Martha Cinader Mims

A poet who performs with Jazz musicians.

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Born in New York City in 1962, I spent my early childhood in Montclaire, New Jersey with my parents and growing family. My mother, Johanna, immigrated to America from Holland when she married my father, Arthur, a Jewish business executive originally from the Bronx. My brother John was killed in a car accident when he was six and I was three. That was the worst thing that ever happened to our family. When I was seven, my family of seven moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we lived for the next seven years, returning to the East Coast to live in New York City in 1975, when I was thirteen years old.

Attending the Spence School for girls by day, I graduated with honors when I was 17. I alternately sold clothes and served cookies during that time for spending money. By night and mostly without permission, I attended jazz concerts in the East and West Village. I learned about and heard many of the jazz legends, most of whom have since passed away. Hearing live music at the heights of achievement, and observing the mostly forsaken circumstances under which these geniuses lived out their lives, was the beginning of a life-long fascination with music, culture and society, and each of our places in it. I began writing poetry and keeping journals, which I now wish I still had. I threw them all away once, in a fit of self-hatred.

After an un-inspired summer semester at New York University, I left school and home, and began to attend what I called “The School of Life.” This involved moving down to East 3rd Street, and in with the alto player who would be my partner for the next eight years. I worked as a professional model for a little while, and went to Barry Harris' Master Class on Monday nights at the Jazz Cultural Center. I fiddled around on the piano and the flute and sang some songs, but never felt as comfortable as when I had a pen in my hand and words just flowed onto the paper. My first publication credit is an interview I did of my partner and took around to the publisher of The East Villager. We bought one way tickets to Amsterdam, Holland in 1984, and travelled around Europe for the next six years, following a sort of jazz circuit from Amsterdam to Valencia, to Paris, where our daughter Crystal was born. By the time we landed in Munich it finally became evident to me that these were not ideal circumstances for parenting or nurturing my own talents. I returned to the East Village with Crystal in 1990.

Soon after my return I started a little event called Sunday Afternoon Stories that I hosted at a little french restaurant in Soho called La Poeme. After awhile that became an open mic, with more poets showing up than storytellers. A train ride to the WBAI Radio Station with the intention of promoting my event on the air, turned into a ten year stint as a volunteer producer and on-air host. While there I wrote and produced several live radio dramas, and also interviewed many interesting authors and musicians. Even though I was mostly broke I got the chance to attend many cultural events as a reporter, which broadened my education in many ways. I also did some work for Steve Cannon at A Gathering of the Tribes, where I wrote some grants and was the associate editor for a couple issues of the magazine by the same name. My open mic series eventually became Listen & Be Heard Open Mic, a weekly event that moved from the University of the Streets to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and helped me to hone my skills over the next five years.

I wrote a collection of biographical stories entitled “Dreamscape, Real Dreams Really Make a Difference,” that was published by Tenth Avenue Editions. I was invited to perform them at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. That marked the beginning of my collaboration with Sabine Worthmann, which formed the basis for the group I called Po'azz Yo'azz. We performed at arts festivals in the US, UK and Europe and recorded a CD together. Remixes from my cd have also been released as dance music. The one I still hear about from fans today is Living It! I also started out as a web publisher with PlanetAUTHORity.com, and learned web production on my seat at my day job with Grey Advertising in their new Web department. Some of my poetry and stories are published by Writers and Readers, in a volume entitled “When the Body Calls.” After workshopping about 53 episodes of “Mission of Love” during the open mic, I reworked it as a two act tele-video play in iambic pentameter, and produced it at Club Vinyl. That's when I became pregnant with Ben, an event which motivated me to leave New York City and move to Vallejo, CA.

Soon after moving to Vallejo I started up Listen & Be Heard Open Mic again, at Rafael's, as a way to meet new people. I did in fact meet my future husband there, Tony Mims, a poet also. He inspired me to start Listen & Be Heard Weekly, a print newspaper we published together for three years. We went from 100 copies to 6,000, and distributed around Solano County and the Bay Area. That publication continues today, in its fifth year, with a more worldly focus at listenandbeheard.net. You will find my weekly Letter from the Editor there, and some of my latest poetry. My husband and I also opened Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe together in downtown Vallejo where we were the hub for culture, live music and poetry for three years. We have two more sons together, John and Lewis.

Life has indeed schooled me. I have never stopped studying or quit my quest for knowledge, and continue to write daily. I still love the spoken word as much as the written word and love to improvise as much as to get every word and syllable just right.

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