Friday, February 16, 2018

"A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry" | Relaunch Details, Release Party Update, Plus New Videos

1. The Book:
This book is a collection of pretty much all of my best work over the past few years. I self-published it last year, and now it's being re-launched as an official Button Poetry publication (along with a new cover design courtesy of Nikki Clark). Here's the blurb:

One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this book brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work. From the exploration of toxic masculinity in "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up'," to the throwback humanist Hip Hop of "Matches," to a one-act play on the racial and cultural politics of Eminem, "A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry" is a practitioners eye-view of the intersections of Hip Hop, poetry, and social justice.

It's available for order now. The first 100 preorders are signed, and come with a special gift. The official release date is February 20.

2. The Re-Launch Party:
We'll be having a special performance on Sunday, February 25 at Icehouse in Minneapolis. I'll be reading some stuff from the book, along with some brand new work. I'll also be joined by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay (who wrote the book's foreword) and singer/songwriting Lydia Liza, and the evening will be hosted by Dua. All three are personal favorites of mine, as artists and as people.

The event just goes from 7-9pm because early shows are awesome. The cover is $15, but that comes with a copy of the book. Tickets are available here.

3. Two New Videos!
These are both older poems of mine, but ones I'm proud of:

Thanks again to everyone who already bought the book the first time. This re-launch should expand the book's reach, but I'm definitely grateful to everyone who's already been plugged in.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Button Poetry is Re-Releasing My Book for 2018

This February, Button Poetry will be re-releasing my debut book, A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry.

It's got a new cover (by designer Nikki Clark), but it's the same book that's been out for a year now. The book was technically self-published, and Button handled the online orders and helped promote it. As we've gone through a few runs now, we figured we may as well "make it official" and actually publish the book through them. I'm hoping this re-release puts the book in more people's hands. If you already got one, thank you! If you didn't, you can order it here. You can also read the full first chapter, "Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Spoken Word and Slam Poetry," here.

It's always weird seeing my book next to other poetry books (Button has also published books by Danez Smith, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, Rudy Francisco, and many others; mine will be joining a 2018 slate that includes Neil Hilborn, Rachel Wiley, and Jared Paul); I don't say that to be faux-midwest humble; I think the book functions pretty differently from most poetry books, so I'm extra grateful to Button for being so supportive of its weird vision. I'm currently working on the next one too.

Here's the full blurb and some nice things people said:

One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this book brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work. From the exploration of toxic masculinity in "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up'," to the throwback humanist Hip Hop of "Matches," to a one-act play on the racial and cultural politics of Eminem, "A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry" is a practitioners eye-view of the intersections of Hip Hop, poetry, and social justice.

"It’s riveting, it’s blunt, and trust me, you will be smarter when you finish this book than when you started."
--Neil Hilborn, author of Our Numbered Days

"A poignant critique of power, privilege, allyship, identity and more, A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry grounds the abstract concepts of social justice in heart wrenching narrative poetry and brilliantly insightful raps. Generously loaded with commentary on his structure, process and pedagogy, this collection is arsenal, consider yourself weaponized."
--Tish Jones, poet and executive director of TruArtSpeaks

"A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry is more than just a book; it is an experience. To say every poem was welcoming would be a lie. To say it gave me hope would be another lie. It gave me fight. It gave me a set of nails, a hammer painted pink, and a dare to build something I always thought was impossible. Go! Get your hands dirty."
--Hieu Minh Nguyen, author of This Way to the Sugar

Come to the book re-launch event too! Sunday, February 25, at Icehouse in MPLS.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 Wrap-Up Post: Songs, Poems, Videos, and Writing You May Have Missed

So, not a great year, in general. But I was able to be part of some cool stuff, and am endlessly grateful for everyone who helped make that possible. Here's a quick recap (and you can find my other end-of-year recaps here) of some of the stuff of mine that people may have missed:

1. My TEDx Talk:

Read more about this here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Ongoing Thread: A More In-Depth Look at a Few Poems/Videos

A few months ago, Button Poetry asked if I might be interested in doing some more in-depth write-ups of a handful of poems going up on their channel. It felt like a good opportunity to shine a spotlight on some other artists, as well as share some basic critical analysis tools with Button's (considerable!) audience. Spoken word video has, after all, really blown up over the past few years, with millions of people watching poems online, sharing them, and beginning to participate themselves. I believe this is a good thing.

What's maybe missing, to some extent, is the space to develop some critique skills that go beyond "I like this" or "I don't like this." We do this in classes, workshops, and writing circles, but not everyone has access to those. We do this in informal conversations with one-another, but again, not everyone has access to those. And since there aren't really a lot of big spoken word-focused blogs, podcasts, journals, etc. (in the same way that there are for, for example, Hip Hop, or traditional page poetry), this felt like a niche we could start to fill.

Because that process-- of figuring out why we like something, or analyzing what makes a particular poem work, or being able to identify the tools and techniques being used-- is bigger than just poetry. That's about cultivating curiosity and critical thinking. Ideally, more people will begin doing this, both through Button and on their own.

For now, here are the write-ups that I've done. Note: Button posts a new video pretty much every day, so I'm not writing up every single one-- just the ones they send me. I hope these are interesting and/or useful. Feel free to post your own thoughts, disagreements, and observations.

Dave Harris: To The Extent X Body Including its Fists Constitute "Weapons"

Sam Sax: Written to be Yelled at Trump Tower During a Vigil for The NEA

Bianca Phipps: Stay With Me

Donte Collins: New Country (after Safia Elhillo)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Watching A Fight At The New Haven Dog Park

Javon Johnson: Baby Brother

Blythe Baird: Yet Another Rape Poem

Hanif Abdurraqib: At My First Punk Rock Show Ever, 1998

William Evans: They Love Us Here

Jared Singer: Silence

Ariana Brown: Ode to Thrift Stores

Mitcholos: Cacophony

Alysia Harris: Joy

Carmen Gillespie: Blue Black Wet of Wood

Olivia Gatwood: When I Say We Are All Teen Girls

Franny Choi: Split Mouth

Billy Tuggle: Marvin's Last Verses

William Evans: Bathroom Etiquette

Talia Young: While My Love Sleeps I Cook Dinner

Bao Phi: Broken/English

(to be continued)

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

My Tedx Talk: "Five Things Art Taught Me About Activism" (featuring a new version of "Quicksand")

***UPDATE: a limited run of shirts available for order now featuring a quote from this talk; order before 12/21 and get free shipping (in the US)***

Here it is. If you want a summary, the talk is basically about how the relationship between art and activism is so much deeper than just art that happens to be about activist stuff, that there's a further connection in terms of process. The questions that artists ask themselves often mirror the questions that activists ask. The steps that artists take from idea to concept to art often mirror the steps that activists take from value to principle to action.

My biggest worry is that the title of the talk might insinuate that it's "for" artists or people who are already deeply engaged in activist work. And it's not, really. This talk is for anyone who knows the world is messed up, and wants to do something about it. Just a few notes:

1. The talk opens with a revised version of my poem "Quicksand." I've always liked that poem, but have also always worried that it's too easy to misinterpret, to read it as a critique of slacktivism, or a call for action-for-action's sake; for me, it's something more nuanced. It's my own fault as a writer that that isn't more clear, but this talk gave me a chance to dig into the poem a little more.

2. The full text to that poem can be found here, and it's also included in my book. As for the text of the full talk, I'm working on a highly-reimagined version of it for my new book, but I'd be happy to email anyone requesting the text for accessibility's sake. The little verse at the end is from the Sifu Hotman (which is me, Dem Atlas, and Rube) song "Matches," something I've found myself performing more and more over the past year.

3. The talk also plays off the zine that me and Olivia Novotny made this past year; I'm currently working on a revised/updated version of that as well. Feel free to share!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Poems, Links, and Resources RE: #MeToo, Consent, and Rape Culture

RE: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Charlie Sheen, Tony Cornish, Louis CK, Dan Schoen, Donald Trump, and far too many others.

In my ongoing quest to break out of the thinkpiece cycle (where things happen in the world, and my first impulse is to write an essay to let people know "here's what I think about THIS," because there are plenty of other/better people doing that already), I figured I'd try to share something practical. What follows are some poem/videos, links, and resources for people trying to teach about consent, healthy sexuality, and dismantling rape culture. Feel free to add more in the comments.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Links and Resources Regarding the 2017 Minneapolis Election

It may go without saying, but let's say it: if you're frustrated about our political reality on a national and international level, one of the most powerful actions you can take is to engage on a local level. Our city council and mayor (and Parks Board!) have real power to affect people's lives. Additionally, local elections aren't just about candidates winning and losing; they're an opportunity for all of us to get more plugged in, and start paying closer attention to the level of government over which we have the most control. This post focuses on Minneapolis, but the same is true elsewhere. So what follows are a few resources:

1. For Those of Us Who Need More Information
Voices for Racial Justice, Pollen, and Rhymesayers collaborated on this fantastic voter guide. The guide features fairly in-depth candidate profiles, and those candidates' answers to a range of good questions (at least for those who bothered to answer). It also has links for you to find out what ward you're in, and how/where/when to vote. A perfect entry point, especially for new voters.