Jersey City Writers at Art House Productions

imgjcwsuperTonight I will be reading short fiction written by Sarah T. Jewell as part of the Jersey City Writers and Art House Productions genre event series. The event Zap! Pow! Bam! Superheroes & Supervillains: A night of dynamic dare-do-well & dastardly deeds features work by local writers read by actors.

The evening will feature author, Keith R.A. DeCandido, American science fiction and fantasy writer, and local writers: David Boyle, Rachel Poy, Jonathan Huang, Jim DeAngelis, Beth Bentley, Stephen Weber, Mike Purfield, Sarah T. Jewell, and E.M. Kobrin/Mercedes Perez Kobrin.

Readings begin at 7pm at the Art House Productions space on Magnolia in Jersey City.

Before and after the thunderstorm

IMG_25July16RainBlue walls, red curtains, and gold-framed mirrors that reflect who is up on stage behind the microphone. Clothes damp, shoes soaked, a number of us had gathered to hear the Bennington Writers fiction reading at Cornelia Street Cafe while a thunderstorm raged over New York City.

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When the storm hit earlier in the day, I watched the sky cast charcoal gray from my perch on the eighth floor at the Center for Fiction. I headed out onto the Midtown streets joining the herd of commuters rushing to get underground before the clouds broke open again. I passed a man selling umbrella’s for five dollars and didn’t listen to the voice that said, “buy an umbrella, you may need it.”

At a West 4th street subway exit, slowed down by a line of people reluctant to go out into the torrential rain, I looked for another way out but this was it. As I made my way to the front of the line, a man played a lively guitar that matched the mood.

With ten minutes left to the reading, I surfaced risking a good soak but I found my way to scaffolding and eventually an umbrella as my partner showed up just in time.

During the event, I went first and read an excerpt from my short story, “Exposed.” At a transition in the story, as if on cue, thunder boomed, lightning crackled—I paused to let the storm have its space. Then I continued on reading a flashback about crossed wires and mixed messages.

IMG_25July16Sun

After the reading, the sun broke through the clouds. Buildings lit up in a warm, orange glow. We walked a stretch along Bleeker street on to the next destination for the evening.

What did the storm signify? Was it meant to be foreboding and fearsome? In my experiences, rain has often been a blessing. Rain has arrived on days filled with happiness like the day I got married.

The storm last night provided a measure of contrast, a way to be present in the experience of the evening rather than getting caught up in the flow of traffic, pre-event tensions, or tangential thinking. It was a much needed cooling down. It took nervous energy and turned it into awe and a bit of glee.

Contrast

Where dreams flourish

FullSizeRender 9I lost myself to a dream two weeks ago when I watched acrobats perform in Compagnia Finzi Pasca’s “La Verità” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I rediscovered unencumbered childhood delight and wonder, and laughter that rises up just because without any strings attached–no sarcasm, no wry humor–just pure laughter. All of it derived from watching comical dances, contortionists, musicians, dancers, and aerialists fly, embrace, swing, and spin.

In addition to the performers, a Salvador Dali painting, which takes up the entire stage on a huge canvas, divides the acts. There are the performances that happen in front of the curtain where the actors engage with the audience to make sense of what is happening and why the painting exists. And then there are the magical scenes that happen once the large painting disappears where Dali-esque like images parade around on the stage. And some elements of the painting come to life such as a red cane and dandelion heads.

The painting was originally created for Léonide Massine’s 1944 ballet “Mad Tristan.” In it one figure clutches its bony ribs while the other extends skeletal hands. One figure has a dandelion head while the other has branches growing out of its’ crown. To me the painting represents life and death and its presence raises the question of what’s real–the show in front or behind the curtain? What’s real, the bamraku puppet or the contortionist who twists his body just like it?

The performance inspired me to think about what grows at the edge of imagination. How as artists and writers, we can draw on fantastic elements only witnessed in dreams and somehow make them a reality in our creative productions–what we put on the page or the stage.

Flourish

Poem selected for publication

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I’m happy to share that my poem, “Anoche,” was selected as the top poem for a National Poetry Month contest held by the Jersey City Independent (JCI) and Jersey City Writers. The poem is one of three that will be featured and published by the JCI during the month of April.

I’ll also have the opportunity to read the poem on April 13, 2016 at a literary reading being held at Barrow Mansion at 7 p.m. The event is being hosted by JCW, JCI, and Art House.

The event will also feature Claudia Cortese whose first full-length book, “Wasp Queen,” will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2016.

Other poets selected to have their poems read that evening include: Abigail Pillitteri, Rachel Poy, Kevin Singer, Simon Pereira Shorey, Holly Smith, John Trigonis, Beth Bentley, Carol Lester, Joe Del Priore, Aileen Bassis, and Kay Dominguez.

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.

 

 

Music and Mantra: Being with Sound

BuddhaMantra
As you go about your day, you may have words you repeat to yourself as a reminder, as a way to boost your confidence, or perhaps as words you live by. Sometimes you may find yourself repeating a mantra or something said in a yoga class. Thoughts or phrases you return to can have a powerful effect on your perceptions and behavior. Mantras especially can serve as a way to calm the mind, allow for healing, and open the heart to acceptance, self-love, and compassion.

Centering

A yoga class often begins with the chant of om, or aum, as a centering practice. A root or bija mantra, om represents beginningless time, it sets off an internal vibration, releases energy and prepares us for the physical practice. In meditation practice, a mantra purifies and focuses the mind and prepares us for the silence that follows.

Mantra derives from the sanskrit root word man, which means “to think” and the suffix tra, which means “instrument” or “tool.”

Nourishing

In “The Radiance Sutras,” Dr. Lorin Roche defines mantra as an instrument of thought, speech, sacred text or speech, a prayer or song of praise. He says classic meditative mantras can feel like sounds of nature or the hum of electricity while other mantras can be nourishing like food. When we return to mantras throughout our day, they can serve as a source of energy and fuel, a way to release burdensome thoughts, and a way to focus the mind. According to Roche, what matters is finding the sounds you love so much you want to be with them.

Understanding and offering compassion

In the space of the silence that follows mantra chanting, you may find insight and understanding. In “Teachings on Love,” Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “To bring about harmony, reconciliation, and healing within, we have to understand ourselves.” Mantras carry meaning in them that with practice can help us learn self-acceptance but it begins with deep listening and allowing for openness in the heart. Mantras may also carry a wish for peace and healing in the world. The words can be infused with love and compassion for others as an offering.

Invitation to explore and be with sound

The workshop Live Music, Mantra, and Movement is an invitation to explore the healing and heart-opening sounds of mantra followed by movement and meditation. As a bonus, we’ll have talented singer and songwriter Diane Lutz sing mantras during the flowing asana practice.

A certified yoga teacher, Lutz was introduced to eastern philosophy and meditation at a young age. As a musician, she was magnetically drawn to chanting during her teacher training in 2010 when her journey began exploring the healing powers of mantra and kirtan.

For Lutz, chanting mantra helps to clear her mind from “chatter” and creates a great foundation for meditation.

“I find myself occasionally waking up chanting in my mind, which is such a pleasure to wake up to instead of, again, the “chatter” of my noisy mind,” says Lutz.

When she recites mantras she notices where the mantra resonates most within the body whether in the head, throat, heart, navel, etc.,

“I like to imagine that clearing of the energy in the space where I feel the sound as if the resonation is breaking up anything that may be blocking that space or blocking the flow of energy,” says Lutz.

During the workshop we will practice deep listening, tuning in to the powerful vibrations evoked from chanting then allow the mantras to resonate throughout the body through a flowing asana practice set to Lutz singing. We’ll follow the movement with silent meditation.

On how to get started with the practice, Lutz says, “Just start! The beauty of mantra is that it can be done anywhere…. all you need is your voice.”

She adds, “For my particular situation, being a stay-at-home mom, I am drawn to chant around 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. It’s nearing the end of a full day with the littles and it helps provide me with the energy I need and the patience I desire to enjoy the last few hours of the day with my kids.  My almost 4 year old has started sitting next to me and humming along from time to time.  Perhaps we all need it.”

Register now for Live Music, Mantra, and Movement with Adriana and Diane, being held Sunday, October 25, from 2pm-4pm: http://tinyurl.com/otkpwgn.

Originally posted on Yoga in the Heights blog.

Movement to unlock creativity

Yoga and Writing Series in Jersey City

I am guiding a Yoga and Writing Class Feb. 22 at 12:30 p.m. at Yoga in the Heights in Jersey City.

When I close my eyes and settle into savasana at the end of a yoga class, the final relaxation pose, I am often flooded with scenes from future stories. In this state of total relaxation, creativity blossoms, characters manifest, and ideas multiply.

To explore this state of creative inspiration with fellow writers, I am leading a series of Yoga & Writing classes for Jersey City Writers beginning on February 22, 2015 at Yoga in the Heights from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The class is open to beginners and new and/or experienced writers. Movement will be gentle and will include focused breathing and relaxation. The writing prompts will incorporate techniques that allow writers to inhabit a moment or experience through guided visualizations. The warm-up exercises include positional therapy exercises to loosen tight shoulders and tense wrists.

February’s theme is trees. We will open up to trees in our writing and movement.

To register, visit Jersey City Writers on Meetup or Facebook.

For those participating, please remember to:

  • Wear comfortable clothing
  • Bring a pen/notepad
  • Bring a yoga mat (rentals available at studio)
  • Bring $15 cash payable at the registration desk

Parking is available at the municipal lot across the street — off of Griffith. The location is a ten-minute walk from 9th and Congress Light Rail station.

I hope you will join us to move, listen, breath, be, and write.