I didn't take the time to talk with Dasan Ahanu at The Water Hole 2016 Winter Retreat , I wouldn't have known what to say and in those situations I find that listening is far more important.
A year later I want to express my gratitude for what I learned and how I used what I learned in his workshop.
“Pretend you are saying these words to your aunt,” he guided one of the poets, and automatically the tone of her voice softened and her body language was more fluid. It took all of thirty seconds to see the dramatic improvement.
Note to self: Visualize who you are talking to or might be talking to when presenting a poem.
Then the final night of open mic at TWH, I heard poems delivered with a s-l-o-w steady rhythm that drew us in. Although, I wasn’t in the workshop where he shared that technique, I could see Dasan Ahanu’s signature in those performances.
Those poems breathed. He finds the flower and meat in the poem and within minutes is able to tell us how to make the listener smell it or taste it.
Note to self: When reading a quiet short poem - take your time - let the words walk into the listener’s ear.
Workshop Facilitator: Back home in California, Nikia Chaney invited me to facilitate a workshop at the Performance Alliance of the Inland Empire (PI) on performing poetry. I asked participants to choose a powerful line from one of their poems and read it. Great lines were shared but they didn’t take the listener on a journey.
Before Dasan Ahanu’s Workshop: I would have tried to guide the poets to find the rhythm in the line and accentuate words.
Now: Visualize who you are talking to.
Who are those words intended for? A former lover? What tone do you want to use to tell her…? A police officer? Angry or fearful? Can the officer tell? Can we tell?
One poet found passion in his confrontation with an officer, another found declarative statements where there once was question marks. The rapidfire performance poet who wrote to her lover slowed down and felt what she wrote. She began to cry, her voice cracked, and we all cried.
Personal Growth: In an open mic I have always wanted to share some of my shorter more quiet poems but didn’t know how. Now, I breathe and let the words walk slowly into the listener’s ear. My anxiety and fear of losing the audience melts away with each word.
I didn’t take the opportunity to talk with Dasan Ahanu. I wouldn’t have known what to say - I was still processing but watching him work with us and seeing his techniques in practice and then being able to use those techniques to help other poets bring their work to life is alchemy.
Welcome to my observations on the craft of writing, venues and writing community experiences.