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Sunday, January 24, 2021

DREAM: Bird Spiders - 2019/01/24

So, I don't remember
much of the dream now,
but there were bird spiders
who were frozen
and when they unthawed
and came back to life.

They had the heads of birds
and the bodies
of spiders with spindly legs.
My dream cat could eat them
without much difficulty,
if he could catch them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

DREAM: Shapeshifter - 2020-01-20 (2 of 2)

I was a shapeshifter.

I went to a carnival act and it was presented by shapeshifters. There were three shapeshifters presenting prominently.

There was the leader who was dark-haired as a human, kind of a weasely face. A blonde fellow, looked late teens. Kind of like Rocky from Rocky Horror Picture Show, but he wore clothes. I didn't speak to him at all, he was just ways there.

The woman looked a bit like Salma Hayek.

Of course, I developed a crush on her.

I watched the show, then afterwards tried to talk with them. Weasel guy was very rude, but Salma and I went and hung out for a while.

After that, Weasel guy was very standoffish and argumentative, but not violent. I tried to keep seeing Salma at their shows, but he forbid it.

I didn't understand the problem.

I ended up sneaking into their house and walking around looking for them.

I wound up meeting Weasel, face to face, not explaining why I was in the house, but instead trying to get him to calm down about me, saying I was not a threat to him.

"We are in different leagues, neither is better than the other, they are just different. I am not a threat to you."

He kept yelling at me to get out and something else that I can't remember and that he didn't want me to be around at all.

Friend 1: I think the blonde shapeshifter represents a part of you that you need to remember to nurture (the baby from the previous dream grown up a bit). Don't forget who you are and to take care of yourself while you learn to interpret the ever changing, exotic people and surroundings you are currently in. ❤

DREAM: Baby - 2020-01-20 (1 of 2)

Someone gave me a baby to look after.

I was looking after the baby in my sister's house. The baby was white, blonde and his face was very animated.

The baby was cute, but had a problem with peeing. I held the baby close until I felt something wet and realized he peed. No one gave me any diapers so I had to carry the baby around looking for diapers.

I put the baby down at some point because I was hunting for diapers. I found diapers, but they may have been too small.

I heard whimpering and I turned back to see the baby peeing on his own face.

At first, I just watched the urine make designs on the baby's face, but then I put the diaper over him.

The designs stayed on the face, so I moved the baby to the bathtub to wash him off.

I filled the water pretty full (fuller than what is considered safe), and he sat up watching me grab a rag.

I used the water with the rag to clean his face.

Friend 1: My take is that you may have forgotten or overlooked something important and now it's gonna take more effort to fix.

Or it could be something you have assigned a huge importance to in your life really isn't a big deal and ya should treat it like a dog would.. Play with it, eat it, or piss on it and walk away.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

What’s been going on the past couple days/weeks/months/years – TMI warning

This story contains gross stuff, read at your own risk.
This is also a first draft and I'll probably not fix anything that isn't glaringly atrocious.

Before I begin, it should be noted that I was diagnosed diabetic in 2016.

Before this diagnosis, I was falling asleep while driving, also while at work (during working hours, not just during lunch breaks). I would fall asleep after eating meals too large and too full of simple carbs and sugars. I come from a family with a predisposition towards diabetes, but I resisted diagnosis largely because of money concerns and fear.

I took a trip to the 2016 National Poetry Slam and through the week I felt progressively weaker and misdiagnosed myself, thinking that caffeine would help me, but drank overly sugary drinks and pissed far too much as well as started falling asleep on the 10ish hour drive home.

Once I was diagnosed, I took sugar seriously. My highest sugar was 350. I was prescribed metformin and I also implemented cinnamon as a natural blood sugar regulator as well as other methods to bring my sugar down naturally. I also took on a low carb diet with increased exercise. Within 18 months (January 2018), my blood sugar was in normal ratios. My A1C was in healthy ranges not only for diabetics, but for “normal” folk.

Also, it should be noted, the metformin possibly started causing me lower digestive problems which may have increased a hemorrhoid problem which became prevalent in my last six months in the US (that and I used to spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on the toilet whether I was shitting or not). There was blood towards the end, but not a lot.

Now to today… well… January 2021.

I kept up with low carb until I came to China. When I came here I wanted to indulge. I wanted to taste everything China had to offer and for a while I was fine. I was exercising fairly regularly. I thought I would be fine.

The hemorrhoid issue never really went away, but it did die down a bit at first. Then it came back with more blood than before, around January 2020 (just before Skylark came to visit me). I saw a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor for a remedy which worked pretty well at first.

I finished the medicine and I thought that would be it. But a couple months after, the blood and discomfort returned. This time the TCM treatment was not as effective. I knew something had to change. I tried a change in eating habits, but it was too far gone and there frequently was blood in my stool or on the paper when I wiped. I tried to increase my exercise, even exercises specifically targeted to the lower digestive tract, but there was only temporary and limited success.

Finally, after some grunting and straining, there was a great deal of blood in a bowel movement and I had to contact my boss and let him know I wanted to get checked out. In October 2020, I went to the doctor for a check up and they confirmed, not only that it was hemorrhoids, but that surgery was the only option for it to be healed completely.

I started making mental and fiscal preparations to afford an expensive surgery that would happen over the winter vacation (January 2021). The bleeding got so bad at one point that I had to cancel a trip I’d booked for Wuhan (they were a safe zone from COVID by then).

The Fall 2020 semester was kind of stressful for reasons I won’t get into here (but maybe later). I tried to keep a positive attitude. Unfortunately, the way I did that was comfort feeding. Yeah, this meant a lot of carb foods to “make me happy.” I tried to offset this with drinking diet soda, thinking the caffeine and lack of sugar would help keep a balance.

Unfortunately, I started getting dizzy whenever I would stand up or change positions. I don’t know if it was related to blood loss from the hemorrhoids or the aspartame in the sodas, but I needed to make a change. I switched from the sodas to bottled tea with not a great deal of sugar, but not zero sugar. I also started allowing myself to drink fruit juices, which on the surface seem healthier… but they (more often than not) are also packed with sugar.

I started becoming more and more lethargic. I attributed this to depression and stress. My toilet started smelling sickly sweet. I started feeling thirsty constantly. My mouth felt dry all the time, unless I had something in my mouth to make my saliva work. I was drinking a lot to counteract the dryness and thirst and it wasn’t working, but I WAS peeing a lot. Thankfully there were no long drives to make it through.

At last, the end of the semester came. My exhausted self was finally ready to be rid of the hemorrhoid problem. I had the money to pay for the surgery. The process began with a health check. Everything scanned normal until they took blood.

It was intended that I would stay in the hospital for 7-10 days to recover from the surgery, but I ended up staying in the hospital for two days and one night to try to treat the high blood sugar. I realized that I wasn’t going to get the surgery and it was just going to cost me so much more than the initial surgery, so I opted to treat it at home.

When I was first diagnosed diabetic, my body was ALL fucked up. I had been so bad off that my kidneys were actually damaged and spilling protein (I don’t know if they were spilling it, but that’s how my Doc made it seem). Kidney damage is no joke, it can actually be fatal. When I started getting my shit together (and proper meds) I was able to repair the kidneys over time.

This time, thankfully, there was no damage to my kidneys and all of my other metrics were normal, this time it was just my blood sugar and A1C were too high. FAR too high. My high before was 350. China measures blood sugar differently, but the conversion was 428 (it actually ended up going higher during my hospital stay, but I don't count that, I'm not sure the doctors knew what to do with actual diabetes, they were suggesting I eat rice and bread).

If you didn’t know, if you have surgery with high blood sugar it can lead to blood clots which can be dangerous, even fatal. No way I want to die from complications related to hemorrhoids. So the surgery had to be postponed due to my high blood sugar.

When I realized this, I felt ashamed. I thought I was doing okay. I didn’t feel like my sugar was out of whack, but I realized after I thought about it (and as I type this), the lethargy, the thirst, the dehydration it all makes sense.

So, I have to get myself back on track. I can still indulge in the Chinese cuisine, I just have to make sure I avoid simple carbs (rice, noodles, a lot of snack foods) or if I do have these things, I have to eat them in small, easily manageable quantities.

It’ll be a little harder to do here because Chinese nutrition charts are… you know… in Chinese. Also, they determine the daily values of things by 100 grams or liters so I’ll have to do the math myself. Thankfully, I’m good enough at math (for a poet) that I can figure these things out easily enough.

So this is me, standing against the wave of diabetes with a low carb diet in one hand and hemorrhoid symptom treatments in the other about to wage war with myself, again. I’ve got to stay focused and disciplined. I know I can get myself back under control. I can do it! I can win!

Thanks for reading!
Azriel Johnson

PS – If you’re facing similar or not similar challenges and want someone to talk to, feel free to contact me on social media.
Twitter: @AzrielJohnson
Instagram: @azrieltobiasjohnson

Saturday, November 28, 2020

RIP Azriel Johnson on Facebook 2008-2020

*Note - I'm angry, so if I type badly or make typos, I apologize. This will likely be ranty and maybe even long. I'll try to be entertaining and engaging.*

I started using Facebook back when it was still called "thefacebook." I just looked up the date... it was in 2005... the times are sketchy in my head. I don't remember a lot of the 00s, haha.

It was the upstart, right? Myspace was king and all that.
I had an OpenDiary (I even paid for that for a year, I think... before that it was FreeOpenDiary) which still exists by the way. I never really got into LiveJournal (also still exists), I tried, but I never got the kind of traction on LJ as I did with OD.

DeadJournal... I considered it, but it seemed a little hokey and I was already immersed in early social media.

I've spent all goddamned day fussing over this. That's what happens when I get angry. I hyper-fixate. I actually meant to do something today. I was going to write, work on stuff for classes... instead I've spent the whole day trying to get a hold of someone from Facebook to hopefully resolve this issue.

I understand Facebook's point. They want to protect people who bully others. If someone says bullying things to people or threatens violence, I absolutely understand making them verify their account to stop that sort of behavior... but I'm not a keyboard warrior. I barely post anymore as it is. I frequent one group of writers and I post on my own wall, but I try to stay pretty positive.

The AI on Facebook is infuriatingly bad! Facebook NEEDS to have human reviewers to turn accounts back on when they are wrongly disabled. Facebook NEEDS to turn off the AI that is turning off accounts wrongfully in the first place. Facebook NEEDS to stop requiring legal names to have an account.

Assholes that are posting racist/homophobic/transphobic/xenophobic remarks and comments need to be banned, not people who are just living their lives, trying to stay in contact with their families.

If you all remember, Facebook is the main way I (in China) stay in contact with my family (in the US). 

I think mostly I feel pissed off because I have a lot of China videos on my Facebook that I have been meaning to download from there and post on my Youtube, but I've been been knackered lately so I haven't done it.

I sent some emails, I submitted some forms. I hope I get my account back long enough to download my videos, but I'm done with facebook. If I do get my account back, I'll get my videos from there, the statuses I want to keep and save them offline. I thought I had the videos on my computer or phone, but they are all gone and I don't know where... so I'm pissed about that.

If my reinstatement campaign works, I'll make a post on how I did it.

Until then, I'll be on Twitter (@AzrielJohnson) and Youtube (just search for Azriel Johnson, there are only a couple of us).



Friday, October 23, 2020

PAST POST: Gender Division in Sports

Click to Enlarge
Original Post: In combat sports, I think there should still be men's and women's divisions. But I also think there should be an intergender (or maybe omnigender or pangender) division per weight class. There is no reason for any sport/activity that doesn't involve physical harm that there shouldn't be a catchall division open to men, women and everyone else in between.

(image here)

Friend 1: I regularly beat men who are larger than I am in fencing. I have beaten three men at once, in HEMA-style fencing. Gender divisions in everything except maaaaaybe weight lifting (and even those are nullified if there are weight classes) are sexist stupidity designed to cosset male fragility.

          Me: I want this to be correct. I would even be willing to see an
          experiment and be proven wrong.

          Me: Not just one woman out of 100, but consistently.

          Friend 1: I'm sorry man, but you are ignoring a hell of a lot of
          evidence. I can find videos of my wins, but look at the evidence
          already available in terms of times and results from gender segregated
          competitions. The male and female numbers consistently match up. Races
          are the easiest to measure, of course, because they're based on plain
          speed. But the fact that you are questioning this is, in itself,
          evidence of ingrained sexism.

          Me: Races, definitely. Swimming, women do better than men consistently.
          I am talking about things like MMA and boxing where people are
          legitimately trying to hurt one another.
          And like I said, I would be interested to see a practical application
          and be proved wrong.

          Friend 1: Only way to do that is to do it, and it will never happen if
          men refuse to allow women to compete with them until they see 'proof'
          that they can keep up. But you should really talk to Matt about this
          because he's seen plenty of women kicking experienced male ass in Judo.

          Me: I want to see it. Trouble is, I am not an MMA/Boxing gatekeeper.

          Me: Every new venture needs proof of concept. This would be a business
          risk. I think people would come out for it. People in the MMA community
          probably want something like this to be available, because they
          have seen it. Ronda Rousey trained with men because there were no women
          on her level (at one time). The more public outcry we get the more
          likely something like this can happen.

Friend 2: We need to figure this out, in part because there should be no reason that trans athletes are forced off gendered teams.

Friend 3:

I thought about the NBA and MLB and how the play styles are different that it makes sense to have women’s leagues, but allow women to play in men’s leagues

Friend 4: I've seen this debate floating around in other circles of the internet as well. It seems that this issue is definitely complicated, and it is unlikely to come to a conclusion that everyone can feel good about. Trans people deserve to feel included and a part of normal, everyday society. Cisgender people deserve to feel like they are permitted to compete under fair circumstances. I would be interested to find more research and statistics on the actual differences between biological females and males in various sports both in comparison to the top athletes in their field, as well as the average athlete in a high school and collegiate setting.

Friend 5: In the US gendered sports divisions are largely results of Title VII of the civil Rights act which mandated schools support sports for both males and females "equally.". Prior to this most schools just didn't let girls compete in sports at all ... Without Title VII patriarchal forces would probably collapse almost all women's sporting, in the USA. There'd be some kind of feeder system for Olympic events, and a lot of for fun leagues, like Roller Derby and Softball and bowling and what not, but HS and colleges would race to covertly defund lots of women's sports, sigh ...

Friend 6: There's been a real push on the Indy circuit to make pro wrestling gender neutral. Part of that is because there's still a serious disproportion in the number of women wrestlers compared to men. You can see that in WWE, even now, where the women feel like they're fighting the same five people for years at a time. The other is based on the idea that wrestling isn't a sport in the strictest sense. The idea that whatever potential percieved risks to women in intergender competition is mitigated by the fact that performers are cooperating with one another rather than competing with them.

I don't feel that intergender competition is a problem, but I can see it needing to be its own division or its own league. I don't see compulsory intergender competition being well received by anyone.

However, it would open up doors for women to thrive in sports where no women's league/division exists.

Friend 6: I also feel that the whole trans athlete argument is a red herring, meant to distract us from the discussion we really should be having about gender neutrality in sports. Transphobes want talking points to support their bad takes on gender and lean on stereotypes rather than recognizing that there is no "right way" to be a gender.

          Friend 2: 🤔 If I fed into that, I apologize. I brought it up because I
          had recently listened to the experience of a trans friend being kicked
          off a gendered team, not by the players or coaches, but by higher ups.

          Friend 6: I was speaking more as a society in general.
          The discussion goes to whether or not trans folk should compete as
          their gender, not realizing that this conversation is inevitably going
          to force to examine gender specific sports overall. Like focusing on
          the symptoms rather than the sickness.

Friend 7: Sports is pretty much bullshit anyway for the most part, and I say that as someone who has three medals that I received for athletic achievements.

          Friend 6: thus, why I follow a farce of a sport that
          was originally meant to be a scam to increase attendance and milk more
          money from the public.

          Friend 7: The other day I was at an open mic that allows all kinds of
          performers, and one of them was an old-timey strongman who did things
          like bending horseshoes and ripping up phone books. The whole bar paid
          more attention to him than anyone else who performed. I saw that and I
          was like "This is true athleticism. Just a guy showing off what his
          body can do." And then I told him that I want to be him someday.

          Friend 5: Meh, I guess I think it's good to let people
          geek out about what they want to. If people wanna do competitive
          fencing, or Mario world speed runs, or volleyball, or watch folks play
          basketball or whatever, I think we can allow enjoyment without needing
          to call bullshit. But we can get a a bit more attacky when the funding
          gets dodgy (public funding of stadiums, or high school atheltics vs
          academics, or people of color sustaining numerous concussions for the
          profits of their billionaire team owners, etc.). It's be nice if we
          could let people enjoy their entertainment without all the BS of
          patriarchy and capitalism, and such intruding, but oh well ...

          Friend 7: I guess I could pick my words better.

          I meant bullshit as in silly and arbitrary and ultimately made up, not
          as in unimportant. That's just it: its importance is not inherent, but
          made by the fact that people care about it.

          Hence when people think that the rules are hard and fast and natural,
          that's what I call bullshit.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Week 1 - Day 4 - Island Walk (27 photos)

Contact and I went for an explore of the lakeshore. They took me to an island which used to house a 1930s, pre revolution mansion. I kind of imagined it as Papa John's mansion might have been if it was back in that time. The inequality was bad.
(click a photo to enlarge and click through the series)

Friday, July 31, 2020

PAST POST: Super Power with a Sacrifice - 2019-07-29

To acquire a superpower you give up something you love.
What is the ability?
What do you give up?

Friend 1: Hmmm. I truly can’t think of anything in either category.
This might be why I’m in therapy? Lol

Friend 2: I will trade my bf for the ability to conjure anything I
          Friend 3: would there be the loop hole that you could
          conjure your BF back
          Friend 2: hmm....maybe he does make good coffee lol

Friend 4: My most desired special ability heal myself? Giving up a chance at a “normal” life.

Friend 5: 1 single person has not 1 ability but many
          Me: special ability, like a super power.
          Friend 5: I see each power as an individual

Friend 6: What if I want to give up one of my abilities to keep/protect something I love?
Because I'd give up a limb or my sight if it meant my family would be safe from poverty or violence.
          Me: Interesting turn. That might be tomorrow's question.
          Friend 6: Okay came up with an answer to the original question. I'd want
          the ability to teleport (and bring other things/people with me) and I'd
          give up any 1 of my favorite pieces of media (as in, it's erased from the
          world and my memory).

Friend 7: I’d trade the ability to turn a little into a lot, in exchange for everyone having exactly what they need.
          Me: wait, what?
          Friend 7: Instead of solidarity being necessary, equity would already be everywhere.

Friend 8: I'd give up the ability to fly in order to have (husband)

Me: Edit for clarification of the question.

Friend 9: Ice cream.

Friend 10: Give up something I love??? Love how much? 😃
          Me: enough that you would say honestly
          that you live the person/place/thing

Friend 11: To love. My left hand.

Friend 12: I want the ability to speak with animals. I would give up... almost everything. Maybe not my job or my home.

Friend 13: Perfect instant proofreading skills, for which I would give up dark chocolate

Friend 14: The ability to stop (and re-start) time. Give up my sweet little house here. I mean, I just rent, but I'm hoping I won't have to move! Unless, of course that time thing works out for me, I love ~sigh~

Friend 15: Well that only means giving up food that I love to eat. Not happening. Time travel

Friend 16: Super Power - Ability to teleport wherever I need to go. Give up - Listening to podcasts and audio books

Friend 17: always knowing the best thing to do in any situation - for which i would give up music during cleaning.

Friend 18: Telepathy/Give up least the annoying voices in my head would be other people and not STACKED neuroses.
          Me: that sounds like a good trade.

Friend 19: Telekinesis..watermelon flovored candy..sshh..i hate that shit..only watermelon is watermelon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

PAST POST: Readings in the Cleveland Area - 2014/07/06

***note - I don't think this conversation accomplished a lot, but it let people vent about their troubles concerning the NEOhio poetry scene in 2014. I feel it was important and kind of heralded a shift in the poetry scene.***

I always said I would do readings
until no one wanted them anymore.

Friend 1: and..... it sounds like you are thinking....
out loud.

Friend 2: Are you beginning to grow tired of the "I'm attending... on Facebook" crowd? Cleveland poetry is in a downswing right now. Based on previous cycles, it should stop being garbage in another 2-3 years.

Friend 1: I put " going" on events I want to attend.. but sometimes I can't.

"Friend 2" bad mouthing the people who support and try to attend isn't very helpful. And insulting people and calling Clevleand poetry garbage doesn't score you any points.

Also there are a ton MORE events in Clevleand than ever before.. I think that actually is why attendance is low.... people are overwhelmed with choices.
Also, since the people that attend are mostly poets and writers themselves sometimes they need to stay home and write once in a while.

Friend 2: >> "Friend 2" bad mouthing the people who support and try to attend isn't very helpful.

Show me who those people are, and I won't "bad mouth" them. The way you *actually* support poetry is *actually* showing up, and by buying books to support artists. The modern (shrinking) Cleveland poetry/arts audience does neither as much as they once did. It is impossible to badmouth people who "support" and don't attend, because that's a null set.

>> "And insulting people and calling Clevleand poetry garbage doesn't score you any points."

I have nobody I'm trying to score points *from*. I'm communicating with another person ("Me") who has consistently hosted events in the Cleveland area, and is aware of the issues I'm talking about (along with plenty of other issues he's experienced himself, I'm sure.)

Also, a goodly number of out-of-towners who *used* to tour, feature, and read in Cleveland and don't anymore for these reasons would probably agree with me - not that I need to "score points" with them, either.

>> "Also there are a ton MORE events in Clevleand than ever before.."

A ton more events, maybe, but certainly more poorly attended than ever before on average. There've been a lot of reports of 2-6 person audiences lately (for events, again, with 30-40 confirmed to attend). There have been plenty of reports of ZERO audience events.

Also, it's frankly just untrue at the most foundational level that there actually *are* more events, but whatever. There are more recurring events, the same eight people reading to the same eight people waiting for their turn to read. Very little is currently happening in Cleveland poetry, though I am happy to report that a great number of those who used to be Cleveland writers have moved on to become very successful on a wider regional, or even international, stage.

>> "people are overwhelmed with choices."

And yet attend none of them. Don't worry, though. They've been very "supportive," so I'm sure it doesn't matter.

>> "since the people that attend are mostly poets and writers themselves sometimes they need to stay home and write once in a while."

Oh, bull. Even if you went to every poetry reading you could every single night in this city, you would still have 22 hours a day, seven days a week to work your other job, write poetry, print books, tour, travel, submit and publish...

"The people that attend" (and we'll ignore what a sad metric that is, and that we expected more of people before the last up/down cycle, like growing and improving in their work, bringing in and assisting new talent, etc.) have plenty of time to be writers, publishers, event hosts, sponsors, printers, editors, and performers, as well as attendees, book purchasers, patrons, and fans.

Currently, most of them are none of the above most of the time.

What "Me" said, and what I was responding to, was the quote "I always said I would do readings until no one wanted them anymore."

The challenge is that tons of people will say that they "want" readings. They'll jump all over anybody talking about ending a reading on Facebook. They'll holler about how great the old readings are, and how they need to keep happening. They'll talk about their great memories from those readings. They'll talk about the history.

They'll talk about how much they *want,* oh, just wish so badly, to attend.

But they don't. Of course they don't. They haven't for a while, now.

So, the question is, "Me": what's our definition of "want" going to be?

Plenty of audiences *want* readings to keep happening. They "want" to attend on Facebook. All I want to see is the other end of this downcycle.

A lot of the old hosts and regular features from ~2003-2005 were talking about this lately, and the sense I got from it is that none of us are sure what it's going to take to get it going again. Maybe when the last of the old series have given up the ghost (DC, PH, even WK, etc.), more support will come to fill the vacuum. When the Lit features under Steve G. and Nick ended, we saw a brief resurgence that brought us into a significant upswing for about ~12 months. That's where WK and a lot of other groups got their increased attendance (and feature access) from.

I *want* to see us get past the current attendance issues without such drastic changes to the community. But again, it depends entirely upon our definition of "want."

Friend 3: I think travel is a big issue, too. committing to a 2-3 hour event (on paper) can be a 4-5 hour commitment, depending on where the event is and where the attendee lives. I know for me I'm kind of hamstrung by my work schedule (am at work at 4 am M-F), so weeknight events are almost always out for me, especially if they are downtown (45 mins there, 45 mins back from kent).

I know I've been guilty of saying yes on facebook and then pulling out at the last minute, for any number of reasons. I've no problem with that, either, to be honest. Real life pops into play and there are times when showing up at an event becomes less important than dealing with RL issues, including rest.

I think overextending our options, thus splintering the audience into factions, hasn't helped. I know this seems contradictory, but without a dog in this fight, it seems that virtually everybody is supportive of the NEO poetry community, but not very collaborative.

Me: My definition of want is people who make the same or a comparable effort as myself and Sky as we drove longer than we were actually at the reading tonight. We had two AMAZING features tonight (thank you Zach Ashley and Autumn Aki Smith) and only Zach's groupies, myself and Sky attended. Zach and his posse drove further than we did.

If WK bowing out and only doing occasional shows will help attendance at another show I'll do it. I want to spread the love of poetry to everyone who breathes, but I don't want to spread the audiences so thin that they don't know who to attend so they attend nothing.

I think what might help poetry in this area best is for WK to continue doing the weekly shows because we have a small, but rabid following and enact the plan for 2015 that we've been contemplating... more details about that when we have them.

Me: And I realize that real life gets in the way, believe me.

Friend 2: "Friend 3": As somebody who got out of the hosting/featuring cycle for the most part, I just get tired of the excuses. I agree entirely - saying "yes" on Facebook and not making it... say, 30% of the time would be entirely understandable.

The statistical improbability of 30 people stating their intent to show up to a DC or WK or PH event, and 4-6 people showing up at those percentages, though...

There's overextended, then there's disingenuous. We've passed into (at the very least) a grey area between the two.

I get the difficulties of "real life." I work three jobs, am prepping for my Ph.D., etc. - and I don't do nearly as much as I wish I could in poetry any more. The difference is I don't tell people to count on my support. You and TG have always been great about reliable support, as have a lot of other people that have been around in the last ~decade or so. But that's not the norm anymore.

Friend 3: yeah, I have really only been around/active the last few years, so I don't know how it was before, but I've noticed the decline

Friend 2: "Me": It's one of the main reasons I quit hosting and inviting huge features into the region. Not only is it expensive, but it's just plain embarrassing to ask somebody to come up from, say, Atlanta, to read to Miles Budimir and some kid who was too drunk to walk out when poetry started.

Of course, small readings happen. I'm not unsympathetic. I got stuck with a 100+ confirmed full-venue show that had 12 people show up once. I'd flown across country with my girlfriend to feature, only to find snowdrifts so high that you couldn't see through the shop windows. The sponsor was gracious, and apologetic, and incredibly contrite, and I made it clear to him that, as an out-of-state feature, I realized that shit happens.

But apocalyptic circumstances and "there's just so much to do on Facebook" are entirely different beasts. If I showed up in Cleveland as an out-of-towner (on a clear, 70 degree Friday evening in an arts neighborhood) and featured to the three people waiting for the open mike, I'd be pissed, and rightly so.

The number of serious, long-term hosts who have been apologizing to features for both their audiences and issues with their venues lately is both shameful and astounding.

Friend 3: so, then, what do we do?

Me: I do agree with the sentiment that we are not well collaborated. I would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the other show runners.

The plan that I have in my head includes the other show runners if they want in. If we all promote the same event I think we would be more likely to get people to attend. But I could just be shooting at bulls asses.

Friend 2: Speaking of collaboration: "Me", do you want to host one of the feature groups for LevyFest this October? We're planning a multi-venue thing one night because of the numbers we have. We already have a couple groups set up, and were thinking it would be nice to separate groups by schedule/interest.

"Friend 3": in terms of my opinion (for what it's worth), based on conversations lately with the old Levy organizers, with Steve G., with Vertigo, with Suzanne, with John B., and other hosts and major features, my vote would be "shut it all down."

The market is saturated and fragmented. We should be wiping the slate, giving the old hosts a bit of a breather (let "Me" get his schedule down to a manageable scale, for instance) and focusing on getting back to the way it was - major features, well-coordinated, without cross-booking or cross-promotion. It used to be that we could get a feature in from CA, FL, NYC, and have them hit two-three major feature groups in three days with unique audiences at each.

Personally, I think the diaspora out to the 'burbs, to Columbus, and even into PA have done us absolutely no favors. We need to consolidate again, and we were better serviced by a few outlying readings (DC, for example) that supported a large, central poetry community (Coventry, Tremont, Lakewood.)

Friend 1: I've been to a great many poetry readings over the last 8 years and bought more than my fair share of poetry books to support people( have the boxes of chapbooks to prove it) . I don't have to explain or excuse myself to anyone if I'd like to get to a reading and currently can't because of a death in the family. or other life circumstances. That is true of anyone else. And I think insulting the poetry community that buys your books, in general, and calling what people share garbage also an insult to the other people in the community who publish.

I'm sorry that the poetry in Cleveland doesn't suit you. There have been a lot of people who have both quietly and otherwise carried the torch and kept readings going there. And poetry readings are not just for the "washed" and able. They are for everyone of all levels and abilities.
I call all the complaining BS..

Friend 2: Well, then. Host something.

The people having conversations about these problems are the ones wrangling cats a few times a month at the cost of their own sanity.

It's easy to talk about carrying the torch, it's another thing to build the bonfire, so to speak.

>> "I don't have to explain or excuse myself to anyone if I'd like to get to a reading and currently can't because of a death in the family. or other life circumstances."

Nobody said you did. You're the one who has taken this all as a personal insult instead of a conversation.

Friend 1: I have hosted readings in the past...

Friend 2: Everybody did stuff in the past. That's precisely the problem with the present.

Me: "Friend 2", Yes send me details of what you are looking for.
And Re: Cross booking, this is why I got pissed off (that and I was going through some shit at the time) last year around october when the Words Dance thing was scheduled the same night as a WK first Saturday. This is also why I relented. I'm not here to compete with anyone and if I can support the scene better by not having regular shows I'll do it.

Re: "Friend 1". You are a loved member of the WK community, but even you can't make it down to Cleveland every time there is a show. I appreciate your thoughts on this subject, but I think "Friend 2" is speaking from the frustration of a fellow promoter. I might not go as far as to call it garbage... were I to be a poet about it, I would call the Cleveland Poetry Scene a bonzai that needs some pruning.

Friend 1: I think the problem is there are too many readings... I think you would get better attendance actually if there were fewer of them. i think there are easily 3 times as many readings as when I started attending them there. People can only go to so many. Everyone and their brother is hosting something.

Me: So in other words, you agree

Friend 1: I agree some restructuring needs to be done yes.. bUt insulting people is not the way to get fans or people to attend your readings. just saying

Me: I do agree insulting them will not do it, but sometimes people need to be called out on their lack of support.

Friend 1: or to buy your chapbooks. IfI get insulted I don't buy or attend. Just the way the game is played.

Friend 2: "Me": Cool, I'll send you the stuff.

Re: the Words Dance thing - yeah, that was a boondoggle, and one that wouldn't have happened if the people with creative control (i.e.: you and me) had had scheduling control, as well. The constant problem of the Cleveland poetry schedule lately - too many event series, too rigid, too frequent, and booked too far out means that booking timeslots leads to inevitable toes stepped on.

On the main topic - I think it's still too easy to just say "too many readings" and ignore the fundamental changes in audience attitudes, reliability, and behaviors in the last three years or so.

>> "insulting people is not the way to get fans or people to attend your readings."

They weren't coming when we were begging and thanking and bending over backwards. Lick their boots and they feel like you owe them something, when it's you that works 30 hours to prep a reading they don't even show up to.

Maybe they're masochists. Maybe they like it. Would explain the rest of their behavior, at least.

Friend 2: Also, still waiting for "Friend 1" to point out anywhere where I "insulted" any specific person or people, but whatever.

The person who would be insulted by what I said DESERVES to be insulted, or is the sad kind of person who seeks offense where there was none out of a perverse desire for conflict and attention.

The only people I was negative about were audience members who don't attend, don't listen, don't purchase anything, don't support audiences, and then complain.

If that's a group that needs to be protected from insult and offense, well... THERE'S your problem with Cleveland poetry right there.

Me: I wrote a poem with a similar message "I can't help it if you have skin of glass / I'm not here to appease your fragile ass"

Friend 2: >> " I might not go as far as to call it garbage... were I to be a poet about it, I would call the Cleveland Poetry Scene a bonzai that needs some pruning."

Nice image, but I'd go with a wildfire that needs to be left to burn itself out. A nice cleansing fire every once in a while is restorative to the forest.

Vertigo Xi'an Xavier: Sorry I didn't make it up. I'd've loved to hear Zach and Autumn, but got tied up too late here and didn't have the time to make the hour-plus drive.

The thing is, most of the long running shows have folded in the past year. It used to be there was a show every night of the month, often more than one. Now there's two weekly shows on the same night that draw the same crowd (and same poems and songs) each week, and about three other shows each month. The folks attending those weekly shows don't go to any other events, and the few folks supporting the other events don't set foot in the weekly venues. Personally, I'm disgusted with it all on both sides. That's why my focus has been on getting new attendees rather than still trying to get all these fools to step out of their little clique bubbles.

A great number of our old supporters have moved on to other things and other locales. With Playhouse folding the youth poetry program they operated, we don't have a powerful group of young poets rising to fill the holes in our scene (like Autumn's generation did a few years back). Unfortunately, those of us currently holding the torch for north-east Ohio poetry aren't in a position to fix that.

Me: I ain't mad at you Vertigo. I would have still been mad if you and only you had also joined us.

Friend 4: As a complete outsider living in Arizona, I'd like to have the option of purchasing a video or audio membership, where we'd pay a monthly or annual fee, and then have video or audio (preferably video) of the performances. Then you coudl eventually do things like "greatest" and bloopers, etc. It would allow those of us who in reality can only "follow" to participate and support the scene in a more tangible way. Maybe even include an interactive "shout-out" to the "connected."
I'd say that something between $60 and $120 a year would be reasonable.

Friend 5: Consolidation would help a lot, I think.

Those powerhouse readings that happened a few short years ago--they happened once a month and you knew exactly when they were. (ex. second week of the month, you always knew you had mac's on wed, the lit on thurs, dc on fri.) Now, I couldn't tell you what days of the month WK or PH readings happen anymore--things have moved around so much, and some folks like "Me" will host 2-3 readings a month in different locations. Life gets in the way and then I'll realize the night of an event that "Oh yeah, I didn't realize that was happening today."

Ex-Friend: There are a few things that are happening that make it more difficult to sustain poetry readings in NEOH than it was 3 to 5 to 8 years ago. Some of the more glaring, obvious things are 1)the cliquish nature of the Cleveland poetry scene, which alienates as opposed to supports, 2)the lack of communication/support between local and near-local publishers and open mikes, 3)the scary (SCARY) divide between academics and local scenes, 4)the aging/maturation of the poets that used to sustain the scene. I can point fingers and name names for any one of these, and have three fingers pointed back at me for being guilty of the same. I think there's a lot to be said, though, for some greater communication between publishers and reading organizers as well as greater communication between organizers and the colleges.

Vertigo Xi'an Xavier: Two years ago, we managed to coordinate a poetry show every Friday. FFPS, DC, Stardust, and Root-N-Slam. And that's when all our attendances started declining. We can coordinate and cooperate (and some of us presses continue to do this under the NEOpoets banner) but working together to not conflict our events and overlap our publication schedules does nothing to get new people in our venues.

Me: I think getting new people into venues requires leg(mouth, keyboard)work on the behalf of the promoters and their friends. With Sky knowing practically everyone in Stark county that helps us get people to a DT Canton show, but I don't live in Cleveland anymore so it's harder to network every day to get folk to come to my Cleveland shows.

If I had my way, I would still have the Bella Dubby show going, I wouldn't have left if they hadn't changed their space. I wouldn't have left Breakneck if they hadn't ended our arrangement. I wouldn't be leaving Mac's after this year if things weren't getting sketchy for Suzanne. I wouldn't be stopping the readings at the Lit if I wasn't running into problems with attendance.

I did my best to make it known that First Saturdays and Last Saturdays were the days for WK, but it didn't seem to help.

I agree with all of your points "Ex-Friend", except I wasn't around 5 to 8 years ago in the scene so I didn't have the benefit of "ease" in promoting a show.

"Friend 4", you may be the only one who would actually pay an annual fee for poetry and if I were going to charge I would need to be able to pay someone to clean up the shows I think.

Ex-Friend: Vertigo: I don't think working together to not conflict events or overlap schedules is the issue; if anything, an overlap in publication schedules means that there are more readers available to feature at various events. I think the issue is, again, the cliquish nature of the scene (Treemont poets don't go to the Eastside, Eastside poets don't go to Lakewood, nobody wants to travel South, etc.), and the lack of communication between the presses and readings. Unless the publisher is directly connected to the venue (Writing Knights and Poet's Haven are good examples), it is rare that the PUBLISHER will seek out local venues for their poets that aren't bookstores. There are, of course, exceptions, but again it's rare. As far as new people, the NEOMFA continues to grow and expand, and every year John Carroll, Cleveland State, Baldwin Wallace, etc. offer creative writing classes to undergrads that are new to writing and to the scene. There is, for some bizarre reason, a disconnect between the two.