Friday, May 22, 2015

On Being Friendless [Circa 2008]

Finally, I am at the juncture in my editing process where I am reading the novel and screenplay drafts that survived my impoverishment. I am plucking out sentences that I wrote at the age of 23, 26, 28 and dropping them, haphazardly, into my final draft.

On the back of one of my first prose drafts from 2008, I found a poem. Perhaps a prose poem. It has a title, the paragraphs are indented so I am sure it is not a freewrite.

On the back of one of my drafts, I found my bare thoughts:

On Being Friendless

I am a writer. I am twenty-three and single. I am lonely and half-crazy. These are the only things I am sure of.

I have no friends.

Luckily, there are over a thousand people who know me, or at least, know of my work.

I have recently reached a crossroad between normalcy.

[Draft two]

I am a writer, first. I am twenty-three and single. I am lonely and half-crazy. Of this I am certain.

I have no friends.

While there are at least a thousand people who know me or my poetry -- there is no one to call on. I spend my days in solitude, staring at walls, blank pages and computer screens, urging words to come.

I am not funny or witty. I am not cute or friendly. It would be a stretch to describe me as a delight to be around. I am internally conflicted and lazy, half suicidal -- half-crazy, waiting for someone to understand.

[Draft three]

On Being Friendless

I am twenty-three and single. I have no friends but luckily a thousand people who know me or at least that I write.

I realize that I am obsessed with books and writing. I have begun writing my first novel. Today I will start Chapter 5. It is a coming of age tale about Black men. Black men, because there are only two things on God's Earth that I love more and that's books and dancing. I'm obsessed with Black masculinity and power.

I realize that I am half crazy.

[Draft four]

On Being Friendless

I am writing my first novel. I will begin Chapter five today and I must admit, I am proud of every word. It is a coming of age story about Black men because I still haven't figured out what it means to be a Black woman. I am obsessed with Black masculinity and power. I've been studying my father, my brothers and my loves for the past 23 years.

The funny part is... I've never had any "lovers"... Not at the age of 23 and not now! Whew! That made me laugh... That's the kicker, right there...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

On Pornography and Natural Black Aesthetics

Yesterday, I was slightly traumatized. But, only for a moment. In a conversation with a friend she told me that if given a choice all men would prefer women with long hair. Even if choosing between Black women with naturals, they would choose the flowing natural curls which fall over shoulders rather than the coarse, tight knots that stick up straight from the head.

I was devastated for about a half an hour.

I interpreted this as the Black male internalization of European aesthetics. I thought that a Black woman must have a certain number of phenotypically European features in order to be noted as beautiful.

I got over it, eventually. Took a long walk and went back to editing my novel about being a Black man.

I watched pornography. I'm a fan. If I were a feminist, they would call me a sex-positive feminist. But if any one called me a feminist it would be a large overstatement, and quite possibly, a lie.

The first time I saw a pornography, in glimpses, I was about 11 years old. My older brother, who soon thereafter committed suicide, was watching porn on the family computer.

Being the lonely child that I was, I casually opened the door to the computer room, seeking the attention of my brother. He sort of flipped out, using his right arm to cover the computer, his left arm to slam the door in my face and his voice to scream obscenities at me.

I remember seeing naked white women with long hair and huge breasts. But at the time, I had no concept of pornography or sexuality or anything, really. My brother was about 14 or 15 years old.

I watched pornography.

I prefer to watch brown skinned women getting fucked by brown skinned men. Sometimes, the Black men even have dreadlocks, which I adore.

The women never have dreadlocks or afros or even braids. The women never look like me.

There are some feminists who hate pornography. And, given our rape culture, I understand. However, I am very interested in the sexual development of Black people.

I'm always so concerned about why Black men don't find Black women desirable. I wonder, when did this begin. At what age?

Some Black women wonder why the darker Black women in Hollywood can't get placed as the love interest in movies... not even Black movies written Black people, directed by Black people, produced by Black people. Not even in the Black movies written and directed and produced by Black women.

A few weeks ago, my internet crush said something about ... not being able to fight for something that you can't see... Or maybe he said imagine... Or maybe he said visualize.

I've been wondering how many things I can't write.. because I can't fathom them.

Could I write about a dark skinned woman with nappy hair who actually falls in love?

My internet crush was referring to revolutions and activism. He was talking about political change.

But for a Black woman falling in love and staying in love with a Black man who actually is happy, thrilled, with you is a revolution. And sometimes, it's just so damned rare.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Not Passing the Admission Test for Bates Academy

Most of my life, people have always assumed that I am smarter than I actually am.

Perhaps, I like it that way. I have always made conscious, consistent effort to befriend people who are smarter than me. Even in the arts, although I founded TheCypher, I have always been the least creative writer and the worst performer in the group.

Actually, I'm certain that I liked it that way.

This is how I learn. I take on things that are way above my capacity and I absorb what I can. I don't beat myself up, if it's not perfect. In the end, I learn more from failing at difficult things than I do from excelling at mediocrity.

A few years ago,
my father told me that I didn't actually pass the test to get into Bates Academy.

Even as a 20-something, I was devastated to hear the news. Apparently, after I didn't score high enough, my parents stormed into the school with some apple-doesn't-fall-too-far-from-the-tree sort of rant. If William and Lee are geniuses, surely Lhea is, too. It worked.

And I entered the preschool class.

In retrospect,
I grateful that my father (or my mother or my teachers) never told me that I flunked the test.

I never knew that I wasn't as bright as my peers. I was always in the highest reading level and the highest math classes and the highest orchestra.

Since no one told me I couldn't do anything, I always assumed that I could do everything.

I'm thankful my father never compared me to my brothers, either one of them. Instead of telling me that I was a failure, he told me quite often that I was a genius.

"You come from a math and science family!"

I heard that phrase so often as a child that I believed it. It's funny, my father was the first person in his family to go to college. It's funny, the way my father threw around the phrase, you'd think I'd come from a long line of physicists and mathematicians.

I'm very glad that he told me I was a genius. I'm glad that he actually believed it.

Today, I rewrote the last sentence of my first novel. I admit, I'm proud of myself. And I realize that this novel wouldn't have been possible if I would have went to a neighborhood school in Detroit... because, chances are, I would have never gotten into U of M. Thus,  I would have never learned about the subject matter.

I would have never gotten into Columbia, for that matter, neither. Even though, I never attended, I am still very proud of that accomplishment.

I would have never lived in New York. My Michigan degree definitely landed my first job.

Now that I'm older,
I can see the shortcomings of my own brain.

I can't remember anything. I never could. In elementary, I could never remember how to spell the words of the spelling bees; in middle, I could never memorize oratorical contest speeches; in high, I couldn't memorize my music; in college, I couldn't memorize my own poetry.

I have always counted on my fingers and slowly at that.

I actually have a very low reading comprehension level and a nonexistent vocabulary.

But since no one ever told me that I was slow or inferior, I've figured out how to maximize my brain. I'm not sure if it's because of amandemine or what, but I think I'm best at lateral thinking. And, I think my brain quiets down my visual cortex, and possibly others, when I think. That's why I don't have any images in my brain... there's just the sound of my subvocalized thoughts. That's all.

So, I feel like I have a brain built for theory and writing and theoretical writing. And, I'm proud of my first 500 page book.

I'm thankful for every person in my science classes and math classes and English classes and orchestras who ever noticed that I'm not that bright and never said a word.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Beginnings of Platonic & Nonplatonic Love

A few weeks ago, I was redoing my daughter's hair in 7 two-strand twisties. She was playing, rather quietly, with her dolls.

When she started making one doll repeat to the other "I'm your girlfriend. I'm your girlfriend. I'm your girlfriend. I'm your girlfriend," I knew that at the age of 4.5, my daughter had entered into a new phase of her girl-hood.

And I realized, that a woman's womanhood does not begin at 25 or 21 or 18 or 16. A woman's womanhood begins back, way back, in the early episodes of childhood, when a girl first begins gathering notions of beauty and attraction. It begins when a girl begins to observe the women around her, watching -- mimicking everything -- how the adult women are treated.

I asked her about the "girlfriend". She said she learned it from school. But, based off of her explanation, she still doesn't have any concept of what a girlfriend is, or thankfully, does.

Right now "girlfriend" is simply a word.

Honestly, I had my first crush in pre-school; age four. Every single year of my life, since the age of four I always had a crush on an African American male. It was usually the darkest brown-skin guy that I knew. Even as an elementary school girl, that was always my thing.

I remember in second grade, when every Black girl in my class liked the lightest skin boy whose hair never kinked. Even at the age of 7, I didn't get it.

My father thinks, I compliment my daughter too much. I'm always so ecstatic when she spells her name correctly, when she counts correctly, when she adds correctly, when she notices something that I overlooked.

My father thinks, it doesn't take all that "cutiepatootie," "smartiepatootie," "you are a beautiful Black genius" stuff.

My father however has never been a Black girl; my father has never been a Black woman; my father has never had low self-esteem.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

100 Things that Make Lhea J. Love Happy

1. Blue Chicory
2. Reading to Harper
3. Watching Harper Dance
4. Listening to Harper Sing
5. Doing Harper's Hair
6. Playing with Harper
7. Writing Poetry with Harper
8. Very Dark Skinned Men (Black, African, West Indian, Dalit)
9. Kissing
10. Dredlocks
11. Afros
12. Sculptures
13. Assemblage Art
14. Modern Dance
15. Swing Dance
16. Vivaldi
17. Yo Yo Ma
18. Moses Hogan
19. Negro Spirituals
20. Liturgical Dance
21. Bible Study
22. Pastor Pettway Preaching
23. Pastor Adams Preaching
24. Fourth Chapter of Philippians
25. Novels by Toni Morrison
26. Fiction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
27. Novels by Helen Oyeyemi
28. Poetry by Nikki Giovanni
29. Poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks
30. Essays by James Baldwin
31. Poetry by Emily Dickinson
32. Poetry by Toni Hoagland
33. Poetry by Ai
34. Poetry by Terrance Hayes
35. Spoken Word by Saul Williams
36. Spoken Word by jessica Care moore
37. Anything by Edwidge Danticat
38. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
39. The Prisoner's Wife by asha bandele
40. Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
41. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
42. Vagina Monologues
43. LOST
44. Denzel Washington Movies
45. Morgan Freeman Movies
46. Matt Damon Movies
47. Angela Bassett Movies
48. Don Cheadle Movies
49. Kem's Music
50. Maxwell's Music
51. india arie's Music
52. Mos Def's Music
54. Immortal Technique's Music
55. Bruno Mars' Music (especially Grenade)
56. Carla Joy McGinnis's poem "A Conversation with God"
57. Blair's poem "Gorgeous Monsters"
58. The Four Agreements
59. Anything by Marianne Williamson
60. Traveling to California
61. Traveling to Hawaii
62. Traveling to New York City
63. Traveling to London
64. Traveling to Germany
65. Writing Poems in German
66. Writing Letters to Vanessa
67. Stationary
68. Writing Love Poems
69. Talking to Candace
70. Talking to Terry
71. Talking to William
72. Talking to Dad
73. Facebook
74. Google
75. Wikipedia
76. Twitter
77. Blogger
78. Editing other's work
79. Writing (Poetry, Essays, Novels, Short Stories, Screenplays, Documentaries, Blogs, Articles)
80. Rollercoasters
81. Pad See Ewe
82. Avocado Rolls (Sushi)
83. Humus
84. Aloe Vera Juice
85. Mango Smoothies
86. Baked Macaroni & Cheese
87. Collard Greens
88. Zucchini
89. Oatmeal Cookies
90. Hot Apple Cider
91. Hard Apple Cider
92. Lynchburg Lemonades
93. Frozen Mango Margaritas
94. Lordosis Behavior (in humans, of course!)
95. Bondage
96. Best Black Women's Erotica 2 Anthology
97. Sweet Life 2 Anthology
98. Anything with Tyra Moore
99. A Taste of Seduction
100. YouJizz

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Whispering the Black Canon

This morning I realized

that writing literature is like the same as holding a conversation. When you write poems or stories or essays, you talk to the lay reader and to the academy, the intended audience and the critics. Perhaps most importantly, when you write you contact posterity directly. Call her up on the phone and text her on twitter asking to speak to your ancestors, your slain great-great-great grandfathers and your successful great-great-great grandsons at the same time.
I want to be a part of that conversation.

I want to talk to Baldwin and Watkins Harper, in particular.

This morning I realized that if I'm going to speak up at all, I better speak up right now. There are so many gifted men and women -- black men and black women waiting to be heard.

They love the same novels as me; they revere the same poems. They went to the same schools as me; they suffer the same grievances. They are me.

This morning I realized, now is as good of a time as any to write
to publish
to talk
to love.

All I have is today.

Monday, March 02, 2015

No Such Thing as Promises

No Such Thing as Promises
"For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine.."
--from "The New Song" by W. S. Merwin
"For some time I thought there was time and that there would always be time..."
Well, isn't that the story of my life?
In February, I lost my step-aunt. Meine steif-tante. She was an opera singer who lived in Germany. About 5 years ago, she suffered from a stroke. She lost the ability to speak -- in English und auf Deutsch.
Immediately, everything changed. One day, she was teaching vocal lessons; the next she was mute. One month, she was completely independent; the next she was completely dependent. One year she was healthy, in shape and beautiful; the next year she was fuller and rounder but still strikingly beautiful.
How fragile is life?
Since she passed away... I have been thinking about how temporary this thing called life is. And I realized in January when I had my first mammogram that my own mother never reached the age of 50.
I had a nervous breakdown on my 23rd birthday. My psychosis lasted for approximately 5 years.  
And so, if there is anything I want to do, I must do it now. If I want to spend time with my daughter, I must do it now. If I want to date men, I must do it now. If I want to write books or choreograph dances or direct films, I must write, I must publish, I must dance and choreograph and direct right now.
Tomorrow is not destined.
Some people think I am working on too many projects at once. I am trying to reprint my old poetry books, find a publisher for my new poetry book, record my first spoken word album, find a literary agent for my first novel, rewrite my first screenplay, start a literary journal, host an open mic, do public speaking and find a way to financially raise my 4 year old daughter.
Some people think I should just focus on one thing at a time. Poetry or Fiction. Dance or Literature. Books or Film.
If I knew I would live to be 100... I might take things that slow. I might wait until I get my poetry book published before looking for an agent for my novel. If I knew I would live for another 70 years, I might wait until my poetry book is sold before trying to sell my prose.
But honestly, not only do I not know how long I will live, I have absolutely no idea how long my sanity will last. I don't know how much my adrenal glands can handle. I have no idea.
I don't know if cancer will skip me. I don't know.
And so every single dream and ambition I have, I'm going after it. Right now. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning. I write my novel, I record YouTube videos... I write articles and poetry and short stories through out the day. I visit libraries and bookstores and museums in the evenings.
I read. I write book reviews.
I watch documentaries and dramas. I take notes.
And I will write and love and work and read and support and support and support and support until my time runs out, until I cannot control my own thoughts and my own emotions, until my sanity wears thin.
Like Merwin, I used to think that there was time and that there would always be time.
Now I know, nothing is guarantee; there are no such things as promises. Today isn't even promised -- not all twenty-four hours -- all I have is this moment.
And so I will listen to a CD of my aunt singing Verdi and Mozart, Gounod and Charpentier; and I will write and write and write, enjoying the sanity and smidgen of health I have now.


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