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a noise/poetry showcase presented by crass lips records. Let’s open some minds and conjure some higher frequencies.
LET US CALL OURSELVES ARTEMISIA VULGARIS
The difference between us and them is we spend too much time mourning our losses and not enough time celebrating what we still have.
Do the bankers or the developers or the fossil fuel execs worry about losing everything? No. They’ll work themselves bankrupt and this whole world into lack if there is a chance there is some sort of profit to be had. Shit, even when they are bankrupt they’ll work the system to bail them out. I mean, look at it this way, a man who lost $10 billion and has bankrupted more institutions than should even be possible in a single lifetime, is now our president. That is “them”.
We need to have that kind of fearlessness to protect what we still have. We need to develop that kind of fluidity to let go of what is already lost in order to save enough so that we have ground from which we can rebuild it. The radical left needs to become more agile. More able to take a blow and regroup with a new defense. We need to carry multiple flags, multiple hats, and at the same time refuse becoming too structured, too able to be cornered and had. Bought and sold. Our tears only more room for their profit.
We still have the Earth. We have her to lead us. Does the Earth mourn the loss of a single flower at the end of every summer? No. She puts all her intentions into the roots and accepts the cycle of winter, knowing the shadow is necessary before next year’s growth.
We must be more like the Earth. The Earth is the only true radical, and we are hers to hold. Our roots are still yet to be cut. Until they are, we must hold strong and be like the garden weed. Be like the mycelium. A network of roots springing up through out the ground, never to be dug up or struck down as long as the Earth still holds us.
We call them the Black Snake, but what is our antidote?
We must be less like gardeners and more like the actual roots of our garden. Let us call ourselves Bindweed. Or Morning Glory. Or Artemisia Vulgaris. Turn this whole land back into a swampy meadow.
THOSE KENSINGTON BLUES STILL RATTLING THROUGH
Something about the Kensington Blues. The way the L train yo-yo’s through everyone’s backyard. Toxic grit and refuse spattered across abandoned lot lawns. Contrast between condo and dilapidated dive bar. Brooklyn style gastro pub and abandoned warehouse. City of shells quickly being filled with new hermit crabs.
The setting for what once was a community of strong guitar savants. Those who stuck around seemingly rising to nostalgic fame. And yet, in their songs you can picture them sitting by themselves in their living rooms twiddling away on some chord progression that has the harmonics and melody of this desolation of peak capital.
Over and over again the same chord like a drone. Causing the body to whirl like in a dervish. An opiate nod between K & A. Soundtrack to post-apocalypse. Wild westerns just across the border in East Kensington.
It’s three or four songs in when the Solar Motel Band really starts creating some electric friction, and Chris Forsyth is shredding his guitar cable against the fret board amassing a wash of noise that shocks the inner core, when I realize all this while how the musicians of this corridor have developed not just their own style, but a pseudo-language in which they respond to one another. The former music scene that used to reside here now dispersed, replaced, growing up with new parts, but still these guitar heroes offering up their twin stacks full of feedback. I wonder if this song now being spun is a nod to Purling Hiss or Birds of Maya or going back even further in the lexicon to acknowledge the art warehouse foundations scoured by Bardo Pond.
The language in its current evolution a pop rock that speaks to a wider audience, and yet sets it on repeat in order to break it down, piece by piece, until the whole shit has gone up in flames, and then they rebuild it. Bass rumbling through a fine walk around town, while guitar flutters between verse and solo and static and wall of frequencies both angelic and alarming. The audience stuffed into a dark, low-lit room, with an open window to the L train and Front Street as the backdrop to the stage. A “Renaissance painting” of viewers looking in from the outside.
Almost five years gone by since I left this neighborhood to the vulture capitalists, only to come back and find the artists have dug into their trenches and become even more prolific.
There are dream tones in the Kenzo Haze that impregnate even the most obstinate transplant. Perhaps the language between these guitarists is not theirs, but the land’s. Open terrain that was consumed by a wave of development, and yet still there are still these white elephants of warehouses glowing brightly under the moonlight full of such brilliance waiting to be repossessed. The great art factories of the River Wards.
It’s almost midnight and the song, at least now an hour and half long continues to hum out into the open air. It seems to say, “This ain’t the Grateful Dead. This is the Grateful Living!”
I wonder what the passengers on the L train rattling through these Kensington Blues are dreaming of tonight.
THE URBAN MYTHOS
The Zen Lunatic sits at the center of the garden and pulls at the mugwort. His motions are deliberate and fluid demonstrating how he is one with his surroundings. This little patch of Earth amidst the concrete chaos surrounding it. Attentive to detail, over the years he has carved out this niche for the concrete to rewild.
As he pulls at the roots, he talks about the herbs and medicinals and wildflowers that surround him that most people would consider weeds. He talks about the dead nettle and the red clover and spring mint and of course the mugwort.
“Last year, I really whacked away at the red clover and I don’t think it was too happy with me. It just didn’t flower that much, even where I wanted it to.”
“But I thought we gathered the red clover last year.”
“No. That was two years ago.”
“Oh, I thought that was last year.”
“No. That was two years ago.”
“This year I’m just going to let it do what it wants to do. And I think we’ll both be happier”.
He motions me over to where he’s standing and points at the pathway in front of us.
“I think the plants have finally figured out where they’re supposed to grow. They’re growing in these borders around pathways and then where people walk there’s more of this groundcover type stuff that lays low to the surface.”
He kicks at the ground to show how low lying the plants are where there is a pathway from people consistently walking on it over the years. Then he shows how the ground is sinking in some places.
“I want to build a multi-level terrace around here leading down to where this tree is growing. But I might need a team for that. I could probably do it myself, but it would take a while.
“That’s something that always impressed me about this land. It has so many interesting contours and subtle slopes for the plants to navigate.”
I snap a photo of a pair of red Air Jordans hanging from the telephone wire glowing orange in the golden hour of the setting sun. It’s interesting to me how the background of the photo is what makes the photo. The shoes alone describe the setting, but they need pieces of the setting like the one-liner tags sprayed on the concrete wall in the lot across the street and the water tower a few blocks away beside the back sides of several dilapidated rowhomes to describe perfectly what the shoes represent.
I snap another photo of the new Comcast tower downtown framed by two abandoned row homes and a whole bunch of wild space from where we stand. I talk about how I could post these photos on Instagram but I don’t think the audience there understands the language they work in.
“It’s like an old language that I was used to when I first moved to Philly that you could find all over the place in publications like Megawords, but I don’t know if anyone pays attention or knows how to read that language anymore.
“Like the language is saying this is blight and that is the ivory tower of corporate powers that profit off the poverty here. But there’s also beauty here. Like the land is rewilding out here. It’s free. It’s a jungle. It’s a type of landscape the people that live over there have no understanding for.”
He leads me over to the mugwort border wall near the entrance in front of the Aztec sculptures that greet all who enter.
“Look at this pathway here. The garden grew this one all on its own.”
It’s a natural zig zag in the clover and mugwort. It’s like a giant snake slithered and sidewinded through the garden recently. I look at the dragon sculpture next to me glowing red and orange with a beard made of flames.
“Hey, man! I think it’s that dragon. He came to life and slithered through the grass.”
“Yeah, man. It’s like the garden grew a tail.”
POETS FOR PEACE
Tour no. 8
Day 2 – Blacksburg, VA: recap
on the road with Marian McLaughlin (@marianmclaughlin) and Erin White (@movedtomove)
Morning ceremonies at the James River in Richmond. Reflecting on all the generations present at the reading the previous evening. Everyone from Erin’s parents and her father’s bandmates to the youthful presence of a 6 month old, wailing along to the Appalachian chords of his father playing the banjo.
We offer several marigolds to the James. A decree of peace to meet these tidal waters’ flow. Spring warmth at our shoulders. The future ahead of us.
The drive to Blacksburg is long, but gorgeous. Blue mountains. Green gables. Magenta redbud blossoms. Gradients of ecology expressing ecstasy. Virginia is for lovers.
The Hahn Horticultural Garden offers a backdrop of tulips and crocus. Coy pond trickling by. Lights and magic as the sun begins to fall behind the horizon line. There’s a report from the front lines of a movement stewarding the land in opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. We hear the statistics of climate change. There are natural made scents passed around to go along with the poems. Poems about personal experience and bouts of sadness. About maintaining the sovereignty of the body. About a love so passionate it makes all the woes of modern society go away. The birds singing to the sun’s retreat. Collaborations between poets and nature.
At a certain point, the midsummer night’s dream is awaking. Marian McLaughlin providing the chorus. This is the type of place where magic is upon the eve. We like sprites glow purple and pink, as the moon rises above to light the scene.
POETS FOR PEACE
Tour no. 8
Day 1 – Richmond, VA: recap
on the road with Marian McLaughlin (@marianmclaughlin) and Erin White (@movedtomove)
An ease of being settles upon the car as we leave the congestion of DC and enter the South. We write haikus into the car register, noticing the redbud tree blooms and the state mantra, Virginia Is For Lovers. Romance is on the horizon with the fabric of nature waking interweaving with the road.
Richmond is a green city with trees growing out of ruined mills and the James River flowing through providing relief for the 80 degree temperatures. Our host for the evening @earthfolkrva is a giant farm in the middle of a residential area of Southside. The residents are out working the land and already the land is rich with herbs and produce. We have several stages to choose from between an old farmhouse built in the late 1700s or the backdrop of a vintage camper. We decide to use the white facade of the garage for projections as the sun goes down.
Fellow Earth Folk arrive, and soon the night kicks off with a special charm. The White family is there and Erin’s father has brought his bluegrass band to set the mood for the get together. Appalachian lilts that set the spark to light the bonfire, as golden light reaches the trees from the sunset and all the birds above cry out from their roost sharing an excitement towards the evening’s warmth.
Erin and I perform haikus with accompanying movements and behind us a pack of Coydogs start to howl and wail their approval. This little patch of forest. Maintained by noble stewards. There is talk of the land and its original inhabitants. Meeting grounds between the Powhatan and Algonquin. The exchange is scored by Marian McLaughlin’s odes to the change we are seeing to the planet in our lifetime. Receding wilderness and extinction of species.
The open mic begins and in the voices I hear how synchronous it is the folks who have gathered here. True Earth Folk. Fellow Earth Lovers. Truth Seekers and Fairy Kin. Their words describe the experience to be one with nature. Wild Folk fearless before Late Stage Capitalism. The spirit they offer to the land is enough to save it for future generations.
The next Poets For Peace tour begins today in Richmond and will travel around Virginia before finishing out in Washington DC. I’ll be accompanied by singer-songwriter Marian McLaughlin, whose recent album speaks to the impacts of climate change and the experience of living during the Anthropocene extinction of the majority of species on this planet, and dancer, Erin White, who uses movement to bring attention to the oppressive forces placed on the femme form in our current society. We will be on tour all week and hope to see you at one of our stops!
11: DAY OFF in Charlottesville, VA
12: at 1605 Commune in Washington DC
[email me for details]
Poets For Peace is a collective movement of bringing hope and inspiration onto the road to combat the negative impacts of the Western war machine through dialogue and storytelling. This installment will be fronted by three performers: Marian McLaughlin, Erin White, and Marshall James Kavanaugh. Multi-instrumentalist Marian McLaughlin crafts lyrically-driven songs that stem from her stream-of-consciousness about humanity’s multifaceted relationship with our planet. With improvised movements, Erin White offers a grounded expression of the oppressive forces placed upon the femme form as it is forced to conform to roles outside its comfort. Together their poetic musings will direct the audience towards a sense of inner peace that will shine a beacon of light onto the darkness of the outer world.
upcoming solo performance: