Every year for some years now, I've done my top creative life moments of the year. The number of moments always correlated with the year so top 18 in 2018, top 19 in 2019 and so on. The list has also always been heavily based on my favorite most personally impactful gigs but can I be real with you all? This year, I didn't have that many gigs to choose from. It's been a very low gig year for me. Outside of the work I was doing at The Fish Market for the Arts Center of the Capital Region, I was averaging 1-2 gigs per month, if that. If I'm being honest, I spent more money on poetry than I earned from it this year. It's made me very reflective about the direction of my career and what to do next. I have to think about sustainability in new ways. If I could sum up this year in one word, it would be pivot. So instead of listing 23 moments out of some sense of tradition, I am listing twelve moments that made me feel a little closer to the vision I have for my life as a creative. Some experiences on this list were paid gigs. One gig was free. Some cost me money to do and were more about me investing time and funds into my creative growth but I'd do all of the things on this list over again. These fed my spirit this year. They made me feel that if I could accomplish this, I could rise even higher next time. So without further ado, here's a photographic trip through my top 12 most memorable moments of my creative life in 2023:
Moving into an office space to use as my art studio:
2. Opening for Danyel Smith:
This was a sold-out audience! And if you don't know who Danyel Smith is, let's just say she name-dropped Whitney Houston that night and she could easily name-drop a dozen other phenomenal people I would have loved to meet or hope to meet someday. The moment of the night for me was her reaction to the poem I'd written just for the occasion. Thank you to MLK Saratoga for having me!
3. Making it to final stage at Womxn of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPs):
I competed at WOWPS for the first time in 2017. I went back to compete in 2018, 2019 and 2020. My goal each time was to rank higher than I had the last time and I did but I'd never made it to the final stage until this year. Not only that, but I went into finals ranked #1 in the competition up to that point. My uncle passed on the day I arrived too and I had to throw out any expectations to just stay as present as possible. Although I didn't win the whole thing, I'm ranked 12th overall and I'll never forget that week.
4. Telling a story for The Moth at Troy Music Hall:
Have you ever listened to stories told through The Moth or gone to hear the stories live? I usually am on stage sharing poems but this opportunity challenged me to tell my story differently. It was also another goal from 2022 that I achieved this year. It was a really special night and another sold-out audience!
5. Doing an art installation for Mini Moca 518:
For my installation "Sacred Space" sponsored by Hudson Mohawk Conservancy #miniMoCa518, I had to work super small. It was a venture away from my large work and even has me thinking about working small like this again. I enjoyed doing a reading outdoors for the reveal but I especially enjoyed hearing stories from folks about how they enjoyed passing it, one from a pre-k teacher about her students loving it! This project helped me stretch a little as an artist. One of my goals for 2024 is to experiment with more kinds of art.
6. Graduating from Cave Canem:
This right here! Just Black excellence all around. And it was extra sweet that our graduating faculty this year was Major Jackson! I wrote a whole blog post about my experience with Cave Canem which you can read here. What I'll say briefly is that I have made connections that will last me a lifetime and I am so proud to be a part of the fellowship that is Cave Canem.
7. Curating a poetry walk for Walkin' with WordxWord at The Mount:
I've been participating in this walk for years. I think it's made it onto my most memorable list every year I've done one. But this year I got to curate one of the walks! What I'm learning about myself is that I love this kind of work. Here's to curating more art and poetry spaces in 2024! And thank you to WordxWord for having me!
This was a full circle moment for me. Sometime in 2009, I was traveling to any open mic I could, including Poetz Realm in Bridgeport, CT where I grew up. I was a graduate student at UAlbany and trying to get back into the poetry scene after a rough relationship. To come back to Poetz Realm in Bridgeport as a featured poet was pretty special. I'm grateful for the growth.
9. Visiting Governor's Island and galleries in Chelsea with my Critical Forum cohort:
Critical Forum is "an immersive professional development opportunity for emerging and mid-career artists" and it lasts for six months. My favorite experiences in the program were the field trips to Governor's Island and to visit galleries in Chelsea. It lit a fire under me and I was so incredibly inspired by all the art I saw, especially by Black artists. These trips made me thinking about showing my art in NYC, residencies and gallery representation in ways I hadn't thought about before.
10. Hosting my last Poetic Vibe:
This one is bittersweet. It's been a long journey for Poetic Vibe and I'm proud to have reached 7 years between starting it at what was Troy Kitchen, then continuing it over Zoom during the height of the pandemic and finally having a last go at it in person at The Fish Market. Overall, I had so many moments as Curator for The Fish Market. It's been wonderful to meet new people and curate creative experiences for the community. I'm excited for how that manifests in 2024.
11. Opening for Tank and the Bangas:
Speaking of manifestation, I casually posted on Facebook about where I envision wearing something and one of the mentions was some kind of collab with Tank and the Bangas. That same day, I was in a conversation about opening for them! Leading up to the performance, I was still dealing with fatigue from having had Covid and wasn't sure if I could still do it, but I did! And I'm so happy I got to connect with Tarriona 'Tank' Ball whose energy is pure, sweet and warm. Big thank you to Zhenelle Lebel for making a dream come true and for having me at the Zankel Music Center.
Catch the whole performance HERE.
How amazing is it to close out the year with Puerto Rico? I know I was there to host but this trip was so necessary for other reasons. It gave me time to rest, journal and find inspiration. But if you are ever in Old San Juan on a Tuesday evening, stopping by The Poet's Passage is a must. A couple of years ago, I went and signed up for the open mic. This year, I returned as a guest host. Another full circle moment!
I feel that this year was a year of preparation for me. I don't know what I'm walking into in 2024 but some of the bigger goals that have been on my vision board for years, don't feel so far away now. All of these experiences and some of the ones I didn't mention, helped me believe a little more even through mourning, health issues, and setbacks. This was a year that tested me again and again but it was also one full of things for me to be grateful for. I'm ready for whatever comes next.