Nearly two years ago, I visited UC Berkeley for a conference and stopped to check out a workshop entitled, “WRITE OR BE WRITTEN: Using Spoken Word to Speak the Truth.” The workshop was lead by Junichi Semitsu, then-director of June Jordan‘s Poetry for the People course at UC Berkeley. After he had captivated us – and made us laugh – with his poem, Poetry Should Hijack the Bus (two years later, I still remember the reference to sports futility vehicles), Junichi introduced a few of the Poetry for the People TAs and students and invited them up to the podium to share their writing with us.
The other thing I remember about the workshop is that one of the young men ambled up to the podium and introduced his poem with a self-deprecating disclaimer that went something like this: I’m about to read a poem that I wrote very recently, so it’s not finalized just yet; it’s not the greatest, it’s still really, really rough, but here it is…
He then performed his piece, and no matter what he thought of it, the poem was amazingly beautiful. He was amazing up there, and when his final words fell into the otherwise pin-drop silence, we all stared after his retreating back as he took his seat, thinking, Wow.
The next thing I remember is Junichi back at the podium, looking around the room intently and saying something like this: You see what he just did? DON’T DO THAT. Never, ever downplay or undermine your words. Share what you have to say with people and let them make up their minds about it, but never brush off your stuff before they’ve even heard it.
I’ve kept that piece of advice in mind over the past couple of years, whether I was sharing my own poetry in gatherings, or organizing lectures and workshops, or participating in dialogues with the University chancellor, or even as recently as October, when I had to do quite a bit of public speaking for a work-related event. That last occasion was especially nerve-wracking, considering I’d been out of school for over a year and hadn’t done any sort of public speaking in nearly as long. Looking out over the hundreds of people gathered that evening, I was tempted to make smart-ass comments like, “I know I’m short; I hope you all can see me behind the podium,” and – after I accidentally disengaged the mic from the stand while adjusting it – “There’s a reason why I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near technical equipment,” but I refrained and said only what I was up there to say. And people thought I rocked it, apparently. The end.
So, the reason why I’m spending so much time talking about disclaimers and smart-ass comments is because this here joint – that’s Sweep the Sunshine to you – has been nominated as “Best Female Blog” in the Brass Crescent Awards I mentioned recently, and I’ve put off telling you about it for so long because I’m an idiot and didn’t know what to say about it. Oh, also? Today is the deadline for voting.
Most people know I’m an idiot about compliments, namely, I don’t know how to accept them (yeah, remember the last time we went through this drama of weblog voting?). I’ve always thought of self-deprecation as an indispensable quality, so when people say, for example, “Hey, I like your shoes,” I feel the need to admit, “Oh, I bought ’em used, for $5 from Goodwill”; and when people say, “I like your style,” I reply, “I’m wearing four layers. Pretty stupid, huh?”; and when people say, “Your headwraps are so awesome,” I smirk and reply, “Wait ’til you see my hijab tan line”; and when people say, “Nice jeans!” I frown darkly, “They’re not flared enough, dammit.” Basically, I’ve just wasted an entire paragraph talking about my clothes, but I think you get the point.
As Somayya would succinctly call me out on my protestations: “That’s BULLSHIT.”
So, I guess all I should say in response to that is, Hey! Go vote! (For whomever you want to!)
Also, I am honored and flattered and all that good stuff. Thank you so much to whoever nominated me. You are awesome.
Finally, I’ve discovered a number of rocking weblogs through the Brass Crescent Awards, so if you’re looking for new reading material, stop by their website. But you might as well vote, too. Voting is good for you. Get to it, rockstars!
[Ignore the title. And the photo. Neither of them really has anything to do with the Brass Crescent awards, but the title of the post (which is actually a song title) made me laugh, and the photo made me smile today because I just found it again while browsing through flickr, having forgotten I had taken it. If yummy orange sunshine in December isn’t quite your thing, I just don’t know what to do with you.]