Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weed Woman

      I may have written something already about the Redbone Press writer’s retreat I attended last year, meeting not only my esteemed roster siblings – Samiya Bashir, Sharon Bridgeforth, Ana-Maurine Lara, Sheree Ross, Marvin K. White – but our amazing extended family of Eunice Corbin, Reggie Harris and G. Winston James, Wura Ogunji… So many cool, dope people. One of my favorites was an artist I was meeting for the first time (I won’t single her out by name ‘cause I haven’t cleared this post with her.) Her energy, wit and humor drew me in immediately. Some of my fondest memories of the retreat are just sitting up at night talking to her as she expertly rolled a joint, and then the next morning – when I’d remind her of something she’d said that was equally brilliant and insane – her laughingly asking, “Was I high?” That phrase became a shorthand laugh inducer between us.
      Earlier this week I received an email from her about the deep, deep hole of self-doubt from which she was pulling herself. She’d just received rejection notices on four grant/fellowship applications to which she’d applied. She received three in one day. You never get used to those rejections no matter how thick your skin becomes, and words can’t really express the bullet-through-the-heart effect of getting those shits back-to-back. I empathized immediately, having just added new layers to my own stack of “Naw, nigga, naw…” slips. Those have been especially frustrating as I’ve signed on to work on a project about Hurricane Katrina, and I’m really excited about both the people with whom I’ll be working and the support I’ve already received for my ideas. But due to the structure of the project and the short-notice timing, we’re all responsible for securing initial funding ourselves to get us to New Orleans to do the ground and grunt work. I’m sorta at my wit’s end to figure that out now that the few sources of potential funding have said, well, “Naw, nigga, naw…” and the clock is ticking.
      At the same time, it’s been an insane few weeks as I just dodged some bullets by securing a shitload of freelance work after a very long and dusty drought – far too much work to take on all at once but you never know when a feast will roll around again. With the rib-protruding reality of famine still shaping your form, you gorge and take everything piled on your plate… long after you should have said “enough.” (That's also one reason I haven’t substantially updated the blog in a while.)
      I wrote back to Weed Woman to commiserate and outline the similarity of our struggle, to which she replied,

"Dang...why do we think we’re the only ones who revisit feast and famine on a regular?!"

      In a later email I sent her, I wrote the following:

“Man... the feast or famine dynamic, when you gorge yourself on the shitty bill-paying gigs in order to subsidize the soul-sustaining and originating work. But then, what do you do when – as you are pouring energy into the crap work – these gorgeous ideas of YOURS start to nudge you and agitate to be brought to fruition, but you are so tired, too tired to really do them justice? Up at all hours tending them so as not to lose them. Dog tired when you have to return to the grind gig, and like some guilt-ridden single-parent you worry that you are leaving your kids / art / ideas alone too much, that you’re not nurturing them, and that you are losing them while you’re off doing shit work in order to feed and house them... Anyway, I loved what you wrote about beauty and it being enough. It is enough. We just are dragged from that truth daily.”

      Anyway, after wallowing for a minute, I pulled myself up through listening to music from the days when I was a young college lesbian: the dulcet tones of Ms. Natalie Merchant. And then I flashed ahead to her solo work. Friends of mine used to clown me hord for listening to the first two songs below, putting me on blast for the strand of weepy corniness in my musical DNA. I do not care. Listening to these again made me smile:

I think Miss Natalie is sexy as hell in this, that snaky hip move she does makes my Sapphic nature rise.

You’ve been so kind and
I don’t know how you keep on giving
For your kindness
I’m in debt to you
For your selflessness,
My admiration…

If I were in a snarkier mood, I would make some quip about Bay Area white girls and drumming circles. But I am not in that head space tuh-day. I love this clip because it embodies an artist’s personal growth and evolution. Natalie used to speak often about her almost crippling stage-fright at the start of her career, and how she could barely even face the audience. Look at her here. Change and growth, change and growth...

For you, Weed Woman.

Pamela Sneed: Goddess

This woman is a heroine of mine. I adore her. Just kick back, grab some Funyuns and a glass of Pepsi (nothing that is found in nature is allowed; chem-lab food highs only,) and let Ms. Sneed have her way with you:

1 comment:

ReggieH said...

The hardest thing about being an artist (other than you know the creating art part of course!) is continuing on in the face of rejection. It is a pain in the ass. Sometimes it helps to think that you are in a process, a marathon and not a sprint. You're going to make it over the long haul, and what you're facing now is a temporary setback. It doesn't take the sting out of it, but it does help a (little) bit...

There's a particular journal I used to submit to and get a rejection from every year. I'd get rejections from other journals but for some reason getting one from THIS one place galled me. I've stopped trying to get into them for the moment because the 'joke' of the 'annual rejection letter' was getting kinda old (and not funny). I'll try them again after growing some thicker skin by being accepted/getting props at other places. (and yeah, I do wonder why I put so much stock in this one place versus others....)