Filming a docuseries on Walt Whitman’s birthday

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.

Filming a docuseries on Walt Whitman’s birthday

Save on Travel By Haiku

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.

Save on Travel By Haiku

Review for Travel By Haiku in Write Now Philly

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/

Review for Travel By Haiku in Write Now Philly

Travel By Haiku – Los Angeles Release Party!

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!

Travel By Haiku – Los Angeles Release Party!

Travel By Haiku – author bios

The Travel By Haiku online release party is on March 31, 2021. RSVP here: https://bit.ly/TBHReleaseParty

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!

Travel By Haiku – author bios

Travel By Haiku – Big Reveal

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

Travel By Haiku – Big Reveal

Travel By Haiku – crankie by Marian McLaughlin

This is just about the coolest gift imaginable! My sister commissioned the ever-amazing Marian McLaughlin to make a personalized crankie based on my cross-country road trips.

Subscribe to my Patreon to see the full video: https://bit.ly/PledgeToHaiku

What is a crankie, you may ask? It’s an old storytelling device where a long, illustrated scroll is hand-cranked through a viewing window while a story is told. @marianmclaughlin makes them on demand on any topic or idea. Send her a message if you’d like to commission a gift like this for someone you love. She’s open for requests and as you can see an extraordinary dream laborer. This storyboard features the likes of Parse Seco, and the unicorn Ma Ja Ka, as well as a snapshot of the Poets For Peace.

As far as the new book, it includes haikus like the ones featured in this clip. We’re a quarter of the way to funding a release party that’ll feature performances like this. Your pledge to my Patreon campaign means I’ll be able to pay performers and promote the new book.

For as little as $1 a month, you can read all the rough drafts and watch the accompanying animations. For $7 a month, I’ll mail you a signed copy of the book when it’s released in March 2021. All tiers of support have a chance to contribute to the behind the scenes of a book of poetry being born out of the dust of the road.

Travel By Haiku – crankie by Marian McLaughlin

THOSE KENSINGTON BLUES STILL RATTLING THROUGH

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.

THOSE KENSINGTON BLUES STILL RATTLING THROUGH

The Urban MYTHOS

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.”

“Oh.”

“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.”

The Urban MYTHOS

POETS FOR PEACE, TOUR NO. 8: DAY 2 – RECAP

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 2 – RECAP