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

“Strangers” in The Dispatch

In May, one of my typewritten poems was featured in an article in Issue Four of The Dispatch, a magazine published by Folk Rebellion. How appropriate that this was “The American Dream Issue”. I couldn’t imagine a better title for something I’m honored to be a part of.

For everyone that missed it, you can order a back copy here: https://www.folkrebellion.com/shop-the-dispatch/.

Thanks to Nancy Hill who included me in the stories of her cross-country journey. The poem about “Strangers” really rings true. What a beautiful spread. Ecstatic to be the icing atop this American pie of folks living out their dreams and inner discovery across the country.

“Strangers” in The Dispatch

The StoryTeller Project

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The StoryTeller Project by Dan Bandel

Yesterday, I was featured on The StoryTeller Project with a freshly written poem about storytelling. Go check it out and see some of the other incredible portraits Dan Bandel has taken around Santa Fe, NM in an attempt to capture the local flare and dynamic culture of this multifaceted city.

The StoryTeller Project

Pecha Kucha Night Taos, Volume 28

Marshall Kavanaugh – Pecha Kucha Night Taos Volume 28 from pechakuchataos on Vimeo.

 

As part of The PASEO Festival 2018 in Taos, NM this year, I was invited to discuss my work as an installation artist and services as a Dream Poet For HIre at Pecha Kucha, Volume 28. I decided to take the opportunity to wax poetic on the archetype of The Poet and how they fit in with the larger world based on the things I’ve learned and experienced over the years while typing poetry on the street. Here is the video from that night. Enjoy!

Pecha Kucha Night Taos, Volume 28

The Paseo Festival 2018 – Recap

Give the River a Voice at the MANIFESTATION STATION

Objective: Through community dialogue and art creation we seek to give the river and surrounding watershed a sovereign voice, both as a means of creative expression and eventually legal reasoning.

Manifestation Station: The Manifestation Station is a lotus tent acquired for water protection in 2016. Since then it has been utilized as a shared community space to release fears and trauma that hold us back so we can open up space, personally and collectively, for the manifestation of positive dreams to emerge through these challenging times of planetary changes.

For the Paseo Project outdoor arts festival on September 14-15, the Manifestation Station will be a collaborative installation in the park at the John Dunn Shops created to raise awareness about our local watershed and allow the community a meeting point to discuss the future of our watershed. The installation will involve a series of audio and visual projections based around the surrounding waterways. Sounds of the river will be amplified above the conversations this will create, while video of these same waterways will be screened inside the lotus tent and on surfaces surrounding the installation. Inside the tent there will be two typewriters connected to an infinite scroll. Upon the scroll, community members will be instructed to write out prayers for our watershed, in the form of hopes and dreams for the world they would like to cultivate and leave behind for future generations, and fears and doubts for the world that is currently being manifested by the industrialized culture we live in.

Conclusion: The goal of this art installation is to transform our understanding of community, and to encourage people to get involved in the safeguarding of our watershed through positive, co-creative actions based in reverence for life. Break-out groups will form that will take up this call and form the necessary values that will protect our collective future here locally. The first steps are to meet and greet each other at the “water hole,” ask important questions together, raise awareness and begin crafting positive solutions together.

at The PASEO

September 14-15, 2018

Taos, NM

a collaboration with Taos Water Protectors

The Paseo Festival 2018 – Recap

Dream Poet For Hire in Taos News

Excited to see myself and Anthony Evan Carson featured in the Taos News this week for our #poetryondemand and #drawingsbyrequest around the area over the last few years!

Come check us out at Currents New Media Festival this weekend where we’ll be manifesting #dreamsbyrequest all night long.

Hours of operation
Thursday, 6/7 install/soft open
Friday, 6/8 12pm-12am
Saturday, 6/9 12pm-12am
Sunday, 6/10 12pm-7pm

Special thank you to Dawn Franco for the incredible write up documenting all the collaborations and projects we’ve been pulling together recently.

You can read the full article here: https://taosnews.com/stories/dreams-on-demand,48761?

Dream Poet For Hire in Taos News

A POEM FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?

A POEM FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?

It is my distinct honor to be featured today on the front page of The Santa Fe New Mexican, one of the longest running newspapers in the southwest.

Straddled beside news of Hurricane Irma’s impending landfall, I’d like to think I’ve been typing up a little hurricane of my own over the last 2 years while I’ve lived in New Mexico. One that instead of wreaking havoc and destruction, has brought light to the four corners encouraging people to think more with their hearts, connecting to their surroundings.

There have been many predecessors before me, cultivating the street poet hustle, and I honor them all hoping that this little feature serves to inspire those that follow. Thank you so much to Robert Nott for the interview and to Gabriela Campos for this shot of me amid thought, soaking up the air with a furrowed brow, and my tongue hanging out in an ever so slightly clownish way.

Most days I am still absolutely amazed that this is my life. This is my body. I really appreciate everyone who has supported me along the way in getting here. Every word of encouragement has been a much needed push to keep me on my path, continuously moving forward.

You can read the article here: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/life/features/a-poem-for-your-thoughts/article_09033daf-d663-5853-8fd2-5a6ad9350446.html

A POEM FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?