onefootintheclay

Creativity and Spirituality with Joel McKerrow

Rejection and rejection and rejection…

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Received this today. Friends I need to tell you that my rejection letters are in the triple digit range from the last few years. Literally. 

“Perhaps this is because after all I am actually not a very good writer.”

Such was the thought that came to me when I received over ten rejection letters, but now I am in the triple digits, this thought can too easily looks more like this inside,

“YOU SUCK!! YOU ARE THE WORST WRITER EVER!! YOU SHOULD JUST GIVE UP!! STICK TO PERFORMING POETRY, THATS NOT REAL WRITING! The AUDACITY TO THINK YOU ARE CREATIVE AND THAT PEOPLE MIGHT ACTUALLY WANT YOUR WORK! RIDICULOUS!! YOU SUCK!!!!!’

Yep. This is my internal conversation. And I am an optimist with a really high self-esteem. I cannot imagine what it might be for many artists and writers out there who also risk their ego by sending out submissions to agents and publishers and journals and magazines.

So what do you do with rejections then. Well, I am learning to tell myself a different story. In my head it sounds like this, 

‘Persist. You can persist. You must persist. Why? Because if there is one person out there who needs your words and you back down because of fear, because of ego, and they go through life and do not find the freedom that is theirs when they could of…That would be the the truest tragedy. Much more devastating than a few rejection letters, than a hundred rejections letters, than a thousand rejection letters. You have been given this thing and you owe it to the world to gift it to them.”

I then think of the many creative friends whose work I have been so moved by and changed by and what would have become of me had they given up in the face of rejections. People like Brooke Shaden and Joy Prouty and Anna McGahan and Ann Voskamp and so many many more.

See rejection is the name of the game when you are writer or an artist. It is reality. So it is time to tell a different story, to help push yourself past these rejections. You do not SUCK! You are becoming a better writer, a better person, with every rejection letter you recieve, if you allow yourself to become so by not becoming a victim in the face of them.

I think we should change the name then, from rejection letters to….Determination letters, Resolute letters, Take-Courage letters.

My rejected friends, take heart, stay strong, keep writing, keep creating, keep submitting. This is what we do. I see your back backbone. I see it there. Strong it is. So strong. Lets do this!

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BLINK (A Christmas Poem)

The revolution was born today. Blink and you’ll miss it. The revolution was born today. The non-violence. The peace. Born today in the midst of Palestinian Territories. In the midst of occupation and resistance and fleeing and seeking asylum and governments built on power and a world built on atrocity, the inequality of patriarchy. In the midst of wrapping paper and gift. Blink. In the midst of Christmas ham. Blink. In the midst of family broken and family healed. Blink and you’ll miss it. The revolution was born today. A baby born today. And that he would break the back of violence and injustice. And that he would hold up a new way of being this humanity together and that he would hold up a new way of being this divinity, together. And that the gloom would dissipate. Blink. And that the deep dark would see the light dawn upon us all like split night, like shattered weight, like war boots and all talk of retribution have no where to march and nothing more to speak. Blink. The revolution was born today. Blink. Peace born today. Blink. A new way of being this human thing together. Blink. He was born today. Blink. So we were born today. Blink and you’ll miss it.

The Slow Movement into Freedom

 

Look up child,
for there are moments
too precious,
too fleeting,
too redeeming
for downcast eye
and a soul turned in on itself.

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…and when the freedom comes
it may not feel as much like freedom as it was meant. As you expected. As the breeze told you. But freedom is the long journey. The slow movement. The giving until it has given itself to you and only on that day shall you recognise such.

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…and at the end of it all there will come the colour back again. The light and the shade. There will come glory. There will come hue and holy. And we hasten the day. We wait with baited breath. With deep knowing. With holding. We wait. We chase. We run into the spectrum of the possible and the perceived impossible. We look to our skin to see what it is reflecting. The day will come. I see it now, ever now, when the colours will return.

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On Returning Home

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Every time I leave for a few days and then return my daughter hears me from wherever she might be in the house and she squeals and she runs, headfirst, she runs, straight at me, she runs and all I can do to not burst in that moment is take her in my arms and kiss her squishy cheeks and run my hand through her hair and laugh with her laughter. My daughter splits a moment in two. This is what it seems. She strikes the mundane until it flows with magic.

I am exhausted and the plane ride has been long and the landing is never fun, but none of this holds a dime when she leaps into my arms and the moment is struck, like bell, like gong and I am undone and I try not to burst but I do and the moon does too and the stars are all screaming and I wonder if this is how God would be, how eternity feels, how deep the substance of life and love that is waiting for us in every moment, should we choose to open our arms and hearts to her.

 

A Tooth-Ache and the Fragility of Existence.

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All it takes is an infected wisdom tooth to remind oneself of the fragility of existence. 

So many things kept in equilibrium and when the smallest of these realities succumbs to an off-balance kilter than the whole system is struck down. Just one tiny tooth digging through where it should not and my body cannot shake the pain. My whole self is set upon.

Most often I forget my body, until something begins to hurt. Until headache. Until toothache. I forget my body like we forget the earth, until something begins to hurt. Until Hurricane. Until fire. Until the equilibrium is off kilter.

So we drug up to push past the pain. All week I have performed in New Zealand through throbbing wisdom tooth pain numbed by nurofen and persistence. A friend suggested I just cancel the gigs, but it is not in my nature. I push through regardless. Have always done so. I figure someone, somewhere must need to hear my message and how could I let a sore tooth stop this from happening. My calling holds more weight than my succumbing to the pain. This is the justification. Perhaps I just hold too high a notion of what I bring to the world, perhaps it is only those who choose to persist through pain who reach their destination, or perhaps the drivenness of my ego just needs to take a break.

This earth has no drug to ease her pain. No Nurofen. No antibiotic. But she does have persistence. More so than both you or I. She continues to push through regardless, just as she has done for aeons. Hopeful that someone too will need to hear her message, hoping that someone too will take notice. 

The beginning of this week was spent with Anna Jane. She fights for this earth. Has felt her pain. Feels it inside and all over. She names the reality and points us to the rotting tooth. Forces us to realise that we have eaten too much sugar. She has given her life to such a cause. To the restoration. To the declaration. To making sure we do not numb the pain, but try to find the cause of what ails us.

It is the end of the week and Hannah takes me out upon a jetty and it was beauty and blue and calm water holy. But from the jetty we could see the mountain. Towering above the water. And she tells me of the force who came and massacred the Maori men here. And then the women of the village who refused to be tortured and slaughtered by them so they took their children up to the heights of the mountain and they threw themselves from its cliff and their blood stained the stones beneath. Blood between her teeth. The infection in the mouth of this world is worse than I ever realised. We spit blood out with the bile.

And I tell the crowds who come to see me speak all week of the nameless ones. Those caught in a system. The nearly 25 million currently enslaved in forced exploitation. The nameless ones. The 4.5 million of these who are sex slaves, raped every night. The nameless ones. The 25, 200 new slaves that are made every day in our world. The nameless ones. That is 1 new person who becomes a slave every 4 seconds. The nameless ones. I tell them that every nameless one still has a name.

I am surprised the earth has not spun off its axis, has not given up on humanity and the atrocities that we commit. In truth, there is so much more than a tooth ache here. There is a cancer. There is a fracture down the centre. But still, she perseveres. She pushes through the pain. We persevere because there is no alternative. We have only one race. We have only one earth. And it is Hannah and it is Anna Jane and it is all those nameless, who have a name, who remind me now to not ignore the pain, not to numb the pain, not to run the other way. It is time to face the monster we have made. It is time to get our dentist on. It is the only way we may see this body become whole again, healed again. This body. Our body.

Every part. Every system that keeps her running.

This body. Our body.

 

Photo Credit (photo of me): Amani AlShaali

Brand new LIVE album for FREE!!!!

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GET IT HERE for FREE!!!!!!

Recorded LIVE at the launch night of Hollowed Out Lungs (The Book). This is a performative exploration of loss, pain, anger, doubt, hope, creativity and beginning again. Accompanied by Meena Shamaly on piano and long-time collaborator Richelle Boer on guitars and female vocals, once again Joel McKerrow pushes the performance poetry envelope in fascinating directions…

NEW POETRY FILM…and special announcement for you all…

Friends, it is with much excitement I bring to you my latest poetry video…

It came together as a collaboration with my friend Joy Prouty and her family. And my special announcement that comes with this video is that Joy and I will be releasing a podcast series soon all about creativity.

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Well, it’s about creativity, but it’s not just about creativity, it’s about how creativity speaks into the deep parts of who we are. It’s about how we see our world and how we see ourselves and how we can begin to use our creativity to find freedom.

Joy is a USA based photographer, filmmaker and speaker of truth. She is a tree whose roots run deep. A bird whose wings span wide. The sacred coats her life and drips from her fingers like rain, like redemption, like love, like storms, like rivers. This is Joy. Checkout her INSTAGRAM.

I’ll be putting it up on this blog when we release the podcast. So stay tuned….!!!

Thankyou Joshua Tree

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There is something in the air around here. In the desert. In the place we gather to string together our dislocated lives into some kind of community. I notice it softly at first. The rumblings. The stirring. A sense of providence or simply substance. It is the deeper stuff. And how it calls to each of us with its coaxing. I listen. To the sound of 100 people excitedly talking. The beginning of a week, but I know it is the beginning of much more for many of them. It is one of those moments.

The Joshua Trees reach out like dislocated bodies wanting to shake your hand. The desert sand is dirty. The wind picks up. The sky begins to grumble. A lightning flash. We are standing in the middle of the National Park and the clouds are gathering around us like they are deciding what to do, how ferocious to become. Their rumblings turn louder and we walk a little faster as the rain falls a little harder. A friend is slightly panicked. Another is in glee. And me, I am feeling it again, the rumbling outside, the coaxing, the stirring, it is a noise that I hear inside. Flashes of lightning and the desert is getting darker and the rain begins to fall in torrent. There is still too far to go on our walk and the night is soon to come and so we decide to turn back. I turn around and then around again and I turn my face up to the rain and I am turning in a circle and the Joshua Tree’s are all reaching higher and this is one of those moments.

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She holds my hand as she tells me of her mother and another wipes away a tear as she tells me of the years of a broken back and chronic pain. He stands up in front of us all and says that he would have jumped if a picture that Brooke created hadn’t come to his mind. Brooke holds him as he finishes. Brooke holds so many. She has really large hands. I know they feel tired sometimes. The day before this one and one man told me of his loneliness. Another of his choice to believe in himself. She screamed out that she should be adored. He yelled of his courage. She called to the sky that she was worthwhile. And in all the stories that crept from once closed mouths I realised, this was one of those moments.

We came running. She called us. The night sky was alive she said. And we doubted. But only for a moment. We walked out into the open and above us the world was exploding into colour. A rainbow in the dead of night. A rocket soaring through the sky. I stood with tears in my eye. Of all the things I never expected this. Childhood dreams exploding supernova in the sky. It was one of those moments.

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He placed fingers to keys and began to play. I didn’t notice at first. In conversation about nothing in particular until his voice called out sweet over all the other sounds and it held within it a passion and a pain and a man who wished he could be more than all he felt he was. And it was there again. The stirring. And I wasn’t the only one to feel it. Within moments there was the planning of a filming and a group of people stood behind him as he sang his song the next morning, the camera capturing this song that was more than a song. It just so happened to be, one of those moments.

An early morning rise before the sun had even begun its revolution and I was walking through the desert to a camera that was waiting to shoot me 360 degree. The camera was a friend and we both stood side by side to watch the rise. And I spoke the words of my poem and the camera caught them well and it is new technology and virtual reality and I am pleading to the camera and to the world that beneath the darkness their lies beauty and I rise to the peak of the poem and the desert carries the sound all the way to the sun and I come to the end of the poem just as the sun dances over the horizon and it is all the glory of the new day and I tell the people to remain, to slow down, to the see the beauty. It was a moment.

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I give so many awkward activities to my students and now I am the one walking in circles amidst a thrall of bodies doing the same. Brooke tells us to stop and stand beside someone and there is a woman in front of me who turns and Brooke tells us to look the other in the eye and to be seen and to try and see and she is looking at me, seeing me, straight through me, into me and I know she feels the same. Tears are brimming for both of us. A circle wraps around us. We are but two amidst the 100 and I wonder at the amount of circles falling over these couples tonight. One of those moments.

He put his hand upon my shoulder and it was one simple gesture but it was enough. A moment.

She danced in the dusty twilight. A moment.

He wondered what the point of it all was, if it wasn’t changing the world. A moment.

She gave me a note, in a book, it made me cry. A moment.

He rose so high and graceful, his hand in just the right position for this photo. A moment.

She looked at me. It was all she needed to do. A moment.

The stars. A moment. The light on the floor. A moment. The monkeys in my brain. A moment. A poem. A moment. One more moment. Another…

Piece by piece and and story by story and person by person the community that was to last only three short days came together and stitched thread around one another. And now I have left and it is back to a plane ride and tomorrow a whole new group of friends to be made and students to teach and I am exhausted already, but I know something that, at least for this moment, blows away the exhaustion. It is the realising that I get to do this. That we get to do this. That this is life. It is one connection and another and a moment and another and a coaxing and a stirring and a dreaming and a believing and a fighting for the truth that we each are worth all this beauty and all this substance. And whether this feeling and this community and this beauty lasts a moment or a lifetime, it was something that I can open my mouth and say, ‘I was there for that. I held those moments.  Or in actuality. They held me. Each of us. Held.

There is something in the air around here. In the desert. In the place we gather to string together our dislocated lives into some kind of community…

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Thankyou to my incredible friend Brooke Shaden and all the outstanding ones who worked their butts off to put this on. Thankyou to all the new people who I got to meet for trusting me with your stories. Thankyou to all the old friends for holding me. Thankyou to the cherished ones who spoke into my life this weekend in so many important ways.

Thankyou Joshua Tree.

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Hollowed Out Lungs OUT NOW

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You can ORDER now your copy of this beautiful work of poetry by Joel McKerrow and Zoe Boyle to be sent to most places in the world.

Order HERE 
(do it now to get a free copy of Joel’s THESE WANDERING FEET ALBUM)
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An excerpt from the Foreword by Anna McGahan

“Hollowed Out Lungs holds the breath of two people – Joel and Zoe – working out their days, watching their God, learning their bodies, and loving their families. They traverse identity through encounters with strangers and friends. They dissect the very big things and very small things, calling on the simplicity of nature, of death, of children, of love. In an act of wild sacrifice, they have turned themselves inside out – their furiously working bodily organs spilling out onto these pages. They are in process, and they are proud of it. As you read the insides of these poets, may their holy mess enter into your holy mess. May they get under your skin and into your system. May they fill you with desire, anger, grief and pure joy.”

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After FIVE years, a new book…

Friends, it has been five years since I released a book of poetry. It’s time for that to change. Over the last few years I have given myself the creative challenge of writing a poem everyday. Most of the time I have been able to keep this discipline up. Most of the time the writing is crap and the poems are woeful. But, the only way to write great poetry is to write tonnes and tonnes of crap poetry.

So I spent the last little little while sorting through all that writing that I have done and selecting a number of poems to come together as my new book: HOLLOWED OUT LUNGS.

I will be announcing a lot more about it over the coming weeks before it comes out at the end of June. For now…I just wanted to let you know about it. And here below is the written words of one of the poems and you can go and check it out as a video HERE.