel nervous, especially in a new venue and I still wonder if I will grab their attention but I know where the poems will take me. To the magic and the joy of communication. I will survive any mistakes, I do know how to create intimacy. I do land in my own skin.
I want to try something I have never done before and I want to finally transmute my deepest grief, my long journey to the underworld of despair and back. The Lord Have Mercy Show arose from a simple litany I find on my lips often: "Lord, have mercy!" This simple phrase had been a mantra as I moved four times in the past 6 years, from Santa Fe to Puerto Vallarta, from PV to Fridley, from Fridley to North Minneapolis to live with a dear friend, then when her job ended and she moved to Madeline Island, to Saint Louis Park with a housemate whom I didn't know. From the healing after my partner's death through the shattering of my son's, then the deaths of my Mexican husband and my sister, grown children of friends, my son's fiancee, dear friends and poetry peers. "Lord, have mercy" is simply a natural cry of anguish and a cry for help, while at the same time, a cry of fatalism mixed with irony. Life and death are part of the cycles of life and we can't avoid them. I want to allude to the contradictions, the mosaic, the understanding coupled with emotional incomprehensibility. I believe that Death comes to all of us and the anguish of losing someone is a measure of our love and their meaning in our life, that life is eternal and love never ends, yet healing is sometimes only "scotch-taped" over the "fissures of the heart" and the heart is permanently scarred. We never emerge unscathed. We can't stop the desire to keep our loved ones alive and near. We have to let them go and we have to face our own mortality.
There is also the irony or the black humor: What, again? Another time you are calling out to the Lord?
And what is His answer this time?
The Lord Have Mercy Show is a multi-media monologue, with poetry, story telling, dance, music, visuals, video, shadow play and audience interaction which I hope to develop as time goes on with grant funding. (I am thinking of several grants and will also post a kickstarter or USAprojects campaign later this year.) But why wait, why not begin with an excerpt? This is a work in progress and I will present an excerpt as a way to judge audience interest and get moving.
I am not trained as an actress but I have acted as I performed poetry. I am not a playwright but I have interconnecting poems and a story to tell. Soloist Rachealann Haasken and dancer Linda Lundquist will accompany me at Patricks' Cabaret next month to present a 15 minute excerpt of poetry with music and dance. If you live in the Twin Cities, I hope you will come and ask questions after the show. Let me know what you think and if you believe in the power of words to heal and transform our stories of painful memories into stories of courage, hope, resiliency and love.