From a Newtown Literary contributor: M.A. Dennis
Writer M.A. Dennis’ work was featured in issue #17 of Newtown Literary. Below, he
gives us a photographic tour of his writing workspace. For more information about his poetry books (The Many Attitudes of Dennis: Spoken Word Poems and Mistaken Identity Crisis), including how to purchase them, check out his website, where you can also catch his blog, "The Multitudes." You can follow him on Instagram or on Twitter.
The expression "the writing's on the wall" came to mind as I photographed my workplace. Each wall in my workplace has something to say; they talk about my history, thoughts, and creativity. If I need inspiration or centering in my Writing Nook, I only have to swivel my wide-backed office chair (a treasure which I found on someone else's trash collection day) and there's no lack of visual prompts to get my synapses firing.
My football jersey from Andrew Jackson High School in Cambria Heights: it reminds me of my first public encounter with unmitigated racism, how we were brought low by the N-word from parents of the opposing team. It reminds me that you shouldn't remain on a JV level longer than needed just because you're afraid you'll fail at Varsity. (A fear which was ultimately proven to be utterly false by my future performance as an outstanding offensive tackle/defensive end.)
The antique map I purchased from a local thrift store: it was the first Writing Nook wall item to go up. It was a sign from the Universe letting me know I had been delivered out of my biblical Egypt. At some point in everyone's life, there's a biblical Egypt, a place of bondage; mine was Homelessness. Imagine, escaping from a men's shelter while the system (that has profited monetarily from your misery) chases after you, and you cross the Red Sea that is New York Harbor in a ferry, move into a new apartment in a neighborhood nicknamed "Little Sri Lanka," and when you go to the local thrift shop (hoping to find a whistling glass tea kettle for one dollar) the first thing you see is an antique map of Sri Lanka that costs ninety percent of your ten dollar total budget.
Many months and wall items later, I pour hot water (brewed in that one dollar whistling glass tea kettle) over an "I Love Lemon" herbal tea bag. Steam rises and scorches the air in front of my face, but quickly dissipates—in the same way that wavering confidence does, when I look at THE BERLIN WALL OF DOUBT: a picture of the Berlin Wall in its last days, blown up into a 36"×48" poster and surrounded by post-it notes of unsolicited praise I've received from people, some who've chased me down after an open mic, our of breath, to say: "Hey... That poem was awesome!" The BWOD and its caption—"Tear down this doubt!"—is my remedy for Imposter Syndrome.
"Writers are hot:" it's only fitting that this slogan is printed on what resembles a church fan, because Writing is the closest thing I have to a declared religious affiliation.
Post-it Notables: mixed in among the encouraging quoted feedback, there is sage advice from the likes of Christian Bovee ("Doubt whom you will, but never yourself."); Margaret Atwood ("A word after a word after a word is power."); Samuel Coleridge's definition of a poem ("Best words, best order."); Nina Simone ("It's an artist's duty to speak and reflect the truth."); my beloved mentor, Erika Munk ("Chocolate is the best thing for thinking.")