Word Perv
(noun): One who takes delight and is skilled at constructing, writing or saying naughty phrases or dialogue.
November 29, 2016

Getting Inked

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In the beginning of September I started what would be the first of four sessions to get a new tattoo. When I was twenty I got a tribal arm band around my left bicep.

A picture of my armband. Of course I'm' drinking wine.

A picture of my armband. Of course I’m’ drinking wine.

 

It’s been a part of me for over seventeen years (yes, do the math, I’m thirty-seven) but for a while I’d been wanting something a little different. I found Hayden Abernathy at Marlowe Ink and after meeting with her I knew she was the artist for me. I explained what I wanted, what I liked, and my concern that I didn’t know how to pull it all together into a coherent design. “Don’t worry about that,” she said, “it’s my job to make it work.” And with that reassurance, I scheduled my first appointment.

I emailed her about ten or so designs I liked and when I went in for my first appointment she showed me her ideas. I loved how she pulled the things I liked together and made it into a cohesive design. My first appointment lasted three hours. During that time we chatted and I mentioned I am a poet. Hayden confessed she didn’t know any poets. Then she said, “Will you write me a poem?” Admittedly, I’m always a little nervous about agreeing to write a poem for someone because it can be a bit intimidating and they may not like what I write. Before I could say yes Hayden continued, “I even have the title for it – Nicotine Queen. Isn’t that great?” I laughed and agreed it was a pretty great title and then I agreed to writing a poem for her.

When I gave the poem to Hayden before my third session she literally shrieked with excitement, which is probably the best response to a poem ever. She was so giddy about it she texted it to her fiance and another friend, stating I was the best client. Then we got down to business of working on my tattoo. Another three hours later it was getting ever closer to being done, but it would require one final session.

My last session was the day after the election which was a very hard day for me. The session started with a hug from Hayden and tears from me. Then we got down to business.

Final session

Final session

 

Finally, after a total of about 12 hours, 10 of which were actual tattooing, my new quarter sleeve was complete. Both Hayden and I were pleased with the end result.

Hayden and I

Hayden and I

 

And of course, she’s memorialized in a poem, so she’ll always be remembered.

Nicotine Queen

                  – for Hayden

She doesn’t smoke but chews

piece after piece

of Nicorette gum – addicted

to both the drug surging

in and the snap and pop

as she chews.

She starts with three

pieces but when we take 

a break she puts down her gun

and pops another piece.

“I tried the generic stuff,”

she says as she leans forward

to inspect the fresh ink

she’s added to my skin,

“but it’s not as good.”

By the end of my three-hour

session she’s chewed her way

through a pack and my arm

is covered with ink dancing

up my skin to the beat

of her snap and pop. 

*

And finally, here’s the finished product:

My new quarter sleeve. =)

My new quarter sleeve. =)

Her name is Sughra, it means “small”, which is fitting as her head barely reaches my shoulder. She speaks softly and tells us her story. How when she tells people she’s Afghan she has to immediately follow with, “I’m not Taliban.” She says when she tells people she’s from Afghanistan she watches their eyes grow wide, “as if I’m going to explode.” She is an artist, formally trained by Turquoise Mountain, an organization aimed at transforming Afghanistan through artists.

Sughra and I

Sughra and I

 

I met her through my friend Sush, who owns and runs Studio Pause, the gallery that hosted the poetry/art show my sister and I collaborated on back in April. Sush met Sughra at Freer Sackler Gallery in DC, where Sughra’s artwork is featured. The two started talking, started bonding, and soon an idea was born – Sush would gather the poets she knew who would write poems on identity and she would send them to Sughra in Afghanistan where she would add artwork to each poem. Eventually the poems will be bound into a book and this book will be sold during National Poetry Month in April 2017.

Sush reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining the project. I immediately said yes. In October I was lucky enough to meet Sughra and see her beautiful art.

Sughra talking about her art

Sughra talking about her art

 

This project will be a collaboration like no other I’ve done and I cannot wait to see the finished product. The goal of the book isn’t just to share poetry and art, the goal is also educate people on the beauty that exists with such collaborations – that Afghanistan doesn’t always mean Taliban, that it can mean peace and beauty and poetry.

Sughra's art

Sughra’s art

 

 

November 15, 2016

Eleanor

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Eleanor Roosevelt was a pretty amazing lady – a feminist ahead of her time she is given credit for a lot of fantastic quotes, not all of which she actually said. Nonetheless, she’s inspiring to many people, including Angel Cezanne, the founder of Eleanor: A Zine.

My poem, If Only, is featured in Volume 3: the poetry issue of Eleanor.

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If you’d like to order your own copy of Eleanor, visit the Etsy page.

 

October 25, 2016

Back to School!

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When I first went to college I didn’t know what I wanted to study. After switching majors and schools a few times I finally chose business as it seemed safe and generic enough that I could do pretty much anything with it. I knew I was interested in international business but I didn’t really know much beyond that and to be honest I was probably attracted to international business because it sounded exotic and I wanted to travel. After finishing my undergrad degree I began looking into grad school, so I could get my MBA. Two years later, at the age of 28, I had a master’s in business administration. I very quickly got into the field I now work in, International Acquisitions for the US government, and my life moved forward.

I’d been writing poetry nearly my whole life but a couple of years after finishing grad school I returned my focus to poetry and began writing and reading a lot of poetry. Then I started submitting poems to journals and I started getting published. I self-published my first book of poetry (something I don’t necessarily recommend). My sister and I collaborated together and had a joint poetry / art show where I wrote a chapbook of poems and she painted pictures in response to them. And then Bottlecap Press published my chapbook of poems, All in the Family, (which are available for purchase, I’ll even sign it for you!).

Throughout all of this I’ve been taking workshops and classes, participating in and attending readings, meeting other poets, and expanding my network of poets and poetry. And all of this has been wonderful but I still wanted more. And so after much thought and consideration and research I decided to apply to grad school to get my Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. I chose to apply to Queens University of Charlotte and was very excited when I received a call from the program director informing me I’d been accepted. A few days later I received the official acceptance letter.

Accepted!

Accepted!

 

I returned the form with my deposit and it became official. I start grad school in January!

After I’d accepted a place in the program I was sent the synopsis of the January residency course and the spring semester classes. I read them over and immediately began ordering the books. I’m still missing a few but here’s the required reading so far. Yeah, it’s going to be a busy semester.

Just a little light reading...

Just a little light reading…

 

While I’m a little terrified to start a grad program in January because my job is incredibly challenging and time consuming and sometimes stressful, I’m also really excited. I’m confident this program will help develop my writing, expose me to poetry I may not have otherwise discovered, and introduce me to a wider network of poets and friends. So I’ve started working my way down the required reading list and I’m looking forward to starting the program. Back to school in January!

 

October 18, 2016

A Monk in the Woods

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Last weekend was the west coast book launch / poetry reading of my chapbook, All in the Family. My friend Caitlyn, who I met a few summers ago at the Chesapeake Writer’s Conference, attended and did the honor of introducing me. Here’s what she said:

What drew me to Courtney’s poetry when we first met at a writer’s conference on the banks of the river where I went to college was the same thing that drew me to her. She is sharp, incisive, and open. It makes sense that this small framed but unapologetically fierce woman deals with international arsenals and answers to [4-star Admirals] who usually end up coming to her for help. Like in life, Courtney can be austere and severe, but still remain profoundly accessible on the page. She deals in heavy things – family dysfunction, illness, anger and fear, but she does so concretely. It is through these anecdotal windows into her truths that we see our own. What a gift it is to be confronted with honesty – in digestible stanzas, what an invitation to a fuller, deeper kind of living.

 

Wow. With an intro like that I had to bring my A-game to the reading.

The next day Caitlyn and I headed to Muir Woods for a day of hiking. While on one of the trails we happened upon a monk, hiking with his friend.

A monk and a man on the trail

A monk and a man on the trail

 

It’s not every day you see a monk hiking in the woods. In fact, for all the hiking I do, I’ve never seen a monk hiking. It was a bit surreal and magical. Later we happened upon him lying on a fallen redwood, the only sounds the woods around us.

A monk on a fallen redwood

A monk on a fallen redwood

 

I haven’t written a poem about it yet but I’m certain there’s one brewing in my brain.