Grappling with the fear of being metaphorically naked

I’m contemplating what to do my next film project on. I feel a passion for film igniting in me, but it’s not really about film, it’s about elevating my poetry to the level of accessibility of film, in a sense.

I’m also noticing such a transformation in how I come to my art now, versus when I was a writing student.

I have so much more of a command of my artistic expression, one that translates many mediums.

There are a lot ideas I can pursue in these upcoming weeks, but I’ll get the most value out of pushing myself outside my comfort zone.

Filming some beautiful footage as a back drop for a poem is too comfortable.

What is uncomfortable? Myself as a subject—there’s some comfort and discomfort in that. But I also feel in it a desire to filter and becoming too conscious of how others perceive me. If I can fight against it and show myself raw and true—that’s where I step out of comfort.

At the same time, I can make something else entirely. I can create something about my partner, Tyler, a subject I would love to endlessly cover. But that almost feels too fun and self-indulgent to film someone I admire, someone I have access to every day. Also, happiness is boring, and I’m not entirely sure what purpose it would serve me besides self-indulgence. Maybe in the future, but not for this project.

Light bulb flash: The story behind the Nikita film is going to be about the desire to disappear, vanish, erase oneself, die. For example, not wanting to eat because you want to leave your body. Becoming a ghost.

But what about this other project, the one with the endless possibilities?

I keep thinking of Gummo and all the found footage in it. Part of me wants to find footage. I reached out to family members, but I don’t think there are many home movies that will be available to me. There are the ones I have, however.

I can also get more experimental, but honestly, that feels too easy, too. It feels like a way for me to cover up something, step back from the rawness—just a reaction to the fear of being naked.

My 3 short films: one complete, one in post, one in pre-production

Currently, I only have 1 film out there in the wild, Please Open A Door For Me. And that film still has yet to be released online.

My co-director, Brandon A. Buczek, and I are considering releasing it in April 2021 for National Poetry Month, but there are several decisions we have to make since we can’t do local screenings and we may want to monetize it to some degree.

When we made Please Open A Door For Me, it was based on an existing poem. We storyboarded and had a very thorough plan with a heavily-organized shooting schedule. There were several months of pre-production and post-production involved.

My current film project that’s in post takes an opposite approach. I knew I wanted to make another poetry film, but I didn’t have a particular poem in mind. I decided that this time I would write the poem after filming it, and see how that would alter the process.

I went up to Williams, OR, a tiny and remote area about an hour outside Ashland. There are gorgeous and lush forests there, and I happened to arrive on a gloriously foggy weekend which gave the shots this beautiful depth.

Here’s an unedited sample of what the scenery was like.

So far, I’ve found it pretty challenging to write a poem that springs from visual material. I don’t typically write that way, but I have before—here’s one extremely lo-fi example: I recorded my poetry and some background music by Geotic over this iPhone video I made during a workshop with Andrea Rexilius.

I was transcribing poems from my notebooks earlier this week, and I stumbled upon one that might be a good fit for this project. We’ll see if it makes the cut or if I decide to write a new one.

After I finalize the poem, I’ll hope the stars align so that I can record a voice-over with Nikita in person using my partner’s recording equipment at our home in Berkeley.

This project was a big step for me reasons I’ll likely detail in a future post.

My next project is going to be an autobiographical documentary that will be generated from a workshop I’m taking at the Echo Park Film Center this winter. Documentary scares the shit out of me, especially if the topic is myself. That’s just more reason to do it.

I’ll likely have a final cut (or at least a rough cut) completed early this spring, mostly due to the workshop schedule.

I’m looking forward to sharing more updates about these projects here.

Should I start a poetry press?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering for the last year. If I did start one, it would be something small and accessible for my immediate poetry community. Say, for example, 5 curated poems per month via email.

There’s no money in poetry, so it’d have to be something with a relatively low impact on my day-to-day life that is also scalable in case I want to adapt it into poetry e-books or something of that nature. But it should also live online so that those featured in it can link out to it to showcase their work. As a poet myself, I know there’s a lot of value in that.

My friend Polina West runs a Substack newsletter called “Lollipops and crisps”. She just migrated over from TinyLetter, and I love the email format. It’s more intimate, and you know exactly whose reading your work. Plus, there’s an archive that lives online, which I find important.

Polina also recently released a very zine-like, DIY-style, hella punk collection, IRL IRL 005, published by Human Trash Dump. IRL IRL was started by her and April Vendetta, who runs Human Trash Dump.

One of the notes in its archive.org description is, “IRL IRL is looking for less anxiety inducing or habit-forming methods of sharing ideas and communicating amongst ourselves & with ‘the public.'” In other words, Polina and April are geniuses, and IRL IRL takes on a very “fuck social media” stance without actually saying it. . . which is essentially the same sentiment behind writing a low-traffic blog instead of harnessing the power of social media to get my 4,000 followers (spread across various platforms) to consume my work.

Now, Polina can say anything she wants, and the people who consume it have already opted in. They want to see her work. And that’s the power of email, a power social media (arguably) no longer holds. She’s not under the thumb of the algorithm, and neither is her work. I’d also like to note that IRL IRL submissions are via ProtonMail, which is consistent with her values.)

I’ve even faced a dilemma about starting this blog. Are blogs dead? The truth of this space is that I want to talk about process and showcase what I’m working on for anyone who is curious about work. It’s for the select few who are peeping my work, maybe those who want to collaborate or are just straight up creepers.

Honestly, I’m not even sure what it means to talk about “process.” I often think of the cerebral, inaccessibly “cool” poets and writers, especially those deeply steeped in academic circles all jerking each other off intellectually. I also think of how empty that feels to me.

Since CAConrad has had an immense influence on my work and life, I immediately think of their (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals, which is a form of discussing process that is non-pretentious and also very punk.

I just need to decide what suits me when I discuss process in this space. I guess in a way, that’s what I’m already doing.

So, start a press or not? I guess we shall see.

If you know of any writers or artists owning their spaces like CAConrad and Polina, please let me know.

If you’re interested in publishing a poem through my future press, please reach out to me, too.

Why I haven’t published a poem since 2017

It certainly wasn’t my intention to go this long without publishing a single poem. The only “remarkable” thing I’ve done in my public-facing creative life since 2017 has been my debut short film, Please Open A Door For Me, which was filmed in 2018, then subsequently premiered in 2019. I also performed a few times in 2018 and 2019.

2017 was a challenging year for me—probably the most challenging of my life thus far. Somehow, my creative life was on fire. I was performing and modeling and collaborating often. Yet behind the curtain, I was pushed to my edge, totally and completely over how I was living and how spread thin I always felt. So, I decided to make changes—lots of them.

I threw out 10 years work of notebooks. I became straight edge and vegan (again). I vowed to remain celibate and completely quit dating. I conducted an audit of nearly all of my friendships. I started meditating almost every day, something I was never able to accomplish before. I even quit caffeine.

Most of these changes coincided with a solar eclipse that occurred that year. I recall being on the rooftop of the homeless shelter I worked at in downtown LA. some of my coworkers and various residents of the shelter had all gathered on the roof with their special glasses; I used a stack of film negatives, and we all looked up at the sky.

I finished my last in-n-out grilled cheese and oat latte right before it peaked and never looked back.

The irony is that I spent most of 2017 working on a collection of poems (under the working title Succubus), but it never saw the light of day. After stepping into my new world, it felt impossible to revisit that past.

Then came the new year: I fell in love with my partner, received a promotion at the shelter, got into an accident that totaled my car, and avoided editing my Succubus project at all costs because I felt so haunted by its content.

The year after that was even more eventful. I moved from LA to New Orleans, started a job at an ad agency, lived in 4 different homes, and had another car get totaled in a flood.

Then came 2020. . .well, we already all know how that story goes. On top of all the mayhem of this past year, I also managed to move across the country again and start another new job.

All the while, it has felt like something is “happening” inside me, a massive and irrevocable transformation—one that brings me closer to myself, like a ship making a sharp turn, cutting through the ocean’s surface slowly, working with the force of water against its hull.

I’ve spent the past few months writing poetry again, and my poems are looking for a home. But the landscape has shifted so much in 3 years. Publications have risen and fallen. Publishers have shifted towards poems that perform wokeness and explicitly promote particular brands of social justice. Resources are spread thin. People are spread thin.

If you have a call for submissions, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I plan on using this space to talk about my creative process and the projects I’m working on.