So, it’s almost Eclipse Day! Dun, dun, dunnn. I don’t recall there being one since I was in mmmmmaybe second grade, so this should be an interesting experience… not to see… because I’m not going to purchase glasses. Ah, well.
The good people at Star Line Books in Chattanooga (1467 Market St #106) are now carrying my EP Between Beauty & Bedlam as well as my chapbook Ghosts & Echoes. So, if you find yourself downtown and in the mood for some poetry, or just want to support a great indie bookstore as well as Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian, swing by and scoop one or both up. If you’d like a signed book, I’ll be swinging by sometime next week to scrawl ink on a few. Dun, dun, dunnnn.
Next, I’ve been asked to be a part of the Meacham Writers Workshop, which is an absolute honor. It’ll take place over three days in October. I’ll keep you lovely people posted on not only the schedule, but, specifically, where I fall on it when things get solidified. Stay tuned!
I’m really jazzed about next month. I’m really looking forward to the gigs I have. I’ve not really hit a stage to perform in some time, so it always feels good to be able to shake off some of the dust and return to the workshop, so to speak, with fresh eyes, ears, and mmmmaybe even a new or different perspective.
Switching gears, I’ve been putting in some work on pulling poems together into something that looks like a manuscript. It’s been a really interesting, organic process. Each time I dive into them, they show me something different and I feel like the work is guiding me to pay attention to the larger stories they’re telling as opposed to me forcing them to tell a story that I’m adamantly after. It’s very fitting. I feel like the muse gave these poems to me, so why would I jump in the driver’s seat now? I’m just enjoying the ride, dear family.
So, this guy? Well, he feels pretty dang good, I must say. Friday night, I had the opportunity to share the stage once more with Tim Hinck to perform half of our Ravel Remixed show. This time, we were aided by an artist named Kenny Kudulis. He made some really beautiful visuals to accompany our music, so that was a very cool and pleasant surprise.
Let’s see. Oh! This past Saturday, I received an email from the good people at TAYO Literary Magazine. They’ve decided to publish one of my poems in their winter issue. Huzzah! It’s called Dear God, and you know I’ll let you lovely people know when it’s available to be seen. I’ve got you covered, babypaws!
In other news, Poetry vs. Hip-Hop is returning to Chattanooga next month, and one of my favorite poets and people will be featuring. Also, one of my very own MANIFEST Voices students will be on Team Poetry! She’ll be the youngest poet to participate, so I’m very proud to see how she does. The whole thing kind of makes me think back to when I was in my teens and just starting to work in front of audiences. Every stage was a challenge, and each gig was an absolute adventure. That’s the way it should be, in my most humble of opinions. I feel excited that she gets the opportunity to venture a little more down this path. Dun, dun, dunnnn.
So, we’ve officially reached the end of July, dear brothers and sisters. August will be here TOMORROW, and the kiddies will soon be returning to school (actually, I’ve heard that some have already started). Speaking of kids, let me tell you about mine!
This past Saturday, the students from my MANIFEST Voices program took the stage for our wrap-up showcase, and you know what? They KILLED it! It was an absolute joy to watch them get on the mic (some of them doing so while being REALLY nervous), and work past it. As a matter of fact, I think all of them managed to work past those feelings to the point where they found some comfort and security in both their work as well as their voices. How can you beat that?
We had over 60 people in attendance, so for the second consecutive year, I’m really pleased with my city. I’ve said it before that whenever something negative happens with our kids, everyone becomes an expert on what they should be doing. However, a good bit of this is just plan ol’ lip service (yeah, I said it). The fact that people of all ages stepped out on, of all things, a weekend, to show their support to these young and talented individuals was quite a sight to behold.
In other news, I’ve been asked to participate in an upcoming TEDx Talk. This will be my second go round. It’s slated for September 16th at Baylor. I’ll do my best to keep you posted on how things are shaping up.
Also, I’m excited to perform with Mr. Tim Hinck this Friday night. We’ll be doing a few selections from the Ravel Remix show we did last month. It looks like yours truly will be manning the decks once more!
So, dear friends & family. This guy? He’s got the NEWS! Let’s jump in, shall we?
First, this weekend, I’ll be performing an original poem (I suppose we don’t really do many covers in this line of work, do we?) for a wedding. Writing it has kind of been a little bit like trying to pass a tapeworm, but it’s getting there. I’ve been reading and watching a lot of Ross Gay’s stuff for the past week, so he definitely has an influence on the way it’s shaping up. I hope people enjoy it. However, if they don’t, they can just drink until they forget that I even opened my mouth! Huzzah, contingency plans!
In other news, we JUST had the penultimate session of my MANIFEST Voices workshop yesterday. I think, for the most part, this year’s students finally reached the place where I wanted them to collectively be, which makes me happy. Their showcase is on the 29th of this month, and if you’re reading this, consider yourself INVITED! Details are in my Performances section. It would not only mean a lot to me to have you lend us your presence and time, but I know that it would make a world of difference to have the community show up and let these young people know that they are with them and support them. Just sayin’.
If you or someone you know might be interested in having yours truly facilitate a workshop, performance, and/or lecture, definitely contact me. I even have a section with which to do so! I pride myself on being a relatively social dude.
Well, that’s it for me for now. Love, peace, don’t disturb the yeast, and I’ll be back in touch before too long.
So, we should (should being the operative word there) be free of the fireworks by now. Hopefully, all of you still have your limbs intact, and things are going the way you hope. Here in Chattanooga, it’s been rainy all week, and several people I know have had to contend with a very trying week. Yours truly is no different, but I’m bound and determined to make the most of it and push with all my might to place the rest of this week in the positive category. Huzzah!
Emily Joy, who is a good friend of mine that I’ve also had the great pleasure of sharing a few stages with over the years is on the road, and she’ll be making a stop here in The Scenic City on July 16th! She’s going to be leading a spoken word workshop, which is super cool, and I’m encouraging everyone that I can to attend. Things like this don’t happen every day, and what Emily is bringing is QUALITY! Details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/238804586637779/244359212748983/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%2229%22%2C%22ref_notif_type%22%3A%22admin_plan_mall_activity%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D¬if_t=admin_plan_mall_activity¬if_id=1499828941323171
While we’re on the topic of workshops, we’ve officially reached the halfway point of my MANIFEST Voices program. Our showcase date is July 29th, and, just like last year, we’re inviting the community to come show these young, talented individuals that they both care and support them and their creative endeavors. It’s absolutely FREE, and it would mean the world to them to see your wonderful faces in the crowd. More deets on the event can be found in my Performances section.
So, I have NEWS, dear familia. The American Journal of Poetry Just published their third issue, and your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian has a piece in it. It’s a part of a little somethin’ somethin’ I’ve been putting together (largely in quiet) for over a year now. You can ch-ch-check the poem out here: http://www.theamericanjournalofpoetry.com/v3-collier.html
In other biz, it’s dangerously close to being July! It’s hot and sunny outside right now, the 4th is looming, yadda yadda. July also brings something special for yours truly. On the 29th of the month, the poetry kids from my MANIFEST Voices program will be performing! It’s our official showcase. If you missed out on last year’s, basically, we invite the community to come and check out our wears, so to speak. As a matter of fact, we had close to 100 people show support last year, which meant a lot, and I really hope we can duplicate that kind of community response. We shall see! If you’re reading this, consider yourself invited. You can see the deets in my Performances section.
So, dear brothers and sisters, your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian is pretty jazzed about sharing the stage with composer, pianist, and all around interesting dude Tim Hinck this weekend. If you didn’t know, we’re doing performances on Friday AND Saturday at Barking Legs in Chattanooga. Honestly, I don’t exactly know how to describe what our show is. Perhaps it’s best to say that it’s going to be a reimagining of sorts of “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by Ravel. It’s going to be a really unique affair, and I really hope that you, fine reader, can come. Word on the street is that there’ll even be a wine tasting as a part of it. Dun, dun, dunnn!!!!
It’s personally interesting to be immersing myself in the music I produced for the show again. I believe I last listened to everything in January. Like, EARLY January! When I started combing through the tracks, it was very much like experiencing them for the first time, which I enjoy, because it affords me a certain degree of space from being so close to the material as a result of “being in it” and gives me fresh ideas to bring to the table about how I’m, potentially, going to manipulate them. Mua ha ha!!!
Switching gears, we had the first session for MANIFEST Voices 2.0 this week. I got to meet my new kids, and I’ve got a BUNCH of ideas about what to teach them and how to shake them out of their timidity and comfort zones. I mean, those two things are actually some of the things I’m best at. Ask around! ASK!!!
For those of us in the Chattanooga arts community, we lost a big brother yesterday. Mr. Booker T. Scruggs passed, and it’s really shaken a great number of us. Someone wrote on Facebook that he was a Chattanooga treasure, and I completely agree. I, honestly, can’t imagine him being remembered as anything but.
The above picture was snapped in April at a gig Booker put on for Jazzanooga’s Jazz Appreciation Month festivities. The show was an ode to Duke Ellington. The poem I read that night riffed off the famous song “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and, ironically, the I unveil that the it I’m referring to is life. The poem kind of reveals itself to be about celebrating life while you can. This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons, but a large one is that that night was the last time I saw Booker. It will forever be THE last time I saw him and got to hear him play. What an honor to perform and share something you love with someone great and greatly revered by their community. The latter is something that I aspire to. RIP Mr. Scruggs.
Greetings Ladies & Gents,
Welcome to June! Aside from holding the actual beginning of summer, June is also African-American Music Month. Huzzah!!!
Last Thursday night, four of my poetry students from last year’s MANIFEST Voices program performed at The Hunter Museum of American Art, and they did a bang-up job. I felt like a proud dad yet again, and I stepped aside as a mentor to let them formulate how they wanted to put their set together. This guy? Very pleased with the outcome.
Oh! While we’re on the topic of the program, we’ve got ALL SLOTS filled for this year’s Voices program! How about that? I’m really looking forward to gearing up and meeting the participants.
That aside, I have a BRAND NEW BLOG up! I had the great honor and distinct privilege of catching Nikky Finney last weekend, so it deals with that experience and beyond. Give it the onceover, why don’tcha?
So, today’s the day. Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian has been a poet in a public capacity for sixteen whole years. No commitment issues with this guy. Mua ha ha!!! To commemorate the occasion, I have a new blog up that you lovely people can read. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m more and more thankful each year for it.
We’re rapidly approaching the end of May. Actually, the 25th of this month will mark SIXTEEN YEARS since the first time I publicly spit a poem for people. I always refer to it as my other birthday, because it signaled the beginning of this wonderful adventure that I’m still very much pursuing. I suppose after sixteen years, you’re pretty much a lifer at this point.
This past week and weekend, I had a number of great conversations about purpose, meaning, etc. It felt like it was serendipitous that I kept finding myself in places and around people where this was the prevailing topic of convo. As fate would have it, I attended one of last year’s MANIFEST Voices students’ high school graduation ceremony, and I feel like all the talks leading up to that event gave me a beautiful perspective. Not only did she graduate fourth in the class, but her family repeatedly thanked me for my program, and (as they put it) changing her life. As a result of the program, I was granted a place in her family’s life, and I feel that, in many ways, that’s what it’s all about.
Speaking of the Voices program, we’re also getting closer and closer to the deadline. Again, if you know anyone interested in being a student of yours truly, please shoot them the following link: http://www.southernlitalliance.org/manifest-voices
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
May is upon us, which also means that we are currently accepting applications for the second year of my MANIFEST Voices program! If you know, work with, ever come into contact with teens who might be interested in applying, definitely help me spread the word. They can learn more about the program and apply at http://www.southernlitalliance.org/manifest-voices
Speaking of MANIFEST, I told the girls who participated last year that we are a family, and I’m pretty fortunate because I feel that, in a number of ways, we really are one. As fate would have it, one of my participants JUST won a prestigious award at her school as a 9th grader, which is super rare. Also, I’ll be attending another’s high school graduation next week. What an honor to not only know these wonderful individuals and their families, but to continue to be included in their lives. Also, how special to think that it was art that brought us into each other’s lives?
Switching gears, I have a BUNCH of new dates up in the Performances section. Next week, in particular, will be a big one. Check them out, and then mmmaybe check me out! I’d be happy to see you at one of the gigs.
Welcome to a brand spankin’ new month, kiddos! April has left us. Last month REALLY proved to be an incredible and incredibly affirming month for Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian. Hopefully, you crazy characters out there can say the same.
If you didn’t check out my Instagram 30/30 challenge, I closed it out yesterday. I actually ended up writing more than 30 poems, but specifically for the IG experiment, I was successful, which feels pretty good, I must say. I think I got some pretty interesting stuff, honestly. There were a good number of days where I would have some pretty solid ideas for pieces, but they were too ambitious or just plain ol’ large to fit in the IG parameters regarding image. I know that sounds way techier than it is. I can honestly say that it was a great time, and I hope to do it again next year. You know, if the world hasn’t blown up or consumed us all. Now I have to determine whether or not to keep posting these pieces on Instagram! Dun, dun, dunnnn.
I performed three four times last week, and each gig was really interesting. On Saturday though, I had a special (for me, at least) moment that has resonated with me since. I noticed early on at the gig that we had a pretty diverse makeup in our audience. This was of note for several reasons, but what struck me most was that Chattanooga, TN is not the most diverse place.
When my time on the microphone came, I spoke about the fact that we had not only Black and white people in attendance, but also members of the Muslim and Indian communities. The latter tend to be excluded from conversations that take place in the city regarding diversity and inclusion. I also mentioned that in 2015, the term Chattanooga Strong was coined. For the aforementioned reasons, that phrase has always irked me because, in my most humble of opinions, a city that is segregated in several ways isn’t united. It only appears so. Anyway, I made the statement that this audience sharing the same space IS Chattanooga Strong.
After I delivered my poem, a Muslim man approached me, and we had a nice little conversation. At the end, he thanked me for my performance as well as my words. He even said that it was affirming to hear me use my voice in the manner I had. This guy? Was extremely touched.
Greetings Dear Brothers & Sisters,
Currently, it is raining pretty hard in Chattanooga, TN. Ever since I used to live in FL, I’ve become a really big fan of the rain. It definitely provides a meditative quality for me.
So, I have NEWS! The issue of The Wild Word that I’m published in is now available. You can read THREE new poems from Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian here: http://thewildword.com/poetry-christian-j-collier/
Also, in my last post, I mentioned that I wrote a poem for Esthero, and she responded. As fate would have it, she reposted the poem and wrote a fairly lengthy, beautiful comment on it. Honestly, I did shed a tear or two. I was touched. My new blog is about what she said as well as my relationship with her and her music.
We’re rapidly approaching the end of April, which means that another National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month are coming to a close. It’s been a pretty productive month for yours truly. I’ve managed to bang out a poem for each day thus far, so my 30/30 challenge has been going well. Actually, let’s hang out there for just a sec.
Yesterday’s poem was a dedication to Esthero, who is (and has been for almost 20 years) one of my favorite musicians. If you read my latest blog, you know that this entire Instagram poem foray has been a total experiment, so when I posted yesterday’s piece, I really didn’t expect anything out of the norm. However, something really interesting happened. Esthero herself actually REPLIED to it! Imagine my pleasant shock. Not only did she reply, but said, “Wow. Just wow. Thank you.” To get that kind of response from someone who has inspired you for close to two decades feels incredible – completely and utterly so.
In other biz, I have TWO upcoming gigs that I’m really excited about. I’ll be performing for my first time at CGLA on Monday, and the next day, I’ll be at Partnership, which provides social services for adults and families dealing with a number of serious issues.
Greetings Ladies & Gents,
So, April is upon us, and I can’t speak for all of you who are reading this, but in my neck of the woods, the weather has been pretty damn beautiful, I must say. I have THINGS, so let’s jump into them. What do you say?
First, just yesterday, I received an email from the good people at The Wild Word Magazine. They’ve accepted THREE of my poems for publication in their next issue. I was pretty jazzed about the news, and these poems are fairly new. One of them actually is mmmmaybe a month old, so that’s pretty amazing for me.
Because April just so happens to be National Poetry Month, I’ve been doing the 30/30 challenge. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the gist is to try to bang out 30 poems in as many days. So far, things have been going pretty well for me this year. I’m using Instagram as a medium for the pieces, which has its own set of limitations, but my working theory before starting was that the app would be a way to connect with younger peeps who only access poetry in traditionally unconventional and non-literary ways. Jeez, that was a mouthful. Anyway, so far, so good. Each day, I seem to gain more likes and followers, so it’ll be interesting to see how things stack up come month’s end. If you’re like to stay up on my output, you can do so by clicking the Instagram logo in my banner or just follow me at ichristian3030 on there.
Lastly, I’ve got several upcoming gigs. If you’d like to see where you can catch Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian, swing by my Performances section. I’d love to see your faces!
Greetings Boys & Girls,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian is a pretty happy man. For the time being, the pollen hasn’t knocked me to the canvas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that doesn’t happen. Everything else has been rolling in my life, too. My complaints are pretty minimal, which is ALWAYS a special thing.
This past weekend, I performed for the GrowNooga Festival, which was a good time. I was very pleasantly surprised by the sheer scale of what the people involved were able to pull off, especially given the limited resources and timeframe that they were. It was extraordinarily hot when I touched the stage, but nobody passed out, the Devil didn’t appear, and we all soldiered through. On top of that, I would venture to say that we all managed to have ourselves a good time. It’s always grand when that happens.
Beginning THIS SATURDAY, I’ll be doing something old, yet new. As, at least, some of you know, April just so happens to be National Poetry Month. Each April the 30/30 challenge occurs, and the objective is to try to bang out 30 poems in as many days. What makes this year’s attempt a little challenging for me is that I’m going to try to do the entire thing on Instagram. If you’re interested in keeping track of what I’m doing (or struggling to do), you should definitely follow me on there. Also, YOU should give it a try. What do you have to lose? That’s right. A whole lotta nothin’!
In other news, I recently uploaded a new jawn to my Soundcloud page. It’s a collaboration with one of my favorite singer-songwriters AND people, Holly McCormack. It was something different for the both of us, and I really love it. Hopefully, once you give it a listen, you’ll feel the same way. You can check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/christian-j-collier/summer-nights-ft-holly-mccormack
Well, that’s about it for me. Make sure to check out my Performances section to see where I’ll be. More and more things will be added there for the next month, especially, so don’t miss out!
We’re officially in the month of March, and today in sunny Chattanooga, it’s currently 70 degrees. So much for winter. Anyway, let’s jump into some news!
This past weekend, I judged the state finals for the Poetry Out Loud competition. We had 19 participants, and I was very happy to see that we had more boys this time around. Tennessee’s rep is named Marquavious Moore, hails from Memphis, and will be heading up to DC next month to compete against the other winners from around the country. Wish him good luck! It’s wild to think that the only reason he jumped into this whole thing was at the urging of his football coach. How about that? If you’d like to find out more about him, you can do so here: http://tnartscommission.org/arts-education/memphis-senior-marquavious-moore-wins-2017-poetry-loud-state-competition/
In other news, I’m teaching creating writing for an after school program. We had a kick-off recently, and none other than Mr. Usher Raymond came through. I’m super excited to be interacting with the youth again, and hopefully teaching them a thing or two. Fingers crossed that that will happen. I mean, I’m going to do my due diligence, but it’s definitely a two-way street.
We’re rapidly approaching the end of February, it’s currently 68 degrees outside in Chattanooga, AND there are three different health hazards making their way around. No big deal. On the personal plus side though, a number of grand things have been happening for me. I shall take you through some of them!
This past Sunday, The Chattanooga Times Free Press published one of my poems. It’s about the lynchings on the Walnut Street Bridge. Also, several other poems were published, too, including a few by people I call friends. It was a very pleasant surprise, to say the least.
Next, I’m going to be starting a BRAND NEW workshop for an afterschool program. We officially launch next week, so if you’d like more details, feel free to shoot me a line. I’m excited to be back in the teaching saddle again. I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to making it a super steady thing. Huzzah!
What’s good, family? The past few weeks have been especially kind to Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian. So much so that it slightly freaks me out, but am I appreciating all of the good things? Absolutely!!! As the kids say, real talk, I’ve been immensely moved by everything, and I’m certainly looking forward to where things will go from here.
Earlier this week, I had a poem accepted by The American Journal of Poetry. It’ll pop up in their next issue, and the poem is called First Time After. I wrote it last year during a bout with depression, but ironically enough, it was one of the most productive and creative times I’ve ever experienced.
Also, I spoke on a panel at UTC with Pastor Josh Woodrow. The class deals with race and media, and Josh and I served court for about 2.5 hours telling truths, not pulling punches, and discussing problems as well as potential solutions that can impact the Chattanooga community. It was a great time and an honor to be included. Hopefully, I’ll be kept in the loop and can do this again next year.
Tomorrow, I’ll be performing for my third time at Christ Unity as a part of their service. I stopped going to church years ago, but it’s always special not only to share in their program, but to use my art to, hopefully, resonate with the attendees in some way that is affirming.
What’s happening, family? We’re officially into the second month of 2017. The world has not ended, our spirits have not been stifled, and we’re STILL HERE! Maybe a little bit frazzled, frustrated, and angry, but we’re still here, and there’s something beautiful about that. I believe that we’re all here for a reason. I’m not going to say I’m the biggest optimist, but I certainly do have my moments.
I’ve had a number of workshops and performances lately. Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian is TIRED, but happy. Also, because I’m a glutton for this, I’m eager to get even busier. It can never be said that I don’t love to the utmost degree what I do.
This past Saturday night, I performed as a feature for The Bar Exam, which is an event hosted by MicxSic. It was tremendous fun, and the crowd really enjoyed my material. Also, I read for Ray Zimmerman’s local artists event at Star Line Books, and that was a special time. I feel like the audience and I at both events really connected, and if you’ve followed these scribblings for any real length of time, you know how much I value that.
On Monday of this week, I got to workshop with a class at Brainerd High, and that was pretty special, too. We broke down poetry, discussed where poems come from, and I put them o work a little bit on an exercise. It’s always an honor to be asked to bring what I do into school settings. There are few things that get me up during the 6 o’clock hour these days, but showing up to present at schools is always on the list.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m looking to get more bookings on the table for this month and beyond. If your school, organization, etc. would be interested in having yours truly come out and perform, workshop, etc. let me know. I’d love to hear from you and see what we can put together.
What’s good, people? Hopefully, everything. My distinct hope is that you’re avoiding oppression or the fear thereof, and things are legitimately going well on your end of the coin. Things have been pretty interesting (and not in the best way) for me as of late, but I’m confident that things are going to work themselves out for the better! Actually, as fate would have it, my day began with affirmation of that very pronouncement.
Early this morning, I went on New Channel 9 with Mike Sick to promote The Bar Exam. Mike is the founder and host of the show, and it’s going to make its debut in Chattanooga this Saturday. He asked me to go on with him, and I gladly accepted. I mean, it’s not like I sleep or anything.
Everything went well, and we had a great time. I performed an excerpt of a piece, and then Mike and I had breakfast. We had the opportunity to have a really solid conversation, which, if you’ve followed my website for any significant length of time, you know that I always love. I’m really looking forward to Saturday and seeing how the show as well as the energy we generate fares. If you haven’t already, you should definitely purchase a ticket or two and come see us. You can find a link to make that happen in my Performances section.
In addition to that, I’m gearing up for a number of performances over the course of the next week. They’re all a bit different, which I enjoy. It’s a little bit of a challenge to shake things up that quickly, but I’m pretty jazzed about being able to showcase my versatility. This guy? He’ll be POEMING all over the place starting tomorrow. Mua ha ha!!!
Also, I’m currently booking for next month and beyond. If you, your church, school, or even someone you know, might be interested in booking me for a performance, workshop, public speaking engagement, or any combo of those things, please contact me. I’d absolutely love to talk to you, and hopefully work with you!
Greetings Boys & Girls,
Hopefully, you all had yourselves a wonderful and meaningful MLK Day. Yours truly got to play DJ for the annual Day of Service here in Chattanooga, and it was a good time. This was my first time experiencing the event, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the turnout. LOTS of bodies there volunteering and lending their time, energy, etc. for a phenomenal cause.
I did notice something yesterday. Two ladies approached me at different points to complain about how loud the music was (for the record, the music wasn’t that loud. It was just loud because when I started, the program hadn’t begun and the gym wasn’t very populated). The second was extremely rude and disrespectful, and it dawned on me that for the past however many months, whenever I’ve performed or arrived somewhere to do so, I’ve been treated like boo-boo by at least one person each time. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but it’s definitely been a thing. Oh, well. At least it’s giving me a number of stories to share with my friends and fam.
In other bits of biz, I have some brand spanking new engagements and performances coming up. Also, I’m CURRENTLY BOOKING for the immediate future (and future in general). If you’re interested in having me lead a workshop, speak, perform, or any combination thereof, please contact me or pass this little website here onto someone who might want to discuss some things. I always get back to everyone in a timely manner, and I pride myself on being a pretty nice individual. E-me and see!
Lastly, we wrapped up my latest MANIFEST workshop this past Saturday. I had to reschedule it due to finding out about the library closing late because of the weather the weekend before. As a result, we had our last session on a beautiful day where the weather was 70 degrees and sunny. Our final session had a number of engaged individuals, amazing writing, and really solid conversation. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for more out of it. I hope that everyone who attended, be it the final session or any of the other ones, got something meaningful from the experience.
Happy New Year! I know that I’m a few days late, but I live an active life. Get off my case! Hopefully, everything is boding well with all of you so far into 2017. Fingers crossed that these initial three days have RULED, and that the streak will continue as long as it can.
I’ll be conducting the last stop of my MANIFEST Film & Poetry workshop THIS SATURDAY. We’ll be rocking out from 3-5 and pushing the pens and pencils this go round. I’ve written before about how challenging this particular workshop has been, but it’s also been rewarding, too. Last week, I showed the third and final film “Cambodian Son” to our crowd, and the response and conversation afterwards was great. My goal for putting this whole affair together was to introduce the Greater Chattanooga area to poetry and poetry culture, and to have it received well on any level, let alone a really personal one with our repeat attendees makes the journey worthwhile.
Hopefully, you’ll attend this weekend. You can check out the Facebook link here: https://www.facebook.com/events/669701466535692/?ti=icl Oh! And remember that it is absolutely FREE (promosexuals, REJOICE!), so all you have to do is show up, bring a little something to write with, and come with a sweet tooth, and I’ve got you covered the rest of the way. This, I guarantee.
In other news, I’ve been recording a new album over the course of the past three or four months. I think I may have finished it. I currently have the working master in the car and in a few trusted friends’ possession, so we’ll see how it shakes out once we all give it a thorough (and in my case, repeated) listen. It’s an electronic record, and is the official debut of my new project. I’m excited for you to hear the material. I’ll probably be releasing something within the next week, so definitely keep coming back and stay in the loop. Audio goodies await!
I have a NEW BLOG up. If you’re into such things, you should give it a read. So many people have been talking about the struggles of 2016. This blog is doing the same, but from a little bit of a different angle.
Well, dear brothers and sisters, that’s about it for me. Be good, stay warm, support our local and favorite artists and their projects, and I’ll be in touch before too long. Artist’s honor.
Dear brothers and sisters, Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian is SUPER excited to be showing the second documentary for the MANIFEST Film & Poetry Workshop! This Thursday, I’ll be screening “We Are Poets” at the downtown Chattanooga Public Library, and I’m very eager for people to see it. It’s an amazing film, and, in my most humble of opinions, is an excellent way to follow the first documentary I showed.
Speaking of which, we had a great showing for “Louder Than A Bomb” two weeks ago, which made me happy. What made me even happier was that people stuck with us as we battled technical difficulties to get the film to play. Honestly, each step of this workshop has been a challenge, but I feel that it’s also been extremely educational, too. All of the obstacles are teaching me what I need to know and showing me what I need to see. I legitimately feel that.
Earlier this month, I held The Speakeasy Revue for this year’s Mainx24. It was great fun. We had a pretty sizeable crowd, which is amazing because so much of Mx24 is foot traffic. To have managed to get people to stop and check us out means that we must’ve been doing something right.
Everyone did an amazing job, and, of course, I felt like a proud dad yet again when three of my MANIFEST Voices girls stepped to the mic and rocked out. You can see a few pictures below.
I hope your Turkey Days (if you celebrate) or your Thursdays (if you don’t) were peaceful. I have some news for you. Let’s jump in.
First, if you didn’t get the chance to check out the feature we did as a part of the State Farm Neighborhood Sessions episode with Usher, you can check it out at below. The incredible Chris Robinson (he directed “ATL” as well as a slew of videos for the likes of Alicia Keys, Big Pun, TI, etc.) helmed the video, and it looks amazing. I’m so proud that not only my girls had the opportunity to be spotlighted, but that the world gets to witness in some capacity what I’ve had the privilege of working with since June.
Next, we’re launching my new workshop THIS THURSDAY, and I’m extraordinarily excited about it. We’re leading off with the amazing film “Louder Than A Bomb” at the downtown Chattanooga Public Library. If you’re in or around town, you should come out! It’s 100% free and open to whoever wants to come.
Also, this Saturday, I’ll be rocking out for yet another Mainx24. Just like last year, I’ll be hosting an event called The Speakeasy Revue, and we’ve got the likes of Arche Twitty, Alive de Poet, Moll King, AND some of my MANIFEST Voices girls touching stage. It’s going to be a grand time.
This guy right here? Well, he happens to be pretty excited. Why, you may ask? Many reasons. For one, I’m going to be performing at GPS in Chattanooga for the first time EVER. As a matter of fact, this will actually be my first time on their campus, so that’s personally pretty thrilling.
Secondly, we’re getting closer and closer to the 23rd which means that we’re getting closer and closer to the premiere of the Usher edition of the State Farm Neighborhood Sessions. Each time I see a trailer for it, I feel proud. I feel immensely happy to have been involved in the process, and that my MANIFEST Voices girls were chosen to be a part of the story. If you’ve followed my site for any significant length of time, you’ve seen me dote on them and their abilities a lot. They’re phenomenal young women, and I feel very happy and fortunate to have been able to assist them in being a part of Chattanooga’s contemporary arts story.
Also, I’m bringing a unique poetry workshop to the downtown branch of the Chattanooga Public Library beginning on December 1st. My MANIFEST Film and Poetry series will feature the screening of three acclaimed documentaries as well as three writing workshops that will help attendees discover and foster their poetic voices over the course of six weeks.
The sessions are free to the public and will be held on the library’s 4th floor, which is a public laboratory and educational facility with a focus on information, design, technology, and the applied arts. The schedule for the workshop is as follows:
Dec. 1 – Louder than a Bomb (film) 5:30-8 PM
Dec. 8 – Writing Workshop 5:30-8 PM
Dec. 15 – We Are Poets (film) 5:30-8 PM
Dec. 22 – Writing Workshop 5:30-8 PM
Dec. 29 – Cambodian Son (film) 5:30-8 PM
Jan. 7 – Writing Workshop 3-5 PM
In other news, I have a new blog post up. Something occurred that really shook me, and I decided to do what I’ve done so many times before and just write my way through it. Perhaps after you read it, you have some insight you can bring my way.
Greetings Boys & Girls,
Well, Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian can finally let the cat out of the bag. This past September, my MANIFEST Voices girls and I had the honor and privilege of taking part in a documentary. I’m very happy to announce that it is going to run on the 23rd of THIS MONTH. Also, it will be airing on TNT and featuring a guy some of you fine folks may have heard of. You’ll have to let me know if you’re familiar with someone named Usher Raymond. You can check more deets on the program here: http://allradionews.com/usher-supports-arts-and-education-with-upcoming-neighborhood-sessions-concert/
Speaking of the young ladies from my workshop, I got to see one of them, Brynija, perform as a part of Michael Gray’s River City Sessions last week (that’s her in the pics below). She did an excellent job, and I felt like a proud dad watching her. She’ll also be rocking out with me during Mainx24 on December 3rd. You should swing by and check her out!
In other news, my debut EP Between Beauty & Bedlam JUST turned three. In another year, it’ll be ready for Pre-K! It’s hard to believe so much time has passed. I can still remember every aspect of bringing the record to fruition just like I was going the process yesterday. If you’ve not checked it out (what are you waiting for?), you can easily do so by clicking on the BBB tab. If you like what you hear enough to make a purchase, THANK YOU! It’s much appreciated.
Lastly, I have a NEW blog up! Feel free to give it a read if you’re into such behavior.
So, the election cycle is officially done. Now, we’re in the midst of the aftermath, and, understandably, there are a number of emotions being felt by a lot of people, regardless of political affiliation. I, myself, have been feeling a range of things, an, perhaps by sheer serendipity, I found the above image. It really affirmed a number of things for me – one of which being that when campaigns and elections end, work does not. This is when we, ourselves, and those who feel the same as we do, need our gifts the most.
Switching gears, I have something REALLY cool to tell you… soon. I’m waiting to hear when I can formally put it all out there. Just know that it’s grand, and I’m excited – like, IMMENSELY excited. Stay tuned!
There are TWO things that have come across the pipeline recently that I’d like to bring to your attention, though. First, Artsbuild is now accepting nominations for its Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award. If you would like to nominate yours truly for it, you can do so here: https://form.jotform.com/62864796971173
Also, the wonderful organization Split This Rock is currently taking nominations for The Freedom Plow Award. The award “recognizes and honors a poet or poetry collective doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change.” You can nominate up to THREE individuals here: https://splitthisrock.submittable.com/submit/68078/2017-freedom-plow-award-nominations
Oh! And if you’d like to learn more about Split This Rock and the phenomenal work they do, I’ve got you covered, Baby Bubba. To stay in the loop and/or get familiar with them, just go here: http://www.splitthisrock.org/programs/freedom-plow-awards/
Well, that’s about it for yours truly right now. Be good, STAY STRONG, and I’ll be back in touch before too long. I promise!
What’s the haps, dear brothers and sisters? We are rapidly approaching Halloween, which means that the time for Christmas shopping has pretty much set upon us. Dun, dun, dunnnn.
So, Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian has himself some NEWS! I recently won a grant through Artsbuild, and I’m EXTREMELY excited about it. I’m going to be doing a workshop series, and it’s going to be a really dope, unique affair. I have a few more things to iron out before I’m comfortable springing everything on you and yours. Just know that it’s coming SOON, and that you, your mama and your cousin, too are ALL invited and encouraged to participate. Mua ha ha!!!!
That aside, I’m lining things up for this year’s Mainx24 performance. Some of my MANIFEST Voices girls will be rocking out, as well as a few peeps I adore from the Chattanooga poetry scene. Good things and times await! Be sure to hang out with us on Dec. 3rd at Star Line Books.
Oh! Speaking of my young ladies, keep in mind that you can check them out in my Blog section. The video is from the showcase we had on August 6th. Almost THREE MONTHS LATER (damn that flying time!), that night still remains fresh and magical in my mind.
If you’ve been checking out this website (and why shouldn’t you be doing that?!), you know a few things. One of those things should be that I did a summer workshop called MANIFEST Voices, and Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian is extremely proud of the young women he got to teach in it. Also, if you’re fairly attentive, you know that in early August, we had a showcase for the girls, and they absolutely merked their sets.
Well, if you weren’t able to make it to that showcase, I’ve got you covered. You can now check out the girls’ performances from the comfort of your own homes (or anywhere if you have Wi-Fi or aren’t scared of using your data). All you have to do is head over to my blog section and w-w-watch the vids! Do it!!!
Lastly, Mr. Joshua Pickard wrote a review of my new collaboration with Ryan Oyer. You can check out the song as well as his words here: http://nooga.com/174137/the-local-christian-collier-reveals-the-weight-of-an-electronic-heartbeat-on-new-song/
We’re six days in to the wonderful month of October. It just so happens to be my favorite month of the year. My Scorpio powers grow, my horror movie jones gets sated (mostly), etc. How can you be it? How, I ask?
My good friend and occasional collaborator Ryan Oyer recently dropped a new EP (you should check it out). Last year around this time, I was fortunate to have Ryan sing on a tune for the electronic album I’ve been making. I figured that it was a pretty apt time to finally let people hear it, and you can do so as well. All you have to do is scroll down. Let me know what you think.
Switching gears, I’m jazzed about performing for this year’s Mainx24. I’ve had the privilege of rocking out for a number of them (probably half the festivals, if not more), and they’ve always been great fun. They give people who, ordinarily, don’t venture downtown or won’t check out performances from a number of the city’s working artists, a safe opportunity to do so. You can find the info for where and when I’ll be rocking out in my Performances section, and if you or someone you know would be interested in a workshop or performance for your school, church, D&D group, etc., feel free to contact me.
Well, that’s about it for me right now. Be good, stay healthy, get a dope costume for Halloween (and show me!), and I’ll be back in touch before too long. Artist’s honor.
Whew! We’ve officially reached the middle of the month. Already. This guy? Well, honestly, he’s tired. I feel like the past few months have been a rollercoaster. They’ve made for a tremendous ride thus far (and it ain’t over yet!), but it’s also been pretty draining. I’m usually happiest when things are in motion, but Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian would actually be quite pleased to have a few days of quiet and boredom. They’d do me some good.
I literally JUST finished performing at an event for suicide awareness, and it was really touching. I’m always humbled when I have the opportunity to take part in things that strive to do good work and better lives and communities. Adding to my enjoyment was that one of my poets from the MANIFEST Voices program came, read her work, and made one of the head ladies with the program cry. That’s the power of art, dear brothers and sisters.
Let’s see. Switching gears, this past weekend was jam-packed. Well, that and full of excitement. My NEW BLOG is actually about some of it. Ch-ch-check it out… IF YOU DARE!!!
Well, that’s about it for me, gang. Be good, stay healthy, and I’ll be back in touch before too long. Peace!!!
We’re in the month of September, which basically means that it’ll be the onset of Christmas season starting next month (I’m kidding… slightly). Man, the past month or two has been an absolute rollercoaster. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to really take a pause and reflect on it all, which is interesting. A number of my friends have been geeking out for me on a few things while I’ve been in the midst of trying to make heads or tails of what’s been going down with my life. Anyway…
This Saturday, I’ll be rocking out with several talented poets and emcees at The Camp House for the Poetry vs. Hip-Hop show. You can peep details in my Performance section. It’s going to be a unique, grand time. We’re going to be battling it out for, largely, bragging rights.
I actually have a few other dates for gigs this month, too. I’ll give you one guess as to where you can find that info, too. Come on. Guess!
Switching gears, I recently had a poem accepted by the good people at FreezeRay Poetry. It’s a jazz poem and an ode to Charles Mingus, who has been a fave of mine for the past four years. You can read the piece here: http://www.freezeraypoetry.com/
Also, I JUST got featured on the Garden Spices blog. You can give that the onceover here: http://www.gardenspices.org/9152-2/
We’re nearing the end of another August. This has been an interesting month for yours truly, for a number of reasons. I have some pretty rad (yeah, I said rad. Maybe as a result of watching Stranger Things, some 80’s lingo has infiltrated my vernacular) irons in the fire. Fingers crossed (if you’re the finger-crossing type) that I get the green light on them and can bring them to fruition… and the community at large!
I’m really excited about The Speakeasy Revue this Thursday. A number of new people have been reaching out to me about it, so I hope that we’ll get some fresh faces and familiar ones through the door. Deets on the event are up in my Performances section. If you’re in or around Chattanooga (or plan to be) on Thursday, you should definitely come through. Oh! You should also spread the word and bring some peeps with you. The more the merrier, right?
Greetings Boys & Gals,
We’ve made it to August. Actually, we’ve made it to August AND the end of my MANIFEST Voices program! I’m immensely proud of my kids, the work they’ve banged out, and the relationships they’ve formed. I told them on the first day to look around the room because we were, from that moment on, family. They’ve really become one, too, which makes me feel like a proud father.
Our showcase was on Saturday, and it was big fun. My NEW blog is all about it. Ch-ch-check it out, as well as the dope pictures from that night.
Speaking of performances, I have a few NEW ADDITIONS. You should come check me out if you can. If you wear socks, I’ll do my best to blow them off your feet! If you don’t wear socks, I’ll do my best to blow the bottoms of your feet off, thus, making a bloody mess. Mua ha ha!!!
Brothers and sisters, I have THINGS to tell you. Things! Let’s jump in with some Southern Lit Alliance biz.
As some of you know, I’ve spent this summer teaching poetry to a group of enthusiastic and creative teens using my own curriculum. For my MANIFEST Voices program, they’ve learned how to become better writers and readers, as well as how to trust in themselves and each other for support, feedback, and constructive criticism.
Our program concludes on August 6th with a showcase of the students and their work. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll attend. Not only is it a wonderful chance to see what we’ve been up to this summer, but I legitimately feel that it will mean the world to the kids. It’s one thing when your friends and family are present to show support, but it’s a different animal entirely when people from the community who don’t know you show you encouragement by investing in what you do, be it through time, energy, or simply showing up.
We’ll open doors at 6PM on August 6th, and the readings will start at 6:30. Everything will take place on the second floor of the ArtsBuild Building (301 E 11th Street #300, Chattanooga, TN 37403). Also, we’ve got some surprises in store, so I look forward to seeing you there!
In addition to that (Oh, yes. There’s MORE!), I suggested to our So. Lit. program director that we allow the community to run our blog from time to time. You know what? She LISTENED! Check out the picture below and get yourselves submitting!
Outside of Southern Lit, I’ll also be organizing and hosting another Speakeasy Revue for August. It’s set for the 18th right now. I guarantee satisfaction and a grand time. You should come out! It’s going to be at the Jazzanooga space on MLK (431 E M L King Blvd #100, Chattanooga, TN 37403).
Last Thursday night, I cut a track with a dear friend and grand musician named Holly McCormack. We’ve talked for a long time about collaborating, and fortunately, the stars finally aligned. Be on the lookout for it. It’s guaranteed to rattle your trunks. You could very well find yourselves shaking booties, reminiscing on a few peeps from yours pasts, and singing along. Step to that!
Well gang, that’s all I’ve got for now. Be good, support your favorite indie artists, beat the heat before it beats you, and I’ll be in touch before too long.
We’re seven months deep into 2016. I’m not sure where you are as you’re reading this, but in my neck of the woods, the weather’s been pretty hot. You know, that good ol’ summer weather. We’ve been in the mid-90’s for some time now. It actually reminds me of when I used to live in Florida. Well, minus the gulf and a few other key things.
This time last week, I was en route to Valdosta, GA to speak and perform for the Governor’s Honors Program. Man, it was SUCH an amazing time. I had the opportunity to rock out in front of 652 brilliant and immensely talented teens, and it was grand. We did back-to-back sessions, and it really didn’t seem or feel like I had been on stage for two straight hours. The level of engagement made me a happy man.
At the end of the second session, something special happened. As I concluded my time, I actually received a standing ovation. I’d talked about how, at several points in my life, I’ve been awed by things and moments. This was yet another addition to the list.
Switching gears, I’ve got a NEW musical piece you can check out. I’d like to hear your thoughts on it. I wrote the poem earlier this year and laid the vocal down at some point over the course of the past few months.
Also, I’ll be recording something else new this Saturday. I’ll shoot more details out about it probably next week. Be on the look out! Tell a friend to tell a friend.
Lastly, yours truly has had himself a BLAST teaching this summer. I wrapped up my last session with my K-5th graders at Woodmore Elementary in Chattanooga (I miss my little people already), and we’ve got a month left with my poetry workshop kids. For their final event, we’re going to be doing a show. You can check out deets in my Performance section. If you’re in or around town and would like to show some support to some amazing, dedicated young peeps, I’m sure it would mean the world to them to have you there.
Well, that’s about it for Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian. Be good, stay cool, support your favorite artists, and don’t be strangers.
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
It’s officially summer. Get your Fresh Prince & Jazzy Jeff singles ready. Dun, dun, dunnn. Let me take you through what’s been going on (and will in the very near future) for me soon.
First, THIS FRIDAY, we’re rocking out at the Jazzanooga Arts Space. It’s going to be a grand time. We’re going to be doing an event called The Speakeasy Revue. There’ll be poetry. There’ll be some stories. There’ll be comedy. There’ll be dope beats. Someone will fall in love. There could even be explosions (not inside the building though. That would probably kill us all).
If you’re going to be in or around Chattanooga on Friday night, we get going at 10 PM! We’ve got a cash bar, and you’re welcome to sign-up to spit then and there. The address is 431 E M L King Blvd #100, Chattanooga, TN 37403. If you have any questions or would like more info, feel free to reach out via my form in the CONTACT section.
Next, we’ve been thrashing tail in my workshops. We just had our third session with my summer teens, and I think things are going well. I’m challenging the kids, and I hope they’re getting helpful and useful things out of it. We’ve had some incredible pieces written by the students thus far, so I’m really excited to see where things go in the coming weeks.
Also, on Tuesdays, I’ve been teaching elementary students. So far, I’ve taught the fundamentals of writing stories to kindergartners-3rd graders. I’ll have 4th and 5th graders next week. I’ve really enjoyed being able to engage the kids and show them how fun writing and seeing your works come to fruition can be. Check out these dope pictures of yours truly in the act of educating, too!
In other news, I’ve been gearing up to hit Valdosta next week. I’ll be speaking for a conference on leadership, and I’m really jazzed about it. It’s been ages since I’ve been back in Valdosta, too, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s changed.
Oh! And I’ll be posting a new jawn I made in the next day or so. It’s a poem I wrote at the very beginning of the year, and I produced the music and everything at some point later. When you hear it, you’ll have to let me know what you think.
Well, that’s about it for moi. Be good, stay hydrated, and don’t be strangers. I’ll be back in touch soon. SOON!
So, it’s June. JUNE! Gah! I realize that a lot of the posts I make here begin with me gawking about passing time. It’s a thing, okay? Get off my back! Let a guy be amazed at how quickly time slides by.
Let’s see. I had an AMAZING time performing with Mr. Devin Balram last Saturday. We shared the stage (a literal stage) for a house show, and it was big fun. We ended up performing in front of two entirely different groups of people, which was a first. Pretty much everyone who was there for our first sets bounced and were replaced by a new crop for our second. How about that?
Devin is a great singer-songwriter, and he released a record not too long ago called Brilliant. You should check it out. I’ll even make it easy for you and link you to where you can both hear AND purchase it. Step to that! https://noisetrade.com/devinbalram
In other news, I’m really jazzed about leading not one, but TWO workshops beginning next week! I’ll be teaching teens for my MANIFEST Voices poetry workshop on Mondays, and learning the youth (I believe 3rd through 5th graders) about creative writing on Tuesdays. This will be my second consecutive year teaching, and I love it. This guy? Looking forward to it!
I’m also jazzed about heading down to Valdosta at the end of the month to speak for the GHP. If you’ve followed this here website of mine, you know that I’ve been looking to do more lectures and speaking engagements, so I’m really looking forward to stepping out in GA and talking to the students about leadership in the arts.
I’m looking to add more things onto my calendar for this month and beyond. Let me know if you’re interested in having me perform, lead a workshop, lecture, or any combination of those things. Feel free to shoot me a line and we’ll talk biz. You can get a hold of me easily through my CONTACT section.
That’s all I’ve got for now, brothers and sisters. Be good, stay cool, support your favorite artists and indie bookstores (they need you and will love your for it), and don’t be strangers.
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
What’s shaking? I’ve missed you guys. Even though I can’t see your faces, I’ve missed your collective presence. So, know that.
Let’s see. Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian has a SHOW this weekend. I’ll be sharing the stage with Devin Balram, who is an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter. I had the pleasure of not only getting to know him through an open-mic I used to host, but also watching him grow and develop. He’s only gotten better over the years, so it’s going to be a real treat to work with him in this capacity.
In other news, if you know, work with, go to church, regularly come into contact, or have any advice you can impose on teenagers, please tell them to apply for my summer poetry workshop. We’ve extended the deadline to give more kids the opportunity to apply. Help us get there! You can shoot them the following link: http://www.southernlitalliance.org/#!manifest-voices/vr0r2 I really hope that you’ll assist us in filling our slots. It takes a village, right?
I’ve been writing A LOT over the course of the past few months. As a result, some different projects are taking shape and/or have new life, which is personally really exciting. I look forward to sharing some news with you a little farther down the line.
Well, dear boys and gals, that’s all I’ve got for now. Don’t be strangers. If you want to know more about the workshop or anything else, please shoot me a line. Do it!!!
Ladies and gents, IT’S HERE! I found out a little earlier that the TEDxCHATTANOOGA talks are appearing online. You can actually catch mine below. I’d encourage you to watch all of them though. There were so many PHENOMENAL presentations that day, and you will definitely thank me later for the suggestion. Man, it was such an honor and pleasure to have taken part in it.
Briefly switching gears, I hope that you can rock out with us at Star Line Books next Thursday evening. I’ve got some great things planned, the bill is amazing, and as always, I guarantee a good time. Oh! And if you’re in or around Chattanooga next Wednesday afternoon, we’ll be on the air at 3:15 with the legendary Richard Winham to discuss our little gig, and whatever else he might throw our way. Mua ha ha!!!
I apologize for the delay in updates. This guy? Well, he’s been dealing with that thing called life, and it’s been a wild puzzle to put together the past few weeks. I’m still in the process of figuring things out on some fronts, but I’m feeling pretty good today.
Let’s see. First off all, my latest chapbook is a FINALIST for publication through Dirty Chai Press. I just got the news last week, so that’s kind of exciting. I’ll keep you lovely folks in the loop on how things develop. I might have another new creative baby in the world depending on how all of this biz shakes out.
Next, I’ve got some NEW dates up in my Performances section. Hopefully, you can come out to them if you’re in or around the Chattanooga area. We’d love to see you there, and on both new additions, we guarantee a grand, grand time. Tell a friend, tell an enemy, tell that nosy lady across the street, etc. Bring yourselves out!!!
In other news, last Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak for The Hunter Museum’s Vision & Verse. I did my talk on Thornton Dial, and it was a really enjoyable time. There’ll be video coming out in the future. As soon as it hits the internet, I’ll throw it up on here. You’ll have the opportunity to catch some of the high points from that night as well as my stellar blazer.
I’ve got a new blog up, too. It’s been a while since I’ve posted one, so if you’re interested in the least about the goings on in Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian’s neck of the woods beyond basic news, definitely take a gander. I feel so country now that I typed that. Hmmm.
Lastly, as you probably, April is National Poetry Month. It’s a great time to support your poetic peers, friends, etc. by coming to their shows, buying their merch, letting them know that you enjoy (if that’s the case) what they make, etc.
So, last week, I did an interview for The Fifth Column. I really enjoyed the questions. A good number of them, I’d never been asked to weigh-in on before, and that was a cool challenge. You can peep how everything shook out here: http://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2016/03/interview-with-christian-collier/
With today being the last day of March, that means that TOMORROW is the start of National Poetry Month! Do you know what that means? Thirty poems in thirty days, brothers and sisters. That’s the goal, at least. Let me know if you’re giving it a go. We can talk shop and compare notes and whatnot.
So, it’s hard to believe that this time last year, I was still buzzing from judging the Poetry Out Loud state finals. I’m super proud of all our contestants, and I’m excited to see how the overall winner that we selected does in good ol’ Washington. Keep your fingers crossed for her! I know that she’s going to make us proud.
If you’re in Chattanooga, or even if you aren’t (you can tune in at http://wutc.org/#stream/0), The River City Sessions that I performed in will be aired TOMORROW. If you want to hear how Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian sounds wrecking shop live, definitely give it a listen. It’s free, and if you enjoy how I get down and stir up all the feels, come check me out at future shows.
Earlier last week, I received the latest issue of Dirty Chai. They published my poem 1 AM, which is about my niece when she was just a baby. It’s great to be in there with a number of other creative people. Also, this issue is Dirty Chai’s FIRST print edition. You can actually hold it in your hands instead of peering at everything on a screen. It’s worth your time and money. I say give it a peak. http://dirtychaimag.com/
Well brothers and sisters, that’s about it for yours truly. Be good, enjoy your Easter if you’re a believer. If not, then try to enjoy your Sunday. I’ll be back in touch before too long, and if you want to ask me anything, book me for a show, workshop, lecture, etc. don’t be a stranger. Definitely get in touch.
Boys & Girls, Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian had himself a WEEKEND! I had the distinct honor and privilege of being a judge for this year’s Poetry Out Loud state finals on Saturday (I got to perform a little somethin’ somethin’, too), and it was an amazing time. Being around inspired, creative, and committed young people is such a joy, and being a part of something that generates nothing but good things for both the arts and education is also a beautiful thing.
I’ve been interested in doing more in both fields, so this was an absolute treat. I’m extremely proud to have been asked to be involved, and I would gladly come back in the future. You can check out a write-up about the contest goings-on and winners here: http://tnartseducation.org/2016-poetry-loud-state-competition-alexia-buckner-bolton-high-school-arlington/
When I made my way back to town, I wrote a brand spankin’ new poem. I’ll actually be debuting tonight at my good friend’s open-mic at a little spot called The Well in Chattanooga. If you’re interested in coming out regardless if it’s tonight or any other Monday, consider yourself invited. It gets going at 8 PM each week and is a fun time. It comes Christian-approved, and I don’t give my approval for many things, thank you very much!
That’s all I’ve got for now. Stay tuned for new things this week, including a blog. It’ll have thrills, chills, and maybe a thing or two to make you fall in love. How can you beat that? HOW?!
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian had himself an AMAZING time last time performing at The River City Sessions. It was such a good time, and a great bill. I shared the stage with Mountain Creek House Fire and Jennifer Niceley. Aside from bring in the company of tremendously talented people, another highlight was having the opportunity to perform a long set in front of people I’ve known for years, but have never really seen me work before. It’s a much different animal than when I hit open-mics for fun or do spot gigs. The love that they gave me after the show was beautiful AND something that I really needed.
Switching gears, next weekend, I’ll be a judge for the state finals of the Poetry Out Loud competition. I’m really looking forward to that and seeing what the youth have in store for us. Honestly, I feel really honored and fortunate to be in a position TO judge.
Also, stay tuned for when the videos from TEDxCHATTANOOGA are ready. It should be SOON! Also, if you, your organization, school, social club, etc. would be interested in having yours truly perform, lecture, and/or lead a workshop, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m always booking, and I would love to add some more dates to my calendar. Let’s dialogue!
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian will be performing for Michael Gray’s River City Sessions THIS FRIDAY in Chattanooga. The show will be at The Camp House, and additional info (like the time things get rolling, the price of tickets, etc.) is in my Performances section. Ch-ch-check it out!
Also, I’m extremely excited about being a judge for the state finals of the Poetry Out Loud competition in Nashville. It’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m elated to be involved in the process.
Switching gears, I’ve been doing a lot of work for my show at The Hunter next month. I’ve been doing a good amount of research on Mr. Dial, including watching the documentary below. I’ve been really inspired by his approach to making art, so I’ve been trying to mirror it in a different capacity. I look forward to taking you through the process as things develop more. Dun, dun, dunnnn.
Brothers and sisters! Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian is TIRED! I feel like I fought eight guys last night and then got in a car crash. You know what, though? I’m a happy individual, too. SUPER happy, which is one of the higher tiers of happiness, actually.
I had the opportunity to speak for TEDxCHATTANOOGA on Saturday. It was an amazing event and experience. I was awed by a number of the speakers, and having the chance to be a part of that was really humbling. It made me feel like I was a part of a fraternity.
My talk was on the healing power of poetry. You can check it, and everything else from the event, out below. Do it!!! http://livestream.com/utc/events/4772018/videos/113663503
Switching gears, I’ve got new performances and appearances added. I hope that you can check me out at at least one of the new spots. I’ll do my due diligence to entertain the pants off of you, or, if that’s weird, at least connect with you in a way that doesn’t always happen. I feel like that sounds a little bit better. Also, if you’d be interested in booking me for a performance, workshop, etc., definitely reach out to me. I’d LOVE to dialogue with you and set something up.
I’ve also got a brand new blog. It’s about a special moment that really resonated with me, albeit, later than one would’ve thought or liked. Better late than never though, right?
Well, that’s about it for me. Please check out my merch, be good, and stay in touch!
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
We’re rapidly approaching the halfway point for the month of February. I’m fully in TEDx Talk mode. The event isn’t until the end of the month, but it’s practically here. I’m really looking forward to having that experience. If you have tickets, I look forward to catching you out there the day of. If you don’t you can stream the whole day online. Options! It’s a great honor, and I’m really eager about joining the TED family.
Speaking of honors, I got to meet Mr. Adrian Matejka yesterday. I was supposed to introduce him for his reading, but fate and NTB had other plans. Either way, he did an amazing job, and he was super cool to dialogue with. Adrian’s a phenomenal writer, and if you’ve not checked out his works, I cannot encourage you enough to do so ASAP. Also, he’s got a NEW book that’s slated to drop next year. Dun, dun, dunnnnn.
Also, my poem 1 AM has been accepted by Dirty Chai Magazine. The poem is about my niece when she was a baby. It feels good to have another piece from my manuscript to land somewhere. When the edition it’s in drops, I’ll let all you lovely peeps who peep at this website of mine know about it. Stay tuned!
In other news, our submission video for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest has made it through all of the proper channels and has officially been entered into the fray. It’s exciting. I’m happy just to be involved. Even if it doesn’t go beyond Jessica and I performing Walk in front of the wonderful and super-talented Megan Hollenbeck’s desk, it was not only a great time, but a chance to step out in another capacity creatively.
Also, I’ve been thinking of doing some little videos of poems that I’ve been cranking out. These are pieces that I’ve written just for fun, or that I don’t have any ardent desire to try to publish or throw into a collection. I’ve already got my first candidate all lined up and such. Mua ha ha!!!
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, jellybeans. Be good, stay warm, show your favorite artists some love, and I’ll be back in touch before too long.
Welcome to the wonderful month of February. It’s currently 60 degrees where I am… in February. I’ve not had to retire my shorter sleeves this winter, so I suppose I can’t complain. Honestly, I’m on the verge of sweating, so I suppose I could complain about that. I won’t though. I promise.
So, Jessica Nunn and I submitted a video for NPR’s Tiny Desk competition. Truth be told, we got TWO videos out of the performance. It was both fun and challenging to rock out behind that desk. I, literally, had about a foot of wiggle room, to work with. I’m not accustomed to being so stasis.
Also, I’ve uploaded some new music, if you’re into such things. The latest jawn is called Slow Dance (Midnight). I figured it would be apt to drop during February to help you lovely peeps get your sexy on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. I’ll probably write a blog about how it came about (it’s been a journey) in the near future, so stay tuned.
Oh, and speaking of new blogs, I HAVE ONE! It’s about Stacey Dash and her recent comments. Give it the onceover. If you’d like to weigh-in also, I’d be interested in your perspective.
In other news, I’ll be introducing Mr. Adrian Matejka on the 10th of this month. If you’re not familiar with him or his work, you should remedy that immediately. Details are up in my Performances sections as well as below in my last post. Options!
Lastly, I’m still accepting bookings for this month and beyond. If you and yours would be interested in having me and mine rock out, lecture, lead a workshop, etc. with your school, church, backgammon club, or whatever the case may be, shoot me a line. I’d love, love, love to talk shop with you and fill up a bunch of days on my calendar.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, dear brothers and sisters. Be good, support your local artists of all mediums, and I’ll be in touch before too terribly long.
Greetings Brothers and Sisters,
What’s shaking? Hopefully, all is well, you’re keeping warm, and 2016 has been a pretty grand year thus far. I’ve got my fingers crossed on all those fronts.
This month has been a pretty wild one on my end, and for many reasons. As you fine folks probably know (and if you don’t, keep reading!), I’ll be participating in the upcoming TEDxCHATTANOOGA session at the end of next month. By the way, I’ve been told that we’re close to selling out, so you’re interested in attending, you should go ahead and purchase a ticket or two. You can find a link in my Performances section. Recently, we had a little practice session. I’m really looking forward to touching the stage with the other presenters. Good times await!
Also, on that same day, I had the opportunity to share the stage with some friends for a benefit. It was a great time. During my set, the band and I were going into our second piece when a little girl took to the stage and began banging away at the keys. Not missing a beat, I picked her up, put her on my shoulder, and spit the piece like that. Rockstar! j/k. I kind of felt like Bob Kaufman when he ended his silent stint. It was big fun.
I’m currently accepting bookings for February and beyond. If you, your work place, your church, school, sorority or fraternity, etc. would be interested in having me perform, lecture, or lead a workshop, please contact me. I promise I’ll get back to you in a speedy fashion.
Last week, my viola player (the incomparable Jessica Nunn) and I joined forces to shoot a submission video for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. From what little bit of the footage I’ve been able to see thus far, it looks great. The performance felt good, and good, magical things always happen whenever Jessica and I have the chance to share the same space. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
On February 10th, I’ll have the distinct honor and privilege of introducing poet Adrian Matejka in Chattanooga. You can find details about his reading at http://www.southernlitalliance.org/ and there’s an excellent write-up about the event here: http://www.chattanoogan.com/2016/1/26/316753/Southern-Lit-Alliance-To-Host-Adrian.aspx
Lastly, I learned earlier today that Thornton Dial passed away. I’m going to be doing a performance in April that is inspired by his work, so it’s kind of surreal to have been researching the man for months, and then he transitions. 2016 has claimed yet another artistic juggernaut.
That’s about it for now, dear peoples. I’ll be back in touch before too long. I promise!
Happy New Year, family! Hopefully, you transitioned into 2016 with all your limbs in tact, and in good, strong spirits. I rang in the New Year by playing electric guitar in a band with a dear friend of mine. Oh, AND I got to kiss a foxy young lady. The wonders of freestyling live on stage, brothers and sisters. They yield good gifts.
So, first bit of business, I have a BRAND NEW single available to listen to and purchase. I cut the vocals for it in December of 2014. Between travel, working a full-time job, handling my poetry project on race and sex and gender, etc., I’ve been tweaking the track when I could. I’m happy to have it ready for your listening pleasure now. You can find it for purchase here: https://christianjcollier.bandcamp.com/track/angel
I’ll have a bunch of other musical things coming out this year. I’m super jazzed about that. Stay tuned! I guarantee that I’ll make you think, feel, shake rumps, fall in love, and MORE. Take that, Taylor Swift. Actually, I think she does all those things, too. I’ll have to confer with my ten-year-old niece. Hmmm.
I’ve also got a new blog. I’m sure that 2015 was a wild ride for all of us. I shed a little light on how mine went. Feel free to give it the onceover and see if you can relate.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, dear peoples. Be good, stay blessed, support the artists who mean something to you/add to your lives, and I’ll see you when I see you.
So, Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian is SICK! It’s nothing too major, and hopefully it won’t get worse. Fingers crossed and all that jazz.
I had a great time kicking out the convo and jams with Mr. Richard Winham on Monday. We linked up and swapped sets on 88.1, and it was a beautiful time. If you missed it, I played something BRAND NEW that I sired on the air, and, in a way, kind of let the cat out the bag. So, I’ll finish spilling the beans here. On January first, my new single Angel will be available for purchase on my bandcamp page. There will be a number of other things coming from me on the recording front in 2016, too. Be on the listen AND the lookout. Everything that I’ve laid down thus far sounds INCREDIBLE, and I JUST finished mastering a little something that features Ryan Oyer. If you’re not familiar with him, his new album is definitely one of the best projects I had the privilege of hearing this year. Do yourself a favor and check him out!
That’s all I’ve got for now. Be good, support your favorite artists this Holiday season and beyond, and I’ll be back in touch before too long. Oh, and Happy Holidays!
What’s shakin’, jellybean? Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian is fresh off of performing with Emily Joy again last night, and it was a great time. It’s always a pleasure to share the stage (or the living room, in last night’s case) with her, and if you’re not familiar with her or her work, I strongly encourage you to do so. As a matter of fact, if you check out her website AND bandcamp page, she currently has a holiday sale where you can cop all of her projects for $9. That’s not shabby, brothers and sisters.
I have some NEWS (which is perfect, considering that’s what this section is all about). I placed 2nd and 3rd in the Seven Hills Literary and Penumbra Contest’s haiku and poetry contest. I was notified earlier today, and it was a pleasant surprise. If you’re not familiar with the world of trying to get things published, it’s always a slow grind. You submit something, and then you might have to wait three months or more. In some cases, you’re looking at basically another YEAR before you find anything out. I submitted my works for this bad boy in August, so this is a great way to cap-off 2015. The journal should be available in March, so keep your eyes peeled!
I’ll be on the radio in Chattanooga TOMORROW afternoon from 2-4. I’ll be rocking out on 88.1 (or wutc.org if you’d like to listen online) with Richard Winham. It’s always a good time with him. Jams will be kicked out, great conversation will take place. I might even take my shirt off, although, because it’s radio, you’ll have no way of knowing whether or not that occurred. Feel free to use your imagination though. Mua ha ha!!!
As an aside, I’ve been back in the studio, working some things up in secret. A few of them are ready to be heard, and they sound AMAZING. I’ll be releasing some things on my Soundcloud page as well as my bandcamp. Be on the lookout. Booty-shaking and head-nodding are mandatory.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Be good, Happy Holidays, and I’ll be back in touch before too long. Stay up!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian is a sore, sore man. This past Saturday, I got to take part in this year’s Mainx24 festival, which is kind of like a block party that lasts for (you guessed it) twenty-four hours. I hosted an event called The Spoken Word Revue, which featured Jody Harris, Alive de Poet, Olivia Bradley, Marley Fox, and yours truly. It was a great time. I didn’t count for being out and about, on my feet, going here and there for another ten or so hours though. Needless to say, I’m not in the best shape, but I’m getting there. I promise!
December 19th, I’ll have the distinct honor and privilege of rocking out with the lovely and ever-talented Emily Joy AGAIN! We’re going to be doing a house show in Chattanooga, and we would absolutely, positively love to see you and yours there. Bring three friends with you and have yourselves a dope time with us. I’ve said it before, but I truly feel like what we did at our show in October was not just special, but one of the best times I’ve EVER had at a gig. Come be a part of the second round! We’re asking for donations of $10-$15. You can find the link to the rest of the details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1742581352631424/
Also, you can pretty much catch the entirety of the show we did in Minnesota online! It was a very pleasant surprise that I came across yesterday afternoon, actually. Ah, the joys of Twitter. Do yourself a favor and check it out. I guarantee that Charlotte, Marisa, and Adam, alone, will move you.
During the event I hosted for Mainx24, I gave everyone in attendance a challenge, and I’ll pose it to you lovely peeps who are reading this, too. It’s officially the giving season (if you work in retail though, this is the third month of the giving season. It kind of begins about midway through October in that line of work). So many of us know, in some ways, artists in a number of disciplines. A good number of us even know a wide range of highly-acclaimed artists who are renown for the quality of what they are blessed to be able to produce. I just think that a small gesture (buying a CD, going to go see them perform, lecture, etc. this month if they have something going on or if you’ve never done so before, just donating a few dollars their way, yadda yadda) makes a huge difference. People tend to take art and artists for granted, and, in my most humble of opinions, if this is the one time of year where folks largely are of the mind and spirit to give, to contribute, and to share, then why not carry that feeling and philosophy over to the creatives that you admire, appreciate, and enjoy? Just sayin’. I’m officially hopping off my soapbox now.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Check out my new blog, which muses on a recent happening and my musings on race as a result, be good, heed my challenge, and I’ll be in touch before too long.
Vaya con Dios
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
Hopefully, you haven’t gorged yourself too much or had to put hands on feet on anybody if you chose to partake in the pandemonium of Black Friday. If you did one or both of those though, ‘tis the season… I guess.
I’ve had a lot of things on my plate as of late. I’m still trying to readjust. First, the Minnesota show was AMAZING. Last weekend truly was an adventure, and Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian has even scribed a BLOG about what took place. Dun, dun, dunnnn.
Next, tickets for the upcoming TEDxCHATTANOOGA event are going fast. The early bird rate is still in effect, but not for much longer. If you’re planning (or wanting) to attend and want to get tickets for the cheapest available price, I would strongly encourage you to jump on it and cop yours ASAP.
From November 30th to December 4th, if you buy my EP Between Beauty & Bedlam from CDBABY, it will be shipped to you for only ONE CENT! One penny, family. That’s not too shabby. Even if you don’t want to get the actual CD and would rather have the digital edition, I would greatly appreciate your support and business. Working artists rely on you guys, and genuine, tangible support makes a world of difference. Oh, AND it helps us to keep doing what we do and love.
Chiming off of that, a few weeks ago, a friend of Emily Joy’s sent this message to a number of people (including yours truly). I found it really touching and affirming. I thought that I would post the whole thing on here for you. Hopefully, it’ll resonate with you and yours as well. It is as follows:
OK. HELLO BEAUTIFUL EVERYBODY.
This is a bit longer than I realized, so simmer down a minute and don’t expect a listicle and grab a cup of whatever makes you feel nice & warm inside & give this a read. It is for you. It is for self-care. It is for your soul. (Your soul needs food too, you know.) I am sending this to you because you are a brave creative soul who needs a break from carrying the burden of much work and little reward. I know it and I feel you and it just so happens that every single one of you who reached out to me for this letter that I very much did not write has inspired me very personally in your own unique YOU way. I have included a few of you who did not ask but I felt compelled to send it to because I adore you. I am grateful for you and for your work, and I apologize for not thanking you more often. Creating is a bit of a thankless job, isn’t it? For those of us living in closets and off of coffee and crumbs, the workday is never over. But it is a labor of love, is it not? You all deserve massages and retreats, but I am also poor and cannot give you those things. Here is a thing I can give you. Maybe I can come up with more to give you later as well, because I deeply need & crave your created things, and I know I need to know I am not alone.
You are not alone.
The follow is an excerpt from a book that is wrecking me, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. (Aaron, you may already have read this!) Cheryl used to write for a website called The Rumpus under the pseudonym Sugar, and people would pour out their hearts to her and she would listen and thoughtfully respond. The following is a response to a sad little ragtag English class about to graduate from college, beset on every side by financial worries, and parents who didn’t believe in them and were recommending law school, and a university that always only featured athletes and businessmen to give graduation speeches. They offered her poems and pies to write them one. Here is what she said.
There’s a line by the Italian writer Carlo Levi that I think is apt here: “The future has an ancient heart.” I love it because it expresses with such grace and economy what is certainly true - that who we become is born of who we most primitively are; that we both know and cannot possibly know what it is we’ve yet to make manifest in our lives. I think it’s a useful sentiment for you to reflect upon now, sweet peas, at this moment when the future like feels the opposite of ancient, when instead it feels like a Lamborghini that’s pulled up to the curb while every voice around demands you get in and drive.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay to travel by foot. In fact, I recommend it. There is so much ahead that’s worth seeing, so much behind you can’t identify at top speed. Your teacher is correct: You’re going to be all right. And you’re going to be all right not because you majored in English or didn’t and not because you plan to apply to law school or don’t, but because all right is almost always where we eventually land, even if we fuck up entirely along the way.
I know. I fucked up some things. I was an English major too. As it happens, I lied for six years about having an English degree, though I didn’t exactly mean to lie. I had gone to college and participated in a graduation ceremony. I’d walked across the stage and collected a paper baton. On that paper it said a bachelor’s degree would be mine once I finished one final class. It seemed like such an easy thing to do, but it wasn’t. And so I didn’t do it and the years slipped past, each one making it seem more unlikely that I’d ever get my degree. I’d done all the coursework except that one class. I’d gotten good grades. To claim that I had an English degree was truer than not, I told myself. But that didn’t make it true.
You have to do what you have to do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with law school, but don’t go unless you want to be a lawyer. You can’t take a class if taking a class feels like it’s going to kill you. Faking it never works. If you don’t believe me, read Richard Wright. Read Charlotte Bronte. Read Joy Harjo. Read Toni Morrison. Read William Trevor. Read the entire Western canon.
Or just close your eyes and remember everything you already know. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits. Trust that all you learned during your college years was worth learning, no matter what answer you have or do not have about what use it is. Know that all those stories, poems, plays, and novels are a part of you now and that they are bigger than you and they will always be.
I was a waitress during most of the years that I didn’t have my English degree. My mother had been a waitress for many of the years that she was raising my siblings and me. She loved to read. She always wanted to go to college. One time she took a night class when I was very young and my father became enraged with her and cut her textbook into pieces with a pair of scissors. She dropped the class. I think it was biology.
You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.
You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.
I got married when I was in college. I got divorced during the years that I was lying about having an English degree. When I met the man to whom I am now married, he said, “You know, I really think you should finish your degree, not because I want you to, but because I can tell that you want to.” I thought he was sort of being an asshole. We didn’t bring up the subject again for a year.
I understand what you’re afraid of. I understand what your parents fear. There are practical concerns. One needs money to live. And then there is a deep longing to feel legitimate in the world, to feel that others hold us in regard. I felt intermittently ashamed during my years as a waitress. In my family, I was supposed to be the one who “made it”. At times it seemed instead I had squandered my education and dishonored my dead mother by becoming a waitress like her. Sometimes I would think of this as I went from table to table with my tray, and I’d have to think of something else so I wouldn’t cry.
Years after I no longer worked at the last restaurant where I waited tables, my first novel was published. The man who’d been my manager at the restaurant read about me in the newspaper and came to my reading. He’d often been rude and snappish with me and I’d despised him on occasion, but I was touched to see him in the bookstore that night. “All those years ago, who would’ve guessed we’d be here celebrating the publication of your novel?” he asked when we embraced.
“I would have,” I replied.
And it was true. I always would have guessed it, even all the time that I feared it would never happen. Being there that night was the meaning of my life. Getting there had been my every intention. When I say you don’t have to explain what you’re going to do with your life, I’m not suggesting you lounge around whining about how difficult it is. I’m suggesting you apply yourself in directions for which we have no accurate measurement. I’m talking about work. And love.
It’s really condescending to tell you how young you are. It’s even inaccurate. Some of you who are graduating from college are not young. Some of you are older than me. But to those of you new college graduates who are indeed young, the old new college graduates will back me up on this: you are so goddamned young. Which means about eight of the ten things you have decided about yourself will over time prove to be false.
The other two things will prove to be so true that you’ll look back in twenty years and howl.
My mother was young too, but not so like those of you who are so goddamned young. She was forty when she finally went to college. She spent the last years of her life as a student, though she didn’t know they were her last years. She thought she was at the beginning of the next era of her life. She died a couple of months before we were both supposed to graduate from different schools. At her memorial service, my mother’s favorite professor stood up and granted her an honorary PhD.
The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will. I have learned this over and over and over again.
There came a day when I decided to stop lying. I called the college from which I did not have an English degree and asked the woman who answered the phone what I needed to do to get one. She told me I had only to take one class. It could be any class. I chose Latin. I’d never studied Latin, but I wanted to know, at last, where so many of our words come from. I had a romantic idea of what it would be like to study Latin - the Romance languages, are, after all, descended from it - but it wasn’t romantic. It was a lot of confusion and memorization and attempting to decipher bizarre stories about soldiers marching around ancient lands. In spite of my best efforts, I got a B.
One thing I never forgot from my Latin class is that a language that is descended from another language is called a daughter language.
It was the beginning of the next era of my life, like this is of yours.
Years after I no longer lived in the state where my mother and I went to college, I traveled to that state to give a reading from my first novel. Just as my former boss had done in a different city mere weeks before, the professor who’d granted my mother a PhD at her memorial service read about me in the newspaper and came to the bookstore to hear me read. “All those years ago, who would’ve guessed we’d be here celebrating the publication of your novel?” she asked when we embraced.
“Not me,” I replied. “Not me.”
And it was true. I meant it as sincerely as I’d meant that I always would’ve guessed it when I’d been speaking to my boss. That both things could be true at once - my disbelief as well as my certainty - was the unification of the ancient and the future parts of me. It was everything I intended and yet still I was surprised by what I got.
I hope you will be surprised and knowing at once. I hope you’ll always have love. I hope you’ll have days of ease and a good sense of humor. I hope one of you really will bake me a pie (banana cream, please). I hope when people ask what you’re going to do with your English and/or creative writing degree you’ll say: Continue my bookish examination of the contradictions and complexities of human motivation and desire; or maybe just: Carry it with me, as I do everything that matters.
And then smile very serenely until they say, Oh.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to teach poetry and spoken word to a group of 24 teenagers (that number still blows my mind). My good friend Megan Hollenbeck made a documentary that touched on that, plus some other components of the summer camp. I thought it would also be a good touch to put it on here for you, too. I’m dropping the GEMS today! Peep it below.
Well, that’s about all I have for now. I’ll be back in touch SOON. Artist’s honor. In the meantime, be good, stay well, stay strong, stay open, and don’t be strangers.
Well, I can now officially let the cat out of the bag. Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian will be a speaker at the TEDxChattanooga event in February! It takes place on the 27th and runs for most of the day. I’m very excited to be involved, and I’m looking forward to getting to work. It’s going to be a good time. If you’re in or around Chatt-Town on that date, you should come out. I guarantee not only a good time, but an informative one as well.
Oh! You can also check out additional details as well as info on the other speakers here: http://nooga.com/171570/speakers-announced-for-tedxchattanooga/
I’ve got a NEW show booked. I’ll be doing a house show on December 19th in Chattanooga. Also, Emily Joy will be joining me. We had so much fun the first go round that we decided to reconvene. It’s going to be a dope time. It’s been a few years since I last did a home show, so I’m really looking forward to jumping back into the intimate setting style of performance. Huzzah!
I’m still looking for people to interview for my poetry project. Specifically, I’d LOVE to talk to women of color. Well, women of color, as well as women and men who have worked in some capacity in the adult entertainment spectrum. Why? I’ll tell you! I think that when it comes to issues involving sex and gender, in particular, the voices of sex workers tends to get excluded from those discussions and conversations. I’d love to a) learn more about what it’s like, and b) see how accurate that is. If you or someone you know might be interested, definitely shoot me a line.
Let’s see. I recently joined Instagram. If you’re interested in seeing all kinds of pictures of moi and the things I encounter, you should follow me on there. My handle is ichristian3030.
Lastly, if you’ve listened to the audio samples in this post and beyond and you LIKE them, they’re both from my debut EP which will turn two this weekend. It’s available digitally and physically. It would really mean a lot to me if you considered making a purchase. I know it’s clichéd to say, but A LOT of heart, thought, sore vocals, money, time, and SOUL went into bringing the project to fruition. Making it was really a transformative experience for me, and I genuinely feel like if you really invest in giving it a listen all the way through, it’ll leave an impact on you.
Alright, gang. That’s all from me for now. Be good, support your favorite artists (we need you!), and stay safe.
Greetings Brothers & Sisters,
We’re officially in November, which is hard to believe, at least for me. 2015 has sprinted by. I’ve been hard at work for pretty much the entirety of it, so I suppose that would explain why time seems to have slipped by, but still.
I just got back into town today. My grandmother passed last week, and my family had her funeral yesterday. It’s a surreal experience, as loved one’s transition is, I believe. For those familiar with my work (specifically, my 2009 chapbook Ghosts & Echoes), there are two poems about her in it. My latest blog is about her and her legacy, too. If you’re so inclined, check it out.
Switching gears, I’m still immersed in my poetry project. That means that I’m STILL looking for people to interview. If you’d like to talk to me in person or answer a few questions about race, sex, and/or gender, reach out! I’m very happy to say that the response to the poems thus far has been EXTREMELY positive, which is immensely affirming for me. If you’d like to peep something from the series, you can listen to my piece How it Feels to be Black that was recently published in the latest edition of Voicemail Poems below.
Well, that’s about all I have for now. Be good, stay well, thanks for stopping by, and if you dig what I do, don’t keep me a secret! Please share a video, this website, or whatever with a few of your friends and/or families.