onefootintheclay

Creativity and Spirituality with Joel McKerrow

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BRAND NEW ALBUM

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THE MUSIC OF THE MYSTERIOUS FEW

Get it HERE

Two years ago Joel McKerrow & the Mysterious Few released our highly acclaimed album WELCOME HOME. Joshua Fuhrmeister was the genius behind all things musical on the album, working with the talented Richelle Boer, Leah Scholes and Jhana Allen.

Since that time Joshua Fuhrmeister has become increasingly sick of listening to my voice. Actually I think I might have been the one getting sick of it (or perhaps it was my wife). Either way a few of us really just wanted to hear the stunning music that sat beneath my poetry on WELCOME HOME without all my words getting in the way.

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And so it is with huge pleasure and excitement that today we launch- THE MUSIC OF THE MYSTERIOUS FEW. And because I am not actually in it, I can totally rave about it…woohoo…

Seriously this album is STUNNING. Since Josh sent it to me I have been listening to it over and over. It is best done so in a warm setting, under the covers, by a fire. Wherever you might get to snuggle up a little and let the music wash over you.

The Secret to Writing Good Poetry… (shhhh….)

I wrote a poem today. It wasn’t a very good one. It will not change the way we see the world or heal some lonely persons soul. It will sit there unannounced and lonely. Unread by all but a small few. But I am ok with this. 

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See I wrote a poem today because I write a poem everyday. Indeed today marks 365 of them. A whole year since I began this project. The choice to show up and write whether I felt like it or not, whether inspiration was brewing or could not be found, whether I had the time or had one minute sitting on the toilet. I wrote. Everyday. 

And geez so much of it is awful. So much of it will never be read again by anyone. So much of it makes me cringe. But I still did it and I’ll tell you what. Some of it rocks. Some of them have leapt off the page to scream at people. Some of it had been read and heard by thousands and thousands of people who have wept at the words and laughed at the words and found some sense of freedom in their lives that they never knew before.

I wrote a poem today and it was crap. But the only way to get to the good stuff is through the crap stuff. Indeed the very thing that will stop you from writing a good poem is trying to write a good poem. Sitting their listening to the inner critic and not quite even starting for its voice is so loud in you.

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So I gave up trying to write a good poem. Instead I just write and I write and I write. This is my job. Just to show up and write. It is the only way I would have come to the beautiful and the eloquent words that were waiting to be written and spoken. I never would have found them had I not forced myself just to write regardless. I never would have been ready when inspiration did come and I could feel her moving in me and on those days I would write knowing that something larger than myself was happening. The flow. The giving oneself to the flow. Some of my best writing came out of those times.

And you know, some of my best writing came out of the days I had to force my hand to the page and squeeze the ink from it like small drops of perspiration.

So to the writer out there and to the poet and the novelist. I say to you – Show up. Everyday. Show up. Show up and just write. No ifs or buts. No critique. No listening to the inner critic. Just write. For one year. Write. And just see what poems come to find themselves at your door. It will be hard. There will be SO many days you dont want to. But do it anyways. I promise you it shall be worth it.

The difference between those who do something and those who do nothing is that those who do something, DO SOMETHING. So just start.

I wrote a poem today. It wasn’t a very good one. But I am ok with this. Cause there is always tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next and I will show up at each of them…

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PS. Once you find that something magical through the discipline of showing up, then comes the sometimes even harder step, taking that something magical and working on it and re-working it, and re-working and re-working it. Making sure that you honour the magic of it by working as hard as you can upon the editing process. As Earnest Hemmingway famously stated, ‘The first draft of anything is shit.’

PPS. What got me going in this writing everyday discipline was THE DIRTY THIRTY CHALLENGE- it begins on Saturday and I URGE you to go and join in… https://www.facebook.com/groups/thedirtythirty

Today I think of the women…

I think of the woman who birthed and held and raised this man.

I think of the woman who gave this man her hand and her strength and her forgiveness. And still does so. Everyday.

I think of the woman my daughter shall be.

I think of the woman to whom I spoke this morning who spent the last fifteen years as a carer for her husband and now begins the slow remaking of everything.

I think of the slave woman and the beaten woman and the raped woman and the broken woman.

I think of the strong woman and the brave woman and the resilient and the fighting.

I think of the mother of my children. I think of the single mother. I think of every mother.

I think of miscarriage. I think of the barren.

I think of the Suffragettes.

I think of the witch trials and the burning.

I think of Gran carting sacks of bananas and Nanna making machine guns in war.

I think of baby girls tossed into rubbish piles.

I think of the native woman shot through by the cock of colonialism.

I think of the woman told that she should not have walked by herself that night and certainly not with that clothing.

I think of the lonely.

I think of the lesbian Christian. The bi-sexual. The queer.

I think of she who should be a leader, but was told that her place was to ever only be the kitchen, or the bedroom or the birthing suite.

I think of the woman held down, in a chair, held down.

I think of the widow. I think of the divorced.

I think of sex-slaves and of those twelve steps that led her to the bottom of that basement.

I think of the razor that falls from the scarred legs of teenage shame and the burning throat of trying to vomit out the pain.

I think of the girl without a name, or a name forgotten, or a name that was lost when they sold her off to marry a stranger that did not know her though he was twice her age.

I think of women elders, the champions of their people, those who show us how to live out of deep compassion when our egos get in the way.

I think of bossy bitches and sluts and skanks and arm-candy and bimbos and damaged goods and catfights and the stroppy and moody and hormonal and frigid and prudish and ice-queens and ball-busters and how we always label that which threatens us the most.

I think of ‘Working Mothers’ and why I am not called a ‘Working Father’.

I think of groping and cat-calling and wolf-whistling and the rating of looks and the baiting of hooks made of date drugs and manipulation.

I think of fear.

I think of looking over the shoulder, of crossing the street, of all the things that I never have to do.

I think of cleaners and receptionists and centrefold models and checkout-chicks and lap-dancers and AFL players and CEO’s and doctors and firefighters and plumbers and builders and surfers and scientists and teachers. I think of the gap between what HE gets paid compared to what SHE gets paid.

I think of the poets. Those women whose voices burn like fire.

I think of feminism. I think of Emma Watson. I think of freedom of choice. I think of the freedom to decide ones own fate. I think of freedom.

I think of God. Mother God.

And I think of my daughter.

I think of my daughter.

I think of my daughter.

My daughter.

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Super Hero

Too often I set myself to a pace
that is only designed
for super heroes.
There is some part of me
that fears I cannot fix the world
before time runs out
and so I push
and I push
and in the push
I realise perhaps,
I am just trying to fix myself.

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…and sometimes I empty myself upon the stage.

Every time I stand on stage I give myself to those who listen.
I let them have their way with my words.
I take what is mine and hold it out with shaking wrist, an offering. Everytime.

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And then there are sometimes, sometimes I give even more.

Sometimes I come to that point, the edge of no return. Where this is only one choice, do I back down from cliff edge or do I leap? To chicken out or to so fully and completely give myself to the stage, to their ears, to this moment, to their hearts that I fly and I fall knowing well that I shall soon hit the ground. An empty vessel smashed upon the rocks beneath the face of the cliff.

There are few times that I do this. That I completely and utterly empty myself upon the stage until I am no more and the world is a different place. There could only be a few times. It is too much. It costs too much. And you don’t know such a moment has arrived until suddenly you are standing at edge and the choice must be made in that split second.

And then when you do and you feel yourself soaring and you feel the rush and you feel everything leaving you, pouring out of you, and you cannot stop this. And it is at once glorious and painful. And everything else in the entire world disappears except for this, right here. You know that something sacred is occurring.

I have never used magic but I know that this is what it must feel like.

And you know at the moment that the divine has taken your teapot hands and she is the one now pouring, now holding, now giving.

The rush is indescribable.

Until the end.

At the end, there is the moment, when you have spent yourself, given everything, poured out of yourself until they are full and you are nothing and your body is trembling and you sway slightly and your heart is pounding and your body crumbles from the inside out for it no longer has the energy to stand and you watch as time slows down and opens itself up to you. The trickle of sweat takes an eternity to fall from left eyebrow. The world is silent. You take another eternity to look from the ground up to their faces. It is like we have made love and are not sure how to hold each other in the explosion of what we have just become together. No wonder the bliss and the pain and the freedom and the shame of sexuality and spirituality and creativity are all one and the same.

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This past weekend I went there. To this place. To the cliff edge. I threw myself off it. Sunday morning. New Zealand. A valley. A festival. I had performed all week. But this day. This day I leapt from the cliff and they watched me soar with tears in their eyes and I flew and I fell and I poured it all out and the moment ended and I felt the coming emptiness after the giving and I felt my body falling apart inside and I took the eternity that it takes to look up at them. And there they were, standing to their feet. An ovation. They knew this for what it was. It was not me who spoke for them this day, it was God. They applauded her and they applauded the cracked jar of clay that is me. They applauded and the silent moment grew so loud and it was then that I heard it. Heard her. Courtney. A Maori/Islander friend. She sang straight to me. A song of honouring above the applause, it quitened the clapping until it was her and me and then a chorus of voices that joined her and I felt the crumbling inside stop its fall and begin to rebuild.

I have never had my emptiness refilled so instantaneously before.

The ladies stopped singing and the moment held its breath again and then he stood. Kirke. He stood and he screamed into my face. He bellowed. The Maori haka. He looked me straight in the eyes slapping his thighs and pounding on his chest and his nostrils flaring and his eyes bulging and tears fell from my eyes in this honouring. He was giving it back to me, giving it all back to me in that moment. And then another voice echoing through the air, it was Kirkes brother Tui. And joining them now was Merenia, the strong young Maori woman who holds two worlds in her heart. And I looked again and there was my dear friend Hannah. She holds a hundred worlds in her heart. She stood at the back of the audience and her eyes were so large and in her face and in her voice was a thousand Maori warriors and I was no longer an empty vessel standing before them all, I was full and overflowing and the thousand Maori warriors bellowed inside my chest as these friends honoured my giving and gave it all back to me. They gave it all back to me. They leapt from their own cliffs and we met in the sky and we smashed upon the ground together and we stood together and held each other in this moment. No audience has ever given so much back to me and I doubt ever will again.

 

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and thus begins the new year…

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On this day we cast aside the year that was
down into the depths
of all that we cannot change,
but wish sometimes that we could.

We cast aside a year that cut hard
and a year spent grieving
and a year spent cleaving from ourselves the unrealistic sentiment
of how we believe this all should have been.

We cast aside a year that blossomed
whether we could see her flowering
or perceive her giving.

It was a slap in the face year
and a pleading for change year
and a banging of heads upon a brick wall year.

It was the way the ice cold water of politics
doused the fire of our passion.
It was the way governments upheld cruelty.
It was the way citizens would vote absurdly.
It was the way that millions seeking safety were given the cold shoulder.
And how we all feel the freezing
but many much more so
than I.

It was the year that was
and the key word here is WAS
and what WAS cannot change
but what IS and what SHALL BE,
these things we hold onto
and we run toward
and we choose once again this year to name them
and we claim them
and we live them into being.

We look to the coming year with trepidation, yet always still with hope.
We look with incredulity, yet always with perseverance.
We look with the deep knowing of those who realise that they do not know much.
We look with a glint. The one in our eye.
The one that flares bright,
like the fire that burns
and shall not be put to ash. We shall not be put to ash.

We look and we look and we look again, for every time we do
we notice that which we had never noticed before.
And it is this curiosity,
this audacity which grows the fire inside us once more.

And if something is still growing inside us
then all of our fears
and all of our unbelief
and all that is thrown up against us
shall come to nothing
and turn to dust
and we shall make of this year the best that we can.

Happy New Year Friends and have a great 2017 regardless of what may come our way.
Joel McKerrow.

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To the fellas

To the fellas,
To the brothers,
To the cock and the balls,
To the patriarchy,
To me,

We have forgotten how this ends.
Every time. We have forgotten.

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This ends with a crumbling.
This ends with an empire fading.
This ends with a broken people bent under the weight of our ego.
This only ever ends with the stark realisation of how small our penises really are.

Surely there must be a different path
and another way
and a play we have never stepped out
or perhaps simply a group of people who could do this better than us.

Don’t they say that a problem can never be solved by the same level of thinking that created the problem in the first place. So let us put our small penises back in our pants. They do not think well.

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Let us step down from the pedestal. Let us step down from the power. Rather let us give ourselves to the serving and the honouring and the standing alongside those power-house women that birth us and hold us and could run this world so much better than we have proved ourselves incapable of.

We have not proved ourselves worthy.
We have hurt so many and it is time for us to move aside,
press ourselves to the floor,
lower our faces upon the dirt of our transgressions
and beg our throats husk dry.

This pleading for forgiveness from
all the many women
who have suffered under our reign.

Forgive us.

Forgive us.

Forgive us.

I know that you know who you are,
you whom I plead for forgiveness.
I beg of you,
forgive me.

To the fellas
and the brothers
and the patriarchy
and the small penises
may we realise that we have not done this well.

Perhaps this is where true change in our world actually begins.

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To everything that lives…

I say, “Grow little ones grow.
Set your mind to the task.
Give heed to that which germinates inside and
whisper to it night and day.
The flame needs the oxygen of breath,
so breathe slow and steady upon your burning.

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I have heard it said that from little things the big things tend to grow,
so grow.
Grow tall.
Grow up.
Grow down.
Grow like wildflower.
Grow like weed.
Grow like oak tree.
However growth may find you, please let it, and do not stop.

Growing pains are only ever a sign of a good thing.
It is the way of all things living,
if we are not growing,
then somewhere back along the path we have died.
So grow inside.
A space that is large enough for the freedom of who you are becoming.
Surround yourself with those who arms are wide enough.

Let them hold your spaciousness.

I want to know you.
I want you to know
just how large you are,
and how lovely you are
and how every part of you belongs here.

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So do not hold yourself back
out of the fear of intrusion
or rejection
or the awkward feeling of being seen.
Do not hold yourself back.

I wish none of us had to cover ourselves.
I wish I could be seen
like the flower is seen,
like the seal is seen,
like the mountain is seen.
In all their glory. Let us see you. In all your glory.

Place yourself in the world like an exhibitionist
that our eyes may life draw your presence.

I offer myself to you
like you offer yourself to me.
This giving freely.
Hold me.
I know you are large enough.
For who I am now and who I am becoming, hold me.

I need to know that I belong here, I need to grow here.
If you hold me, I promise,
I can hold you too.

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All Photos by Candace Smith Photography.

Confessions of An Over-Achiever

And then there are the parts of us that are so hard to admit. The crooked back, hunched shoulder parts. The hidden behind locked door parts. I have these parts. Yep, I am not perfect. I know, I know, it is a shock to many of you reading this. But I am not, and you are not and the more we can allow ourselves to be seen in our mess perhaps the faster we shall move on from it. So here is some of my mess…

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In Colarado Springs I gathered for three days with creatives from all over the US and the world. Our hearts were joined around imagery and imagination and the telling of stories and tears that gathered in our eyes and the laughter held on our lips and red rock that towered over us like guardians. I have been to many of these gatherings in my time as poet. I love them. I throw myself into them. Choose to give of myself again and again until it hurts. And it hurts. It does. It costs. It costs myself and it costs the ones that I love. Those who stay back home. I give of myself in this way because I know no other. I give and I give to people, to projects, to teaching, to theatre-shows, to poetry. And it is in this giving where my confession lies.

I am a very passionate person (some of you may have noticed). I give 200% to whatever is in the centre of my vision- the people, the projects, the gatherings, the teaching, the poetry. This means that what I want to get accomplished usually does. This means I am certainly an over-achiever most of the time. This means that the people who I am focussed on, who I give myself too in that moment feel loved and known and heard. I am present with them. I am able to pour my whole self out, be as vulnerable as I am able, and I believe and I hope and I doubt and I know that this is changing the lives of those around me both in Australia and Colarado Springs and here in NZ where I write. It is one of my greatest strengths. To be able to hold a whole group of people in my heart, for a time. To be able to hold a project up to the fire of my passion and see it become something. To give and to give and to shine as bright as I am able.

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And still we know that every light gives off the shadow. I am no Peter Pan. My shadow mimics my every step. A silhouette cast on the ground. Darkening the earth where I tread. There is a kinship, an intimacy between the light and the dark, they cannot survive without the other. They two wrap themselves around everything we do. Our greatest strengths reveal our greatest weakness.

And so it is also with my passion and my drive and my giving to this world. It too casts the dark behind me. In the wake of the light, in the giving of myself to that which is in front of me, I too often neglect that which is in the periphery. That which was once hot becomes cold and neglected. The other things that need my attention that I lose passion for. I am so often either hot or cold and it kills me that I am. It has hurt people and it has hurt the ones I love. It hurts those whom have moved to the periphery of my attention without my even realising as I give myself to wholly to another group of people. I know that behind me there flows a wake of great things accomplished and lives changed there flows a wake of neglect and disappointment. That which has allowed me to become all that I have has also poisoned the waters of relationships.

So I want to say sorry. To those who have felt this. I am sorry. I wish it were not the case. I wish this didn’t come back again and again and again. I wish. At times I hate myself for this. When I see the destruction it has caused. When those I hold most dear do not feel loved. In those moments I tend to retreat into a silent self-loathing. I am not an angry man, I turn my harsh gaze inward. I know this gets me nowhere in the end. It takes me away from people and away from myself. It is a cheap solution. So I say sorry to you. To those I have hurt. To those I will hurt. I have no other words. I am sorry.

And perhaps there is no solution, perhaps this is not a problem to solve in my life, but rather a tension to manage. To lessen the shadow. To choose balance and work hard at a more healthy giving of myself. To not back away because of the shadow, but to diffuse its darkness in my life through things like this piece of writing. Through confession. Through trusting the support of friends regardless of how much of myself I can give them. Through playing with my children without any agenda but to have fun and love them and to let myself be loved by them. To not run away from the spaces of brokenness in my life and neither to hate myself because of them. There should be no shame.

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And so I tell myself again the benediction from the theatre show that Anna and I shared with the world but a few weeks ago,

‘May you search out the light in others.
Gather around the fire.
Do not deny them your darkness.
Offer them your darkness.
Befriend your darkness.
Hold your darkness.
Stare at your darkness.
Transform your darkness.
Until you can see the light.
Open a window.
Let the flame burn on the inside.
Let the sun rise on the inside.
Let the dawn of your heart hold every colour.’

I choose to show you all my shadow today. I choose to show you my darkness that it may be transformed. This is my confession. This is who I am.

All Photos by Candace Smith

http://www.candacesmithphotography.com

Where Creativity Begins (or how a show somehow managed to come together)…

We did a thing and it had to begin somewhere. Could I have known that in the end I would be performing my first ever theatre production to a sold out audience of 300 over three nights in an epic show with a magnificent cast of twelve people and the high likelihood of a national tour looming ahead. I am not sure. Would I have begun this if I knew where it was taking me, absolutely.

Though, I must admit, I am not sure we can ever truly know the final destination when it comes to our creativity. Sure we have goals, ideas, dreamings of what something may become. But to know the end-point, maybe we’d actually lose the magic of it all, give ourselves to something of a bland, flatness. It is the murky, dangerous path that ushers in our most creative self and brings about something quite extraordinary.

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She told me that she sat there at her writing desk looking out the window at a world full of light and simply asked herself, what would happen if the sun disappeared? Just one thought. One niggling question. One moment. From this moment she wrote. Words and sentences came together to form a script. A draft. The narration of a reality. A world. She gave it to me. The draft and the world. I fell in love with both. As I read the words there was something that hovered just above the screen. Something wriggling away between the text. It was the feeling that this, what I was reading, that it held something, meant something, could be something.

I offered my thoughts on the narration draft and put forth that it needed a second person. She asked me to be that person. Perhaps something was also hovering just above me. She told me that Fringe Festival Applications were about to close the following week. So with no show, and with a partner (namely ME) who had never actually written or performed theatre before, this brave woman committed to making this thing with me. Whatever this thing might become. And become something it did.

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From the idea came the draft and from the draft came a heck of a lot of hard work. The sculpting and crafting of a show. What was one thought at a desk was now two people working to bring this world into existence. The narration was a poetic lyricism that I was used to, that I thrive on in my own creativity. I could hold my own with this. The familiar. We took the initial and crafted it beautiful.

What was not so familiar was what came next. The taking on of a character within the world we had created. The actual theatrical part of our show. Everything in me wanted to just be a narrator. To hold onto my comfortable place. Yet, there was a part of me that knew this was not to be the case. It was the part that I call ‘idiot’. As in, “Don’t be stupid you idiot, just stick to what you know.” It probably has better names than this though.

My friend calls this space inside ones, ‘deep, deep’. It is the inner place. The place of knowing. The place of intuition. The place where the divine imagination flows. The core of us. The place that speaks the preposterous things that at once feel right and at the same time fill you with dread.

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So it was out of this place that I gathered up all my courage and took a step into the world of improvisation. We both stepped into a world without the sun, namely Anna’s room. We turned off the lights and drew the curtains, but it was still not dark enough so we pulled the doona up over our heads so that we could not see anything. Then we begun.

Two characters emerged. Strangely they held our names. Anna and Joel. We became them and felt the dread of a world that does not know light and the life-altering moment of a candle lit in the darkness. This improvisation became our first scene. This scene led onto more and more and soon our narration was intertwined with a story. And I was to be one of the actors, I would play Joel. And Anna, well she would play Anna.

We did not stop there however. Soon the show would become a fully immersive experience and soon we would have the support of ten others, who all put up there hands to volunteer. They were going to be ushers of sorts, but then they became characters themselves within the world and then they had monologues to share and lighting that they created from torches and interconnected transitions between narration and dialogue. And so it was that before long we had an epic show with a large narrative arc and intertwined smaller stories and lots of deep meaning and a cast of actors and Josh Fuhrmeister backing the narration with a stunning musical score and…well…what began as a fleeting thought at Anna’s writing desk, now became a sold out fringe show that we have just finished the run of a few days ago.

It is here that I must admit that throughout all of it, I was petrified. I was pushed so far out of my comfort and still somehow I chose to stay there. To give myself to this new acting thing with all of me. To create this theatre show that at times we felt certain would have to be a flop. To trust that even if it was a flop that the process we were on to create our flop was still worth it. And it was. Not a flop. Thankfully. But worth it. All of it. So much response from people, both audience and cast, whose lives were changed by our show. And for me the process of working with a stunning writer and actor, namely Anna McGahan. She trusted me. I trusted her. We felt the fear. We walked to the edge with it. That murky dangerous path. We held it in our hands. Surrendered. Trusted. We did a thing and it had to begin somewhere. And now you know where it did begin, the same place all creativity does……with risk.

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