BECOME A PATRON! http://www.patreon.com/MarshallJamesKavanaugh
Yesterday, Andrew Galati and I embarked on filming the first episode of a docuseries about poetry. It was an experiment as much as a celebration. We wanted to see if we could capture on film all the experiences and conversations around poetry I encounter everyday behind the typewriter when I set up in public spaces and write personalized poems.
Using Walt Whitman’s birthday (May 31st) as a launching point, we traveled to Camden, NJ which is where Walt Whitman spent his last years. But the documentary isn’t about Whitman and it’s not really about either of us either.
It is about how poetry still has an impact in our current day and age. About how the spoken word unites and connects so many different communities. About how it empowers so many people to find their voices to breathe into life a better world.
Andrew and I both thrive in spontaneity, and we had no real plans other than to visit Whitman’s grave and house in Camden, see if we could hone in on his spirit through the typewriter and have conversations with residents about what poetry means for them.
Unsurprisingly, it led to a unique experience of shared stories and overlapping legacies. From the start, we met Rocky Wilson, a teacher and Walt Whitman interpreter. A poet in his own right, he provided a historian’s knowledge about writers that had inspired him in his youth and how growing up around the corner from Whitman’s house first gave him a taste of what a poet can live to be.
After taking our time at Whitman’s grave, admiring the wildlife and sharing moments of silence to hear the breeze, we ventured to his house where I set up my typewriter and wrote poems on demand for passersby. There we met Zulay Rojas, a social activist and admirer of the writers of the civil rights movement. She caught how auspicious it was that the first poem I wrote was about the requested topic “King”.
Whitman’s house is on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in downtown Camden, which intersects with Broadway, renamed Black Lives Matter Boulevard after the George Floyd uprisings around the country in 2020. In my poem, I combined themes of MLK with the realization in wearing a golden crown that we are all kings, queens, royalty. A poem about self-empowerment as much as about social change. Rojas told us about her own activism and remarked poetry is where magic happens.
Soon we were joined by Youssouf, Jordan, Ron, and Richard. They had driven to this part of the city to wave from the sidewalk to friends and family currently detained in the Camden County corrections facility across the street. A moment for me and Andrew to acknowledge our own privilege in what we face in our own experiences and how they differ, based on circumstances like where we reside, the color of our skin, and what we have available to us. These four had made a ritual of showing up to show support so their loved ones behind bars didn’t feel forgotten. Scheduling a time when their friends would be in front of the window to see their community on the outside.
They each requested poems on topics like “Love”, “Girls”, “Money”, and “Stuck”. The latter gave the most room for thought. An abstract word, but looking across the street at the prison I had many a wall to understand the imagery for the poem to explore. Further, I looked at the requester’s age and thought of myself in my late teens / early 20s and how sometimes my own emotions at that age felt like a prison. How sometimes being stuck is a depression that is hard to escape. This poem tried to offer the key to unlock the dream, but it mainly tried to give words to a feeling that is difficult to describe.
After the exchange we invited this group to share some of their own writing. Youssouf had described the typewriter poetry as being similar to freestyle, and was quick to spit some bars for the camera with a backing beat. He kept repeating sometimes a good bar is enough to dash the other lines, and his bars struck a high mark. Capturing the street life, imagining what it’d be like to be POTUS, giving heart to the flow of growth.
Soon it was time to pack up and we made our way over to the Pizza & Poetry reading series. Rocky had invited us earlier, saying it was a series he’d been organizing for over 30 years now. Today was a special one with the possibility that Walt Whit would make an appearance.
We met students from Rutgers, teachers and nurses, musicians and artists, and all sorts of writers. They each sat around with their fair share of pizza and without a list took to the stage to share their writing. Some shared lines from Leaves of Grass or Emily Dickinson. Others recited odes to Walt Whitman and the world he lived. Still others recounted their own experiences and emotions.
It was exactly what the day’s end demanded. A collaborative celebration of the community and its residents. The endless volley of spoken word, laughter, and applause. And before it was over, cake was served and Whitman got to blow out his candles.
I don’t know if the film will capture the spontaneity. It will seem as if we scripted the entirety of the day. The lessons and the power. The beautiful resounding glow of community members talking about how poetry has influenced their world. Instead, though, this is life in a nutshell. When you hop on the road and give your imagination to the wind, you are oft to find like-minds, like-spirits. A connection that feels synchronous. If only, because it is. There is beauty in this world and we are lucky when we get to share it.
If you want to get a glimpse at the stories contained in my forthcoming novel, look no further than #TravelByHaiku! To celebrate the new year I’m selling both books for $25. That includes shipping, two signed books of mine, and I’ll even send along some other goodies including a typewritten haiku personalized just for you.
Venmo – @DreamPoetForHire
CashApp – $DreamPoetForHire
Offer is until the end of January.
Be sure to DM me your mailing address.
The newest book in the series came out last March, and I’m really excited by how far it has traveled since then. A lot of that could not have happened without the community here and all the support from subscribers to my Patreon. I want you all to be able to read the whole story, and hope this bundle makes it accessible.
Another bonus in Travel By Haiku is that it offers a preview into the world of this novel I’m working on (and the two novels sitting on the backburner waiting for me to finish this one). All of these stories are interconnected. When read together, a reader will have the full experience of the wildness I encountered out there on my first few road trips across the country, and the spiritual growth I experienced as a result.
Something I hope inspires a greater connection to nature in readers from all backgrounds. Encouraging others to get out there and find their woods.
📸 Pictured here, I’m standing on the edge of the world in Big Sur, CA with co-writer of the new book, @gusplusgus. We took a short book tour up the West Coast last June to find some new haikus between ocean and redwood. These books combine poetry and travel fiction that will take you far out on the road to dream.
@westphillycommunitypoem is in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning! Along with words from Philly Youth Poet Laureate Cydney Brown and LindoYes, who joined us in the pop-up offering personalized poems for participants to walk away with.
Read the full article here: https://www.inquirer.com/…/everyday-places-barnes-west…
“Doing poetry in public, Kavanaugh’s learned, can be a ‘healing medium’ that gives people space to ‘work things through, through poetry.’
“With emotions that can be difficult to express, he explained, poetry offers a chance to find language for them. As the words reach deep within ourselves, poetry can touch without touch, he continued.”
Thank you so much to writer Cassie Owens and photographer Jose F. Moreno for taking the time to capture so much of the scene at La Pearl Beauty Emporium, and further describe the purpose of the #EverydayPlacesWestPHL Artist Partnerships presented by #BarnesWest LoLa 38 and The Barnes Foundation!
Did you miss our first pop-up? That’s okay! We have several more pop-ups through October! Our next date is on Sunday, August 29th at La Pearl Beauty Emporium on Lancaster Avenue
Hey, check it out! My new poetry collection #TravelByHaiku is available at local bookstores around the country, including:
- A Novel Idea on Passyunk Philadelphia (South)
- Bindlestiff Books Philadelphia, PA (West)
- Brickbat Books Philadelphia, PA
- The Head & The Hand Philadelphia (Fishtown)
- Small World Books Venice Beach, CA
- Tomorrow Today Los Angeles, CA
- Topos Bookstore New York City (Ridgewood)
More info and places to grab a copy on my website here: https://www.marshalljameskavanaugh.com/travel-by-haiku-volumes-6-10.html
Featuring collaborative haiku by 6 different authors on three separate road trips, the story follows our hero Marshall Deerfield who ties it all together as a young poet growing wilder. Those familiar with the American Pops of #JackKerouac, the blues-infused ku of Sonia Sanchez, or the travel fiction of Basho will especially enjoy these wild rambles and where they take the reader.
In a review in Tears in the Fence, John Brantingham, poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, had this to say about the new book: “What struck me immediately is how this feels like the volume that might have been written by a side character in #JackKerouac’s novel Dharma Bums. There is a joy here for nature that is infectious. With the haibun, these haiku create a narrative of young people going into the new American West to find what remains to take pleasure in. Much of what we have read in older works that have the same kind of approach is gone. Times have changed and we have lost that world. Marshall Deerfield is trying to find what is there now and how to lose himself in these places.”
A review of Travel By Haiku by Madison Betts, just in time for summer
Published in Write Now Philly:
“The artful entwining of anecdotes with poetry created by the six collaborators brings attention to the effect of connection. Whether through the connected lines of poetry, the bonds between Deerfield and his friends, the ties to those they meet on the road, or the immersion in nature, connection is felt throughout the book. It is exactly the energy needed in 2021 and in the coming years.”
Read more here: https://writenowphilly.com/road-tripping-from-home/
This Sunday, May 23rd at 4pm PCT (7pm EST), #TravelByHaiku is getting far out on the digital road. We’ll be teaming up with Tomorrow Today in Los Angeles for an online release party. You can tune in from anywhere in the world!
RSVP here: https://bit.ly/TBHpartyLA
You’ll have to RSVP to get the Zoom link. Tickets are FREE. You can also purchase a signed copy of the new book with your ticket.
The night will feature spoken word, music, live puppetry, dance, and video art performances by John Brantingham, Kendra Adler – Word As Movement, Phoenix (Jenna Love), Lance Robertson, Holly Zimbert, Erin White & Ethan Foote, Marian McLaughlin, Stephanie Beattie, Cameron Christopher Stuart, Augustus Depenbrock, and Rowan Vanskyver Killian
Don’t miss out on the adventure!
Tonight is the night! Grab a ticket and take the ride. Tune in tonight, March 31st at 8PM EST for the online release party for #TravelByHaiku!
RSVP here: https://bit.ly/TBHReleaseParty
The show is FREE to attend. You need to RSVP to get the Zoom link. With your ticket, you can also purchase a signed copy of the new book.
The night will include a dynamic range of spoken word, music, live puppetry, dance, and video art performances
The night will be co-hosted by @therandomtearoom with tea and other cozy accoutrements.
Get in! Let’s journey together.
📸 by @sixnineteen
It’s time to introduce the writers whose haikus are featured in this new collaborative collection. Let’s start with Gus!
Augustus Depenbrock spends his time in Los Angeles puttering around the garden. He imbues his dreams into many objects whether they be words, soil, paint or stone. It is all a part of the magic to explore around us.
His haiku collaborations are featured in Travel By Haiku, Volume 6: Desert Jesters Swim In Ancient Seas. This section follows our journeys through the Big Bend area of West Texas. This trip took place in 2015, while I was on the second leg of my first US poetry tour from the east coast to the west coast.
It picks up right where Travel By Haiku, Volumes 1-5: Still Trippin’ Across The States leaves off. It’s right before I discovered Taos, NM, where you’ll see in the book, I end up returning to and making my homebase for the journeys that launch in the latter third of the book with Stephanie Beattie and Cameron Christopher Stuart in 2016. It’s a wild start to a wild journey. No better place than the desert for it to start! You can learn more about the new collection on my website: https://bit.ly/TravelByHaiku
You can join us on the road, on March 31st, 2021 at 8pm EST.
RSVP on Eventbrite to receive the Zoom link: https://bit.ly/TBHReleaseParty
The event is FREE to attend. You can also purchase a book with your ticket to enjoy this epic, wild journey as it is released into the universe!
I’ve been waiting for this moment for months! The advanced reader copies for my new book #TravelByHaiku came in the mail. This moment was made possible thanks to subscribers on my Patreon campaign.
Join them and Subscribe to my Patreon: https://patreon.com/marshalljameskavanaugh
Sign up for at least $3 per month before March 1st, 2021, and I’ll add your name to the acknowledgements when the book is published. $7 a month and I’ll mail you a copy along with some other goodies.
If you’ve enjoyed a poem in the past, I encourage you to sign up. Thanks to current patrons, I’ve been able to focus on assembling this collection, pay for professional editing, pay for peer review, and do all this despite having less access to my normal income of typing poems in public places as a result of pandemic lockdowns and winter weather.
Subscribers at any tier of support gain access to all of the behind the scenes that goes into creating a book. You’ll see rough drafts, notes about the writing, time-lapse videos of design work, a peek into special collaborations, and much more. All that, as well as special discounts for my webstore and upcoming events including the Travel By Haiku release party.
Any support will go such a long way. I’m currently hoping to reach my next goal of being able to pay all of the performers at the online book release party on March 31, 2021. If even a quarter of my followers here, signed up for $1 per month, I’d be able to achieve that goal and curate such a killer event worth remembering.
We’d bring #TravelByHaiku to life like never before seen!
Thanks all for following along. I hope to see you over on Patreon and share more of this collection with you as we get closer to the March release!
You can also RSVP to the online release party. Tickets are FREE. There’s also paid tickets where you can get tea and other goodies from event co-host The Random Tea Room! Go check it out here: https://bit.ly/TBHReleaseParty
Four years ago, today, I marched in downtown Philadelphia alongside several thousand other demonstrators who weren’t happy about a white supremacist dictator being elected into office. Before setting out onto the street, I sat with Jo Simian in his house and meditated. I was freshly returned from my time spent at the prayer camps in North Dakota and one thing, among a whole world of things that I learned there, is that going to a protest completely filled with rage doesn’t work well for my mental well-being.
It can be exhausting. Especially if there is no clear “win” at the end of a rally. Instead, I learned from relatives indigenous to this land that prayer and love can be a guiding force that steers the spirit through the tumult of upset towards a true understanding of the goals that are at hand within the heart. We faced an imperialists’ army up there in North Dakota, and though we were often shell-shocked by the tear gas clouds, mace, rubber bullets, LRADs, heat cannons, perpetual crop-dusting with rat poison, stun grenades, and all sorts of other militarized weaponry, because of the prayer our spirits remained high.
I had members of the Red Warrior Society constantly by my side, walking up and down the lines of a march or candle-lit procession, voicing, “Remember your mother. Your sister. Your lover. Think of the people you care for as you walk. Remember to stay in love as you walk.”
These simple commands were lessons that literally blew my mind and opened my heart.
Back home in Philadelphia, at the protest on Inauguration Day, I knew there wouldn’t be that type of direction from the organizers, and so we would have to be self-reliant in staying centered and grounded. Jo being the modest type when it comes to spiritual practices meant we didn’t talk too much about what kinds of intentions we were collectivizing in our meditation, We sat together in silence for 20-30 minutes and just breathed peace.
I remember, for me I set the intention for myself and for the world at large that Donald Trump as president would be the peak manifestation of toxic masculinity. He would reveal to all of us all of the ugly sides of man, and we as men would learn a thing or two from this awful reflection of ourselves as a nation. And like a peak, it would be the last thrust of this toxicity before we descended down the other side into a place of better mutual understanding and eventual healing, both of masculinity and for the victims of its tyranny.
It felt good to take that energy to the streets. Light a sage bundle and hold that prayer as we marched through this revolutionary city. A city where I’ve marched so many times before and after. To see everyone’s handcrafted signs. For me the moment was not the beginning but it was a progression of the direction I was happy more were beginning to take.
That night, I co-hosted a fundraiser for that prayer camp in North Dakota. Several bands played, a few poets read, and a group of Aztec dancers performed under the lead of Brujo de la Mancha. Maybe 70-80 people showed up. What better way to celebrate that we can overcome the rise of a fascist dictator than to connect as a collective and offer mutual aid to folks struggling near and far. The spirits were high, despite the present moment and probable future.
The next day, I woke up and drove to the Women’s March in DC. Again, I was in the streets of our nation. This time holding a sign that read “Poets For Peace”. I marched with my sister. My friend Antonio Bandalini also tagged along. Maybe 2 million people filled the National Mall.
It was hardly a march. It was more of a spectacle. The city blocks in every direction were jam-packed with people. We couldn’t have marched if we had wanted to. The organizers couldn’t get from the stage to the head of the march.
I thought, if only the organizers had planned for this the way they do in Europe, we could sit and stay and Occupy the nation’s capital for as long as it would take until the president stepped down. I guessed it would probably take two weeks. The newly elected president lost the popular vote (for the second time in recent history) by 2 million electors. We could’ve changed the law that allowed for that. But instead, at some unannounced moment, we all began to disperse. It took several hours. Some marched to the White House and hung their signs along the 12-foot high steel-barred fences. Everyone went home.
Four years later, I find it just a little odd not to be in the street today. I imagine we will be back in the streets soon enough. The rich are still getting richer while the poor get poorer. The police are still murdering unarmed people of color, while treating militarized white supremacist insurrectionists to an open door. The current president didn’t run on healthcare for all, despite a worldwide pandemic. Nor did he run on tightening regulations on wall street or taxes for the mega-wealthy. There’s hope in his policy that combats climate change, but it might be too little, too late if he’s not pushed to think bigger. He called off the Keystone Pipeline, but what about the Line 3 in Minnesota, Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia, or digging up the Dakota Access Pipeline now that a federal judge has ruled that it’s construction was illegal four years later? How about freeing Leonard Peltier?
I have faith in Deb Haaland as the head of Interior. I’m excited Bernie Sanders will oversee the Senate Budget committee. AOC, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Jamaal Bowman are all bad asses and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish. I look forward to what happens with the two new Senators from Georgia. I can’t wait to see Nina Turner join the house in a few months.
But honestly, it feels unfortunate to have the night off. To have a pandemic that still keeps us apart. I would so much rather be at a basement show or at some fundraiser at a gallery. Seeing friends and performing poetry. Continuing to build a better world. Dragging this nation forward by the underbelly of innovation available to us, who dream of a brighter future and are still restless to see it be made reality.