Listening and Being Heard

Kards1 works on the wall at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe in Vallejo, CA Jan. 27, 2005

I am almost at the end of a writing journal that has taken me a couple of years to fill. I was looking back through it this morning and came across this entry. I was taking a first stab at writing a story about my experiences with Listen & Be Heard both in New York in the nineties and California after that. Maybe I still will, but I thought I would share this for a change of pace from all my notes…

Listen to the unexpected and unforeseeable words of a stranger who shows up for open mic. Be heard by the same people who show up because they want you to listen to them. It seemed catchy and simple to me, Listen & Be Heard. It occurred to me while walking alone at night on 8th Avenue, heading for the subway back to the East Village. I didn’t get a shivery feeling, more like a lightbulb feeling. I didn’t say it aloud to anyone when it came to me, cuz like I said, I was alone.

I didn’t like being alone. Really I wasn’t alone, alone cuz my little girl was still a little girl. But I felt lonely. And, it had finally dawned on my unreasonable optimism by then that some of my choices had created obstacles for us that I might never surmount in this lifetime.

Some things are deceptively simple, like ‘just be honest.’ That sounds simple enough. That’s all I want to be with you, honest. But we all know how hard that can be sometimes. So if you ever think I’m not being honest, just stop me. Cuz I might be tempted to try to make myself look good. And really none of us are good because we all have trash swirling around in a dead zone in an ocean somewhere on this planet.

Listen and be heard. That’s straightforward and simple. You listen. You are listened to. But most people want to be heard. The listeners only come in a couple varieties. I know I’ve tuned out when I shouldn’t have. You can’t always be listening. But there’s plenty of people who don’t hear anything even when they are listening.

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Remembering Cleven "Goodie" Goudeau

It’s hard to write a title about remembering someone, when that person gave so generously of his time both to me and my husband Tony Mims. Since getting the news from Jim Kern at the Vallejo Museum, we have been reminiscing about Goodie, as he wished to be referred to, and the many ways he was a part of both Listen & Be Heard Weekly and Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe.

From the very first days when we started circulating copies of the paper, Goodie started contributing “Goodies” comics similar to the ones he used to publish in Playboy Magazine. He shared his knowledge of graphic design with me while I struggled to learn how to use Quark and Photoshop and communicate with printers.

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Ms. Roberta Flack 2012

I’m a Roberta Flack fan. The first time ever I heard her voice, I was touched by her depth of feeling and purity of sound. She reached out to a part of me that is innocent, full of awe, and imbued with love. That is a great place to dwell when you can find yourself there. My husband spotted the announcement in our local newspaper, months ago, that she was going to appear at the Newberry Opera House, about an hour’s drive from Greenville, on April 20. We bought tickets on the phone that same day.

Yes, I love the songs that launched her career, and her duets with Donny Hathaway. I looked forward to hearing some of them. But really, I was excited to see Roberta Flack now, today, the older wiser woman with experience and grace. It would be the first time I would ever see her in person. I really didn’t have any idea what she’s been up to lately, but I knew it would be soulful and beautiful, that it couldn’t be any other way.

It was inspirational to see how she worked with her musicians and back-up singers. Resplendent in her natural beauty, Ms. Flack shone light on each member, engaging in a subtle and masterful musical conversation that I rarely see anymore and greatly appreciated. The acoustics in the “cute little opera house” (her words) were very nice. It was really a great venue to hear that same voice that I found so inspiring years ago. \n \nWe were indeed treated to some oldies, including Carol King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Killing Me Softly” by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel. She took the opportunity to have the audience sing along with the chorus of more than one familiar song. People did at first timidly, and then a little more boldly. The audience was on the elderly side.

Honestly, I don’t know what a Roberta Flack fan looks like really, (probably they have every complexion under the sun) but I wasn’t expecting what I saw. I believe much of the audience were season subscribers to the opera house, who might have been familiar with a few of her most famous songs. We saw one gentleman who was clutching some albums, which I presumed he was going to try to get her to sign for him. So I know for sure he was a fan. I really enjoyed her version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” which she said she had to pay $25,000 for the rights to use her own lyrics, (so she makes sure to sing it every time she makes an appearance.)

But Ms. Roberta Flack is still a creative and inspirational woman, not confined to replaying her hits from the past. She has a new album, already available on iTunes, “Let It Be Roberta – Roberta Flack Sings The Beatles (Bonus Version + Digital Booklet).” At one point in the evening she said that she is a classically trained musician, and then expressed her appreciation for great songwriters, like the Beatles. She sang a song called “Say No” from a project called the Real Artist Symposium, that I liked a lot. It was a message to young women not to be so anxious to grow up so quickly. Throughout the evening I appreciated her message delivered in several ways, that is so feminine and so supportive of the spirit of women and girls.

The range of dynamics, of her musicians and singers, of songs and emotions, the arrangements, were all great, and there was nothing about the evening that I did not enjoy. When we were leaving a lady asked us if we thought she still had her voice, saying she didn’t think so. I, actually we, (my husband and I) disagreed. She didn’t give an athletic performance, but it was the same unforgettable voice. (We refrained from pointing out that she probably had lost a little something over the years too.)

If you’re in Peach Tree City, Georgia on June 23 you can catch her with Peabo Bryson, or in San Diego, CA on July 6-9, you can hear her with the San Diego Symphony. I’m sure that will be unforgettable. I left the concert feeling inspired to do my best to shine being the very best me I can be, and thankful to Ms. Roberta Flack for being so great at being Roberta Flack.

L&BH Weekly Print Covers – Contact Sheet 15

These were the final print issues of Listen & Be Heard, before moving exclusively to Web Publishing. For pdf files of specific issues, please contact the editor.

Thanks for Listening

Dear All,

This will be my last letter from the editor of Listen & Be Heard.

Times are changing, and I am changing with them. Listen & Be Heard the open mic, Listen & Be Heard the newspaper and website, and Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe have all been learning experiences for me from which I have derived much pleasure over the years. It has been the vehicle which has allowed me to cross paths with a great variety of talented people. It has been my, and my husband Tony’s, contribution to the communities we have been a part of.

One thing I have never derived from Listen & Be Heard is financial gain, and I find that neither my desire nor my bank account will take this project any further. I do want to thank everyone who has contributed to Listen & Be Heard over the years. If you have writing, photos or anything else archived at the Listen & Be Heard website that you wish to keep, please be sure to visit in the next week or so and save your work to your computer, as it will not be available anymore in April of 2009.

If there is anyone interested in adopting the Bang! list please get in touch with me to discuss it further.

Wishing you Peace and Poetry
Martha Mims

Using what we already have.

This past weekend in Vallejo, it was warm and sunny. I ventured into the backyard early Sunday morning. As often happens, when I looked around I started seeing things that needed doing and wound up spending most of the day enjoying the weather and creating enjoyable work for myself. Apart from pulling the grass sprouting up around the baby lettuce in the lettuce box, I gathered all sorts of things to use for the holidays. While engaged in this way I was thinking about how much money we spend on things we don’t need and how we overlook what we already have. This is true for each of us, who are all in some way part of some kind of family or group. It’s also true for arts professionals and arts organizations.

In these difficult times, when The Arts feel the pinch like everyone else, we can all survey our territories to determine what we have been overlooking for its usefulness. Money is essentially an invention, to make a system work. But before money there are needs and the means to meet needs directly without any money changing hands at all. Those are not the words that retailers want to hear with the “holiday season” in full gear, but they are words worth remembering when we consider what is most valuable to us. Art came way before money and filled a basic human need before it ever became a commodity.

People once lived in caves and painted the walls and left their hand-prints. When I go into our little backyard, I gather lavender from the bushes and make bundles, cut the wild grass and make bouquets, clean the leaves off the willow branches my husband grumbles about cutting back every year, to make dramatic art in a large vase. I gather up the peppermint gone wild, and the lemon balm, and chives and sage and thyme and the last of the basil, put them in my favorite thrift store plates and leave them out in the living room to dry, and the bathroom too.

I see fruit trees all over Vallejo hanging heavy with fruit that never gets picked. But not at this house. I worked all summer long canning tomatoes, apples, apricots, blackberries and raspberries. My husband’s faithful watering also resulted in a deep freezer full of dark leafy greens, shredded zucchini and pumpkin puree. So, I won’t be buying holiday decorations, spices, greens, pumpkin puree, tomato sauce or jam over the holidays but my family will be eating “good” and we’ll have a great looking table too that the kids will remember helping me to create. The sun felt great in mid-November so I got extra busy doing a few loads of laundry to save a few bucks not using my drier.

I like to think big, but sometimes small is the way to go. I remember reading from a Suze Orman book some simple financial advice for getting out of debt. She advised people to clean their houses and get organized. (I’m paraphrasing here.) While cleaning, put all the loose change that you find in a jar. When you’re done cleaning and organizing you will feel energized. Then, you should take all the change that you found, whether it amounts to a dollar or thirty dollars (you will find something,) and put it down on your biggest debt. Now that always stuck in my head as some very good advice. More than just symbolic, each little payment on a debt reduces the interest on that debt. Making a positive step in the right direction opens the door of possibilities. Probably, if the banks and the auto makers would do some thorough house cleaning, they could eliminate a lot of their own problems themselves. But while I can’t do much about that, I can clean my own house.

It is important for arts advocates to work together for common goals in the arts, to band together just as big business and financial institutions do, to forward our own agenda. But it is just as important to be able to look in the mirror and examine each and every asset that we have no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, before we look outward to ask for something that we can accomplish ourselves with some sweat equity. Maybe it’s time to clean up the files and update our contacts. Maybe it’s time to put a “junk room” to a more productive use. Maybe we can’t do that big production we wanted to do this year without the funding, but what about a scaled down production that we could bring into classrooms to cultivate a future audience? Over time the value of our baby steps is magnified by the ripple effect, when we dip into the everlasting pool of creativity and ingenuity.

If You Laugh, it’s True.

According to tvbythenumbers.com “Saturday Night Live: Presidential Bash 2008″ got the highest ratings for broadcast television on election night. At the time of the writing of this column the ratings for cable television were not available yet, but I’m willing to venture that “The Daily Show,” with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert anchoring, captured a large portion of cable viewers. Since the show was posted on November 5 at comedycentral.com, there have already been 67,419 views of the program.

Does the fact that Americans turned to comedy shows on election night prove that TV viewing Americans just can’t take anything seriously? Or does it prove that Americans have a hard time taking the pundits seriously, and gravitate toward the art of comedy for a deeper truth? Yes, I said the art of comedy. Children and jesters speak the truth when everyone else is embarrassed (or is that bare assed?) And what do people do when they are exposed and nervous? They laugh. Laughter can be complex, a sign that we recognize contradictions or suddenly see something in a new light that we had not considered or even thought of before.

It’s not good or bad that people turn to comedy. The truth is they probably switched channels between commercials and got different angles from different channels. What the ratings do show is that the Arts are more integral to politics than is generally acknowledged. In fact the Arts are major tools for propaganda and can be quite dangerous and cruel in the hands of dictators. Corporations have their own reasons for using artists and the Arts to manipulate behavior.

Whatever your politics or particular point of view, you as a creator, have your own tremendous power to influence the world around you. You, the arts professional, have honed your skills and should recognize that you belong, and are integral to the way our society processes information and current events. In this new era of change, go forth and create!

Approaching Winter in Vallejo

I have pictures of fresh snow in my e-mail
from people who live elsewhere.

Here in Vallejo, CA, USA it is almost
always sunny by two in the afternoon.

Weary of whatever I walk into the sun
and am revivified while gazing at

bright red hibiscus flowers
blooming in the yard.

Good time for the editor to take
a little break.

But I’ll leave you with a flower poem:

[ad#unnamedflower]

State of the Arts in the New Economy

Everything is changing all the time. Recently change has accelerated in the approach to a historic presidential election in the United States. The state of the economy has revived talk of the “New Deal.” One aspect of the New Deal, for ten short years, that was highly beneficial to arts professionals was an unprecedented role for the Federal Government as a patron of the arts. WPA Federal Theatre Project and New Deal Public Art Projects put thousands of artists to work in various disciplines. It is apparent that radical change is on the horizon as we collectively restructure our infrastructure. I would like to see the Arts take its rightful role, not to drain the economy but revive and rebuild it with the inclusion of new principles.

Geoffrey Lean, the Environment Editor for the Independent in London wrote an article about a Green New Deal, which is a promising and possibly positive development in the economic upheaval being experienced world wide. He states that “Top economists and United Nations leaders are working on a “Green New Deal” to create millions of jobs, revive the world economy, slash poverty and avert environmental disaster, as the financial markets plunge into their deepest crisis since the Great Depression.” I believe that the Arts also have a role to play in the revival of the economy.

According to Americans for the Arts, “…the Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences documents the key role played by the nonprofit arts and culture industry in strengthening our nation’s economy. This study demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communities—a growth industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.”

Now is the time to advocate for a different perspective on what is important to us and future generations. Don’t allow the Arts to continue to be looked upon as charities, when in reality artistic activity can lead the way to economic prosperity. Arts professionals of all kinds should seek ways to work with arts councils, arts commissions, departments of cultural affairs, arts agencies, planning agencies, cultural centers and museums to advance a common cause.

Remember that it is our imaginations that lead us. We’re traveling down a road with bends. Even though we can’t always see where we’re going, if we know where we want to go, then we’ll be more than half way to our destination!

The International Connection

A couple hundred years ago, news traveled slow. Families separated by space were separated by time, writing and receiving hand written and delivered letters. Speed up to my own childhood, when a call to Europe or South America was a long distance call that was a little costly, and a letter would still take at least a few days to arrive. Speed up to today. This morning I received e-mail from Heather Haley in Vancouver, Canada and Jorge Luiz Antonio from somewhere in Brazil within a minute of each of them hitting the virtual send button.
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Arts and Politics

I watched as much as I could stand of the presidential debate last night. I had to quit early anyway to host the weekly Listen & Be Heard Radio Hour. (You can listen to that show by clicking on “October 7” in blogtalkradio player in the right hand column of this page.) Of course Arts, Arts Education, Culture, these topics aren’t important enough to enter the discussion when everyone’s worried about their bank accounts and where in the world to shoot bullets. But it is the Arts that will sustain us even when the stock market fails and our sons and daughters die in foreign lands. It would save us all a lot of pain and sorrow if we would pay closer attention now to the world we are constantly creating around us. Continue reading

Is this a letter or a journal entry?

Looking over my letters from the editor of the last few weeks and even months, I can see that much of it has been progress reports mixed with my musings about progress and motivations too. For a moment or two I questioned myself, and then I decided it was OK to be sharing some of the nitty gritty of what I’m doing from day to day. I figure that I’m somewhere in the middle in terms of technical know-how and understanding. For those who know more than me, I can be entertaining with my mishaps, and remind those with mastery how the rest of us perceive what’s happening as we learn. For those who know less than me, I can be encouraging. I am demonstrating how it is possible to continue to learn and apply new techniques toward manifesting creative goals. Technology of all kinds is becoming more available all the time, and can be a useful tool if we choose to use it.
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Learning to work with available tools.

Last night I hosted another live internet radio show. I thought I had my act together, but the reality was that I did not. Part of the broadcast was not being heard, because I had not properly thought through the sound input sources from my computer. When I was informed that nothing was really happening (by my husband listening in another room) I understood in a flash what was wrong. Live and learn. I’m uploading an edited version of the show as I write this column, which I will broadcast again later today. Mistakes and all, I’m having fun! Continue reading

A Listen and Be Heard Wish List

The greatest resource we have is ourselves. Our creativity is boundless. Even a little effort can go a long way. When we combine our energies there is often a synergistic reaction. Here at Listen & Be Heard Network Headquarters we’re looking for a few people to contribute some consistent and positive energy in a few different ways. It’s all for the cause of listening and being heard, so if you feel it, make it real by contacting me and moving forward.

  • Volunteer TV Camera Person(s) wanted for Cable Access production. Listen & Be Heard Network plans to record and air a weekly arts news program. Volunteer must live in the vicinity of Vallejo, CA, USA and be available for studio work one morning a week for two hours. If interested please send a cover letter and resume to Martha Mims at editor AT listenandbeheard DOT net.
  • Volunteer Weekly Arts news producer/announcer. This could be one person, or two or three working as a team. The video would be used in the Arts News TV show, and the audio would be extracted to use for the radio show as well. Content would be taken exclusively from the latest posts at Listen & Be Heard Network Arts News and summarized into brief announcements. This spot could be filled locally using the local tv studio, or it could be provided by someone anywhere with the tech knowledge/ability to share computer files to accomplish the task. The total running time for announcements will be about 10 minutes each week. If interested please send a cover letter and resume to Martha Mims at editor AT listenandbeheard DOT net.
  • Volunteer Columnists, Reviewers, Editors. I’m always looking for some good fresh content to amplify, illuminate, educate and entertain visitors who come to Listen & Be Heard Network for all things having to do with all the Arts. Whether it is the latest indie film review, a treatise on the state of the arts, a recipe or an artist profile, please go ahead an query me with your idea. If you’re looking for some editorial credits, this is a moderated site. That means that every article that gets published gets read first. If interested please send a cover letter and resume to Martha Mims at editor AT listenandbeheard DOT net.

Do you make a living doing that?

Last night I hosted a radio show about the state of the arts. (Listen & Be Heard Network Radio, every Tuesday night at 8pm.) I mentioned an experience I had recently when I went to a party and someone asked me “what do you do?” My answer to that question tends to be different every time I give it a whirl. So this time around I said I was a writer, a poet. The next question was inevitable. It doesn’t seem to change no matter what my answer to the first question is: “do you make a living doing that?”
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Communication and Concentration of Creative Construction

None of us created the world we were born into. We didn’t get to decide what kind of talents we were born with either. You could argue that those of us who have chosen to create art in all its myriad forms, were destined to be creative artists. Or you could argue that anyone who spends the majority of their time “working” on things that don’t generally turn a profit, is not fulfilling their destiny, just crazy. What’s the point? Why do you put enormous energy into pulling off yet another theatre production? Why do you shell out more money for more paint supplies? Why do you keep going to poetry open mics or writing books that never make it to the New York Times bestseller list? Surely it’s not for the money.

I’ve been thinking about money lately. Who doesn’t think about money whether they want to or not? Those printed pieces of paper that are only worth something because we are told they represent worth, they cause a lot of heartache either way. If you have too much it transforms the people around you. If you don’t have enough your life can become a tragedy. This system that we were all born into here in America dictates that if you are ambitious about producing and presenting big arts projects you will have to go out with your hat out and ask people, companies, corporations and governments for money, because your work will not have any dollar value on its own. It’s time to get away from all that and find a different way to manifest what must be expressed.
Back in the nineties I wrote a few grant applications for a not-for-profit that required many hours of preparation, and gave no assurance that there would be a reward at the end. Many not-for-profits operate solely on budgets with strings attached to foundations and other charitable entities. The arts are nothing but a charity in the United States. Few public school children get any kind of arts education these days. Even less people even seem to care. But I care. And if you’ve read this far, you care too. It occurred to me that one thing we can do as a group is begin to think about ways to operate without money, or beyond money or even in spite of money.
Last week I brought up the idea of an international event on the scale of the Olympics, for the Arts. Now I know this is a far stretch, but can you imagine if it could be mounted without any corporate funding? Could it be done without asking anyone for money? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that it would take cooperation and creativity. When we talk about a concentration of power, we are usually referring to a concentration of resources which a few people have control over. They’re the ones who get the lion’s share of the money that’s in circulation. What do artists have? The power of creativity. Creativity is a great resource or renewable energy. It’s also the thing that can get us out from under the boot, and elevate the artist to an appropriate stature in society.
What do you think? Should the government solve our problems? Should corporations solve our problems? Can we communicate with each other and create new avenues for freedom of expression? Please join me on Tuesday, September 9 at 8pm PST, for a call in radio show discussing the arts and arts professionals in today’s world. You can also start a new topic or join one of the existing ones on our bulletin board. I will refer to suggestions and ideas posted on the bulletin board during the radio show, and use the bulletin board as a tool to continue the discussion between each second Tuesday of the month radio show.
Wishing you Peace and Poetry
Martha Cinader Mims