I don't at all mean this in a sour grapes sense, but our local media (generally) doesn't pay much attention to what we do in the poetry/spoken word community. Even when we have sold out shows and viral stardom, we're still an underground movement in a lot of ways. I think that is going to shift, but this post is a reminder that it really could shift sooner than later. A few examples of how powerful this community is:
1. Danez Smith on Stephen Colbert's Late Show along with Macklemore:
Danez, a graduate of Central High in St. Paul, is one of the top poets in the country right now, spoken word or otherwise. He deserves it too. His work is consistently breathtaking. Find more here.
2. Sierra DeMulder just published a new book through Andrews McMeel in collaboration with To Write Love On Her Arms
Sierra has been doing great work for years now, but her new book is coming out through a major publisher and is now in stores like Barnes & Noble across the country. What's more, the work is having a profound impact on a lot of people. Get it here. I performed at her release party a week ago and it was completely packed.
3. Twin Cities-based Button Poetry passes 100 Million Views on YouTube (and 10 million of those views are for Twin Cities-based poet Neil Hilborn)
As popular as Button Poetry has been getting lately, I think a lot of people still don't realize that they're based right here in MN. Neil's poem "OCD" (which Button hosts) is the one with over ten million views; I'm sharing this one instead; I've always really liked this piece, and I think part of that is because I don't really like the first minute or so of it. But its arc is so powerful; it ends in such a beautiful, important space. Button also kicked off a monthly poetry slam called Button Poetry Live at Camp Bar in St. Paul, which has been sold out every month since it started.
4. Bao Phi on Paris By Night
If you've never heard of Paris By Night, you may just have to take my word for it: it's a REALLY BIG DEAL. And Bao is one of my favorite poets ever. His book is one I still come back to, all the time.
5. Tish Jones was named the first-ever Brave New Voices Leadership Fellow + TruArtSpeaks and the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series taking off
This means she is now serving as the Festival Director for what promises to be the biggest Brave New Voices ever. More info here. Tish is also the Executive Director of MN-based TruArtSpeaks, which is currently wrapping up five incredibly successful preliminary bouts in the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series. Semifinals and Finals (3/26 at the Walker) are going to be huge this year.
I performed at the UN for the Barbershop Conference on gender equity last year.
If I'm going to shout myself out, I can also say that my work was featured on Welcome to Night Vale, Upworthy and a bunch of other places, and is used by educators all over the country in social justice trainings and educational spaces.
7. Everyone's Going Viral
I'll also shout out Bryan Thao Worra, Blythe Baird, Anna Binkovitz, Donte Collins, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Heid E. Erdrich, Keno Evol, Khary Jackson, and ALL of the other poets (my apologies-- I'm definitely leaving some out) who have been everywhere from Huffington Post to Afropunk to Everyday Feminism, to shout outs from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Zooey Deschanel, to winning big awards, publication placements, and fellowships. It'd be too much to include all of it here, but the community continues to do fantastic work.
And as I've written before, national and international accolades are great, but I'm also proud of how much work is being done RIGHT HERE in the Twin Cities. A lot of poets who may not ever "go viral" are doing even more important work in schools, prisons, community centers, and beyond. Spoken word is a culture that encourages looking back as you look ahead, opening doors for others, and using your access to space to create more access for others. That's been happening in a big way lately. See for yourself; a few resources:
- My list of ongoing spoken word events in the Twin Cities
- My list of resources for aspiring spoken word artists
- Full video footage of one of the best shows I've ever been part of; right here in MPLS as part of the Loft's Equilibrium series.
- The flyer for the rest of the Be Heard Series; seriously, come to semifinals and finals. The quality of the work this year has been mind-boggling, and these young poets deserve your support (UPDATE: both semifinal bouts were packed and incredible; come to finals-- March 26 at the Walker Art Center):