Frida’s House (fotos)

Stamped into the Sidewalk in Mexico City

Stamped into the Sidewalk in Mexico City

I am back now for two full days from my first Subud World Congress, which was staged in Puebla, Mexico, August 1-17. People are cutting me off in traffic, I notice how irritated I get when people are driving at 12 miles an hour in a 30 mph zone and I am quite attuned to the subtle human politics involving, for example, the cold cashier at PCC, or any number of other daily occasions here which were not evident in Puebla.  It could be my poor Spanish, or the fact that I was a guest in their country, or the USD-Mexican peso exchange rate (so much in my favor and easing some financial strain) but the vibe was more relaxed, the pressure of competition (in every aspect of life here in the U.S.) was almost non-existent. I can see why Sam Hamill (and many other USAmericans) like to spend winters in Mexico and why many people (like Morris Berman) relocate there.

I had envisioned attending the World Congress in 2010, when I heard that the 2014 WC would be held in Puebla. I saw it as a chance to improve my Spanish vocabulary and, for the first time since I was a child, spend some real time in Mexico. I’d been in Canada perhaps 30 times, all of them since 1988, when I moved to Cascadia, but I’d spent no time in Mexico.

Casa Azul

Casa Azul

And there was one thing I wanted to do before the Congress and that was visit Casa Azul, the home of Frida Kahlo and now a museum. My poem for Frida (see here) has been very well-received over the years and now I had my chance to go deeper into her life and oeuvre. So I left my nice Airbnb room in Mexico City’s Coyoacán district and enjoyed my 20 minute walk to Frida’s house. I arrived shortly after the museum opened at 10AM, paid my entry fee and an extra 60 pesos for the right to take photos and started my tour.

Frida

Frida

You can tell from the Frida poem I wrote in 2007 that I was a fan of her work and her life, but seeing her home and getting a deeper sense of the struggle she had just to live, let alone create timeless paintings should be a lesson to any of us when we think we have it bad. You’ve heard the phrase First World Problems? Think about how hard it is to have someone in front of us in traffic going 12 in a 30 and how hard we take it, and then think of Frida who never recovered from her 1925 streetcar accident, nor from the failed c-section and the two abortions she had. Put THAT in your medical marijuana pipe and smoke it!

Some of Frida’s work was on display at Casa Azul and just looking at her kitchen, bedroom and courtyard were rich experiences and the presence of this remarkable woman and her partner Diego Rivera, continue to be very palpable in this place. The walls DO have memory and there is a warmth you can feel if you are open to it when visiting Casa Azul.

By Frida

By Frida

My Airbnb hosts, Sofia & Luis, had told me to make sure I visit the temporary exhibit which featured Frida’s wardrobe and it was there that it really hit me as to what she had to go through just to exist in this world. I have written a couple of postcard poems that referenced Frida, and I was told will take 6 weeks to get from Mexico to their intended recipients, but one phrase written in one of the poems was “corset warrior armor.” Indeed, the intensity of Frida’s life seemed to go up a few notches when you get a glimpse of these things. And that Frida would use it as inspiration for drawing gives you a sense of how she was able to turn these challenges into art. Surely this is akin to a shamanic act.

Frida's prosthetic foot

Frida’s prosthetic foot

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Frida’s Amputated Leg

Corset Warrior Armor

I took so many photos and a few videos, so to select out just a few for this post seems random, but at least three others merit inclusion. That Frida would have two abortions and at least one of them from a c-section (failed?) and would have a painting about the c-section was poignant, to say the least. That the painting would be unfinished would make the situation even more poignant.

Frida and the Caesarean

Frida and the Caesarean

View Above Frida's Bed

View Above Frida’s Bed

“Saint, muse, lover, mistress, bisexual, victim and survivor.”

(See all my Mexico photos here: https://plus.google.com/110643967003377542394/posts/HzVL6jw8RLz)

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Reflexiones desde Puebla, Conversation Cafe

Cathedral of Santa Clara (Puebla, Mexico)

Cathedral of Santa Clara (Puebla, Mexico)

I’ve always known the quote as: “Travel is the worst enemy of ignorance” but in researching Mark Twain it appears to be: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Well, you get the idea. Well over a week in Puebla, Mexico, for the 14th Subud World Congress, and the lessons – the mythic dimensions – are rich and seemingly infinite.

And so no surprise much of the material finding its way into my hands, or BACK into my hands, is significant or seems that way from this perspective. After all, the intention of the Subud World Congress, after the organizational business is conducted, is to allow members to release anything not serving their efforts to be as nobly human as possible.

That I would find myself reading a book about the obscure, yet influential Jazz pianist Lennie Tristano may say more about my own personal mythology than I’d care to admit, given that awareness of his oeuvre is much less than contemporaries Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. Yet he was said to have been playing “Free Jazz” ten years before Ornette Coleman. The book is Jazz Visions: Lennie Tristano And His Legacywritten by bassist Peter Ind, who studied with Tristano and played with him and other Jazz legends including Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday.

Peter Ind is a bassist, former Jazz club owner and record producer and British by birth, so he’s a rare breed of European who got Bebop when it was in its infancy and made his mark. I am enjoying his story, learning more about Tristano and savoring and noting the astute recognitions of Ind’s as I read the book. The first of which is that he recognized early that those bassists he admired, wanted to emulate and whom he felt were original, such as Oscar Pettiford and Ray Brown, were “expressing their inner self.” The improvisational nature of Jazz makes this rather transparent for those with even cursory levels of familiarity with the music.

Despite the legends of drug use in the Jazz community of the 1950s in New York which have achieved mythic proportions, he was part of a community that understood that inhibitions and neurosis did limit the depth of gesture of which one was capable. Ind: “There was a tacit view that becoming freer or less repressed would be an aid to letting go and improvising jazz.” And a half century after being part of such a legendary period in USAmerican culture, he would state perceptively that: “There was no hint at that time of the “political correctness” that replaced this genuine and mutual respect” that informed the New York Jazz scene of the 50s and early 60s.

Subud International Cultural Association

Subud International Cultural Association

And while I’ve been here, learning more about the efforts of SICA, the Subud International Cultural Organization and its efforts to help members and others experience “the intersection of creativity and spirituality” I have not been afraid to whip out those quotes and phrases I’ve used may times in the past and have guided my own investigation of poetics. Michael McClure’s “hunger for liberation”, Robin Blaser’s interest in work that has a “spiritual chase” and Sunn Shelley Wong who said: “At every moment in a life or in a poem, the formal choice is between answering to that which is alive, or attempting to enslave it.”

So it is with this stance I go into one of my final tasks at this 14th World Congress, and that is facilitating a panel on the Future of Storytelling. It is part of the Conversation Cafe series that has been happening here and is set for Wednesday, August 13th, at 2PM. Here is a bit more information on the panel:

“In an age of unprecedented instability, with the climate system and capitalism showing signs of breakdown, how do we navigate the challenges inherent in life today? What is the story of our age? The poet/prophet William Blake knew that luminous details are at the core of all true storytelling and the internet and its capacity for spreading the news virally around the planet make our time potent for narratives that ring true with our massive economic disparity, issues of violence, race, gender and orientation and ecological uncertainty.

A panel of five artists who all approach narrative from widely different perspectives will give a short talk and discuss how they see the ancient art of storytelling evolving to communicate something deeper than the industry-generated culture to meet the deep needs of 21st century dwellers.” - Paul Nelson

Host: Paul Nelson, Poet/Interviewer. Panelists: Honora Foah, Director of Mythic Journeys, Matthew Cooke, Writer-Director of How To Make Money Selling Drugs, Myrna Jelman, Writer-Director of Happy Endings, a documentary on death and Mimi Machado-Luces, Filmmaker and Director of Pasos Latinos: A Mambo-Mentary.

This series is the brainchild of Susannah Rosenthal and there are other such panels happening at the link above. If you can’t be in Puebla Wednesday, it is my understanding that panels are to be filmed, webcast and archived.

Cuba's World Congress Banner

Cuba’s World Congress Banner

And if you’ve read this far and are attending the Congress and want to gather for a small and intimate poetry reading, please stop me and let me know. I am trying to organize one at the SICA Gallery near the Teatro for next week.

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Un Poema para Frida Kahlo

8.6.14 Pablo en el espeja Puebla

Pablo en el espeja Puebla

I am experiencing my first Subud World Congress here in Puebla, Mexico, and it is stunning and miraculous. The intensity of the collected intention of 2,000 people who share an obscure (but powerful) method of positive self-change (latihan), who have assembled from at least 65 countries to elect new candidates to guide the world-wide organization, deepen their sense of connection with each other, get guidance on the challenges in their lives and to recalibrate the mechanism of perception is palpable. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

As a poet, I live for the opportunities to write, discuss, debate and perform poetry. When you add the spiritual element to the occasion, the quality of the experience intensifies further. Last night was an event called  Poemas Para la Paz. (Poems for Peace.) The title of the evening comes from a successful event started by SICA, the Subud International Cultural Association. I curated a Seattle rendition of Poems for Peace last September at the Seattle Subud House (Spring Street Center) and it was a great success. Audio of that evening is archived here.

Wynton Marsalis once told me that music is the most abstract of all the arts, but I think he underestimated poetry. Whereas people are content to enjoy music simply for its sound and rhythm, poetry can be intimidating because it uses language and the (sometimes neurotic) desire to ascertain meaning often hinders poetry’s efficacy, or at least the enjoyment of it.

And so an evening of poems dedicated to peace would contain the noble notions of not bombing, shooting, killing, stabbing and – in any way – harming other beings, the sacredness of all life and its inherent interconnection are all themes one would expect to hear at such an occasion, and we did last night.

I took a different tack. I believe that true peace starts with an appreciation of different cultures. With 65 countries represented at this Congress, all of whom share a practice together in the same room at the same time, Subud members understand this concept on one level very deeply. In a testing session I employed to gain understanding into current life challenges, I was aided by one American man, the son of atheists, who blurted out something in Hebrew during the testing and an Armenian-American, fluent in Spanish, now living in New York. Doing it through an Indonesian practice in a Catholic town in Mexico founded by Spaniards added to the richness of the cultural mix. This experience is replicated in different ways 1,000 times every day at this Congress.

So, knowing that true peace begins with an appreciation of other cultures, I chose to read a poem for Frida Kahlo. I had visited her house on the first full day of my trip to Mexico (documented in these photos) and my admiration for her deepened considerably. How she handled the pain from her streetcar accident and various health challenges and managed to create a remarkable and unique oeuvre is one of the world’s great stories. That she spent time in Puebla, specifically at a space which is now a gallery where SICA has sponsored an art exhibit, is also quite beautiful.

So, after giving thanks to God, Bapak, Subud, Puebla, mis Hermanas y Hermanos, Peace in Gaza, & Ochoa y Chicharito, I read Frida One and Too. I hope to blog more about my experience here, but I am journaling daily, writing American Sentences and postcard poems and taking fotos. I am so grateful for this experience.

So I present the poem here below for your enjoyment. (A pdf of the poem is here.)

Frida One

Frida Too
Frida Three

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