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

Travel By Haiku is available at your local bookstore

Hey, check it out! My new poetry collection #TravelByHaiku is available at local bookstores around the country, including:

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.”

Travel By Haiku is available at your local bookstore

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

Poets For Peace, tour no. 8: day 1 – recap

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.

Poets For Peace, tour no. 8: day 1 – recap

Updates for the forthcoming novel

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Become a patron: https://www.patreon.com/marshalljameskavanaugh

New moon, next chapter. What goes up, must come down. These chapters about Yosemite are expansive, and yet I still don’t think I’m able to capture everything in my prose about that sacred place tucked away in the Sierra Nevadas. Still, I don’t think that’s the point, though. I think the point is to capture the Deerfield character of wild-eyed awe seeing for the first time such impossible beauty. It’s later in his legend that he becomes an expert in a place of such extremes.

Become a patron by following the link above and gain access to the chapters of my novel as I write them. Different tiers with different rewards. Excerpt below to encourage you to want to read more.

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There, there, I pat my wounded ego reflecting on how I’m not one for small talk in front of something so holy anyway, so I give a little wave to the falls and continue my journey, smiling a sad-happy joy to have been spared a few minutes alone with the madness of all there is in the world that’ll outlast us. Another apple and few handfuls of trail mix and I’m up and over that life stream again keeping my eye on the sun’s passage between cloud and mountain, feeling light in my stride, though conscious there’s a rush to beat out night setting in.

Following cairn after cairn in this bare boulder back of a giant, I’m given preview to what true wilderness is, one wrong step and I’m food for the roaming mountain lion, but then I begin again to descend, and with every footfall I understand how those faces going down while I was going up looked so jolly and meditated. It doesn’t take much to bring back down, from the heights above, one’s own personal heaven. All you got to do is climb until there is no more climbing to do and from there take the time to take it all in, both heart and soul nourished upon its glory.

Updates for the forthcoming novel