Friday, April 6, 2018

Cynthia Manick and the Bard on The Tattooed Poets Project

Our next tattooed poet is Cynthia Manick, who shared this tattoo:
Cynthia explains:
I begin to write poetry in high school. It was a way for me to process emotions, to tell stories, and I quickly realized that I always wanted poetry to be a part of my life. But who plans to be a poet as a career? And what if my poetry never left my notebook? A lot of people write just for themselves, not to share with the world. Also, in most Black households the life goal is a 9 to 5 job with benefits. So when I turned eighteen I made a promise to myself with this tattoo to always write, no matter the day job. I got it at a hole-in-the-wall parlor in Spanish Harlem. The definition of bard is poet or one who recites in the oral tradition. Consequently when I have writer's block, I tell myself to snap out of it because of this tattoo! (eventually it works)

Cynthia shared the following poem, which originally appeared in Nine Mile Magazine, Spring 2017, Vol 4:

In My Heaven
    after RC Lewis

Everything begins with
hunger. Some crave Bartlett
pears, trees that breathe,
playing violin on gold roads.

Others only answer to their
animal names, knowing
which heart chamber calls

to the wolf, the sheep,
the jackal. In my heaven
the currency is words–
people sing or recite

verb to noun to buy
burgers and cake, furniture
like wide screen TVs

that show favorite programs
on loop with no commercials-
Soul Train, I Dream of Jeanie,
and Happy Days.

Each corner of heaven
is guarded by statues
of poets. They hold pens

as spears. When you rub
their stoned feet, you hear
dialects-dipped in Marian
Anderson arias.

In my heaven Ms. Rose
plays the numbers
and hits every week.

Our shadows talk to other
shadows,  have smoke-shaped
tea or whiskey at noon.
They visit bonfires

to show their best forms
in the light. When you turn
18, 35 or 68 in my heaven,

you lay on a bed of tobacco
and ivy leaves, and the stems
shelter as you watch stars
fade into each other.

~ ~ ~ 

Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). A Pushcart nominee with a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School; she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, Poets House, MacDowell Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center among others. Manick serves as East Coast Editor of the independent press Jamii Publishing and is Founder of the reading series Soul Sister Revue. A winner of the 2016 Lascaux Prize in Collected Poetry and a 2017 Barbara Memorial Fund Award for Poetry, her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day Series, African American Review, Bone Bouquet, Callaloo, Muzzle Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Thanks to Cynthia for sharing her tattoo and poem with us here on the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2018 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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