Writing. The one(s) I adore. Life.
Last Saturday in Amsterdam, I conveyed my love of the pen, of people and ultimately, my unadulterated passion for life to the sweetest, most attentive and rapt audience any performer could wish for.
I was that lucky. They raised the roof for my poetry.
At the beginning of July, I got the invitation to get off stage in Amsterdam. Basically, OFF STAGE is a "performance event that provides an alternative space for developing artists. The performers are invited to present their newest work to an open-minded audience. [They] bring the performances off stage in unconventional and intimate spaces that foster a creative camaraderie between artists and audience members – all while maintaining formal and professional standards of production." They were already preparing for their ninth edition; and so without hesitating for a second, I said yes. September 15th, 2018. 20h30. In the most refreshing of unusual venues: De Vondelbunker. Originally built as a nuclear shelter in the 1940s, this dainty little gem hidden under a bridge in Amsterdam's Vondelpark now serves as an underground cultural space for concerts, art exhibits or events such as OFF STAGE. A night of creative arts with "the same gezellig vibes" as in their previous gigs was promised; and for this first timer, the evening clearly delivered. It was the right podium for me.
2018 has been quite a magnificent year for my poetry. Only to name a few examples, back in January, EUROPSPORT UK borrowed my love letter to Berlin, my home away from home, in order to introduce the Snooker German Masters 2018. The 'promo' video was orchestrated in such a slick manner that I still kid that Colin Murray, the Northern Irish sports and music radio and television presenter who recited it, reads my own poetry better than I ever could. It blew me away. Samya Arif, a New York Times featured artist, illustrator and designer, also quoted “BERLIN” on her Instagram. She said that it captured her feelings about this unrivaled city. The Belgian company Vespacruz used my piece “Freedom” to endorse its rental services. From the start, I suspected that liberating ride on his red Vespa would go the distance. Literally, as it seems. Another case to back up my claim is Bulgarian photographer Aleksandrina Kovacheva, who was inspired by my poem “The nomad” for the introduction of her blog. And every time I published new material, hellopoetry.com, one of the largest poetry platforms around, was always eager to feature my work. I am not only honoured when my words manage to leave my nest and spread their wings across this vast digital jungle; but more than anything, sharing or citing them is for me the nucleus of unalloyed joy.
Sure enough, my poetry acquired a lot of exposure via various medias and projects these past months; yet the cherry on this mouth-watering cake was of course the opportunity to expose them in front of a live audience. Mark my words: writing in a notebook and publishing it online afterwards is another animal compared to reading for a crowd. A whole other game plan. My point is that you could be the best musician, DJ or poet in the universe; the art of performing is still a skill on its own –– a skill I am positive I do not master entirely. Although I have emceed at events, read in church and made presentations on countless occasions, as a result, making me fairly at ease with public speaking; I have to admit that I was entering an intimidating territory: in pre-production, the idea of divulging my own creations in the flesh brought out extreme jitters. Writing poems is my comfort zone, reciting them would kick me out of it. After all, I would be baring my soul. Getting off stage may not have been my first time reciting my poetry, however, it was my biggest (off) stage to date, my first time traveling for a performance, moreover, it was by far the longest time slot I ever had at my disposal. Thus, while I was assembling notes for Amsterdam (naturally, last minute), I struggled between the need to (over) prepare and the desire to improvise. Eventually, in lieu of letting the nervousness get the best of me, I spent it to fuel me. I convinced myself that I was there to have fun. What happened, then, was magic.
|This is what happiness feels and looks like|
I was the opening act. On D-day, my heart began to pounce hard again, but an hour and a half leading up to my gig, my brother Christian and his girlfriend Peggy managed to take the countdown factor to such a happy place. I was already having a remarkable time in Amsterdam with my parents, to top it all, they decided to surprise me by showing up at the restaurant my mother reserved (which, I discovered later on, she could not have done. I should have known.) I was ecstatic. Upon arriving at Vondelbunker, my longtime friend Josip, who with his wonderful team, is my mastermind behind OFF STAGE, welcomed me and my family with open arms.
Finally, engrossed in the thrill of the moment and slightly blinded by the spotlight, I held the microphone with confidence (and excitement), stood tall and had the time of my life. Everything –– everyone was in sync during my three 'acts' just shy of twenty minutes. I was there to have fun. And I did –– so much that Saturday, September 15, 2018 will go down as one of the best days in my book. Above all, being part of something that showcases the science of creativity –– that intrinsic need to create, which I undoubtedly have in common with the spectacular artists that got off stage as well, is a special privilege. I am proud beyond words.
|Best of my worlds at Vondelbunker|
|From Cavite and Zurich, in Amsterdam, with love|
Truth be told, I never deemed to be the type that does poetry readings. Before, my so-called 'only' interaction with a third party, in the strict sense, was to write –– and you read. It was enough. Nevertheless, to have experienced this 'live' dialogue with my readers gave the nucleus of unalloyed joy a brand new spin. I am enamoured.
A close friend once asked me where I get my inspiration. Who is your muse? This curiosity spurred by the idea that a number of my poems have at times a sad tone to them: Are you okay? Do you need me to call you? Well, I retorted, not necessarily. Of course it goes without saying that any creation is, in a way, autobiographical –– an extension of oneself: I am the one holding the pen after all. That being said, this observation justifies one of the prime reasons as to why a blank page is my go-to accessory: writing allows me to travel and convert anything –– devastating or exultant, banal or essential, be it invented, my own or influenced by someone else’s story, ideas or feelings –– anything really, I will convert it into my personal vision on a page. Word for word, I can pin an instant on the map, I can rewrite the narrative, imagine it, revisit or completely reinterpret it. I am free to disinvite my +1 on paper. My professors at University never failed to remind me: do not confuse an author's biography with their piece. All I know is that the wont to create goads me, but I firmly let my creation speak for itself; because once I seal the deal, my words somewhat do not belong to me anymore. They float around until someone reads them and makes them theirs.
For the promotion of the event, OFF STAGE’s description of me indicated that I am "a traveler of the world who finds love wherever she goes." I do. I do find the ardent love to write, a deep appreciation for people and ultimately, my unadulterated passion for life anywhere I go. TRUE LOVE is my poetic muse and as the chief "Into the wild" (2007) quote beckons, "happiness is only real when shared." Thank you OFF STAGE AMSTERDAM for letting me share what I love the most in the world with you! I lived a dream. Dank u wel!
Watch my poetry reading: