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Natalie E. Illum



Washington D.C., DC 20009
United States




Natalie E. Illum


What exactly should I describe? I am an activist, writer, poet, promoter, federal employee.

I am a founding board member of mothertongue(www.mothertongue.org). mothertongue is a spoken word, poetry and creative writing women's organization in D.C. We are am all volunteer run nonprofit organization dedicated to providing women and young girls a safe space to be creative and empowered by the strength and courage of their own voices and experiences.

mothertongue runs local, monthly open mics at the Black Cat(www.blackcatdc.com) that raise money for local women and girls programming. We also produce writing workshops and special events for traveling poets.

I believe in evolution and genetics, alchemical healing, breath and transformation. I work with mz. imani white to produce fire circle gatherings, work/playshops that focus on a variety of healing modalities and drumming circles.(www.ctsgathering.net)

Things I love not previously mentioned: joni mitchell, the color blue, tori amos, sweat lodges, jack daniels, max, chamber choirs, struggling singer songwriters, dogs, dogwoods, rockstars.

Most people are social constructs. All people are creative beings.

Profile and Credentials        

BA in Feminism and Political Science, MWC

MA in the Teaching of Literature

MFA in Creative Writing, AU

Spastic: A Memoir will be published in 2005.

My poetry has appeared in a variety of small press publications.

2004 Winner of the Larry Neal Writer's Award for Adult Poetry.

I also facilitate sliding scale workshops for beginning writers and offer individual manuscript critique in the genres of poetry and creative nonfiction.

I have performed at Ladyfest DC, Ladyfest South, ForWord Girls Conference (San Francisco), ARTCAR and has shared the stage with Rose Polenzani, Gina Young, Jolie Rickman, Alix Olson, Michelle Tea, Thea Hillman, Daphne Gottlieb, Sini Anderson, Cooper Lee and Cliterati.

Philosophy and Comments        

Appreciate both sleep and fatique, reality and astrology, tension and breathing. Healing yourself and being open about that process is a good thing. Above all, love yourself more than anything we'll ever do together. Gender is less important than the package in your head.

I enjoys all things progressive, post/modern, and disabling. My work centers around cycles erosion and survival: bodies, politics, relationships, communities. The goal, I suppose, is to evolve out of noticeable cycles.

Work Hours and Fee Schedule        

Northport, NY

We cannot escape the water:

5 minutes from the Long Island Sound,

1 block from the harbor holding

the local clamers hostage in winter.

Just 20 minutes without traffic to Jones Beach,

summer concert series blaring, drunken. Drive

until you hit Montauk Point, where people balance

their lives on the jetties, cut new perspectives

like diamonds. Our smiles are always

salty and bleeding. A whole house

develops breast cancer or brain tumors.

It’s in the water, they say. 6 miles to the marina, yachts

tied to shopping malls, wives to starving fishermen

buoyed in the same zip code.

During a bonfire at the beach, we dance, abandon

our tarred sandals like slipknots. 1 more sunset

before we all lose our virginity too soon. As the sun slips, burns

a carnelian orange into our retinas,

liquor coats the backs of our throats

a searing red, like our lips sealed

with rip tides and anchors.

What if the past were just another story and not the origin of the stone in our hearts?        

after Asheville, NC
He is crying – choked voice
and his limbs are curled
around mine – his breath knotted
in my hair, the salt pooling
at the spine. We are rooted

like an old maple tree, scarred
and spilling molasses.

Trouble is, he is built more like a bird
than tree. His body was made for wings:
the small angle of ribs, the sharp sloping
of scapula. I trace with three fingers

how briefly he will anchor inside me –
narrow the weight of his soul
to nothing. The distance between us
is measured by need. My need for clarity,
for bodies pressed into concrete objects.
I am a ground lover, always falling,

betrayed. He traces my bruises;
these clovered offerings of devotion.

His need is measured in altitudes:
in tiny vials of sky,in pin pricks
that carry him to plummeting. The tether
of us will never be long enough to sustain
this tourniquet love

Poetry is about claiming paper as truth, ink as blood; writing is about publishing your own bible.        

My Mother’s Prayer

My mother has one wish for me,
one daily mantra like Good Morning,
she calls to me over long distances.
Don’t Fall. Try not to fall down.

OK. I promise. As though language mitigates
condition, as though a lack of balance
was semantics. So I put down the phone.

Inside my head is a trip wire,
a stuttering endgame,
a wild gesturing
of genetics and alchemy. The equation of movement
sounds like static. A spastic afterthought of normalcy
encased in blue light. I move forward through mud.

I go down and pick up the metaphor for pain
I call the bruising Persimmon. I hold lighting
in the synapses. I cushion the need for gravity

My body harbors titanium like war rations. My body
fucks the ground more than it should. I am a prostitute,
needing asphalt over flesh. My bones are gravel and concrete.

Falling is like flying and the impact is not
death. I expect an easy shattering except
I get up. I haul muscle and torn
flesh into an approximation
of walking, a simulation of standing.
A promise I broke to my mother,

who swears every time I crash and [audible gasp],
cold sweat threaten to break into my own flesh.
Every time I grow bruises like purple and yellow

crocuses dying on my skin. She knows I have fallen
and prays for me.


I am from the ocean,
sea salt tangled in my hair.
I am from an ancient lineage
of seers, shaman, and crazy women
believing in scattered prophesies.

I am from the cast out and the called in.
I am from a broken womb, a dead landscape
of swollen tissue, spastic limbs, a falling down
I cannot control. I am from the lexicon of cripple.

I am from a dirty secret
of my grandmother’s mother’s mother,
a mixed dialect, a faulty bloodline. A girl
no one would claim.

I am from the wanderlust
of rockstars, from those fantasies spun
out of guitars. I am from the chords
of Joni, tethered to my bones.
I speak in requiems.

I am from poetry, from line breaks
Metaphors, scene shifts and slant rhyme.
I am from performance art and the body electric.
I am from projection and creation.

I am from a lover I couldn’t hold
on to. A woman I can’t forget, a man
who traces my body, whose fingerprints
form my smile.

I am from the fragmented Zodiac,
the manipulative sisters – tattooed
skin over scar tissue and the sound
of glass breaking.

I am from a story I wrote once, a pen
I won’t put down. The exhausted scribes
of teenaged angst and track lines.
I am from survival songs.

I am from the way you see me
in afternoon light, in shades of darkness.
I am from the ocean; salt and bone
entangled. The pulling tides and I
are whispering.

End the Tyranny: Inaugarate the People        

Inaugurate This! is a homecoming for musicians and spoken word artists. On January 20, 2005, at Washington, DC's Black Cat club, some 25 performers will take to the stage to celebrate Inauguration Day in the most American way possible: Through their art, they will protest, condemn, join with, cheer, combat, and commemorate our United States. Featuring local and national spokenword artists and musicians:

Bitch (formerly Bitch and Animal) (NYC)
Sini Anderson (San Francisco)
Athens Boys Choir (Georgia)
Grover (Asheville)
Cliterati (Atlanta Spoken Word Troupe)
Michelle Sewell (DC)
The Original Woman (DC)
Natalie E. Illum (of DC’s mothertongue)
J. Scales (DC)
Gina Young (NYC)
mz.imani (Maryland)
Stevie B (Oakland)
SkyBear. (Boston)

More information available at www.blackcatdc.org.

January 20, 2004: Day One
Where: The Black Cat
1811 14th St, NW
When: 7:30 pm doors $10
8:00 pm SHOWTIME
The tour continues in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, Jan 22. Come gather at the Rotunda to hear counter-augural activists, network, barter and speak out. This all-day event will culminate with the inaugurate this! performers.

Jan 22, 2004: Day Two
Where: The Rotunda Community Center
4014 Walnut Street
When: $10 suggested donation, no one turned away for lack of funds.
5:00 Guest Speakers
5:30 Rock and Shop
6:30 Community Potluck
7:00 SHOW

Hosted by Natalie E. Illum of DC’s mothertongue and her kick ass activist brother, Chris.

Featuring Bitch (NYC), Sini Anderson (San Francisco), Athens Boys Choir (Georgia)
Grover (Asheville), Pamela Means (Boston), Gina Young (NYC), mz.imani (Maryland)
Stevie B (Oakland) and SkyBear. (Boston)

Inaugurate This! is unprecedented, unpresidential even. www.inaugurate-this.org.
What America needs: You.
You who are involved, or want to be. You with your voice.
You with your art.
You with your conscience.
Come, join us.

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