Happy Pride

Happy Pride to my LGBTQIA family and and friends. I want to thank all of you who have talked to me about my journey, helped me find my place, and continue to love me as I figure it out. Back in my early teens I knew I was different, not sure how but I knew. I was raised a boy, and while I did the boy stuff I never felt a part of the team, so to speak. I have always been attracted to women but more so to empathy, compassion, creativity, and inner beauty. That manifests in all genders and identities.

I’ve been a chameleon my entire life, from the time I was a kid. Changing my hair, style, and appearances was part of my way of always being a fluid person. I had crushes on a million people in my day but never felt confident or worthy. Though I’m 6’2” 240 pounds, I’m feel like a skinny little person who is not at all noticeable. I always was afraid of guys and was brutalized by them, physically and mentally. Called fag and homo, weirdo and freak. Assaulted and manipulated. I hated myself for even trying to be apart of their thing.

In college, the first time, I was a 20 year old freshman at a university in Ohio. I tried to find a place amongst the student Christian group but it was a horrific thing so I wandered into the Gay and Lesbian student union, as it was called then. I befriended a bunch of people who just accepted me but I was conflicted having grown up in a very conservative Christian home. I loved those friends and they began to help me find me.

I transferred into a small Christian school in PA and found myself an alien amongst the saints. I believed but with a clearly stated doubt and I featured towards those people who challenged the system. The renegades, activists, musicians, artists and the queer folks that were under the radar.I wasn’t bold enough or educated enough to know what queer was yet but I knew I felt more like them than I did like the straight Christian crew.

I spent the next few years of trial and error between Philly, Cleveland, and New Jersey. I was an addict, an alcoholic and I kept my heavier issues hidden, often going out of town to score or keeping it well out of the eyesight of even my closest friends.

I married a woman I 2002 and served in ministry as a pastor. I worked in music and wrote for publications. I was doing a lot of great stuff but I was also still sick in my addictions but also aware of my queerness but unclear of how I would define it. The next 13 years I was a husband, a mentor, a friend, and a hopeless alcoholic. While I kicked the drugs pretty much out I was a drunk. I also was dying to breathe in the air of my own truth.

It wasn’t until I was divorced, sober, and no longer a Christian that I began to find myself and my queerness. I was embarrassed to be 40 and finally able to be the person I’ve always been. After a dark period in which I did try to end my life, I came out as pansexual and gender non-conforming, though queer seemed more easy as I still find myself fluid despite my masculine appearance. I have never felt I was male but also was not female. I live and breathe in the grey, which was why I used to say I’m just an alien. It’s where I am but it’s who I am. I am still attracted to women fir the most part mainly because I have had horrible experiences with men throughout my life. It’s just that simple. I still find good hearts the best. I’m still growing, so thank you.

10 Questions with Jesse Herzfeld

In this series I ask artist, poets, and other creators 10 questions about how they’ve maintained creativity and sanity during the past year of chaos and isolation. 

10 Questions With Jesse Herzfeld (Writer/Poet/Creator) – Cleveland, Ohio

1. How are you doing after a year of Covid-19?

It’s been a tough year. The pandemic started toward the end of my first solo exhibition and I got sick around that time,which was before testing was widely available. I still haven’t fully recovered but I’m finally able to take deep breaths again. I just had my second dose of the Covidvaccine a few days ago so I’m beginning to feel a bit more hopeful.

2. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a bunch of things. My visual adaptation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations is an ongoing project and I’ve been making a lot of smaller works that focus on certain sections and characters from my larger compositions. These smaller mixed-media works were pretty popular at my show so I wanted to create more of them and put them up on my website shop. I’ve also completed some pet portrait commissions recently including my first double pup portrait. Mainly, I’ve been working on a book of visual poetry about my personal journey as a psychiatric survivor. It’s nearing completion and I’m excited to let it loose upon the world. I have a few other things in the works that will remain secret for now.

3. How has the pandemic affected your creative output?

Health issues have slowed me down some but also made me more determined to complete things.

4. What has kept you motivated during the last several months?

As I continue to recover and I have more energy I get excited to be able to put more time toward reaching my creative goals. I have been making a lot of progress with my book of visual poetry and I think there is a sort of adrenaline that kicks in when I’m nearing the finish line of a project that has been a few years in the making.

5. What have you been listening to, watching or reading?

I listen to a lot of lectures while I’m drawing. Alan Watts is always a favorite. I also like listening to David Graeber, Camille Paglia and Mary Beard. I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking” and “Aion” by Carl Jung. The best things I’ve watched on Netlifx are “The Dark Crystal” by the Jim Henson Co., the art documentary about Stanislaw Sokolowski called “Struggle” and “My Octopus Teacher”. The new Adam Curtis series “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is also really fascinating and available for free on youtube.


6. Do you have plans for when things begin to open back up?

I’d like to travel with my partner. We were planning a trip but that has been put on hold. Since I’m a solitary artist with a home studio I feel fortunate that my day-to-day activities weren’t greatly affected, but I do miss going to the theater and concerts and visiting with family and friends indoors.

7. Have you spent the pandemic isolated or have you tried to stay connected to other creatives remotely?

Both. I work best in seclusion but I try to stay connected to my creative friends. Since I went to art school in Philly and also in London (where I was the only American in my program), my artist friends are spread all around the world. I love that the digital realm allows me to keep up with what everyone is working on.

8. Has the last year helped you venture into new creative areas?

No, I’ve still been plugging along on the same projects but without the distraction of social obligations.

9. What would you say the biggest lesson you learned during the past year?

Appreciate breathing.

10. How do you think your creative community will look once things start to open back up and things start to get more normal again?

In some ways, it will look the same because so much of it is a remote community. In terms of my local creative community, I think a lot of people have done really interesting creative work during lockdown and there will probably be some great exhibitions and poetry readings once things are back to normal.

Bio:
Across a variety of forms and mediums, artist Jessie Herzfeld explores dreams, desire, and the fantastic. Inspired by music, nature, literature, and Medieval art. Jessie’s work often contains animal imagery, surreal creatures and unusual landscapes. She works in oil paint, watercolor, charcoal, markers, photography, sculpture, and hair.

Her current work is a visual translation of the poems in Arthur Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations and can be viewed at http://www.JessieHerzfeld.com. She uses a mixed media process combining traditional materials with non-traditional media to create visionary collages that capture the moods, symbolic themes, and lyrical quality of Rimbaud’s words.

She also has a pet portrait business called Modern Tail Studios. To learn more and see samples of her unique style of animal portraiture visit www.moderntailstudios.com.

Jessie holds a BFA from The University of Pennsylvania in coordination with The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a Master of Arts in Illustration from CamberwellCollege of Arts in London. She has experience with commissions and freelance as well as teaching art classes, and she welcomes further opportunities to be involved with arts education and nurturing creativity.

10 Questions with Steven Thom

In this series I ask artist, poets, and other creators 10 questions about how they’ve maintained creativity and sanity during the past year of chaos and isolation.

10 Questions With Steven Thom (Writer/Poet/Creator) – Cleveland, Ohio

1. How are you doing after a year of Covid-19?

Emotionally, almost over flowing and at times when isolated there is anguish and tears. This is due in part to the emotional pressure involved taking care of my 94yr old Mother. Her health is not good and her mobility is questionable. Being someone struggling with dementia her days and nights are indistinguishable from one another. So fatigue and stress plays a part as well. The fact my social life is nonexistent just adds to the isolation.

2. What are you currently working on?

I am working on my body as best I can. I train with weights three days a week. And read books that are typically non-fiction and poetry from indigent poets. I watch and study global climate activity and overall geological history of the planet. I had been writing poems and editing from a long list of thoughts built up over the last 3 years. But currently not actively writing or editing anything of note.

3. How has the pandemic affected your creative output?

I have gone from writing daily to having written one poem during the last four months. I have no headspace for writing. I’m in a solitary world, with the mentality to grind through it.

4. What has kept you motivated during the last several months?

My motivation is nonexistent to write. I’m forcing myself to read and learn and exercise but I have no words to put on paper. I used to go the Cleveland Art Museum three to four times a year. I haven’t visited in eighteen months. I am hopeful that will change.

5. What have you been listening to, watching or reading?

I watch a lot of You Tube about climate and weather in general, with trailers of various movie trailers I won’t be seeing. Some music but generally only listen in the car, mainly Laurie Anderson of late, or whatever is on WCPN. I’m reading a novel The Overstory, and rereading Breath, how to breathe to improve overall health.

6. Do you have plans for when things begin to open back up?

Not really. All things are pretty much on hold until my Mother passes and I’ve completed the dissolution of her estate. It will be nice to not have to make decisions concerning the right time to shop or go see a movie. I’ll just be able to go without much concern about how many people will be present.

7. Have you spent the pandemic isolated or have you tried to stay connected to other creatives remotely?

I’ve definitely been isolated. I’ve no interest in connecting remotely. Although I’ve had an ongoing phone conversation for the last six months or so with a friend and fellow poet.

8. Has the last year helped you venture into new creative areas?

It’s been a period of self-exploration and discovery. There’s a great deal of recognizing scars from family events. My family was at its best unsupportive and emotionally distant. So, I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting and coming to terms with the consequences of an abusive childhood. In that sense I’m more at peace due to Covid isolation.

9. What would you say the biggest lesson you learned during the past year?

No alcohol no weed is best for me. And really really embrace a commitment to exercise and health-oriented practices in the many and varied forms in existence today. And finally, its critical, at least to me, to come to terms with my personal history. To be able to try and let the wounds heal as opposed to denying the damage.

10. How do you think your creative community will look once things start to open back up and things start to get more normal again?

The three venues I regularly went to and participated in, may not reopen or have  poetry nights at all. So, I’m not certain about what plans I may have. I hope to be at at the Tannery Park Jawbone. And I was part of a trio that was to read poems at Visible Voice but I’m unsure about being indoors with Covid strains swirling around. And the Last Exit readings are still Zoom so until that changes very little will be different than how things are now for me.

Bio.

I’m a father for two young independent minded adults. When they were young, they traveled with me to some of my Pro bowling tournaments. I was a PBA member for a decade and also ran a bowling pro shop business during that time. Along the way I won the Greater Cleveland Bowling Association Masters title and also contributed to winning two team titles. After closing it down I returned to Baldwin Wallace in 2005 to complete my degree in business. With the mistaken belief, the combination of work experience and education would make me a valued employee in a company. While I maintained employment during the 2007-08 crash and afterwards, my career peaked at store manager level for three different supplement companies. When my Mother had an aortic valve replacement surgery in December of 2018, I quit working to take care of her. With the help of my sister, that has been going on for close to three years now. During that time, I also completed and published by John Burroughs, Crises Chronicles Press a selection of poetry titled, The Strength of Flowers.

New Poem – My Mind

My Mind (A Study In How I’ve Disappointed My Parents)

My mind is a used book shop.
It is filled up dusty, piled precariously.
Packrat, hoarder, floor to ceiling.
Unorganized to the outsider,
but to me…
organized chaos. Just right.

My mind is an old record.
Scratched, crackle, pop.
Ring wear cover art. Dollar bin.
It skips a few songs but plays.
Patti Smith, John Coltrane, Lou Reed.
In constant rotation. Soundtrack.

My mind is a medicine cabinet.
Old needles. Haunted. Demonic.
Ghost clang bottles. Glass, shaker.
Bad pills traded for good. Prescribed.
Still not right. Quite far left.
12 steps…baby steps.

My mind is a part-time bully.
Part-time bullied. Fetal position.
Fulltime beautiful mess. Scarred.
Post-traumatic stressed out. Tired as fuck.
Sober, alcoholic, addict. Recovery.
Reclusively on call. Ringer off.

My mind works. Day laborer, inconsistent.
Sometimes nefariously thoughtful.
Vulgar. Tongued whipped truth.
Medicated, for my protection.
From me. From everyone.
The results are varied.

My mind is a collected works. A tattered journal.
Bound with string cheese. Lactose intolerant.
44 years. Ginsberg’s madness marked up.
Emerging nonconformed. Identity crisis.
I’ve disappointed my parents. Again.
They’ll be okay.