The Art of Storytelling

storytelling

When I think of storytelling, a familiar image creeps into my mind: an elder with the strength of several generations. Eyes covered with glasses slightly tilted off the nose, he or she nodding slowly to the beat of a rocking chair. Their hands or knees are stiff with arthritis so it is rubbed continuously as the history of whatever crawls out of their mouth. And when it does, the ears jump with excitement, wondering how a single individual can be so vivid with detail. The story is told from somewhere down south under the roof of an inherited home, one passed down from generation to generation. A place where even the oldest relative once had his/her diapers changed, a place to always come back to and to always call home. This is a house on the countryside or perhaps a peaceful place in the city. Storytelling has been around since forever. It predates writing and has proven to be one of the most oldest and most effective ways to relay a message. Stories have been shared in every culture as a means of education, cultural preservation, entertainment, and instilling moral values.

One of the characteristics of storytelling that makes it so powerful is the colorful expression as showcased by the orator. The tone of voice, gestures, creativity, and point of view of the speaker. I always enjoy a good sit down with the elderly in that I may relive moments to which I had not existed. Even in my mind, as I pass an elder on the street, I cannot help but fathom what today’s world must look like through their eyes. It is a silent and private game between me and that person. Quickly and excitedly I create a background for them. Did that old black lady experience Jim Crow? What was it like for her? Did that old white lady experience the first integration of schools? What was it like for her? As I remember it, I was one day standing under a foyer at the Veterans Hospital waiting for my husband. It was raining out so I was careful to keep under the hood of the building. An elderly white man came walking out of the building. His back slightly hunched as he glided from one step to the next. “Is it still raining?” he asked, more so to the air than anyone in particular. “Yep”, I said looking into the sky. As he walked away, muttering a phrase under his breath I’d never heard but cannot remember accurately enough to share, I wondered about his youth and about how he would compare today’s world to the one he grew up in. Did he think the direction of things had bettered or worsened? I wondered, as I do always.

Perhaps Storytelling is so impactful because of its ability to both educate and entertain at the same time. Spoken Word Poetry, Theater, Photography,  and writing in general, for example, is built from the foundation of the orator. It is in its basic form, Storytelling. While we may add the glitter and gold of our own poetic technique, it is the expert story teller who catches the peoples attention. It is the person who can design for us not just a collection of good-sounding words, not just a picture, but a reality. A stepping forth into someone elses world. Maybe we will enjoy our stay, maybe we will not. But whether or not we like it here is of no relevance, the whole point is to be taken there. The author has taken you there and you must then decide if you really want to continue to be a part of this persons world. If you believe you can extract from them some portion of themselves that may be of benefit to your own life. What can I learn from the history and the experiences of this individual, whether character or real live personnel. In short, Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Stories are great teaching tools because, like love, it is a universal language. Universal in that they can bridge cultural, linguistic, and age-related divides. Although my image of the storyteller is that of an elder, Storytelling can actually be adaptive for all ages, and can be used as a method to teach ethics, values, and cultural norms and differences. Books and organized / structured schooling is one way to acquire information, but experience has taught us that social environment and contact physically with others is of great benefit to learning. It provides real life examples about how knowledge is to be applied. Stories then function as a tool to pass on knowledge in a social context.

In the end, stories exist to create a visual example of word in the mind of the listener / reader. To take the creative skill and the imagination and express them in a way that can literally be seen. And since Art is defined as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination (typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture), Storytelling is also a form of art, producing stories to be appreciated primarily for its emotional power and for the beauty in which it is told.

Why We Write

writing-skills

Forget about birthing masterpieces, but when you sit down to write, understand your purpose for doing so. Think of nothing else. Un-expectantly you will stumble upon a work of art. Only, do not think of art. Think only of the ambition to write the story. As for the story itself, the drive will take you there.

These Women

these women

Insolent
like heavy shoulders
hard to bear
weight refusing to be comforted
contemptuous
a rubbed off gentleness
like candy wore off the sugar
like sugar wore off the sweet
when they pass by us on the street
an invisible burden hangs from the creases of their jeans
like expectation scratching it’s nails against the concrete
don’t get this wrong
they’re not bad women
though the accusations scream for merciless understanding
of their calling
these women
are taught compassion in the proverb of scripture
they fight a constant sin but no
they’re not women without hope
women not rotten down to the core
just women whose wombs have never bore.

Goodnight 2014

new-year-wallpaper-2014-wallpaper

The wind has released itself from its chambers and spreads its body over the earth. A blanket of hammers slamming low temperatures into the atmosphere, it carries the clouds; full and dark with storms they are coddled into position. The sun has set and is nestled inside the crook of fire in the west wing of the heavens until it is time to renew itself again. The trees expose its private parts except the fourteen or so that do not lose its leaves to the whistling death sentence of winter. In less than a week from now, when the stars loiter on top the sky amidst the backdrop of midnight, people will decorate themselves with the image of change and resolutions, and make intoxicated promises they will never keep. Maybe it is just the warmth of liquor wrapping its arms around their spines, cooling their blood, and pulling at their heart strings. Suddenly it will happen, that moment when the bullet is separated from its shell, the parties burst into confetti, and this moment hushed into a lullaby. Right here, in the middle of a dead winter; everything cold and stiff and silent and yet loud inside a lowering orb of momentary bliss. This is the excited murmur of a new era and it is the canvas to which they will usher in a new year.

Be careful out there.

Wasted Words

Falling words from book

Have you ever felt like you are doing something for nothing? That it is all in vain? Sometimes I regret bathing in the blank wake of my passion. I do not wish to follow Strands advice; I am not kissed by white paper. I know that my words will just fall unmercifully on death ears like falling stars praying for repentance that will never come. They will fall like the leaves of trees upon the ground like death and rot around my feet. I will be filled to the brim with excitement and anticipation of sunlight before the reality of wasted words darkens the skies and fills the clouds with storms. I will push forth in determination, only to be reminded by splashes of thunder that the droplets of failure have already proceeded to gush forth. I am not the one to give up (let’s not get that deep!), but judge me not for my lack of enthusiasm today. I am human after all; made up of emotions, flesh and bone. I get tired sometimes too.

Guest Feature – Mother to Son

1-maternal-love-michael-mcbride

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

 
– Langston Hughes

Live Words

Anoint my imagination with the personification of sound
let it walk its way through my memories so we may build dreams as infinite as the sky
bless my brain with a physical manifestation of text
do not speak to me
or translate my feelings into emoticons
but metamorph into the vibration you wish to kiss upon the air
my brain knows nothing of the perception your voice wishes to thrust upon it
knows nothing of the influence illuminating from your lips like pulsing heartbeats
but can I feel you?
can I taste the odor of sadness or touch the lines of focus creeping upon your face
can I decipher the laughter sliding down the back of your throat
will your actions cover me in its hands and bring me into its bosom
or will I risk the sloppily handled trust you left laying next to the distorted frequencies coming out of your mouth
can I take this moment and bond with the authenticity of your words
do you live them
or will they melt away on the palates of your tongue
will they be sweet to the bones, bursting forth like conception but without birth
will we ever get to see the ripened ovaries of flowers with seeds
will we taste the pressure of fruit when it collides with living words
dance with the displacement of mechanical waves
and love
will we love?
or will your words fall barren against the crackling darkness of a cloudy heart
when I read your words can I hear them?
will you speak words

or will you live them?