Friday, March 30, 2012

Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight

We’ve pretty much reached the end of March. It’s been an interesting month for me. It has been a rollercoaster in some aspects, but has given me a lot to roll over mentally and emotionally as I move forward. I consider all of it a good thing, even if it hasn’t always appeared so. We shall see how things shake out, brothers and sisters.

This month has had its share of great news, though. I found out the other day that I am one of the winners of the Origami Poems Poetry Celebratio​n Contest. The news will be on the Origami website within the next few days. I was pretty elated at the news. Here’s some of what the e-mail I received said:

Dear Christian,

We are happy to tell you that your poem, Indigo, has been chosen as one of the winning poems for the Music theme of our OPP Poetry Celebration Contest.  You sold us with your closing line - "Nina, my mood is indigo, too."

Thank you for sharing this poem with us.

In addition to that news, the next MANIFEST will be April 21st. The Undoctored Originals, who are a phenomenal jazz band, will be kicking out the jams. There will be more information to come in the near future.

Also, for the 10x10 Festival ( , I’ve decided to bring back The Speakeasy poetry/spoken word open-mic. We’ll be getting together on April 20th from 6 to 8. The list goes out promptly at 6. It’s free and will be at the Cadence Coffee Co. (16 Patten Pkwy). For those who attended when we were at The Mudpie, you can enjoy a family-friendly return to form.

Well gang, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve got to get back to work finishing this poem for the performance on Sunday. No pressure!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012



It's been an interesting few weeks for me. I, like many of you, have been paying close attention to the developments around the Trayvon Martin situation. Recently, there have been different things that have shaken out in an attempt to muddy Trayvon's character, but it doesn't remove the facts of what happened and that they, by all accounts, appear to be tremendously wrong.

Last week, I was talking with my mother about it, and I told her that I could have been Trayvon if different situations in my life turned out differently. For instance, I graduated from college on May 6, 2006. Later that night, I had a police officer draw his gun on me in the middle of the street in Ybor City for supposedly running a stop sign. Had he been more on edge or nervous, a number of lives would've been forever changed.

I've been learning a lot about appreciating the moment in life and realizing just how fast everything that we've come to know and build our lives and beliefs around can change. Although I never met Trayvon, I am saddened by his death for a number of reasons. His life was taken from him, literally. His parents had their son taken from them. The man who shot him unknowingly took the remainder of the life he anticipated having as well.

I hope that this situation will serve as an eye-opener for those of you who are reading these words. Often, we get comfortable in the routines of our lives and we tend to forget or acknowledge that there are many different things happening in our neighborhoods, cities, states, etc. that stand in direct contrast to our ideals. Young people are dying. Tragedies are happening every day. Please be aware, and please appreciate each moment you have with those you love and cherish before it's too late. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Recent Horoscopes

Saturday, Mar 17th, 2012 -- You may choose to disconnect from your emotional roots today because you don't want others to perceive you as being needy. You can outwardly demonstrate an apparent aloofness so no one will suspect that you're really feeling quite vulnerable. However, your strategy might backfire by increasing your sense of isolation. Be courageous; opening your heart to someone you trust helps to resolve your dilemma.

Sunday, Mar 18th, 2012 -- Your thoughts are all over the map today and you could work yourself into a state of anxiety if you cannot settle down enough to pick one path. You may feel as if you're wired for sound, and with all channels open, you're tempted to play several songs all at once. Instead of making yourself crazy trying to focus on one data stream at a time, just enjoy listening to the complex mix. Although it might not make sense now, you should be able to untangle all the information next week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tiny Buddha

Hey Gang,

Since December, I've been following the good people from Tiny Buddha on Twitter. For those of you who are unfamiliar, there are typically several posts throughout each day about improving and betterment (I don't want to say self-help, so I'm not going to. So, there!).

At the time that I came across Tiny Buddha, certain things in my life had changed... drastically and out of nowhere. I felt a number of emotions, and I honestly felt lost. Things have progressed so much from that time. I realize that I still have a good way to go, but I'm very excited about the prospects of what the future holds, and I'm happy that I get to move on with some tremendous experiences under my belt.

Tiny Buddha helped me make sense of some things over the past few months. It also helped calm me down, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I'd like to share some things that I came across on the site today. If you like it, let me know!

Tiny Wisdom: The Most Powerful Words for Healing

by Lori Deschene
“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” -Marianne Williamson

Did you ever feel like there was a conversation you really wanted to have with someone, and yet a part of you felt it was unwise?

This is a feeling I know all too well.

When I was younger, I spent years fighting for an apology. It wasn’t until my whole world crashed down on my that I realized I’d become a tornado of anger and bitterness, destroying everything in my wake.

I eventually realized I needed to let go of the victim story I’d been carrying around, whether I got the closure I sought or not. For a long time, I thought I had let go.

But recently I realized I’ve been carrying around subconscious resentment, because a part of me still wants to hear those words I chased long ago—that I’ve always deserved respect and love, and I’ve never deserved to feel pain and shame.

So I put this all in a letter that I don’t intend to send. Despite having spent many years in therapy, and even more collecting self-help books, I’ve never done this before.

The other day was the first day I got it all down. I titled this Word Doc “What I Need to Say,” and I ended it with the following words:

“I wrote this letter because I want to heal more fully. A part of me feels that would be so much easier for me if you could look me in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry.’

Then I remember I chose to stop pursuing an apology. So instead of pushing for it, I will say this: for all the anger, resentment, bitterness, and cruelty I directed toward you many years ago, I’m sorry. That’s not the person I want to be. The person I want to be isn’t a victim. She’s loving, compassionate, and kind.

The person I want to be has forgiven you, and loves herself for making that choice.’”

Somehow just expressing these thoughts makes me feel empowered—and all the more confident that I deserve my own respect. I am not forgetting that I was hurt. I am choosing to heal. I am choosing to be the type of love I’d like to receive.

Little in this world is more powerful than that.

Keep Moving Forward: 4 Tips to Enjoy the Journey More

Editor’s Note: This is a contribution by Janny Chang

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” ~Proverb
Five years ago, I decided to fulfill my dream of getting a doctorate. I knew from talking to friends who took on the same endeavor that it would mean many sleepless nights and tons of reading and writing. But nothing prepared me for the path that lay ahead.

Graduate school is often compared to a marathon. Why? At each moment, when you think you’ve completed a major milestone, you realize you have a long road ahead. You just have to keep going and going.

First, there’s the coursework. I took on a full load and worked two part-time jobs.
Second, you really have to develop a thick skin because part of the experience of graduate school is humbling yourself before your professors and peers and learning to take constructive criticism. This also becomes an exercise in tuning into your own voice by learning how to distinguish between useless and useful feedback.

Third, your patience is tried and tested because it’s such a long road–an average five to seven years to completion in the United States.

I went into graduate school because I loved learning and I had a passion for my research. Along the way, as I buried myself in books, grading, and academic dialogue with my colleagues, I lost sight of this passion.
I became so focused on the destination that I forgot about the journey.

For my dissertation, I had to travel abroad to collect data. At first, I was enthused about the act of discovery. What kind of data would I find? What would I learn about the country, culture, and people living there? I was excited about the prospect of my research contributing to the good of mankind, even in some minute way. I harbored high hopes.

Gradually, this enthusiasm wore off. All I could think about was when I would finish.

I felt I had made too many sacrifices in the last five years and I was ready to be done. I wanted to get married and start a family and felt graduate school had hindered the development of my personal life.
While all my friends got mortgages and established their families, I had traveled the world and devoted myself to research and knowledge. I began to resent my career path.

Traces of this resentment showed up in my interactions with people abroad. When I conducted interviews, I sometimes found myself growing impatient. I wanted to be done. When this happened, my interviewees could sense my impatience and withdrew from me.

This was not the kind of person I wanted to be. I took on this “marathon” for passion and meaning in life and I was not about to lose that.

So, one day, I confided in one of my best friends online. I told him all my concerns and worries.
He asked me to remember the day when I received my admissions letter to graduate school.
I remember being elated. I shared the news with family. Though they were sad I would be moving from West Coast to the East Coast, they were overjoyed for me.

I remember my heart skipping a beat when I picked up books by professors whom I admired and wanted to emulate.

I remember the little things that made me smile, like learning a new idea which helped me see the world in a completely different way.

And I remember being fully aware that this new path I was taking would have ups and downs. I knew I would be able to weather the downs because the ups were worth it.

My best friend reminded me that I am right where I’m supposed to be. I chose this path for a reason. Sure, the path is filled with obstacles, but every path has its challenges. At least I get to do what I love.
I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

In the fast-paced, stressful modern life, it’s easy to forget that we’re facing the right direction and to keep walking. Here are a few tips to remind us that life, with its ups and downs, is the destination. All we have to do is remember.

1. Get a mission statement.

We cannot necessarily control the events around us, but we can control our attitude. Sometimes, all it takes is a little nudge to remind us of our initial attitudes when we took on the challenging path.
Here’s what I do. I dig out my mission statement, just like the one Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People encourages us to do. In the book, he recommends that we make a poster complete with pictures which highlight and illustrate our core values.

If you don’t have a mission statement, you can make one!

What do you value in life? How do you picture your day-to-day routine? Why did you choose your career path? Then use magazine articles and cut out pictures which remind you of your values.
You can laminate your mission statement, like I did, and hang it up in your office. This will remind you when you’re facing the wrong direction or to keep walking in the right one.

2. Be inspired.

When I get that empty or bitter feeling of regret of the choices I’ve made in life, instead of turning to unhealthy doses of chocolate, I curl up in bed and watch inspirational movies. Movies which show strong characters facing one challenge after another and eventually being redeemed.

My favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne, the main character, never loses hope. He faces the right direction and keeps walking. In the end, he prevails and along the way, strengthens his humanity by helping those around him. Choose your favorite movie and be inspired.

3. Get active.

I recently took on Muay Thai boxing. Me and 10 other guys. Although I’m winded in the first 15 minutes of conditioning, I have seen steady improvements in my physical strength and reflex.
Doing boxing reminds me to keep going, even when I don’t feel like it. It also keeps me centered. Sparring is about anticipating your opponent’s moves, and you have to be in the moment to do that. Being mindful is the key lesson I have learned in boxing.

According to my instructor, a world-renowned coach who has trained with the current world champion, the sport is primarily about mental discipline. When he chants, “It’s all in your mind, keep going, you can do it,” I feel stronger.

I get a second wind not only in boxing, but in all areas of my life. Boxing and other forms of exercise remind us that our minds are stronger than we think and hard work does pay off in the end. We just gotta keep on going.

4. Take deep breaths and relax.

I’m more focused on the destination rather than the journey when I’m anxious and stressed. Collecting data and then synthesizing it into an academic article requires a lot of patience and hard work.

When I get stressed, I just want to give up. I stop focusing on the present moment and I start becoming impatient about the future. I want to finish now. Then negative thoughts about the past—what choices I could and should have made—start creeping in. To counteract this, I have learned it helps to simply breathe.

My best friend took me through the visualization exercise. It’s something I have learned to do on my own. First, I close my eyes in a quiet setting. I turn on my favorite music.

Then I take a deep breath and then visualize myself when I first embarked on this journey. What did I feel? What was I thinking? The positive sensations start flooding in and I recall the joy I felt when I first took on this path. Sometimes, all we need is a simple, gentle reminder.
We remind ourselves to trust our instincts and keep forging ahead. This is all part of the beautiful journey called life.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Christian J. Collier’s The Speakeasy

This week has been a good one, but it definitely hasn’t been without its share of frustrations. There’s no way to get around those things though. They’re a part of life and have a tendency of happening for a reason. It’s all good, or at least it is how it’s supposed to be right now.

Today marks the death of Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. As an emcee, B.I.G. was, in a lot of ways, miles ahead of many of his peers. He was certainly one of the most complete emcees to do it, and his work continues to have a huge influence on me.
Today also marks one year since the last Speakeasy open-mic session at The Office. So much has happened since last year. It’s been an amazing trek.

I posted some months back about what happened last March 9th as well as what occurred a few days after. If you’re interested in running through the whole story, you can find the post in the 2011 archive. I’m not sad or angry about being out of The Office. Not at all. It’s been a total blessing and really allowed me to take a step back, shift my energies, and strengthen my MANIFEST brand.

A few days ago, I learned that there’s someone from Chattanooga who is now residing in Memphis and he has started up a Speakeasy. A good friend of mine attended the session this week and told me that the format that I worked to implement here in town was largely stolen (I’d tell you fine folks about what was specifically copied, but I don’t want anything else from The Collier Catalogue popping up out there).

It’s not the first time that someone has attempted to fully emulate something I’ve done. What bothers me is that there seems to be no creativity in the execution. I feel like it’s cheating to just blatantly try to take something that’s already been established and is the product of someone else’s experience, initiative, labor, etc. and pass it off as your own.

Anything that’s out there and working to advance the craft of poetry, I support wholeheartedly. However, I cannot get behind unoriginality. I just can’t do it, friends.

So, if you’re in or around Memphis and hit up The Speakeasy, I hope you enjoy yourself, but I also want you to be aware of where a good bit of what you’ll encounter came from. I do consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have taken The Speakeasy journey with many people over the years that have participated as well as watched it develop and evolve. For that, folks, I am quite lucky and VERY thankful.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


We’re at the beginning of March, and I’m excited to see where this month takes me. February was such an immensely fun and educational month for me. I learned a lot about myself, my culture, my history, etc.

I’ve been asked by a good friend to take part in a performance to celebrate the beginning of National Jazz Appreciation Month. I decided to try my hand at banging out a poem about Charles Mingus. I’ve been familiar with his work and legend for some time, but doing all of this new research and listening to his music again has really inspired me. I’m happy with what’s emerged so far for the piece and look forward to where it will take me later down the line. Stay tuned!

In other news, I spent three years of my adult life as a dj and a producer who operated under the name The Wetworks. I put an album out in 2008 called Government Air and was working on a follow-up before a number of things derailed the process (my computer crashing and me losing a lot of programs, sound banks, etc. being the biggest one). However, I’ve recently gone back and started listening to the old material again. I’m really thinking of jumping back in and making some new songs. They will sound tremendously different then the record I made in 2008, but they will definitely sound like me, and that’s a good thing. In the meantime, I’ll be uploading Government Air to my Soundcloud page in the near future. Give it a listen, download it, share it with friends, etc. Do whatever semi-normal peeps do with music these days, and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.

Well, that’s all I have for now. Enjoy this video by Spoek Mathambo that has continuously been blowing my mind on each view, and I’ll get back with you soon.