Monday, 31 August 2015

One Day, One Night, with Mayda Del Valle

To those who were wondering why in the world I was visiting Sydney harbour two days in a row, this is the reason: a poetry workshop and performance by Mayda Del Valle. While being in Sydney I make sure to keep track of the events in the surroundings, so this is how I found out about this source of poetic inspiration. I had never heard of Mayda Del Valle before, never read or listened to her poetry, but it's not often that I get to go to an English poetry workshop. So I thought, why not?

At least it would boost my navigation skills. I've been using Google Maps more than ever; never thought I'd be one of those girls who's horrible at reading a map, but apparently I am. Even when I prepare 30 minutes for a 10-minute walk, I still manage to get lost and be late. Here I was walking around, passing the correct door at least three times, until I finally climbed up some suspicious-looking stairs until I could hear some chattering getting closer and closer. 

Sweaty and all, I stumbled into a room which consisted of about 10 people. Like a good school girl, I apologised, took a seat, and neatly put my cardboard-coloured notebook and fineliner in front of me. It appeared that I was right in time for some wacky interrogation: what's my name, what super power would I want to possess and what's my zodiac sign. Much better than the usual "how old are you and what are you interested in". Most of the time I wouldn't know what to answer to the latter question because I still find it odd to say: "I sit in a dark corner and cry all day while writing poetry about my unrequited love."

So yea, it seemed like I signed myself up for some fun. The theme of the day was: origins and sounds. We digged through their definitions and used a method of free-writing I've never used before: answering questions. These questions were taken from the book "The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers", by Bhanu Kapil Rider. Let's share some of it and see if you can make sense of it. ;) I'll jot down some keywords from my notebook here:

1. Where did you come from and how did you come?
Leftover soap in the sink. Drainage. Soap bubbles floating in space. Mother's lullaby.

2. Describe the moment you were born.
Echoes of my parent's love-making. Vitamin water. Lemon of a spilled drink. Quiet fruit sitting in the dark.

3.Where are you going, what are you bringing and leaving behind?
Australia. Suitcase and clothes and memories. Scraps of poetry and poets. Inception.

4. Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother?
Those without a conscience. 

5. Where does your body begin?
Heart. Blood cells. Veins. Life, like a road worker. Fingertips to trace along.

6. Where does your body end?
Tapestry of skin. Heart in rib cage. Ghost in coffin. Memory in someone's notebook.

7. Tell me what you know to be true about sound.
His voice. Devoid of cacophony. 

8. Tell me about the first song you sang.
Numb. 

9. The first word you did not want to understand.
Rape.

10. What is the one word you never want to forget?
Love.

11. What is a piece of advice an elder gave you and wished you'd listened to?
Take it easy, relax.

These answers are nonsensical, but the questions were inspiring. Mayda surely knows how to ask questions. Even though I've always been comfortable with writing related to the physical aspects of our body, our anatomy, I was surprised to find something new sitting on my notebook. When it was time for another round, a round to read out loud, I reluctantly raised my hand. Little schoolgirl again, I wonder when I'll ever get rid of that because it's surely been years since secondary school. I was glad I did, because if there's one thing I want to do before leaving Sydney, it's to stand in front of a mic. To me this was my first step, and I never expected anyone to listen so intently to me, and be so touched by my words. 

To say the least, it was a good day. Inspiring is the word that I keep using because I can't find another way to describe it. The exercises, the participants and their interaction, Mayda and her words: inspiring. I can still feel the passion in Mayda's words. When I asked her the same question as I did two posts ago, it gave me some hope again. What else to expect from someone who's touring around the world spreading her words. Indeed, perhaps it depends on the place, but in some countries (according to Mayda) poems can still make a difference. The moment someone relates to your poem even though you didn't meant to, that's already something beautiful. 

All of us chattered around the table for a bit longer than our tickets told us. No superstar behaviour from Mayda, just a genuine passion in poetry and spreading the word. She didn't care that we were overtime; I appreciated that because the workshop wouldn't feel right if not everyone got the chance to read their poem. I feel like some, like me, must've felt like a weight fell off their shoulder as they finally got to have a voice again. 

Speaking of voices, Mayda surely has got some voice, whether it's in speaking or singing. Because the next night I got to see her perform again. She incorporated sound in a way I haven't seen before, inviting the audience to sing along or clapping her hands to the beat of her poetry if necessary. The performance was interactive and ever-changing. Even though she said she didn't have much time to prepare her poems, I could see that performance was nested into her very veins. No poem or tone was the same. She made me go bipolar within an hour: from being sad to being amused. The most memorable part, aside from the singing, would probably the way she showed us how girls like us cry after a heavy heartbreak. It was hilarious, I believe that those who can make fun of themselves are the ones who are closer to acceptance. She reminded me to just take things easy, that we'll survive and have survived before

Unfortunately I had to leave earlier. Although I got to listen to all of her poems, I missed her Q&A, which is sad because I know Mayda has a way in answering questions. During the workshop I found myself jotting down some of her thoughts because my muse thought it necessary. She still believes in poetry. The people who filled the Sydney Dance Lounge on a Friday night just to listen to poetry, still believe in poetry too. One of the poems she recited on Friday seems quite fitting for the moment. It was not just the poem, though, it was the whole package. 


Mayda introduced this poem with the following words: "This is for those who struggle to incorporate art in their lives, to make an occupation of what they love." I'm not sure if these were the exact words, but you get what I mean. As you can see, the above video was from 2010. It's 2015 and she's still reciting this poem with much passion. The rhythm also makes me understand why she kept saying that hiphop was important in her life. Even though hiphop is modern, there's still a sense of authenticity in Mayda. She knows how to mix and match. The way she sings isn't just simple and plain either, it truly takes you back to some far off Spanish country:


I love the way words roll of her tongue. This poem was not recited during the night but I can't remember the titles from the other poems she's been singing in. However, this video is a good example of how her poems are not just poems. It's a whole story, it's full of different voices and sounds and movements. I wished I could sing. 

This post turned out far more abstract and jagged than I expected. I regret rushing my schoolwork and writing about this only now because this post does not do the event justice. Then again, I have written a poem to remember these two days by. If you're curious, just wait till I get famous. ;) Or just till I grow some balls. 






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