Category Archives: Non Poetic Blogs

I admit it, I don’t Understand!

Generational or cultural expressions of what it is to be us in our natural and spiritual selves have in many cases been the foundations for who we are or have wanted to be. The expectations of those “passing the torch” may come with a pat on the head and a “be a good boy, do what I say and things will be fine” mantra. They are loaded with warnings and implied repercussions for disobedience.

In light of this, I have learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut. I have learned that by appearing to agree with them, I’m protecting myself from a storm of daggers and thunderbolts. I am protecting myself from the exertion of their demigod-like power for the sake of peace. I am shielding myself from myself because to expose that would be war.

Is it your duty to maintain or to advance?

At times I find myself trapped between a desire to maintain the best of what I have received, and build better versions of the worst. Within that are insecurities pertaining to the reception of my evolved view of the worlds I am in. There are also insecurities about knowing enough, being skilled or capable to deliver. Am I enough?

What I can say is that foundations require work. What held the initial version of you together may have to be revisited brick by brick. I am at that point.  I admit it, I don’t understand a number of things that relate to the worlds I belong to. The questions I have, are generated by a level of discomfort with varying structures, attitudes and practices. The byproduct of this is a greater understanding of what I consider to be important.

What I consider important may not line up with generational or cultural expressions or expectations. However, my level of comfort in articulating that through word and deed can only increase by acceptance of that fact. From there, as I know more, I become more. I can exchange old clothes for new clothes and accessories because I know my size, my shape, my style.

Humanity has many dimensions, it’s our duty to discover as many of ours possible.

 

Photo Credit: Jenny Harper Photography

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Filed under Just Living, Non Poetic Blogs

Man Up! How?

I’ve spent the weekend in the presence of up to 30 men. An environment where masculinity and mental health within men were explored with a view to an eventual performance. It gave scope for bonding, conversing, unlocking doors to experiences that have brought joy, pain and indifference. It allowed creatives to create and every voice to be heard.

At the end of the first day, my niggling thought was, can I separate masculinity from race? I ignored the thought because I didn’t have a place in this sphere.  At the end of the second day, it returned. The truth is I don’t know if I can make a definitive separation.

Whereas some groups have to an extent, found a voice to articulate their struggles and versions of their humanity, I cannot say that my voice has the capacity to capture hearts in the same way. Some go as far as labelling other groups as “the new black” as they draw parallels with being a minority group, and discriminatory attitudes towards them. This is not to say that I am jealous of the shift towards social acceptance, or seek to dismiss their voices. Rather, being within earshot of this has been a trigger, a point of reference from which I begin another journey of understanding.

When I entered the room ahead of the session, I entered as a creative. I entered simply seeking inspiration and hoping that I might write something I could show off. That was the way I would get by.

My masculinity has been heavily influenced by cultural expectations, traditions and race-based perceptions. They have been compounded by faith based interpretations of manhood.  I don’t get to see myself as just a man. I am black man and whisper it….I’m a Christian. To the world around me, to the world inside of me.

I am not socially acceptable in my real form in as many spaces as others are afforded.

In seeking to stay on topic I kept my mention of race down to one conversation to provide context for my story. I didn’t want to as people say….play the race card. Was this men’s space a white space?

In the black community, we are pretty expressive, yet Mental Health is something we collectively seem to be quieter on. My mother was a mental health nurse so she was and still is aware of the signs when particularly I have encountered struggles with mine. In wanting the best, tough love was a method of dealing with it. Yet even in that I was never just a man. Always a black man.

“You are a black man…..you cannot afford to let yourself slip. You cannot afford to….”

I have always had to be aware of how I speak, how I act so that someone else feels better about themselves. At times it feels like as a black man, I don’t really get to have a safe space because I am going to be a threat to someone. I am going to be lumped with some part of society. I am part of something that will be invaded by well-meaning trend seekers who will sell a version of me back to me as though they were Christopher Columbus.

If I show I’m intelligent, I’m a threat so I’m getting passed on for promotions and meaningful career development activity.  If I wear certain clothes, I’m a threat. If I show that I’m angry I’m a threat. Then there’s the projections of promiscuity and prowess. I self-edit constantly to ensure that everyone feels comfortable.

Should I seek black spaces?

Again….do I get to have shared experiences? After all I am male, I was once a child that has become a man.

However, as a child in primary school, my white headmistress sent for me during lunch time. She told me that a black kid has to work 100 times harder than a white kid. I wasn’t given any reasons as to why she chose that moment to give me “the fact of life” that many black kids have drummed into them from birth. Yet, it eroded my self-confidence as a child.

Through the years, versions of this were re-iterated in order to keep me on the straight and narrow. I was even told that if I was a white guy, I’d be ten-a-penny. That I should be fortunate that black people are a minority, as it’s the only way I would stand out.

Shared experiences where being black doesn’t have a say in proceedings seem few and far between. Celebrity deaths get more reaction than folks arrested for waiting at Starbucks. Maybe that’s a different issue. Somehow, somewhere, between principles and expectations, nature and preference, I exist

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My Adidas

 

Sometimes your stride pattern is just as important as your shoes. The worn soul of mine meant all I had was my stride. All I had were stops and starts, long presses and short taps, perhaps they were Morse code to the universe, calling out for a new pair.

From the miles I have walked, the only thing I would wish upon anyone is the beauty of acquaintances providing rest from the intense heat.

Having made many strides, in recent times I found a formidable adversary that challenged me to dance down treacle-filled streets with concrete blocks strapped to my feet.

Even with two shoes as two sides to a story, my truth in all of this was that I had to Get Out. Clearings that energised me to walk a certain way were blocked or simply no longer existed.

I’d been here about 14 years ago yet I’d forgotten what the storm felt like. I forgot the scar caused by the lightning, I forgot the days of darkness and how I would have to keep my eyes open, fighting with the same fingertips I was holding onto my sanity with.

Every now and then my eyes would mistake a candle for the sun, yeah… I’d been here before. How many more strides could I get through?

Ask a friend, ask an adversary?

She sipped tea like Miss Piggy proved Kermit was cheating.

Stirred it now and then to keep me in a hopeless place.

My records laid before her showed my performance was ace

12-and-a-half years a slave, I took my calls and beatings.

When Liberty shook her bell I ran away, to freedom

The universe stopped re-healing my shoes and sent me several new pairs. The equilibrium has changed, I drive instead of walk, I have new scenery to take in and understand.

Even though lightning left a deeper scar from the second strike, I know that the path I am on is one that is made for me.

New shoes, my strides, in the words of Nas….”Whose world is this?”

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Potters’ Arf Marathon – My Story

Potters arf Race no.

Although I took part in a half marathon 5 years ago for a charitable cause, fitness wise I’ve only recently begun to battle the early 30s bulge.
During the working week, I walk about 25 miles so  walking Stoke -on-Trent’s “Potters’ Arf” (half) marathon seemed a great fit for me.

Having lost a family member, bought and moved into a house in the last 2 months, I haven’t had much time to train. I didn’t know how fit I was or whether I would match the 3 hours and 50 minutes I did 5 years ago. Until the starting klaxon, butterflies were salsa dancing in my stomach.

While my “man in black” attire seemed at odds with the fluorescent offerings by the groups around me, the air was filled with focus and fun. On a grey and increasingly wet Sunday morning in June, I was certainly in the focus camp.

Today I would be a soloist surrounded by small orchestras while others hoped to raise money, my job was simply to get over the finish line in one piece.

Though I started in the front 15, I didn’t expect to stay there. The banter with a small group who would alternate between running and walking through sections of the course made for an entertaining first half.

I would pass them, then 5 minutes later I would hear buckets jangling as they passed me in a blur of pink.
I played pick the pacemaker with various people in front of me until they were too far ahead or behind. As my pace steadied, a 52-year-old guy called “Brian” and I begun a conversation. I’d say he made my decision to do this worthwhile.

Hearing about the cause he was doing this for would have had me in tears had it not been for the rain filling my eyes. Getting to know “Brian” throughout the middle of the race helped this overthinker relax and find my rhythm.
If I’d had my phone I would have focused on it and probably slowed down to check every mile. Instead, through our conversation and the rhythm we found, we managed to reel in and surpass those doing the run/ walk combo.
As the crowds started to thicken at around the 9-mile mark, I was starting to lose him and by the 10th mile when elite runners had passed me, he was out of sight.

From then on the energy from the crowd became my battery. I thanked or gave two thumbs up to everyone that applauded or told me to keep going.I officially crossed the line at 2 hours 58 minutes and 45 seconds.

“Brian” was right, we had hit a quick pace and somehow I’d managed to maintain it.As I scoured the official results, he was nowhere to be found, “Brian” must have been an Angel sent to encourage me, for that I am thankful.

I learned  several things about myself today,  simple as they may be, my 3 takeaways are:

  1. Focus doesn’t mean intense self-talk. Tune into your journey and the people or things that help you with it.
  2. Walk your walk. Your Brian will come and go, you still have to cross the line.
  3. Find the fun(ny) – a smile is a groove that may help you find yours.

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Bucket Lists & Passions

Though for many it the season of Coca-Cola trucks, mistletoe and Mariah Carey on repeat. It has become a tradition for me to look back at the year then choose a new playlist of sorts for the next 12 months. The aim? To get used to the new or improved grooves ahead of schedule.

2015 has undoubtedly been categorised by the word “expansion”. While poetry has been a muscle exercised a little less this year, I have experienced joy in unexpected areas such as fitness and photography.  Having taken pictures like the one below (see more photos here), it seems I am stumbling into another of my father’s footsteps.

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This year, music has been a trumpeted passion that has somewhat overtaken my poetic inclinations.

Through my 8-month-old music review blog 7ish, I now know more about myself as a writer and the scale of knowledge required to grow during the next season.

Of the bucket list aspects of the year, a handful of concerts that encompassed two of my all-time influences namely Kirk Franklin and Talib Kweli means they can be ticked off. To see Saul Williams would complete the triumvirate of my creative bucket list.

As poetry is a muscle that must be exercised to be maintained, a greater output is on the cards.

Thanks for sticking with me

Adrian

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Filed under Non Poetic Blogs, Random Poetics

Blooming Marvellous

This week has been an inspiring one, full of themes and quotes that I could build poetry from. My favourite quote has been “Follow the contour of the road”.

The context was a driving lesson where my mind was over-thinking and I took a straight line through a couple of lanes.

Many times we embark on a path only to crash or come to a dead end because we want it to be a straight line. If we want to go into a different room of our house we have to turn a corner at some point.

It’s like life is a colouring book given to us with every colour Crayola could offer, yet we choose one and use it on every page. Not only that, when that colour runs out we try to re-create that colour and feel stressed because the other colours aren’t it. Let your beach scenes be just that!

For me following the contour of the road, like my perception of my writing, acknowledges that which is behind me whilst concentrating on that ahead.

I was moved to anger and sadness having recently learned, through a documentary, that my surname was given by British slave masters in Jamaica. That said, Positive Reflection has sandwiched the joy of my birthday and other accomplishments the last 7 days.

Confession time…I rarely use the word happy in conversations about myself. Perhaps it is a blessing and a curse at times that like my father, I’m a perfectionist at heart. Yet from passing my driving theory test to the surprises from my wife, my side of my family, and even from my team at work have made feel happy. I cried tears of joy a few times on my birthday, having felt a forceful combination of joy and contentment. I was happy.

A brownie cake baked by one of my team.

A brownie cake baked by one of my team.

Maybe you’ve lived your whole life to the fullest using every part of your brain’s capacity, or maybe like me, you’re steadily realising where you’re at and beginning to make it better than it’s ever been.

The words Attitude and Commitment sum up my last 12 months and will be the backbone of the next 12, and the 12 beyond that. I left 32 knowing with an outline of the scenes I want to add colour to throughout my 33rd year.  Perhaps the biggest challenge and change in this part of my life is committing to commitment.

If it helps, write down the new places you’ve been, things you’ve done that you didn’t do before. You might realise very quickly how much you have lived, learned or even want to do!

I love rhythm, find yours and Smile!

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It’s been quiet.

Since posting my last piece “Clock watching” you may be forgiven for thinking I’d dropped off the face of the planet.

That said, I was in preparation for my 3rd assault on the poetry slam at the Audlem Music and arts festival which took place on May 21st. Like a boxer going to training camp before a fight, I too go into a period of hibernation. In this period where the focus is solely on the pieces that I would use for my rounds, the biggest battle was between those crafted with a strong metaphoric presence, and simpler content sprinkled with poetic elements. In the end I delivered 3 rounds of poetry that showcased my versatility as a writer and performer.

The internal battle raged despite choosing the 3 pieces early on, the temptation to chop and change my poems was hard to resist. At one point I had 5 poems with a further two as back up if nerves caused me to forget one. For once I stuck to the plan!

Although I found myself in a constant cycle of editing 2014’s “Flagged Offside”, a poem written for week 11 of the 52 week challenge, it was the highest scoring poem of the first round. In honesty, I thought it was my least creative piece of the 3 and might see me scrape through.  Maybe it was the perfectly timed action of ripping open my shirt to reveal a Manchester United jersey that swung it in my favour.

My 2nd round performance was of Clock Watching, a poem that hasn’t seen an open mic yet one that took me through as best runner – up. The best poem of that round belonged to a poet called Nick Lovell with his tightly written war tale. As classic spoken word rhyme patterns go – he had that round in his grasp. Nick eventually finished 3rd.

If you’ve seen me perform live then typically my poem Dear Caramel will make an appearance. This was left for the final round as I decided to trust my newer work and then bring it home with that one. Yet like Usain Bolt pulling up with a muscle injury with 5 metres to go, I knew I’d lost it when I stumbled at penultimate line.. I’d wanted to win so badly, though with this only being my 4th slam, I was encouraged by many that  being 2nd is an achievement that I should be proud of.

Legendary Liverpool Football club manager Bill Shankly talked of first being first and 2nd being nowhere. That is precisely how I felt for a few days after.. On reflection, losing by half a point, to “Spoz” a former poet laureate that I’ve known since 2004 when I was new to spoken word, is a “good” loss. He was flawless and that has to be applauded.

A slam victory remains on my poetic bucket list amongst other things. For now, the ink has been allowed to drip again and I’m hoping it doesn’t stop this year.

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