Sunday, September 18, 2016

Guante's New Book: Preorder Info, Release Events, and The First Chapter Available Now!

I wrote a book. It shares the title of my sampler album, "A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry," and features spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays on art, activism, media, and more. Part mixtape, part disorientation guide, and part career retrospective, the book represents the work that I have been refining and performing over the past decade or so. It also includes a foreword by the incredible Saymoukda Vongsay. The official release date is October 4, 2016. A few notes:

1. Preorder the Book through Button Poetry
Here is a link to preorder the book. Especially for people outside of the Twin Cities area, who may not be able to attend any release events, this is the best way to get it. Preordered books are signed, and come with a copy of my sampler album of the same name, which contains my favorite songs that I've recorded.

2. Come to a Release Event
I wanted to do something different for the book's physical release. Rather than throw one big me-centric event, I thought I'd support a handful of events that are already happening, and have a "release month" instead. Come to any one of these events to pick up a copy:
  • October 3: Button Poetry Live at Camp Bar in St. Paul; 7pm doors, 8pm event. 18+.
  • October 15: The Twin Cities Book Festival at the MN State Fairgrounds; I'll be at a table there the whole time (10am - 5pm). Free, all ages.
  • October 20: TruArtSpeaks' ReVerb Open Mic at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul; 6-8pm. Free, all ages.
  • October 28: I'll be performing at the Overcoming Racism Conference at Metro State University.
  • November 4: "Page.Stage.Engage" at the UMN Whole Music Club; 7:30pm doors, 8pm show. Free, all ages. More details TBA.

3. Bring Me to Your City, College, or University
If you'd like to bring my book tour to your city, college, university, library, book store, or wherever, thank you. I'm available for performances, interactive workshops, keynotes and more. Here is my booking information

This wasn't originally in the book, but I added it as a kind of intro chapter to frame everything else. As spoken word (at least the kind driven by poetry slams, viral videos, etc.) continues to get more and more popular, it struck me as strange that a piece like this didn't already exist somewhere. Obviously, not everyone is going to agree with everything in this, but I think it's a useful starting point for a broader conversation.

On a personal level, it feels good to have this project done; it's been years in the making. It is more of a retrospective than a collection of new work (though there is some new stuff in it); but I think there is value in that, especially for those of us who are on the indie/DIY side of the arts world. Aside from the poems, lyrics, and essays, the book also contains a big bank of discussion questions and writing prompts, and my hope is that it can be useful for educators in multiple contexts. I also wanted to have the book to increase accessibility to my work, since I work in a primarily audio/visual medium. As always, thank you for reading and thank you for the support.

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Spoken Word and Slam Poetry (aka the first chapter of my new book!)

                 Me, opening up for Saul Williams at Icehouse in Minneapolis; photo credit: Elliot Malcolm
(Note: this is a slightly edited version of the intro to my new book, which comes out October 4, 2016; for info on ordering it online and/or attending a release event, click here!)

Friday, September 02, 2016

A Back-To-School Intro to Spoken Word and Slam Poetry in the Twin Cities

First off, here is a list of local spoken word events, open mics, and poetry slams that I put together. As always, a quick disclaimer: that list, and what follows here, are not guides to every spoken word-oriented event or organization in our community. Just a few that I'd recommend.

The Twin Cities has one of the most vibrant spoken word scenes in the country, and whether you're new here or grew up here, here are a few highlights that should be on your radar:

TruArtSpeaks, Be Heard, and the ReVerb Open Mic
This is an organization that I work with, so I'm a little biased, but I also know that we do good work. Be Heard is the annual youth (13-19) poetry slam series; last year was huge, and this year should be even bigger, so watch out for news on that. The ReVerb open mic was highlighted as the Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities by City Pages in 2015. It takes place every Thursday at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul, 6-8pm, and is free and all-ages. It's a unique, intimate space, and the event is built around dialogue and community-building-- all great factors for anyone who is just getting started, or is maybe a little nervous. There's also a free writing workshop at 4:30pm every first Thursday of the month.

Button Poetry and Button Poetry LIVE
If you've ever seen a viral poetry slam video online, the odds are very good that it was a Button Poetry video. With over a half-million subscribers and 125 million views, they've become the premier source for spoken word video on the internet. They're also based in the Twin Cities. What's more, Button hosts a monthly poetry slam at Camp Bar every first Monday of the month that is open to anyone (18+) willing to have their work judged by strangers. Featuring big-name national featured poets, Button Poetry Live is consistently one of the best shows in town. I'll be hosting this month's installment, too.

College Poetry Slams and Spoken Word Organizations
For a lot of college students, the easiest place to plug in is with your on-campus organization. Here are some links to the ones that I know, though I'm sure that there are others too. Keep in mind that student orgs don't always update their social media as regularly as they could; you may have to do a little digging of your own to find out when the next events are:

Equilibrium at the Loft Literary Center
The most powerful spoken word shows that I've attended have been part of the EQ series, which brings together national and local spoken word artists of color. They did a "supershow" last year, and it was incredible-- you can watch the whole thing (including Patricia Smith, Ed Bok Lee, Danez Smith, myself and many more) here. The Loft also offers classes on a wide range of writing topics, if you're looking to sharpen your craft.

More Resources and Opportunities
There's so much more; these are just a few personal highlights. But a few other things to mention:
  • Other Events: check out the full(er) list of local spoken word events here-- the Free Black Table, the New Sh!t Show, Slam MN, OutSpoken and so much more are happening regularly, and new things, or one-time things, pop up all the time.
  • There are also spoken word collectives like Speakers of the Sun, Palabristas, and more; keep an eye out for their events.
  • I've gathered together a bunch of resources for aspiring spoken word artists here, including my video series sharing tips, tools, and tactics that have been useful to me.
  • The VERVE grant for spoken word artists is due in November; if you have a project, tour, or development opportunity in mind, you should apply.

As I've been saying, this is all just the tip of the iceberg. For anyone reading this, feel free to leave links to other spoken word events or resources in the comments. But I hope this can be a start. Spoken word is a democratic, participatory culture, so if you're interested in poetry and/or performance, I hope you can find a place to plug in and get involved.

FINALLY, I had to include this brand new video of team TWIN CITIES from Brave New Voices 2016. This was one of the most-talked about poems of the festival, for good reason. If you're interested in youth poetry slam, check the info on TruArtSpeaks above:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Book Coming Soon, New Videos, Summer Updates

There will be an "official" announcement once all of the details get sorted, but my book is done. It's a collection of pretty much all of the poems that I've been performing over the past five years, plus all of the lyrics from my sampler project, plus a bunch of essays from this blog and elsewhere, plus notes and commentary on everything.

It's definitely a book that highlights process as much as product.

I hope to be able to announce the release date, ordering info, and all that stuff soon.

In the meantime, I've been posting videos from last year's "Page.Stage.Engage" event at the U of MN (which we'll be doing again this year; stay tuned for details). Check out poems from members of the 2015 Be Heard MN youth poetry slam series here: Duncan, Julie, Armand (and more to come), and be sure to check out TruArtSpeaks for info on next year's series.

Also have a new song up on Soundcloud (though it's also been out for a minute because it's on this album): Venom featuring Lucien Parker:

Also, a couple of "in case you missed it" links to stuff I've written recently:

1. My thoughts on the 2016 election and voting in general

2. "Beyond the Benefit: Ten Ways Artists Can Support Social Movements"

3. A collection of links to organizations, reading, and more info about ongoing #BlackLivesMatter protests, here in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Finally, my Fall booking season has already started, with work at summer trainings and orientation programs at a couple of different colleges. If you want to bring me to your school or city, please get in touch. Info here. I'll also be performing at the big 15Now benefit show this Friday, along with POS, Khem Clan, and others. As always, a million other things happening; keep in touch on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Thought Process Regarding the 2016 Election

Wanted to put this here so I didn't have to re-type it in every argument, but even more so for friends and youth I work with who might be feeling frustrated or powerless when it comes to the upcoming election. The short version of this isn't anything too surprising: real change comes from organized movements, and it makes sense to vote for Clinton in swing states in order to be able to continue that movement-building process. But I did want to share my reasoning, plus some links for further reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beyond the Benefit: Ten Ways Artists Can Help Build and Support Movements

Note: this writing pulls together a few other things that I've written; I'm also planning on updating it with more concrete information as we get closer to the election.

On a personal level, things are stressful right now. I know I'm not alone in that. At least part of that stress is knowing how important the next three months are going to be not just because of the presidential election, but because of a whole host of other stuff on ballots around the country and here at home, plus the broader opportunity to do something with all of the energy, anger, and drive out here right now. A lot of us are trying to figure out how to best use whatever power, resources, or skills that we have to help make a difference.

So I'm thinking about the artist's role in helping to build a mass movement.

Of course, building a mass movement is everyone's job, and everyone has to figure out how best to leverage their strengths, passions, resources, access, etc. to contribute to the larger struggle. I think of teachers shifting their lesson plans in order to talk about current events. I think of religious leaders doing the same thing during their sermons. I think of workers organizing anti-oppression committees or even just book clubs in their workplaces. I think of athletes wearing #blacklivesmatter shirts and refusing to be silent. I think of online communities. I think of students. I think of young people. Everyone has some kind of power or access to space that can help this movement grow.

When it comes to artists, this conversation usually begins and ends with our art. People talk about the power of narrative and framing, the power to make the abstract concrete, the power to touch people on an emotional level and transcend petty campaign politics. And I'm with that. But that's not the conversation that I want to have here. Because I believe that as artists, we have more to offer than our art.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Few Resources, Links, and Readings Regarding Ongoing #BlackLivesMatter Protests

Like a lot of people in my community, I was out this past weekend at a couple of different actions/protests regarding the killing of Philando Castile (and others across the country). Rather than write my own big think-piece here, I thought a better use of this platform would be to collect a bunch of the links and resources that have been helpful to me over the past week (I also did this back in 2014, but it's time for an update). I'm framing this around the question "BUT WHAT CAN I DO?" which has come up a lot recently.

I think it's important to note that there's no easy answer to that question. I want to say "organize." I also want to say, though, that at different times, "doing something" will look different. It might be calling a jail to check on arrested protestors. It might be just showing up to whatever action is happening and standing in solidarity. It might be donating money to a bail fund, or dropping off supplies at an occupation, or filming a police encounter, or going to a meeting, or being there for a friend, or organizing a healing space or benefit concert, or a million other things. It doesn't mean, however, sitting back and criticizing what's going on when you have no skin in the game. It doesn't mean emailing your one Black friend and asking them what to do (they probably have enough on their mind right now). And it certainly doesn't mean business-as-usual. There's always something that can be done, even if that "something" isn't a big red button that fixes everything right away.

So here are a few starting points. Feel free to add more thoughts in the comments.