GoViral 2018 – Almaty, Kazakhstan

GoViral was a whirlwind: a three-day festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan (June 15-18, 2018) focused on innovation of all stripes.

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listening is my jam

This is only the second year that the festival has been up and running, and I was floored by what the US Consulate General in Kazakhstan has been able to pull off. It was an honor to be a part of that magic––not just the official events, but all the side conversations that happened as a result of lots of people with ideas and passions gathering together.

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door to the US Maker Space in Almaty

I gave a talk in the opening ceremony about poetry, and the unraveling of my 4-year journey so far (video here).

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ye olde opening slide, complete with cardboard aesthetic (am I predictable? yes)

In preparing for the keynote I realized that I don’t know if I’m still a poet. Poetry is the place I come from, the soil I grew up in, but not necessarily where I’m going.

As I do this project for longer––going on 4 years this September (if you count the beginning as the NYC People’s Climate March), or 5 years come August (if you count the beginning as my bicycle journey down the Mississippi River)––I find myself transitioning out of poems and into multimedia forms that let each storyteller speak in their own voice, rather than having my words reinterpret theirs.

Audio / image / creative nonfiction: the 1,001 Stories project continues to take on a shape and form of its own.

Poetry will always be a homeland I return to. For now: here’s to movement & play.

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fun fact: I did a whole lot of dancing backstage to calm nerves before delivering this talk

After the opening ceremony I presented on three panels alongside some superstar activists and writers from Central Asia & beyond.

Art communities and creative industries changing modern cities: with Aida Sulova, Asya Tulesova, and Anisa Sabiri. Moderated by Galina Koretskaya.

Seeing other people’s worlds: travel writing that goes deeper than the surface: with Tynan and Jeff Miller. Moderated by Anuar Nurpeisov.

How to use storytelling for social change: with Denis Bihus, Mary Mitchell, and Lara Stolman. Moderated by Madi Mambetov.

(All presentations were dubbed in Russian & will be uploaded in English in the coming weeks).

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Big thanks to my Harvard classmate Didar KM for inviting me to be a part of the festival.

(Fun fact: we took Deborah Foster‘s class “The Art of Storytelling” together freshman year, the course that made me decide to study Folklore & Mythology in the first place. Best decision I ever made).

If you haven’t already, go check out Didar’s comics: Abai Cartoons. Seriously awesome stuff.

Other things that were wonderful / that I don’t want to forget:

A) Dancing backstage with the best volunteer anyone could dream of working with (Yekaterina Kolessina!)

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caught in a rare moment of stillness (most of the time we were dancing / discussing politics)

B) climbing the big mountain that overlooks Almaty with Anuar Nurpeisov and Ben Yu. We saw a sideways rainbow, and miraculously did not fall.

Hi, my name is Devi and I was raised by mountaineers. Sometimes I like to climb 🌈

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and C) making a whole lot of audio recordings on water and climate change in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan: 29, to be exact.

Backstory:

For ten days before the festival I journeyed to Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan alongside translator Qanat and photographer Sardar. We listened to stories about everything from cotton farming in the USSR to the Aral Sea to the legend of Issykul Lake’s formation and what it’s like being a woman who runs a bottled water business (and how a lack of infrastructure maintenance has necessitated bottled water consumption in the first place).

One of these stories, told by a storyteller who grew up in Afghanistan, ripped me open & reaffirmed my conviction that we need to create more spaces to talk about water. Water is life, and a lack of access to clean water can be deadly. More on that in the future.

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The sometimes frustrating, sometimes amazing, always a learning experience magic of translation A.K.A. linguistic triangulation. (Step one: listen. Step two: listen again) 

We translated the cardboard sign into Russian…

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there’s a spelling error hidden somewhere in here –– we fixed it later

… with materials provided by a friendly fruit seller in Balkhash:

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that’s journey photographer Sardar shaping the cardboard sign in-progress

The stories I recorded in Central Asia will be available eventually on the 1,001 stories map. Stay tuned for updates!

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Yours truly. Photo by Sardar.

This was my first time documenting stories while accompanied by three dudes (translator, photographer, driver). It changed parts of the trip, but not the whole thing.

If nothing else, it was a relief to be able to bring up Rebecca Solnit‘s book “Men Explain Things to Me” in the confined space of a bumpy van ride, and not be attacked for being a feminist. Referencing that book on a van ride from Laos to Cambodia two years ago brought about physical violence. (Again, more on that later, perchance –– that’s the subject of another thing).

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toilet block on the way to Balkhash. ladies to the left.

Lake Balkhash itself was stunning, and also a site of great ecological complexity / layered histories. Half the lake is salt, half is fresh, and the shores are filled with great people to talk to.

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@ a place where lines blur

Sardar shot material for a 20 minute film about my journey to document human stories on water and climate change, feat. music by Kazakh composer Kuat Shildebayev.

Cultural Curator Timur Nusimbekov, creator of Adamdar, edited the film, and did a whole lot of organizing backstage to make all of this come together (planning events in Balkhash, Bishkek, and Almaty). Timur, you rock.

I’ll post the link here when it goes live.

UPDATE: the film will be shown in Kazakhstan at the Almaty Indie Film Festival!

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Photo by Sardar

In the process of recording material in Balkhash, I realized how little I know about the Soviet Union, and all that has happened after.

I asked lots of questions. (Stories are doors. I like doorways).

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Also: let’s talk for a second about architecture. Soviet buildings stick around long after the USSR itself has crumbled. Balkhash city was built about 80 years ago, and the bones of the town are still strongly reminiscent of that era.

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From Balkhash we zoomed to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for an action-packed weekend. I gave two talks at Chicken Star, hands down the finest chicken/coffee/art establishment I have ever stepped inside.

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Seriously –– I love this place. Not for the chicken (although I hear that it is indeed quite good), but for the community.

If you ever find yourself in Bishkek, Chicken Star is not to be missed.

The founder, Chihoon Jeong, is the kind of person who can intuit what kind of drink you need before you even know that you need it. What a gift.

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talks on talks –– taste the joy?

Kyrgyzstan at sunset is its own kind of gorgeous.

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Like any responsible story collector, I did my best to see things from different perspectives.

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handstands are fun

In sum: it was a blur of a two weeks…

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moments before being eaten by a cloud, on the way up to Big Almaty Peak

… filled w/ beauty of a distinctly Central Asian variety:

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water is life (Almaty, KZ)

For now: the journeys continue.

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upwards & downwards & upwards again

Big thanks to the storytellers who talked to me about water / climate & the GoViral event organizers who pulled off the near-impossible feat of gathering so many fascinating people from around the world in one place.

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If you have the opportunity to attend or speak at this festival: go. You won’t regret it.

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until soon –– over & out

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Send me on my way

LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN!

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2.5 months around the 🌎  for climate / water stories (of course), starting now:

Montpelier –> Montreal –> Chengdu –> Beijing –> Copenhagen –> Stockholm –> Chicago –> Boston

Goals for this trip:

  • Record water / climate change stories in each place
  • Learn whatever it is that the journey has to teach me
  • Get more comfortable taking portrait photographs

I bought a used DSLR camera & I’m learning my way around the different settings / breaking through the shyness that I have of photographing people.

This is my friend Cora Brooks in Montpelier, VT. She writes poems and taught me how to bake bread.

We met 5-ish years ago through the archives at the Schlesinger Library, where I was doing a research project on poets who have their papers archived there.

I started alphabetically by last name, elbow deep in grey boxes and filing folders. After a few weeks I realized that Cora was still alive (most people donate their papers only after they’ve passed).

I wrote her a letter. She wrote back. We’ve been writing each other letters ever since.

I’ve visited Cora in Montpelier a few times over the years, and every visit is a new kind of magic. Today we walked to town and ate beetroot and orange gelato.

Cora teaches me how to enjoy slowness. Her home is full of words. She has a cat whose name changes every time I visit. Last time he was Zebra Tattoo. Today he is Barcelona.

Here’s to intergenerational friendships.

Stay tuned for more. I’m looking forward to updating you all from the road.

xo,
D

In Which I Fall in Love with a Bike Path

I visited Chicago last year, fell in love with a bike path, and wrote this for Bicycling Magazine

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I mean, the beauty. How could I resist?

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inside the Chakaia Booker sculpture

Experiencing the Bloomingdale Trail has made me want more out of cities. I don’t want to spend all of my mental energy dodging cars. I want to have corridors (or heck, whole carless streets) that let me intersect with art, poetry, and other humans face to face. I want topographical variations that make the eye move. I want the air to taste good (read: lots of plants).

Most of all, I want outdoor spaces that inspire people to get out of their homes and have conversations with one another. And I want those conversations to cross borders of race and gender and age and class and ability.

Long live the Bloomingdale Trail!

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poetry underfoot

Poetry & Honey – upcoming event!

BOSTON-AREA FRIENDS:

On Friday Aug 19th at 7pm I’ll be reading poems at Follow The Honey (1132 Mass Ave) in Cambridge, MA. Stick around after for a wine tasting with Proud Pour!

Here’s the Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/319270138414558

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The event is free. I’m making a whole bunch of handmade poetry chapbooks that will be for sale in exchange for any donation — all funds will help me attend the UN climate talks in Morocco this November as a youth delegate with SustainUS.

More updates to come! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Here’s the full event description:

 

Poetry and honey together (and perhaps a spot of wine)?!?! OH YES.

Kick off National Honey Day events with a poetry reading by Devi Lockwood at Follow the Honey in Cambridge, MA. Stick around after for a wine tasting with Proud Pour.

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Devi Lockwood is a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller from Boston. For the last two years she has been traveling the world by bicycle and by boat to collect 1,001 stories from people she meets about water and climate change.

Her journey began with the September 21, 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC. To date she has collected over 500 stories (audio recordings) in the USA, Fiji, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Qatar. She is working to create a map on a website where you can click on a point and listen to a story someone has told her from that place.

Devi’s writing has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bicycling Magazine, Storyscape, BOAAT, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere — for a full publication list, see: devi-lockwood.com/read-listen.

Devi is currently based in New Hampshire and will attend the November 2016 COP22 UN climate talks in Morocco as a youth delegate for SustainUS.

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The reading is free. Handmade poetry chapbooks will be for sale at the event, with some old poems and some recent poems from the journey. Price is a sliding scale — whatever you can afford! Bring cash / spare change.

All funds raised will help Devi attend COP22, the UN climate talks in Morocco.

At the end of the event, Brian Thurber, the founder of Proud Pour, will be sampling his wine.

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Proud Pour pairs high-quality wines with local environmental restoration. Proud Pour’s Sauvignon Blanc restores 100 wild oysters per bottle. Delicious + sustainable.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

website: devi-lockwood.com
blog: onebikeoneyear.wordpress.com

On the Texture of the Air

Tonight I read three poems to a room full of climate activists in Aotearoa.

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Activism is hard work. It’s exhausting.

After listening to the poems, someone told me how re-energized she felt––poetry the counterpoint to a long day of planning direct actions for the coming year.

“I was exhausted ten minutes ago,” she said. “Now I feel lightness. What a difference.”

Poetry changes the air in a room. This much I know.

Over & over I’m reminded of the importance of art in our movements, the necessary breath.

There are as many ways to be an activist as there are people on this planet. There is value in standing with a cardboard sign in the streets. There is value in being loud––many voices speaking for a single cause. So much planning goes into a single march. I have deep respect for that work.

There is value, too, in sitting down in a silent room with a pen and a piece of paper, the quietness of writing, of meeting oneself on the page without knowing what will come next.

I move through both worlds in my activism. The one doesn’t exist for me without the other.

& there is always more to do.

It’s autumn. I have things to tell you.

Fine people of the internet:

Holy goodness, it’s been a while. I have so much to tell you! This is going to be a long post, so fasten your seat belts, friends. Pour a cup of tea. The last month has been full of life.

Autumn always makes me think of new beginnings: the start of school, most intimately (I’m two years out of university, but the feeling still lingers)––classes and lectures and rowing practice and long shadows in the afternoons. It’s a time to go internal, to breathe deeply in that slippery light.

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Kapiti Coast

 

Everything starts in blue, right?

In mid-March I ventured north from the Kapiti Coast to volunteer for three days at WOMAD New Zealand, a world music festival that takes over New Plymouth once a year. The acts were something out of this world. Tami Neilson’s Album “Don’t Be Afraid” has been on heavy rotation in my world for the last six months or so; it was divine to see her perform live. You best believe I danced my socks off.

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Seriously, go listen to her stuff right now.

And then there was DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian quartet who wear funky hats and dedicate themselves to preserving Ukrainian folk songs. Their creative process is something like this: 1) go to the remote mountain areas in Ukraine, 2) find the oldest living women in the mountain villages, 3) ask them to sing the folk songs they know, 4) record said songs, and 5) reimagine the songs for today’s audience.

The result is AMAZING. Talk about kick-ass percussion. And of course my inner folklorist is dancing.

From Taranaki I traveled north to Auckland for a wedding. Because sometimes surprise things happen on the road.

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Speaking of which, I’d love to introduce you all to my travel buddy from here on out… Charlotte Chadwick!

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We clean up okay. This was at Charlotte’s high school bff’s wedding in Auckland. 

Charlotte is a singer-songwriter, poet, and theater-person extraordinaire (actor / director / playwright / etc.) from Aotearoa New Zealand who also happens to be an awesome ESL teacher. She’s traveled all over and tells great stories, to boot. You can listen to some of Charlotte’s music here: charlottechadwick.bandcamp.com

The journey will be solo at times, together at times, and delightfully messy, as per always. Because that is what journeys are. Journeys change. And this change is most definitely good.

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Happy Devi is happy 🙂 

From Auckland, Charlotte and I headed to Tauranga to learn some coding skills from the delightfully talented Robert O’Brien, a software developer who has generously given his time to make the next phase of the One Bike One Year journey a reality. His son, Max, has also kindly volunteered his design talents.

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Octocat, a new friend

Ya’ll know how I have been alluding to making a map on a website where you can click on a point and listen to a story from that place?

Well, it’s coming to fruition. Slowly, but yes. Things are happening. Stay tuned.

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Doing metadata research at the National Library audio archives in Wellington & geeking out over all the old audio equipment 

Then Charlotte & I started to plot a way out of Aotearoa. This wasn’t easy, because I had made a commitment not to fly.

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Friends, we tried everything.

I went back and forth for four months with a cargo ship executive who had promised me a free trip out of New Zealand. Long story short, he couldn’t make it happen. There were insurance problems. Oy.

Then we tried for super yacht / sailing positions. But it’s the wrong season to sail towards Southeast Asia. The cruise ship companies we talked to didn’t have positions that would suit our needs, but we applied anyway and heard nothing.

Then, grudgingly, we looked at flights. There was a ridiculous sale going from Wellington to Bangkok in mid-May.

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We bought the tickets.

I’ll be writing more about this soon, but weighing the value of travel and continuing to collect stories vs. the carbon footprint of a flight (or even a cargo ship trip, for that matter)… it’s sticky stuff. And stuff that it’s necessary to talk more about.

Honestly, poetry helps get me through.

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And while I do have a small place in the “family of things”, it’s my duty as an activist to tread lightly on this planet while doing the kind of listening work that has become my life.

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.”

So many questions. Mary Oliver is a goddess of questions.

In other news:

The cardboard sign turned three years old! HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the wrinkly piece of cardboard that has helped me collect hundreds of stories in five countries during the last 3 years. There will be a new incarnation of the cardboard sign in SE Asia, most likely with words in more than one language. Woot!

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Baby cardboard sign / day one of story collecting / Boston / April 2013

chronicles of a story listener — 1.5 years and counting

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the well-worn sign in all its glory #tellmeastory

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Speaking of multi-lingualism, my work was featured in a newspaper in Vietnam:

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And last week was pretty big: I did an interview  with the German enorm Magazin for their June issue, plus an interview & photo shoot with Bicycling Magazine in the good ol’ US of A. Not sure when that print copy will be out, but I’ll post some sneak peak photos as soon as I have them to share.

It was a windy afternoon on top of the world where Jacob Howard took the photos for Bicycling––you check out some of his other work here. The big uphill climb up beyond the Brooklyn Turbine was totally worth it.

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Big wind, big sky, bigger things ahead.

Onwards,

Devi

Pop-Up Poetry

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On Saturday I spent four hours at the Whanganui market with these wonderful women writing poems on demand & witnessing the beauty that is positive human contact.

If someone approached me with a topic, I would write a poem for them.

I wrote fifteen poems in all, on subjects ranging from dog licks to ergonomics to fear. I would do this again in a heartbeat.

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In other news, I made it into the paper in Italy!

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Plans for the next step after Aotearoa New Zealand are coming into place slowly, slowly. Here’s to figuring things out as they come.

Big love to all near and far.

xo,

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