Month: March 2016

This Gift Called Life

Why do I write? Why poetry? Why?

I don’t write to strive.
I don’t write to thrive.
I don’t write to arrive.
I write because I’m breathing.
I write because I’m alive.

Those are simple words to explain why I have a passion for writing. At the core of it all, I write because I am alive, because it is something I feel that I have to do. There is so much that happens in my life that I would not be able to process if not for writing. It goes deeper though, back to a conversation with my oldest brother. Back to the day he told me I should try to write. In that conversation, with him telling me how much writing had done for him I knew that it could do something for me. So I wrote. I wrote some of the worst poems that have ever been written, but they were my poems. For the first time in my life, I had created something completely on my own, and I felt alive. I knew right away that there was something here –more than a passion.

I know I’ve been gifted.
Found gold in sand I sifted.
From my first words felt lifted.

Nothing brings me joy and good feelings about myself quite like writing. It is my escape to a world I control. I can be whoever I want to be in that world, and I can do anything I want to do. I don’t know where I would be in life right now if not for my writing. I’ve often been asked if I want to write books and have a desire that my name be known. To put it plainly: I don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to write a book of poetry and have it published, but not to get famous. I want to write a book filled with poems that make me feel lifted up. My hope would be that just one person would read those poems and know they are special.

He made us all unique.
He gave us all a gift to seek.
Find it and reach your own peak.

So let me encourage you today, seek your gift and USE IT, whatever it is, because it very well may not be writing. It could be so many things. It could be painting, encouraging, athletics, music, technology; it could be just about anything. What it may be is less important than you finding it and using it. I am blessed to know so many people in my life who show this kaleidoscope of gifts.

Don’t think less kid.
Of the gift you’ve been blessed with.
No one gift is best.
Each one offers hope.
A hope you’re part of.
God’s great kaleidoscope.

I pray you walk away encouraged. I pray if you have not found that gift that you will take some time to seek and find it. I have no way of knowing exactly who will read this, but trust me when I say I am praying for you. You are special, and you have a gift that can change the world. If you do know what your gift is, stop waiting, get up, and change your world. One day at a time, one moment at a time. I believe in you, and God is ready to use you.

What are you waiting for?
Stand and walk out that door.
There is a world to explore.
You’ve been made for so much more.
Look for the God-given gift.
See the amazing things He has in store.

Depth of Hip Hop, Part Two: “Black Sugar”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so intense.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it’s the truth I received from my wife a few weeks ago. We were driving home on Interstate 78 in New Jersey, reflecting on my conversation with Beleaf Melanin after the Dream Junkies show at William Paterson University.

“You really talked down about yourself.”

Well, welcome to me. I can riddle this page with excuses about the lack of sleep I got the night before the show, but there’s no evidence on this planet to prove my words that night were any different from my usual thoughts about myself. The only evidence one could offer would likely confirm my low self-esteem.

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Living life to the fullest

I recently had a conversation with a woman at work regarding why we watch so much TV. She said she believes that it is because we are longing for adventure and I happen to agree with her. I have noticed it myself in my times of watching TV. I end up glued to the TV and wishing that I was part of whatever action and adventure is happening. I don’t feel that I need or want to watch TV when I’m out doing things and experiencing life (outside of work). But, why? Because I’m busy living and creating my own adventure.

We were made to live life and experience it as best as we can. When we get caught in the monotony of life, we miss out on so much. There is importance in going to work and doing our jobs but at the same time, there is supposed to be adventure. And sometimes your job is part of that adventure.

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Take a Look At Your Selfie

PhoneShe was always on her phone.

She never went anywhere without it. She saw the world through that five and a half inch rectangular screen. Whether she was snappin’, tweeting, vining, gramming, or using any of the other various social network apps, she was always live and in the moment with her phone. She walked around the local Kmart with her father, nose pointed directly at the screen. She often walked right past people she knew because she was so distracted by that screen. People usually thought her to be rude.

She got the last laugh, though, because that little piece of metal and plastic got her famous. Vine famous, that is. She was funny. She was serious. People could relate to her. Young men admired her. Young girls wanted to be her. She left the town she grew up in for New York. Then, in a few short months, she left New York for Los Angeles. She lived there for months gaining more and more popularity.

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Holding On

I don’t have an answer
For why you were hurt so
I don’t know
I do know
That I’m right here
The sun is down
But I’ll shine a light
I’ll make it clear
I know you fear
I see your fright
I see your heart
Seems so much easier than fight
So I’ll fight for you
I won’t ignore you
The truth of my words
Is what I implore you
To know
By what I say alone
To know
By the actions I plant
What comes from the seeds for you
To sow
To know
Even on nights I can’t hold your hand
I’m still holding on
Until the dawn
Not a love song
Filled with strife
Painful nights
Grounded kites
Yet they fly again
As you will rise again
Look me in my eyes
And smile
I don’t have an answer
But I do have a hand
This broken man
Will hold you
On nights you can’t stand
I know this truth too
An unbroken Father holds on tight
To you

Simplicity in Silence

For many of us, there is a fear that surrounds the idea of silence. It’s evidenced in the fact that you probably turn on your TV when you walk in the door, or turn on music. Even when we’re in the gym or office, there is rarely a time when there isn’t music playing over a speaker or in our headphones. And in the car we are either on our phones or again listening to music. We don’t like the sound of silence. You may even sleep with a fan on as white noise.

For most of us, it makes us uncomfortable to be in silence, especially when we are with other people. It probably takes a special person for you to be with them and for there be complete silence. Sometimes it may even just be the ticking of the clock or the traffic outside. There is always some kind of sound to prevent us from experiencing total silence.

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Redemption’s Reversal

God is my all
I can do it on my own
God is my strength
I can do this alone
God is my fortress
I can protect myself
God is my companion
I don’t need anyone’s help
God never fails
I can’t take the chance
God never bails
I don’t need two to dance
God is love
I can’t even love myself
God has forgiven
I don’t deserve anyone else
God sees my pain
I’m too far gone
God wants me back
I don’t belong
God is knocking
I will fail again
God believes in me
I will follow my trend

God believes in me
I will follow my trend
God is knocking
I won’t fail again
God wants me back
I know I belong
God sees my pain
I’m never too far gone
God has forgiven
I do deserve someone else
God is love
I can love myself
God never bails
I’ll join Him in a dance
God never fails
I know He’s worth the chance
God is my companion
I openly accept His help
God is my fortress
I can’t protect myself
God is my strength
I can’t do this alone
God is my all
I can’t do it on my own

I’m no longer the elephant in the room

Photo by Steve Rhodes

I was once voted Vice President of my high school’s “Students for Republican Ideals” club. Make no mistake, we were a Young Republicans Club, but I guess we didn’t care for traditional nomenclature. A few months after being elected, I got voted out of office because I didn’t make it to enough meetings. Remaining on the football team took precedent in my mind, but I wish I could have made it to more meetings where they declared support for out-of-state Senate candidates.

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Only the Seasons Change

The sun will shine and the rain will fall
And the temperature outside may change
But I don’t care what the weatherman may say
Because our love will stay
And only the seasons change

The leaves will turn and they will fall
As the daylight loses ground to night
But no matter how long the day
I know our love will stay
And only the seasons change

The cold will bring its snow in squall
While the earth cries out in groans
I’ll say bring on the skies of gray
For I know our love will stay
And only the seasons change

The rains return and cease the snowy drawl
And the birds’ songs start anew
But no matter how strong the flowers’ bouquet
I know our love will always stay
And only the seasons change

The sun still shines and the rain does fall
And the temperature outside has changed
I didn’t listen to the weatherman today
And kept believing that our love would stay
While only the seasons change

The ground has dried and the winds they gall
And the plants don’t grow and thrive
The birds have left, their songs flown away
And I see our love, it couldn’t stay
And left as the seasons change

DiCaprio’s Oscar: A reminder of the Academy’s past cruelty

On Sunday night, after a 22-year wait since his first nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Leonardo DiCaprio was finally awarded the Oscar that so many, rightly, believed that he deserved. There is one problem though: He didn’t give the best performance of the year – that honor goes to Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. Heck, The Revenant doesn’t even represent DiCaprio’s best personal acting performance.  Last Sunday, the Academy, as it has done many times in its history, gave a make-up Oscar to an actor who had given far better performances, but had lost in bad luck coincidences or got out hyped by another performance.

Leonardo DiCaprio had previously lost to Matthew McConaughey’s body-transforming, tour-de-force performance in Dallas Buyers Club; Forrest Whitaker’s great, but over-hyped and largely forgotten, turn in The Last King of Scotland as Idi Amin; and Jamie Foxx in Ray – which managed to be both great and timely as Ray Charles passed during production of the film.

The 2007 Oscars is where he should have gotten his due. Two things combined to ruin it: Runaway hype for Forrest Whittaker’s performance and Leonardo DiCaprio being nominated for the wrong movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio had two performances hyped prior to the 2007 Oscars: Blood Diamond and The Departed.  His performance in The Departed was better, but Blood Diamond found him trying on an accent and was much more gimmicky. The film generated all sorts of hype about blood diamonds. I specifically remember friends picking out engagement rings around the time of the film and asking where the jewelers sourced their diamonds. The cultural fad surrounding the weaker performance doomed DiCaprio.

My problem with his performance in The Revenant is that it is overwhelmingly physical and a total gimmick in that sense. If you throw tons of stunts and action at an actor it is easier, in my opinion, to craft a realistic performance. When you are given actual things to react to, I feel that doesn’t demand as much acting skill. Ask this question: If it wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio and was instead an unknown or lesser actor, would this have even been nominated? I lean towards no – and while some would argue that is because DiCaprio is that good, I would respond it is because DiCaprio is that good and the Academy felt it owed him.

When I think of great performances, I typically lean toward occasions where actors or actresses are able to convey an extensive amount of emotion without as many physical things to react to.

F. Murray Abraham’s Oscar-winning turn in Amadeus is a fine example. Most critics concur that where he won the award was in his handling of Old Salieri. Sure, make-up helped him to achieve the performance, but he conveyed every emotion – and nearly all of it came by virtue of his line delivery. He was confined to a wheelchair and barely moved.

Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Chuck Noland in Cast Away is another performance that comes to mind. Hanks was so convincing that he created a living, breathing character that the audience actually cared about out of his inanimate companion, a  volleyball named Wilson. Hanks didn’t manage to take home the award because of the massive hype around Gladiator – much of it deserved – though, in my opinion Hanks bested Crowe in terms of Best Actor. In some ways, Crowe won in much the same way DiCaprio did – pulling off a physically demanding performance with more aplomb than what the audience is accustomed to.

Finally, in what is, to me, one of the great snubs in Oscar history, Bob Hoskins’s turn in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? didn’t even get nominated, which remains beyond me. Hoskins gave the hammiest of noir performances and managed to handle all the madcap antics going on around him with unquestioned seriousness. Even more impressive, Hoskins gave a physically skilled performance, but unlike Crowe and DiCaprio he was reacting to nothing. His costars were mostly animated, so he had to use his acting skill to react to the choices of an actor who hadn’t been drawn in yet, and he pulled it off seamlessly.

I’m happy for DiCaprio. He earned the Oscar he won, he just got it nine years late for a performance that was more about gimmick and physical stunts than it was about acting; and that is a shame, especially for Redmayne who should have won Best Actor back to back years.

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