Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Charm and Brilliance of Zadie Smith

Image courtesy of the Black Enterprise site.

A little over a week ago, my partner and I attended a reading by the charming, brilliant writer Zadie Smith.  This reading, sponsored by Politics and Prose and Sixth & I, was in support of her latest novel NW.  Smith read two passages from NW and followed by answering questions by members of the audience.  The passages from NW showcased Smith's knack for witty, insightful dialogue between characters living in a contemporary world still very much at odds with race, class, and other social issues of the day.  Works of fiction (and non-fiction) that provide a deeper look into our lives and provide social commentary on the very issues affecting us have always intrigued me.  Not having read the work yet, Smith's reading of these NW passages only further heightened my interest.

What was also interesting was learning more about Smith's process as a writer during Q&A with the audience.  When asked about character development and if she's unable to release herself from her characters after completing her works, she said she'd never had that experience.  Her focus when writing is "making sentences...and [making] them as well as [she] can."  Her characters develop as her writing develops.  Sometimes she hears the voices of her characters before she writes them.  Her method allows her to focus more on the craft (on good writing).  There's a sort of practicality to this, as I'm sure it allows Smith to let the her writing flow freely.  While characters typically serve as projections of self, Smith takes slivers of herself and others (here and there) and expounds upon them to develop her characters.

Smith says her writing (and editing) is about control.  She starts on the first page and doesn't stop until she gets to the last page.  She brought up the fact that natural flow can really help you indulge yourself, but you have to learn how to control it.  Her writing, she says, "came out of her reading...a side effect like when you squeeze an orange for juice."  Because she read all the time, her writing was influenced by what she read.  As writers, the rule thumb that we often follow (instinctively) is that we write what we want to read.  As a recommendation, Smith says it's pertinent that writers read as much as they can.  

When asked about pop culture references in her work , she says they have to be appropriate, telling, and central to the characters.  She says, "It's part of the fabric of these character's minds, who they are and what they do."  Not a fan of throwaway references, she hilariously quipped that she would not be including Honey Boo Boo in any of her novels. 

After attending this reading, I developed a deeper respect and appreciation for Zadie Smith.  Instead of following formulas (like some of her peers), it's clear that she challenges herself with each work.  She takes risks.  She writes stories that require us to really think about our world and how we coexist within it.  Smith's style and voice, I believe, will continue to push boundaries in the literary worldfurther solidifying her as one of the best writers of her generation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Brandy's "Two Eleven" is a Smash

It's official... Brandy's sixth studio album, Two Eleven, is a smash!  Her latest effort debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling nearly 65,000 copies in it's first week.  Two Eleven is Brandy's fourth album to debut in the top ten on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart.  And Brandy's first single "Put It Down" (featuring Chris Brown) became her first Top Five song on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart since "What About Us?" in 2002.  This is confirmation that Brandy has comeback in a major way.

As exemplified on Two Eleven, Brandy has come into her own as a woman and an artist.  She did what some would call a revolutionary act in modern musicshe made an unadulterated R&B album.  While several of today's biggest writers and producers (Warryn Campbell, Mario Winans, Mike City, Rico Love, Bangladesh, Sean Garrett, Tha Bizness, Danja, Switch, Jim Jonsin, and Frank Ocean) are featured on the album, the sound and style is thankfully not representative of the electro-dance-pop oriented music that is so prevalent with many of Brandy's R&B contemporaries.  Instead, Two Eleven harks back to the feelgood R&B music of the 90s yet is resoundingly fresh (as heard on songs like "Wildest Dreams," "Wish Your Love Away," "No Such Thing As Too Late," and "Do You Know What You Have").

Image courtesy of Brandy's site.

It's hard not to get caught up into Brandy's rich, soulful voice while listening to Two Eleven.  Clearly, Brandy is happy and in loveher voice embodies it.  Esthero, another one of today's best singer-songwriters, said, "If god could sing - she'd sound like Brandy."  This is a testament to the beautiful instrument Brandy continues to bless us with.  The growth and maturity of her expansive voice is astounding (just listen to "Hardly Breathing," "Without You," and "Paint This House").  Without any doubt, she is one of the best of singers in the gamePERIOD. 

Brandy's recent success may comes as a surprise to those who may have written her off after 2004's Afrodisiac and 2008's Human.  However, it's only a reminder of Brandy's resilience and her influence.  After nearly 20 years in the industry, she's still making music that moves people and she's doing it her way.  As one of her longtime Starz, I have high hopes for the Two Eleven era and happily anticipate what Brandy does in the future.

If you haven't already, pick up a copy of one of 2012's best releases:  Brandy - Two Eleven  (Standard | Deluxe).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Desperation (from Prevail)

With two weeks before the election, I thought it fitting to share this poem. “Desperation” (from the “Politics” section of Prevail) was written just before the 2008 election. While the stakes are seemingly higher now, much of the poem’s content is still quite relevant. If you remember nothing else for this election, please remember the power of your voice, your vote, and your dollar. And use them all wisely. Just as elected officials should be held accountable for their actions, we too should be held accountable for putting them into office.


When desperation sets in,
Colors don’t matter.
You have no time for games;
It’s about functionality,
And what makes the most sense,
when all other qualities and characteristics are amiss.

When desperation sets in,
Decisions are made nearly in haste.
There’s almost no doubt,
No second-guessing.
When time was wasted on bullshit before,
you’ve got to go with the best for the future,
or what’s better than what you’ve got right now.

When desperation sets in, you might let go of all sense, logic, and reason.
Just because you can’t lose faith in the system,
You don’t want to give up hope.
Even when your leaders have proven otherwise,
You have to have faith in the truth and the power of the people.

When desperation sets in,
Political parties don’t matter.
It’s all about who can do better than those who currently stand before you in office.

When desperation sets in.
You just want someone who can do the job,
Someone you can trust,
Someone who you could stand on a temporary if not permanent basis.

When desperation sets in,
You hope to not make the same mistakes twice.
Cause you’ll really be fucked;
You’ll be fucked in more ways than one.
Most importantly—it won’t be the way you’d like it to be.

When desperation sets in,
Don’t get blinded by the façade,
Don’t be swindled by the sweet talk.
Charm is good but revolving doors that lie are not.

When desperation sets in,
Don’t go with the lesser of two evils.
When the vote counts, make sure it’s a step in the right direction,
Not a step into another (inter)national nightmare.

© 2012 BuddahDesmond

Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics is available at iUniverse, Amazon (Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle), Barnes & Noble, Book-A-Million (Paperback | Hardcover), and other retailers.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weekly Musings on Life & Personal Empowerment - Week 2

This week's musings are deal with life, and personal empowerment in particular.  It's so easy to lose self, especially when there's a lot at stake.  Have to remain grounded.  Have to know that who you are and what you bring to the table is enough.  If ever not, it's time to go to another table. 
  1. You can plan your life all you want.  But you’d be a fool to think that everything in this life will always go as planned.  You know that you’re truly living when you can get through the parts of life that were not part of “the plan.”

  2.  For one who’s lived a life where all they’ve ever heard was “yes,” the true test of their character comes after hearing their first “no.”

  3. The less time you spend worrying about what’s wrong with others and how to change them, the more time you can devote to working on and changing yourself.  The power lies in changing you first and foremost.  Work to make a better you.

  4. Talk, especially when coming from people in positions of power, is nothing without meaning, purpose, and action.  Yes, it may sound good.  Yes, it may be full of passion and promise.  But without the substance of planning and actual work, talk fails on all the things that matter.

  5. Always look to the things that bring you joy and lift your spirit.  You’ll find comfort, motivation, inspiration, and reassurance in them during times of doubt, confusion, disappointment, need, and loss.

  6. When you’ve given or done your best—and you know that you have—there’s really nothing more anyone can ask of you.

  7. We all have to make choices and compromises in this life.  But dimming your light or changing yourself for the sake of others should never be one of them. Stand proudly and firmly in your light.  Your light is what makes you unique.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Alice Walker's "Democratic Womanism"

 Image courtesy of the New York Daily News site.
I want to vote and work for a way of life
that honors the feminine;
a way that acknowledges
the theft of the wisdom
female and dark Mother leadership
might have provided our spaceship
all along.
I am not thinking
of a talking head
kind of gal:
happy to be mixing
it up
with the baddest
bad boys
on the planet
her eyes a slit
her mouth a zipper.
No, I am speaking of true
regime change.
Where women rise
to take their place
en masse
at the helm
of earth’s frail and failing ship...
~ Alice Walker, "Democratic Womanism," 2012 
During an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, writer and activist Alice Walker recited her poem "Democratic Womanism," written in honor of the late Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai."  In this poem, she challenges us to rethink the current practices of our leadership and to question the effectiveness of a political system that has only let its people down, and has led to the further destruction of life and the well-being of the planet.  "Democratic Womanism" encourages us to look towards the wisdom of women, as they have have so expertly led, managed, and taken care of all aspects life and the planet.  By doing so, we ultimately have a chance to change the course of life and our world.

What does Walker's "Democratic Womanism" mean to you?  What is its relevance in relation to the 2012 election?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Power of Love: A Contemporary Aside (from 'Prevail')

Nothing’s worse than men obsessed with power,
Having the all-consuming ability to exercise control and influence 
     over others,
Like beasts foaming at the mouth with the high of going in for the 

Maybe it’s the elevated nature of the position,
This putting-on-a-pedestal type treatment.
Or it’s simply a common case of ego,
When all of the attention has blown one’s head up to the size of a 
     Goodyear blimp,
When arrogance and ignorance have taken the place of humanity, 
     decency, and common sense.

There’s this godlike attitude,
This I-can-do-no-wrong mentality,
This holier-than-thou, my-way-is-the-only-way-because-there-is-no-other-way frame of mind.
But let me put it to you quite simply—your shit stinks too.

You may make decisions about the economy, education, 
     healthcare, defense, and other facets of our government and 
But you will never have the power to control the heart,
For the heart cannot be contained.
You will never be able to control anyone’s ability to love,
For love is divine.
You will never be able to tell anyone who they can or cannot love,
For love is essential to living.
Like breathing,
It’s a natural thing
That cannot be controlled by man—
Love is too powerful.
It’s stronger than man.
Continuing to push the issue
Will not make it any better.
Continuing to push the issue
Will make things worse,
Causing us to divide even further.

Love is not a choice.
And who you happen to love
and who happens to love you is not an alternative lifestyle.
There is nothing alternative about love.
Love is an essential part of life.
Essential to feeling complete.
There is no substitute;
There is no alternative to something we all have an innate need 
     for and right to experience and share.
Love will forever reign supreme.

Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics is available at iUniverse, Amazon (Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle), Barnes & Noble, Book-A-Million (Paperback | Hardcover), and other retailers.   

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weekly Musings on Life & Love - Week 1

Today marks the inaugural post of the "Weekly Musings" series.  In this series I'll be sharing questions, anecdotes, and/or poetic sayings that came to mind over the course of the past week.  Depending on the lasting effects of these musings, they may inspire longer pieces of poetry or prose.  So here goes!
  1. Stuck in the past, trying to break free.  Stuck in the past, searching for the key to unlock the future and open me.

  2. Good love is a sweet dream without the slumbering.  You reap the benefits pinch free.

  3. Temptation is the sincerest form of drama.

  4. A love that's real and true is worth every sacrifice.

  5. Don't work so hard that you miss out on enjoying the fruits of your labor.

  6. Every now and again take time to appreciate your accomplishments.  Never forget to give yourself the credit you deserve.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Inspiration from Neil Gaiman

Image courtesy of the Loony Archivist Neverwhere site.
The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. ~ Neil Gaiman, "8 Rules of Writing," Brain Pickings
Only you can write the stories that lie within you.  With trust, confidence, and belief in yourself (and your talent), you can pull back the veil and unleash them unabashedly, freely, and authentically.  You have free reign to tell your stories as best as you see fit.  But you have to tell them.  Don't shortchange them.  Don't hold back.  Don't let them linger too long.  Let their life bleed onto the page with zest, vigor, and urgency.  Just write.  Let it out.  You'll be glad you did.

The featured quote (above) is one of Gaiman's 8 rules for writing featured by Maria Popova on the Brain Pickings site.  Be sure to check out the full list.  It's yet another excellent resource for writers.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Inspiration from Zadie Smith

Image courtesy of the New York University site.
Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you. ~ Zadie Smith, "10 Rules of Writing," Brain Pickings
Zadie Smith, one of my favorite authors, has provided a gem of wisdom regarding the time and space in which we write.  The time and space in which you write is a precious commodity.  This is where you delve deeply into yourself and allow the creativity to flow onto the page or the computer screen.  You want to respect yourself and your craft enough to provide the solitude that's necessary to do your best work.  It's essential that you find a time and carve out a space that's free of distractions and that contains all the tools and resources you need to be productive.  I believe this is an essential aid to being disciplined, honest, and fair to yourself and your craft.  Remember that this is for you and the benefit of your writing (and your writing career, if you so chose to have one).  Keep it to yourself.  This is one time when you shouldn't feel guilty about being selfish.

The featured quote (above) is one of Smith's 10 rules of writing featured by the insightful Maria Popova on the Brain Pickings site.  Take a moment to read the full list.  I'm sure you'll find the rules to be both eloquent and useful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

BuddahDesmond Reading Poetry at OutWrite 2012 [VIDEO]

There's something about performing that makes it unlike anything else on this planet.  The energy you get from the audience is intoxicating.  Performing gives you a natural high that can take hours, even days, to come down from.  I've said it before but performing takes me to a higher, deeper, spiritual place.

It's been a few months but I'm happy to share excerpts of my poetry reading from the head / heart / soul event as part of OutWrite 2012.  This fabulous event took place at the The DC Center on August 4, 2012.  I will always look back on the event with much joy, as it was an honor to read alongside talented poets/writers such as Rashid Darden, Monica A. Hand, and Red Summer. 

BuddahDesmond reading "Power of Love: A Contemporary Aside" from the "Love" section of Prevail

BuddahDesmond reading "Tonight" from the "Life" section of Prevail


Video of my entire reading will be forthcoming.  Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics is available at iUniverse, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other retailers.  If you like it/love it, please spread the word.  

Related Posts:
  1. OutWrite 2012 Was a Success
  2. 101 Days Project: Prevail
  3. Day 72: Prevail (Title Poem)

Friday, October 05, 2012

101 Days Project: Politics, Social Issues, Inspiration from Writers, & Other Passions

You know those times when you're on a website and you see a category that appears to be a dumping ground for all the content that couldn't fit into any of the other more descriptive categories?  It's like the miscellaneous category (though they usually don't call it that).  Well this last commemorative post for the 101 Days Project may appear to be that way.  Although, I'd like to call it the "Potpourri" category.  It also sounds better (and serves as an ode to Jeopardy).  "Potpourri" highlights a variety of posts on politics, social issues, writing advice, and some of my other passions (like cooking and tea).  Since I did not write as many posts within each highlighted area (as I did for poetry, music tributes and reviews, anecdotes, and inspirational writing), I thought it made the most sense to combine these into a hybrid category of sorts.  I probably delve into social and political issues more so when I'm not writing on my blog.  But I'll hopefully be able to share more of this writing in the future.

Please check out the following:

Politics & Social Issues:
  1. (Day 99) 9/11--Day of Remembrance
  2. (Day 98) I'm Voting For Progress - Obama Biden 2012
  3. (Day 96) Michelle Obama at the DNC 2012
  4. (Day 80) Gabby Douglass Is Not Her Hair
  5. (Day 39) OUT (Written In Honor Of National Coming Out Day)
Inspiration From Writers:
  1. (Day 95) Inspiration from Chinua Achebe
  2. (Day 84) Inspiration from Toni Morrison
  3. (Day 81) Inspirational Quotes (from Writers)
  4. (Day 10) Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way Every Day"
Other Passions:
  1. (Day 92) The Kitchen, My Other Home
  2. (Day 87) Earl Grey de la Creme (Pearl Fine Teas)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

101 Days Project: Music Tributes & Reviews

As those who read my blog know, music has always played an immense role in my life.  I feel irregular when I don't hear it, feel it, sing along to it, or speak about it.  The 101 Days Project has given me the opportunity to write about music on a more consistent basis.  I've written a series of tributes/homages and reviews of artists I feel are/were representations of artistry at its best... Artists whose contributions to music come from a place that's so much deeper than what you hear and see on the surface... Artists who touch your heart and soul and can move you with a single line, a simple movement or gesture, or the slightest bend or shade of a note.  I truly believe music is the universal language of life (and love is the nourishment our lifeforce needs to survive).  I plan to share more about my love of music and those who I feel are using it not only to make us groove but to bring us together and tell our stories. 

Check out the following music tributes and reviews featured in the 101 Days Project:
  1. (Day 78) Donna Summer - Tribute to a Bad Girl
  2. (Day 71) Nothin' But Love for Whitney Houston
  3. (Day 74) For Amy (My Tribute to Amy Winehouse)
  4. (Day 67) Remembering Luther Vandross
  5. (Day 93) RIP Chris Lighty
  6. (Day 100) Aaliyah - Tribute to a Princess
  7. (Day 66) Happy Birthday Phyllis Hyman!
  8. (Day 91) Happy Birthday Michael Joseph Jackson
  9. (Day 73) Happy Belated Birthday Millie Jackson
  10. (Day 69) Angela Bofill
  11. (Day 77) Lisa Stansfield - The Real Thing
  12. (Day 76) Chanté Moore Live - Love's Taken Over (Again)
  13. (Day 101) Teedra Moses, The Lioness Live in DC
  14. (Day 40) Just Jill: Words & Sounds Live
Other 101 Days Project music posts:
  1. (Day 90) Kindred The Family Soul - Sticking With You
  2. (Day 88) Alicia Keys, A Girl On Fire
  3. (Day 38) Adriana Evans - Walking With The Night
  4. (Day 16) Round Midnight: A Tribute to My Great-Grandpa
  5. (Day 9) Rihanna - Rated R
  6. (Day 8) Melanie Fiona - The Bridge
  7. (Day 7) Sade - Soldier Of Love
  8. (Day 6) Chrisette Michele - One of This Generation's Best Vocalists
  9. (Day 3) Lady GaGa's Latest - Bad Romance
  10. (Day 2) Autumn Leaves - Everything Must Change
  11. (Day 1) MJ's This Is It

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

An Evening To Prevail Book Signing in Alexandria, VA 10/05/12

BuddahDesmond will be doing a book signing for Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics at Another Level Hair Studio & Barbershop in Alexandria, VA this Friday, 10/05/12 from 5pm-7pm.  Light refreshments will be served.  Books will be available for purchase at the event.  $10 for paperbacks and $20 for hardcovers.  If you're in the area, stop on by!