CPJ-Saga, Uncategorized

CPJ-Saga 1 – Names and Resets

I wish I had named everything “Cactus Pear Jam” from the beginning but hindsight is 20/20, as they say. For me, hindsight seems to be coming in clearly in 2021.

This is a blogging blog now

Let me back this train up: I’m JD. I don’t think I’ll need to worry about revealing my identity anymore. When this blog started, I was still worried someone from Israeli immigration would see I was doing anti-racism work and blacklist me. Yes, you read that correctly: working for a Palestinian peace-making organization may or may not have meant my visa would be rejected (if they ‘knew’ at the immigration office in Haifa, they kept it to themselves– no country is monolith and that’s a good thing). Still, I digress:

I’ve called myself Daniel Xavier and Xavier Phoenix. Those are cool aliases. My legal first and middle names are “John Daniel”, respectively, and I was hungry for something more distinctive-sounding (which I chose for myself). I could make myself and all of you tired trying to recall names I’ve considered. “Aukstronaut” is one of my favorites. I keep forgetting I came up with that one. I made a sweet thumbnail for that tumblr account…

But “Cactus Pear Jam” is here to stay. That’s what I just named my Instagram account, my Facebook page, my mostly-empty YouTube channel, and my handles on more and more platforms. It’ll become clear over time why this is the one.

Why am I blogging tonight?

I’m not blogging about my name (yet); I just wanted to introduce myself anew. I’m making it my goal to blog here more than once a week. I’ll have to improvise a featured image for tonight.

Typically, I’ve tried to write solid essays on “Reverse Exiled”. Hindsight is telling me that wasn’t ‘wrong’ because that’s what I needed. I don’t know how I expected the larger world to react to my essays, though. I didn’t promote them aggressively. In fact, sometimes I was even afraid they would be found! No doubt I wanted to be appreciated for my values and my intellect and having a WordPress blog created that possibility. Realistically, I didn’t create the kind of blog that I, myself, would seek out on a daily basis. I created a place where I could demonstrate to myself that I still knew how to write.

Here’s the PITH of it

I’m a poet. I’ve been a poet. My poetics is somewhat nascent but it’s been fairly constant. I’ve intended to start and dig deeper into the process of writing novels but that seems to never draw my attention organically. I definitely love novels, especially works of magical realism.

A novel fell of the shelf at a local library and scared me straight. Not all at once, in that moment, but after I read it (because OF COURSE I read it). It’s called “Paris by the Book”. No spoiler warnings are needed– it’s enough for you all to know that something about that novel scared me straight about trying to be every kind of writer. If there ever was a time to pick a lane, I think now is that time! The thing is, I’m fundamentally a musician by necessity and that influences which lane I have to take as a writer.

I won’t even say it’s ironic. Everyone saw this coming: I’m a musician at my core. It’s not because I’m a great musician. It’s not because I took time to discern well. Naw. I know because when I was at my most depressed, hitting the rock-bottom, closest to self-destruction as I’ll ever get (because I’m always on the up-and-up since then)– when I was blue, all I could do was The Blues. Even writing became too difficult to do (…often. If you’ve seen the one about the pennies, you know I never totally relent).

I think I can mesh my poetry with my music. I don’t mean song-writing (I can do that). What I mean is creating poetry that stands on its own and composing music to enhance the experience of performing it. That works in reverse, too: creating some interesting chord progressions, laying that down, and seeing what words come from that (theoretically… I haven’t done either of these things yet).

That’s what I’m intending.

‘Cactus Pear Jam’ is a poet and musician

…sometimes at the same time, sometimes separately. Cactus Pear Jam isn’t… well, a lot of things I was willing to be. There are many things I never would be but there are also many things I would have changed myself to be. I kept my hair short (and it’s natural color) for a long time. I’ve avoided getting tattoos in visible areas. I’ve gone to many fruitless interviews. I interviewed for jobs that aligned well with my values and used skillsets I have but I wasn’t rewarded. People encouraged me to keep trying– “it’s a numbers game”. I wondered if I lacked character.

No: I wasn’t in resonance with my gifts. What does that mean? I think that’s a theme I’ll want to explore poetically. I’m giving myself 1000 words to free-write, to process-write, to stream-out some of the thoughts and feelings that bounce around in my skull too much. This is my vomitorium. That’s not as gross as it sounds (look it up). I’m making an opening for my legion of thoughts to enter the arena.

100 words left. The worse this entry is, the better. I can feel better about the progress I make, notice my mind clearing. If I find an audience for my poetry — if I find my poetry, inside of myself– see, that’s the thing! I could go all the way back to the top and completely side-step my names, my history of wanting to be ‘successful’ without letting go of my values (not realizing what a constraining value ‘success’ is)… I could go back to the top and just say “I’m ‘Cactus Pear Jam’, I want you to feel something that you need to feel and I’m willing to search with words and music for that unopened box inside of you, that clogged pipe, that chest buried in the woods — I want us to find it.”

Let’s just forget who I was

I’ve never been satisfied with my self-explorations here. It’s time for the new era, with the new approaches, to begin. Feedback is welcome. Let’s get weird!

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