This weekend (April 1st, 2017) I attended the 2nd Annual Verde Valley Comic Expo, put together by the Northern Arizona Cartoonist Association, to spread the word about sharks and the peril they face. Many kids stopped by the booth either to ask questions about sharks, or to watch the dive videos from my recent expedition to Fiji’s Coral Coast, or my past expeditions to Isla Guadalupe in Mexico.
Every day, I scour the internet for news about sharks. When I do this, I will inevitably find something that makes my blood boil, but some of it’s led to positive action (I helped start an investigation that I found out later led to the charter boat Phoenix get fined for illegally taking a hammerhead), and I’m proud of that. When you add the Trumps to the equation, well, things are going to get heated.
One of the things for being the preeminent (because I think I’m the only) shark conservationist on poetry slam’s national stage, are lots of wall posts from my friends about shark stuff. And don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of them. Silly shark memes? Love it. Videos of sharks doing awesome stuff? Love it. News stories about sharks? Love it… but…
So, last night I performed at the Erotic Poetry & Music Festivus at the Alwun House in Phoenix, AZ. It was a great show, with some fantastic performers that it was an honor to share the stage. Thanks to Ernesto Moncada and Rosemarie Dombrowski (Phoenix’s poet laureate!) for asking me to perform!
When I walked into the venue, I was introduced as “Phoenix’s leading shark expert” – which, flattering, but probably not true! Ernesto, when inviting me, asked me to consider writing a shark erotica piece. I was up to the challenge!
Last night I attended Mahiki Invasion at UnderTow, Phoenix’s new tiki bar that is attempting to resurrect classic tiki bar culture. It was pretty damn great. And not just because they started plying us with rum as soon as we entered the door (the three drinks were the Mahiki Bar London’s take on the classic Don the Beachcomber cocktails “Missionary’s Downfall”, “Navy Grog”, and something served in a coconut). There are a lot worse ways to spend a Thursday night.
One of the things I’m attempting to do with the Chumming the Waters/Words for the Men in Grey Suits project is do change the perspective of sharks from their place in our culture as monsters to beasts worthy of celebration and song (or poetry, as is my medium).
Some cultures, however, need no perspective shift. For those who practice native Hawai’ian beliefs, sharks, very often tiger sharks, are already seen as not just worthy of protection, but as part of the family. In this poem, I am writing not from the perspective of the practitioner of those beliefs, but from the tiger sharks who learns of his place in this belief.
Thank you to Jack Stone, Hawaiian Cultural Advisor, whose advice was invaluable in clearing up some choices in this poem that may not have been respectful of those beliefs (any errors/appropriations that may still exist in this poem remain mine – and as always, I welcome feedback!).
Continue reading “Poem – The Sound of Their Drums”