Raul Herrera walked onto the stage humbly, taking the one step up onto the lit platform amid the claps, clicks, shouts of some strangers, some friends, some whiskeys, some wines. The room, whether be-known to him or otherwise, welcomed the poet with open eyes, unaware of how their hearts would soon be opened. He was warm in his introduction, unshy but not boisterous, and prepared. In a pregnant pause, the room quieted, a deep breath in from Raul, and he began.
In that very first word out the gate, in a split second instant, the room shifted - and drastically. Eyes widened, mouths quieted, some even dropped their jaws (mine, I’ll admit), hands gripped glasses and all attention elsewhere was pulled, magnetically, into Raul as he rapidly and graciously orated his spoken-word poetry at this small bar in Studio City. The words came pouring out of the man with a cool, collected heat, a juxtaposition that immediately captivated the spirit of the entire bar, which is no small feat in a room full of artists alike. And while the meaning of his poems - messages of peace, adolescence, hope, courage, vulnerability and even love and the perils of dating - had their own significance, they would have been for naught had it been anyone else to speak them. Raul is a man who’s execution of his art is vital to it’s comprehension. He is a man sweet, kind, yet impassioned, not too abrasive and yet not at all passive. In his entire performance, never once did he use anger or frustration as so many artists use like cheap bait. Words can be weapons, surely, but they can also be the scissors that cut the ribbon into new structures, the peace offering in wars, verbal kisses to crowds and pasts.
So it was no wonder to find him so receptive as I practically accosted him post-performance stepping off the stage. All his graciousness and poise was met with my typical awkwardness and over excitement. “Thank you!” I said over the applause. “I think I have to know you!” as I shook his hand during his passing from stage to crowd. An unpoetic sentiment, but true nonetheless. “Yes!” he said, unfazed. As if I hadn’t come off a total psycho. “I’ll talk to you after the show!”. So should it be then any wonder to hear more post-show, as we talked very briefly, about the organization he works for called Get Lit, which brings poetry to inner city school kids around Los Angeles? Of course not.
I have long believed writing and especially poetry and it’s wild west-esque boundlessness to be a profound tool for healing, for dissecting, and for growth. I did so to exhaustion with my own sites post chemotherapy, and in all my published words you see on this very site. To take an experience through words, labeling and relabeling our lives with words and categorization only to break them down and redefine them in more fitting, empowering ways. And to use poetry, free of the grammatical constraints and expectations of other literature forms, to completely disintegrate what we assume of ourselves, our lives, our lessons.
Raul deserves more than this simple blog post, and so do the incredible woman who put on this Vibe Tribe event every other Wednesday (they might just get their own blog post later). But a meta-perspective part of me must address the largest elephant in this great room: the fact that one artist creating can spark cataclysmic passion and creativity in another person. That one person's creation can be the catalyst for another's.
When artists support other artists during the act of creating...magic happens.
Creating art is one thing. It takes guts. It takes blood. It takes love, almost like making love. It takes a willingness to reach into your own chest, pull out your own heart, break it yourself, and paint the bloody contents all over the world...and you’re still not done because then, and only THEN it takes the bravest act of all: calling that mess ART.
But when artists come together to witness and hold space physically and emotionally for each other in the act of creating, a new world is born. One intangible, but mightily powerful. One that transcends time and place, connecting from a soul level one human to another in a divine way. And as Raul spoke on that stage, he reached into the hearts of every artist, human, lover in the room and said “Here I am! Come out and play with me!” And that we did. In the week following this magical evening, all I wanted to do was write, make, create, paint, craft, sew, cook, and dance. It had infused in me the kind of energy that is inescapable; I was hungry to make art in every possible form. And what better time with a Full Moon and the Spring Equinox upon us?? I was lucky to have had the candle lit for me by other artists, reaffirming my own creative passions. I held space for them that night, and they in turn - unknowingly - created and even now hold space for me to do the same.
Just as a friend holds space for you as you cry, grieve, vent, or explore ideas of your future and past, so does live performance in such settings as this. But we must also hold space for ourselves, lovingly and willingly and curiously hold the sacred space to explore our art in it's genesis.
Every person has a stage. And every stage has a height.
I’m selfish, incredibly so. I demand that the women in my immediate circle be kind, generous, and unrealistically insightful. I require that they be smart, compassionate, and self serving; as in, they honor and take care of their bodies, minds and souls. I exclusively hang out with dope witches who talk crystals over dirty martinis and do things like camp alone in the mountains of Southern California or create award-winning documentaries as a career. I invite them to my Ktown apartment and I cook for them and ask they entertain me by talking love, body, art, devotion, devastation with eyes and hearts open; we listen, we accept ourselves and one another, and we aren’t afraid to disagree and debate. Because sometimes growth is a painful process. We create that space for each other in our every interaction.
So are the people you allow to be your friends or lovers the kind of people who lift you up, honor your creative negative space, and demand that you bring just as dope a witch to their party? Are they the kind you would be honored and proud to be applauding while they were on stage spitting poetry?
That might mean the stage certain people are comfortable with isn’t high enough for you, but hopefully it means the kind of people you call friends and colleagues are on a stage you marvel at, and are inspired by.
But know, with as much compassion as you can muster, that each stage has a height. My stage here on this portfolio site may not be so tall, but my witches require I step onto higher stages. I do so by pitching magazine after magazine, site after site, editor after editor each week. This stage may not be so high but there are others I strive toward every day. And I ask such of my friends in return: that they keep striving, keep climbing. Every stage has a time and purpose in your life. If you plan to create something in your life in any form (that something might be a marriage or a new standard for women your chosen industry, don’t down play it, we’re all creators!) honor the height of your stage and hold space for the people around you who need you to empower them to be their best and step onto their highest stage. And don’t judge them if the stage they need at the moment is a little smaller, shorter, or more dimly lit. We all need our time to grow and prepare.
Follow to creative impulses
I went that night because my dear friend Simone, a fierce and determined dancer, stylist and creative invited me. (If you're a blogger or creative, check out her styling here and get to work with her, she's incredible.) She inspires me daily, and is absolutely one of the witches I rely on to keep me on the highest level spiritually, creatively and feministically.
But I also had the hunger for art. And when that hunger gets strong enough, I feel all kinds of out of whack just as if I were starving. I feel shaky, on edge, and frustrated. Sometimes all it takes is watching a few designer runway shows on the Vogue Youtube channel, or a trip to an open mic hosted by Vibe Tribe, or just a waltz through the LACMA. Sometimes it takes holing up in my apartment and just making stuff with my hands. Whatever it is, follow the call. Fill your life with the kind of art that keeps you on track, whether it’s fashion, poetry, music, cooking, or anything brings your heart out of it’s chest.
How can you create more space for art in its genesis, and how can you call upon the people around you to hold space for your art as you create it?
Can you be humble and yet hungry enough to honor the height of your own stage, and do the same for the people you allow in you life?
How can you get more ART in my life?