When I meet Raven at the poet’s hotel, in Durban, he’s in South Africa along with three other Irish poets – Paul Casey, Billy Ramsell and Afric McGlinchley – to perform at the 17th annual Poetry Africa. I didn’t know much of his work but I was intrigued by the Manifesto video.
I’m nervous but he puts me at ease with his open manner and smile, how when he speaks he closes his eyes, gestures with his arms, moves his entire body, it’s as if he’s in performance. He fully inhabits his body.
We spoke about poetry amongst other things, and this is what transpired.
Raven: This is the most work I have done between gigs and workshops just because usually, you might go and do a one day workshop or you play at a festival for two or three days in a row. I’m here for ten days and it’s been presentations and talks and campus invasions and performances and going here and going there so this has been an absolutely insane week so I’m exhausted but I’m meeting such an amazing group of poets.
I was saying to someone that usually if I go to poetry events in Ireland, because the country is so small, you can really get to know the national scene. In countries as large as the United States and South Africa, it’s hard to just really know what’s going on across the entire country. Whereas in Ireland it doesn’t take much before you’re really a part of the national scene. In Ireland, I know most of the people there. I know people in the Cork scene and the Galway scene and the Belfast scene and so the strangest thing to me was to come to a poetry event and I don’t know anybody but the people I came with. This is really weird.
It’s been a great opportunity to get to know a really remarkable group of poets and remarkable people. In addition to all the work of the festival – doing the workshops and the presentations at universities and the different places and the performances – I’ve also [spent] a lot of time for just getting out of my head with some of these people. They have a saying back home not back home, but back in Ireland that says, “setting the world to rights.” You sit down with a bottle of something with somebody or a group of people, you get drunk and you just talk the world into some sense. Just, sort of, lay it out. It’s been nice to just sit down and “peel an orange” with some people. Have some libations, get loose and talk about poetry.
So, it’s meant really late nights and really early mornings.
So, I’m beat.
Za: Talking about home, were there major differences between the two poetry scenes in the USA and Ireland?
If there were any, were they cultural differences?
Raven: I come from a whole background of creative protests. My folks were, or are, labour activists, activists for social justice. They were very active in the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. As a matter-of-fact, I was here in 1997 shooting a documentary on a choir that they are members of. There was a choir formed by a South African in exile, before apartheid ended. He taught them South African freedom songs in order to support the anti-apartheid movement outside the United States. In ’97, the choir got a chance to travel to South African and do a tour from Cape town to Johannesburg – performing, raising money for health-care centres and child care centres in townships and some other places. So, I grew up in that whole atmosphere of creative protest. The work that you do always serves a higher purpose.
It’s the reason why, for example, I don’t enter slams because the whole aspect of slam that is about competition throws off my purpose. It doesn’t for other people; there are plenty of very conscious slam poets, who have very important things to say. But for me personally, the aspect of competition throws off my purpose so I don’t do slams.
When I first started to bring my work out publicly, that’s probably about fifteen years ago, maybe a little bit longer than that; I started doing my poetry in guerrilla street theatre, political street theatre. When I first started bringing my stuff into open mics, I [found] listening crowds. It was called Sacred Grounds in San Francisco and they were a lovely, nurturing space. When I moved to Ireland the first thing I realised was that, because it’s much more of a drinking culture than the United States is, the crowd that I was finding myself in front of was rowdier, they were more prone to giving me a slagging. But I had enough of an ego to take it and gain the respect of the poets in Ireland so I didn’t take too much of a slagging in Ireland. Folks could really be kinda merciless. If they didn’t like something, they will let you know. I found [that] in the States, audiences can be almost too polite. You can walk off the strange and know that you bombed and there’ll still be a little bit of a polite clap.
I spent the first forty years of my life in my hometown. You got used to, I don’t know what you’d call it, a house style. And I think that different countries, different cities, will have a [different] house style. For example, if you listen to a lot of American slam now there’s a cadence and there’s a delivery that you can hear. I’m bored of it at this point. If I hear somebody deliver a poem that way, I’m gonna scream. It’s gotten to the point were the first people who started doing it we were like, “yeah, that’s a sharp kind of delivery” but now it’s codified and because it’s codified and sort of formulaic it’s now boring. But having said that, I’ve found that Ireland and [SA], there’s a kind of approach, a delivery, a way of using words.
I knew a South African poet in Dublin and he had a delivery that in Ireland seemed so odd, a bit, just different. And upon having come here for this trip and hearing people speak and hearing people perform, it makes so much more sense now.
Because I hear that cadence and some of it has to do with the language that you speak. There’s a cadence in the native tongues here that carries over even when people are speaking English. From the moment I heard, like a handful of, people perform, I was like, “oh yeah, Joseph, completely make sense to me now. The Irish have that too.
Mind you, if you listen to Paul Casey, Billy Ramsell and Afric McGlinchely, the three poets I came with here, you won’t necessarily hear it. But when you start listening to poets in mass, you’ll realise that even though not exactly the same, there’s a same kind of approach.
Do you know the composer Harry Partch; have you ever heard of him?
Raven: He was an experimental and minimalist composer. He was considered a classical composer, he got really disgusted with the whole classical industry and for ten years, he absolutely refused to write music. For that ten years, he rode the trains as a hobo, we call it “riding the blinds” back home. And while living as a transient, he started writing down snippets of conversations, bits of speech that he overheard because he had this whole idea about the musicality of everyday speech. His belief was that everyday speech had a music and a cadence that you could actually present as music on a stage. And when I listen to different languages being spoken, Dublin is great for that because there’s has been so much immigration into Ireland in the last fifteen years. When I walk down the streets of Dublin, I’m hearing several different African languages because you’ve got people from Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Africa there. I’m hearing Polish, Lithuanian, Chinese, Spanish, French. All these different languages and what I’m also hearing is the different cadence in those languages, the different rhythms so I’ve gotten used to, in general, an Irish rhythm that comes from just the way that people talk.
Those are the big differences I’ve found in moving. Just rhythms and the audiences and styles.
Za: You mentioned how different the crowds react. I’d say our crowds are lot like the US crowds then.
Raven: Actually the thing that’s lovely about the crowds here, it’s been a hit-and-miss though, some of them have been really quite and polite. But the thing that I’ve noticed is that, for example, in the Baptist church back home people do what’s called testifying. The preacher will be up in front of the congregation and people in the congregation saying, “Tell it, preacher! Yes indeed! Mhm!”
I found the crowds here will do that. If they like what you’re saying, if they’re feeling it. They will testify. I like that.
Za: That’s true when they really like it, you’ll know it. But when their not sure what the hell you’re doing then they’ll clap politely and they’ll keep it their opinions to themselves.
How has experiencing these two different countries shaped your performance?
Raven: I’ve been in Ireland for eight years now, so probably for another eight years, prior to that I was building my craft back home. When I finally decided I wanted to bring this stuff out in the public, I started going out in the open mic. Thought I was pretty good. Thought I had my stuff together. Moved to Ireland. Found people using words in ways that I didn’t. Found a cadence that I was unfamiliar with and found that I was learning something from the poets that I knew. There are excellent poets in Ireland and they have things to teach me.
By the same token the last several days, I’ve spent here, have made me wish that I could spend another year or two just amongst the poets here, to soak up what they know and to learn from them. And the one thing it has taught me is that you should never get too big for your breaches. Never think you know it all because I imagine that in any place you go, there’d be approaches to poetry that would surprise you and give you something to come away with.
What I’ve actually really come away with here is that I want to learn isiZulu. It’s a beautiful language. I’ve heard performances in isiZulu where I have no idea what you’re saying but the cadence, you know…
There are a lot of poets who read from the page. The reason I memorise, and I imagine a lot of other poets who memorise would agree with this too, is that with memorisation you have eye contact, your hands are not encumbered by the page. You have a full body performance. The thing I’m looking forward to is the wireless mic that I’ll have available for me on Friday that will allow me to move around the stage (The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at UKZN), it’s a lovely stage. One of the things I found with most of the performing poets in Ireland, and there’s actually one real stand out and exception I can think off and she’s remarkable, they don’t spend a lot of time in thinking about what their bodies are doing while their performing. Even if they’re not reading from the page, there’s a tendency to just stand up and deliver. But me, I feel those words moving in me, I move. And that’s what I’ve been seeing from a lot of people here.
I saw Sane(lisiwe Ntuli) perform. I’ve seen her perform three times now and the way she uses her body on stage, even though I don’t understand anything that she’s saying, speaks so much about the story she’s telling. Hearing the audience respond to her. There’s a call and response. She’s moving around. She’s signifying. She’s sitting down on the ground. Pura (Lavisa), when I saw him last night he was back and forth on the stage. The way I like to more too, I’m gonna be the same way. He was he was up on isles at one point. I can’t recite sitting down, that doesn’t work for me I did a presentation yesterday and Malika (Ndlovu) gave her first poem sitting down and I couldn’t. So the biggest thing has really been from going from the US to Ireland and then visiting here, it’s really been just a learning experience.
And I take those things with me. I add those things to what I know. That becomes part of my arsenal
Za: You also work as a cinematographer, I saw your video, Manifesto. Manifesto is quite minimalist. It’s not too performed and even some of the visuals you chose were not always an obvious match to what you’re saying. Talk to me about merging poetry with film and how you made this video?
Raven: I’ve always been a multimedia artist. I’m a cinematographer, I’m a spoken word artist, I have been a graphic designer, I played viola in a rock band for a while. Means of expression are fluid for me and I’ve wanted to be facile in a number of them so that if there was something that I felt I couldn’t say with words maybe there was an image that said what I wanted to say. So I always wanted to feel the freedom to move from this medium to another medium depending on which I feel was the most appropriate to get my point across.
Sometimes it’s film.
Sometimes, it’s poetry, spoken word.
I read about five different books at a time and it’s because, I have an overactive, number one and two, because in reading different things at one time you starting making connections. You start seeing similarities between several different subjects and my poetry has always been about drawing these different connection together so that they all make sense to me. It’s about making sense of the world, taking all these impetuses, all of these influences that we’re constantly assaulted by, and actually being able to hold them in my hand and have them make sense.
But as a result, what often happens is that I keep a running list of word clips, either in a notebook or my phone. Word couplets, what have you. And there is something amazing that happens when you take what initially seem like two disparate things, things that should not go together, and you put them together and suddenly you’ve got something new. [Suddenly] you’re saying something else [when] both of those things start talking to each other and they are saying something neither one of them simply could’ve said. The same happens when you juxtapose images in poetry or film so it’s a really fascinating idea.
In the Manifesto video, for example, there are certain things that I have that I’m very fond of. I was sitting in my bedroom [with] all the objects I like, I have a little glass eye, which is the thing that’s in my mouth, the butterfly, the little fragile doll.
I wanted to make a video that was about that piece but wasn’t literal. I don’t think we always need to be so literal in our translations and I feel like the expressed the feeling of what the poem was about.
The poem starts of with the line, “I found my orphaned voice one day.” It’s all about realising one’s self, finding one’s voice, and realising that one has something valuable to say. It’s about voices that have been silenced. I have a line in the poem that says, “The roar of distant sons is unheard yet years after their deaths are we aware of their presence when it is darkest.” I’m talking about distant stars and distant suns and the fact that their light takes years to reach the earth. So, we’re always looking into the past when we see their stars. But I was also talking about distant sons, in terms of our ancestors and those voices that reach to us from the past, that light that reaches to us from the past that we see in the present.
It’s about drawing strength from what has come before. It’s about dealing with your fear and feeling that your voice is valuable so there are things like the butterfly, which is a symbol of transformation come up on the mouth that’s going ‘shhh’ or the image of an eye popping out of the mouth. The mouth that is the extension of “I see and I speak.” So when I start breaking it down, all of the images do have a reference to the words that I’m speaking but they may not be obvious. The fragile doll, the idea of this figure with its face bandaged up and ‘fragile’ tattooed across its forehead but still coming out for the fight.
So, the poem really is all about those images but not in so direct a way. And that’s they way I like to play.
As poets, the beauty of using language is that we can use it to play. I love metaphor. Metaphor speaks to me so much louder. Because metaphor gives you a picture and we see in pictures. I love the words that give us a picture and that’s exactly what I’m doing with film.
Za: Speak to me about process. When you are about to create, do you know which direction it’s going to go?
Raven: I never know which way I’m going. I’ve only known one other person who uses this process. Basically, I’m reading, I’m walking through the world, I’m seeing things, I’m hearing bits of conversation, I’m engaging in conversation with people. When I’m in conversation and certain images come up, I’ll start writing them down. My wife has caught me before when we’re having a conversation. She’ll ask, “are you taking notes” and I’m like “yeah, this is good stuff, baby.”
I’ll be reading the dictionary, encyclopaedia or something online and I’ll come across word couplets that are lyrical or a single word that I like or a phrase that I heard. Somebody will say something and I’ll want to remember that. I keep [everything] in a list.
I keep a whole list of these things and I’ve been thinking of just publishing the list as it is, because it’s a stream of consciousness that sort of represents my movement through my days. But what happens is that because I’m thinking about, say three different subjects, I’m thinking about some political issue, certain emotional things that I’m going through. I’ll start going through that list, I’ll realise that this word couplet is talking about. This sentence is talking about that. I’ll start pulling those out and putting them on a separate page. So then, what I’ve got is the ingredients that will go in the soup. I’ll start shuffling those around, figuring out the order then I’ll start filling out the gaps between them. I’ll start taking away bits of what I already have and I’ll add bits until finally I have a whole piece.
As a result, it’s a very slow process and I write about, probably, what I would consider three good poems a year. I’m not one of those people who turns out twenty/fifty poems in a year. I probably write about ten and there are about three that end up being worthwhile and the rest get thrown back into the soup and reshuffle again.
Za: Back in the soup?
Raven: Yeah, if something is not working. The pieces are still valid; they’re just not speaking to each other the right way. I just pull out other pieces and see what can I do with these but my process is really slow.
Za: It’s an interesting process. It’s slow but it makes me wonder about writer’s block, because it seems to me that your process deals with that.
Raven: I feel like I constantly have writer’s block because I’m not one of those writers who can sit down and just write. I was with one of my friends, Billy Ramsell, yesterday or the day before, and he was suggesting to a group of students that they write everyday for at least an hour or two. I don’t do that. I can’t.
Writing to me comes in very small snippets. A snippet, a sentence, one word here sometimes and those get thrown into the list. So, I’m not one of those writers who write everyday for two hours. So I constantly feel that a have a writer’s block because I have had to train myself to focus on being able to get things done because I’m very hyper sensitive to colours, sound, all the influences of this world.
When I was a kid, I was a wanderer. I’d be heading somewhere and then “ooh there are some bugs here on the ground, what are they doing?” “What’s happening over there?” “What that sound come from there?” Nowadays, I can actually get from one place to another without getting sidetracked too much. But I am so moved by some of the things that I see, that I experience that I’m moved to speechlessness. It aches sometimes because there are things that I want desperately to write about because I can feel them, they’ve come into me, their are moving inside me but the words aren’t there yet. Because they have moved me so much I can’t speak.
And what ends up happening is that after these things have sat with me for a while, something comes together and suddenly I will just write in a flood and that happens fast. When it happens fast, I’ll churn out a finished piece in a day but it doesn’t happen before it’s ready to happen.
So I always have writer’s block.
Always, except for those short periods where all the inspiration that’s been simmering for a long time finally comes to a head and then it’s just all over the page. Yeah, quite often, it’s frustrating.
Za: I read in your bio that you’re working on a book.
Raven: Because I write so slowly, at almost 50 years old I’m finally coming out with my first book of poetry. It’s been a long time coming but it takes a long time to compile the work. It’s called “The Living, the Dead and Americans” and it represents probably the best of the last ten years of work that I’ve done. I was hoping to have copies before I came down but we just couldn’t get the cover together in time. There was some back and forth and discussion about the cover design. It just didn’t haven’t in time but yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Although at the same time, I think because there has been really an increase in the interest in performance poetry, there has been a fair amount of discussion in the poetry scene in Ireland, I don’t know about anywhere else but in my circle of friends, about the validity of the book at this point in time.
The book for me, basically, is a reliquary; it’s a burial place for this work so that I can feel that it is settled because it still lives inside me. Once it’s in this book and published, it’s a reliquary, it’s set aside – it’s not set aside because I’m so proud of the work and I’m hoping to sell as many copies as possible but it gives that stuff a place to rest so that I can move on to the next phase. Because I’m ready to start writing a whole new batch of poems but these need a place to sleep. And this is where they go.
There’s been a lot more talk recently, in the performance poetry community about doing more things like poetry videos, doing more recordings. There’s been much more focus on how do we get some recordings out there and as a result several poets back in Ireland are starting to work with musicians or people building soundscapes. I was working with a DJ building soundscapes. I’ve worked with a cellist, I’m one of the emcees in a hip hop band which is a five piece acid jazz hip hop fusion band. That kind of work is so exciting because things work differently on the page than they do on the air. Words, as far as I’m concerned, are meant to vibrate on the air. They’re meant to be out there. They do something different on the page. In terms of the book, they give people something [valuable] to take home. [And] as artists [we’re able] to make money. The point, really, is to make our living doing what we love.
I bought Kobus Moolman’s book the other night and he asked, “You bought it?” I think he was thinking he would just give me a copy but you know something, we print these up for a reason. We print these books because we are trying to make a living doing what we love. I buy friend’s books even if they are going to give me one [for free]. I buy friend’s recordings. I know they would give me one but we’re working artists. And if we’re giving away our stuff as working artists then we aren’t going to be able to be working artists. I pay to get into friends gigs, because you’re a working artist.
But there has been more talk about how we push this in a different direction. Around how do we put out recordings. Of course, putting out a recording as a spoken word artist is a tricky thing because I know that the records that I’ve heard which are just people reading their work, I don’t come back to those recordings too often. I think that the recordings that I’ve found most valid as a listener and as a performer are those recordings that do what I call, opening up the poetry. People who will find people who will build soundscapes for them or musicians to work with are adding another layer on it. I have presented so much spoken word to audiences who will just flat out say they don’t like poetry. It was presented to them, when they children, in a way that seemed dry or what have you and they just say, “no I don’t like that stuff.” One of the best complements that I and other poets on the Irish scene have gotten, and I’ve gotten this quiet a few times, people have come up and said “I actually don’t like poetry, but I liked that”. And part of it has been because when you bring something to performance [in] the way you move or the sound of your words in the air or the passion of your voice or just your presence, people feel that. And also people respond in a different way to the hip hop. I do stuff with the live band because music for some reason is easier for people to slip into than words. So when words are coupled with music, people feel like they have a gateway into it and sometimes it just makes it easier for people to hang on to the words. Also with hip hop there’s a lot more refrains and choruses so people feel like they can join in.
I love doing the hip hop because that’s when I get people to join me on the chorus “I want everybody to jump in the air and repeat this” but it doesn’t happen so much with my spoken word stuff. I’ve heard people do that call and response stuff in their spoken words. Ian Kamau is an example. He’s got this thing, “somebody say Joy? Joy! Somebody say Love? Love.” But hip hop is where I do that. And I feel that people feel a little bit safer or [they have] a little bit more access to spoken word with music.
I’ve have seen people’s response to spoken word CDs that sort of include some music element. The CDs that I keep going back to are the ones that open it up. I honestly think that CDs with just [the] voice [are] boring. I really do, I know that’s a harsh thing to say but no matter how good somebody is, I find that I just doesn’t come back to those often.
Za: That’s probably the same reason why I would never get an audiobook. It interferes with my thinking. The sound with the poetry can sometimes just go very wrong.
Raven: oh it can
Za: I wanna sit with the words, that’s why I like the books. I wanna sit with the words and think on top of the words.
Raven: I’m a very word heavy poet and I’ve learned over time to really slow down my performance and give people a chance to absorb things. I’ll juxtapose a lot of different images in rapid fire quite often. I’ll hit segments where I’m going from this idea to this idea and I’m linking them all together. If you’re sitting listening, you’re still chewing on the number one idea and I’m already on three and four. So the book actually, and it’s a very good point, does allow people to sit down and actually digest it. Because the only way you can digest it live is if you hear someone five, six times. But the book allows you to sit and take things at your own pace.
I have a recording called a Hundred Years of Recorded Poetry and it’s all these famous poets reading their work – Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, Yeats. The thing I found from listen them is that they are not performing poets. They are using their voices as performing poets. They were poets who wrote and someone said, “let’s record you doing this.” Langston Hughes didn’t have a great voice. I love his poetry, he’s one of my touchstones but it kinda hurts to listen to him doing his own stuff.
Za: I’m going to avoid it then.
Raven: Yeats was tone deaf and he had this over the top, sort of bombastic style of delivering his poetry that was in keeping with the time but when you hear him and his all over the place and it’s like “aw dude, turn down the volume.” Sylvia Plath, I love her work but I don’t like her delivery. The list on this recording is a lot of people I love, which is why I got the recording to listen to them. I have read Langston Hughes’ stuff to myself because that’s another thing I do when I’m reading. When I really enjoy a poem, I’ll read it aloud because I wanna hear those words on the air. I wanna hear what they sound like when they’re spoken. Langston Hughes has this bebop rhythm even though he predated bebop. He had a bebop rhythm before bebop happened. And I love speaking his stuff. I don’t like hearing Langston do his stuff though. It’s awful, I hate to say it but it is.
Za: What are your thoughts about the younger generation of poets who are coming up, entering poetry mainly in performance. And a lot of them aren’t really writing as such because they love the performance thing so much. What are your thoughts on what you’ve heard here and even back home?
Raven: I think that the one good thing that pop music has done, is that it has gotten people into that idea of performing, granted for celebrity, but when it comes to people who are interested in doing poetry, it has given those people the impetus to perform as well as write. And you’re absolutely right, a lot of the youngsters coming up on the scene wanna do it on the stage and that’s why you’re seeing an increase in the amount of performance poetry that’s happening, not only here but also internationally. And I think that’s a very exciting thing.
The thing that I do find disappointing is that because of the popularity of slam. Slam sort of tripped itself up because slam was started basically as a gimmick to get people interested in spoken word because it was fast and funny and all of this and as a result people started coming back to spoken word because suddenly it was exciting. And that was the purpose of slam. Slam brought spoken word a certain amount of popularity but as a result slam codified certain things. Quite often, at least in the States, funny poets win slams.
It’s the other reason I don’t slam. I am not a funny poet. I have one funny poem and a lot of times I’m the only person who thinks it’s funny.
[Then] there is that slam delivery style, that slam cadence that I got used to and got sick of hearing in the States and I hear it in Ireland and I’ve heard it from some people [in SA]. And that’s the unfortunate part, that when something was so vital to really increasing the profile of an art form, becomes stale in itself. The one thing I would like to see youngsters coming into this scene doing is doing what they love and realising that they don’t have to do it like other people have done it. Because quite frankly, that slam cadence is played. I have heard it so much that unless your words are really intense I’m not going to even hear what you’re saying because I feel like I’m listening to something I’ve already heard before. And that’s a shame because people have really good words but they haven’t focussed on how to own the delivery. The other thing I’ve found is that it’s a matter of confidence.
Again going back to the memorisation, I have been really excited to see youths engaging that process of memorising their word. I’ve seen people who read off the page and are excellent at it but the ultimate, for me, is to have all of your words here (points to his mind) and to be able to deliver them from here (points to the chest) and use your entire body doing it. So it’s exciting to see people interested in slam and people interested in actually memorising their work. I think there’s something very valuable in it, in terms of just education. How we learn to love language. How we learn to be confident in our bodies. How we learn to have confidence in our words and in our ability to stand on a stage in front of people and own that space.
It’s one of the things, when I work with children or people with intellectual disabilities, part of what I’m teaching them is the craft of spoke word but the other part is also about confidence and self—esteem because to take that stage and own it, you need confidence. You need to be solid in yourself and know who you are. That is the value in poetry for young people; particularly people coming from the “suffer culture.” Black Americans in the States, Africans here, the Irish in their own country. It is so important for people coming from these “suffer cultures” to be able to stand centre stage and say “I have confidence in my body, I have confidence in my voice and in the fact that I have something important to tell you.”
Because it addresses things far beyond just getting out there and saying some words. It’s about who we are. Who I am.
There are a couple of places where I feel completely confident in my life and that’s in my work as a cinematographer and my work as a poet. I have no doubt that I know what I’m doing and that I’m good. And it’s a hard thing to say. It’s such a hard thing for people to say, “I’m good, I deserves this space” and this is one of the few places in my life where I can say it.
That feels good.
Za: From here on?
Raven: Quite frankly at this point in my life I have no idea what’s going to happen. I don’t feel like I’m ever going to make my living as a spoken word artists. I’m interested in making my living as a cinematographer as a matter of fact, I really consider myself a cinematographer first and a spoken word artist second.
But I will be doing this for a while.