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The Next Crop of Poets

Don’t tell me that the current generation of young people has fried its collective brain with too much screen time. Don’t tell me either that teenagers spend their days playing video games, eating Cheetos and wasting time while draining their minds of good old-fashioned creativity. Well, tell me if you must, but be ready for me to prove you wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Connie and I went to a poetry slam for youth at AS220 to see if it might be a good field trip for the students at the high school where we both work. Turns out that there are a whole bunch of local young people who are cranking out some very well-written and brilliantly performed original poetry. Seems that little old Rhode Island is home to a thriving crop of growing young poets who are bursting into bloom.

I don’t know which performance I liked the most. There was a magnetic young man who wove the words holy, queer and church into a poem that was so intense I think I stopped blinking. I know I quit breathing. But then there was the soulful guy who told the audience that it was his first time performing at AS220 before blowing our minds with these two lines: Six feet below the glass ceiling / Brotha in a box. And that wasn’t even the end of his piece. I won’t forget the woman who bled every heart in the place dry with a poem about being used for sex or the other young lady who earned whistles and snaps with a poem about chronic illness.

These young people – ages 14 to 21 – are kicking literary ass. Their command of metaphor, slant rhyme and complicated meter impressed me, as did their style, diction and overall ability to give a riveting performance. I left feeling inspired. I hope I get to take my own students so that they can feel inspired, too.

* AS220 is located at 115 Empire St. in Providence and has a poetry slam for youth, open mic style, on the third Thursday of each month at 8pm. No censorship of language or content.




Locale Profiles: Don’t Hibernate! Get Out and Have Fun at Federal Taphouse

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Sometimes having fun is hard work. It is especially hard if you live in Rhode Island right now amid (or beneath) the snow that never stops. Just try to leave your house and get somewhere on time; I dare you. The swirling flakes will make you feel like you are in a spaceship, not a vehicle, and you will have to concentrate exclusively on driving for the entire time you are in said moving vehicle. Forget listening to the radio. Forget talking to whoever is in the car with you. Don’t even think about sipping a coffee. It takes all your energy to simply navigate the car through the snow and over the lunar terrain that used to be our streets. If you live here, then you know that there are craters the size of valleys gaping wide and jagged across every road and highway, and you also know that your mechanic and your auto body guy are going to be rich because of them. Good times, indeed, for those of us who just want to get out of the house for a short spell so that we don’t go crazy from cabin fever.

Last Saturday night, my husband and I decided to try eating an early supper at Federal Taphouse on Atwells (after he shoveled the newest snow off our roof and broke up the ice dams clogging the gutters). Easier said than done. We left our home in Manville and began what is currently a treacherous trek down Route 146 so that we could have our fun. It was snowing, of course, and two different accidents brought traffic to a standstill.  In Providence, every multi-lane street was reduced to one lane by the mountains of plowed snow everywhere. Furthermore, we arrived on Atwells at the exact moment that hundreds of people were leaving a figure skating show at the Dunk; Which means that we sat without moving at the Dean Street traffic light for three full cycles before we actually made it through to the other side. I felt like the entire trip took about two years from door to door.

Once at Federal Taphouse, things got smoother, and we remembered that, if nothing else, it is important to be somewhere other than your own house, if only for a few hours, even on the coldest winter nights. After taking advantage of the free valet parking, we ordered a flight of beer, followed by a pint each – Wachusett Larry IPA for me and Shipyard Gingerbread for him. We had a delicious roasted squash salad and sticky Thai ribs, followed by a burger that we shared and a slice of tiramisu. The price for all of that was high – $76.15 before tip, to be exact. I’m pretty sure that the quality of the food and beverage does not warrant such an exorbitant tab, but the service was decent and the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. More notable was the observation that the place was quite busy; apparently, we weren’t the only ones who wanted to go out and have some fun on another blustery night in Rhode Island.

The drive home was as long and treacherous as the drive there, but we finally arrived safely. Yes, having fun is hard work sometimes, but in Rhode Island, there are too many fun things to miss if you hibernate. Eventually, the snow will melt, and we can all go to the Hot Club to celebrate spring’s arrival.




Book Review: Conscious Unparenting

consciousConscious Unparenting, by Kim Kinzie and Dawn Michael, is to our contemporary culture of modern American Parenting what the only sober person in a bar is to a room full of drunks: sense. If, like Kim and Dawn (and me), you are a mother who has ever felt the daunting expectations that our society places on modern American mothers begin to form fissures in your mind, cracks in your sanity, defects in your character and short circuits in your sense of  humor, then this book is for you. But if you are a mother whose mind, sanity, character and sense of humor are still intact and highly functioning post childbirth, you can, and maybe should, skip it.  If you aren’t sure which of these categories you fall into, let me assure you that your uncertainty indicates a hole in your brain put there by your kids and that you are in the first category. Read on. You’ll feel better.

Humorously told in alternating narration by the two authors, Conscious Unparenting provides personal accounts of the many pitfalls and difficulties of modern-day mothering, specifically, those related to not meeting a frighteningly high expectation of what it means to be a good mother. Put more simply, this book has the balls to point out that America wants mothers to dedicate themselves so exclusively to their children, to make the lives of those children so insular and so devoid of the slightest difficulty, to stop doing anything that doesn’t revolve around the perceived need to create a perfect and painless childhood for these children, that some of us are cracking and have had to define a new set of standards for ourselves in order to survive.

This insightful and honest book is based on the observation that parenting in the 1970s was a much more laid-back – but not negligent – endeavor, and that contemporary mothers would be well-served to incorporate some of that laid-back attitude into our current incessant and anxious hovering around our offspring.  The authors are products of 1970s parenting. So am I. We were all fine until we had children of our own and society told us loud and clear that we may no longer have a single adult interest, that we must never, ever expect our children to entertain themselves or figure anything out on their own, and that we must be completely available to them the second they want us for whatever they want from birth through age 18 at all hours of the day and night. And that despite having no sleep, time or interests of our own, we must be happy all the time, too. The authors say hell to the no about this nonsense, and so do I. They encourage us to go out and buy disco balls as a means of representing some of that laid back ‘70s attitude in our 21st century mother mania. Sounds good to me. They also suggest that we mothers do a much better job of supporting each other – in person, not online – while telling the truth about what we feel as mothers. The truth? As in that driving kids to all their activities every week feels like torture sometimes? Or that playing another game of Candyland or Pick-Up-Sticks might actually kill us? Or that we really miss taking a shower without being interrupted three times in 15 minutes? Sounds refreshing to me. About as refreshing as a glass of Tang on a hot summer day in 1978.