Wednesday, September 11, 2019

"More Or Less Live" Online Performance


Sunday, September 15, 2019 (from 3-5pm CT) via Facebook Live at the Guante page.

One of the most important functions of art is to build community. That’s often done in-person- you go to the open mic, or sign up for the poetry slam, or head to the local venue for a Hip Hop show. And that’s all beautiful, and TruArtSpeaks (an organization I’ve worked with for ten years now) does that work with so much power and intention.

I’m also interested, however, in expanding how that work can be done. Because honestly, I’m an introvert, and I don’t like crowds, and my schedule is hectic. Those factors can make it hard for me to show up to all the cool stuff I want to support. I know I’m not alone in that, either. So this month, I really wanted to throw a benefit show for TruArtSpeaks, but I also wanted to experiment a little, and maybe expand how we think about that kind of work.

So on Sunday, September 15, as the official kickoff to TruArtSpeaks’ “Power & Presence” campaign, we’re going to throw a virtual benefit show. I’m going to “go live” via my Facebook page, share some poems (including some brand new work), talk about new projects, answer some questions, and illuminate just why I think TruArtSpeaks’ work is so vital. If that can inspire a few extra people to donate to our campaign this year, I’m putting up $500 to match it. All of the money raised will go directly toward supporting the next generation of artists and leaders in Minnesota and beyond.

Here's the donation link, which works whether or not you check out the show.

Even if you can’t give now, though, you can still tune in and join the conversation. Because this campaign isn’t just about raising money; it’s about expanding the cypher and bringing more people into this work. Hope to see you then.

Monday, August 19, 2019

New Poem: "Pro-Life" + Other Poems on Reproductive Justice

"How loud do you have to be to put out a house fire with just your voice?"



Yeah, the title is in scare quotes. Hopefully that comes through. As I often do with two poems, I wanted to share a few notes on process, and then some poems by other writers that tackle the topic in different ways.

A Few Notes on Process
This is a poem about a specific issue, but it's also a poem that is exploring a couple different impulses:
  • I'm really interested in how we, as artists and writers, respond to fascism. I've written about this before, but I think ONE thing to think about is the importance of saying something, even when that something isn't perfect or revelatory or magical. This isn't a perfect poem, haha. It isn't the most creative thing I've written. But it was important to me to stand up on a stage and say it, as soon as I had the opportunity. The poem might continue to get revised and people might catch a new draft at some point, but to me, the timeliness was more important than the timelessness.
  • The poem is also the product of a lot of conversations I've had with activists, organizers and advocates who work on issues related to gender, feminism, and reproductive justice. The refrain is always "men (especially cis men) need to speak up more." That can seem super obvious, but it can be easy to forget when you're "in" that world; for me, I'm around powerful voices who speak out on these issues all the time- that's just my community. So I've often felt a pull to step back- which CAN be a healthy impulse! It can also, however, sometimes be an excuse to not do any work. It's like, yes, it's messed up that "men talking about being pro-choice" is still seen as bold or interesting- but that's not an excuse not to do it.
  • I'm also really interested in multi-vocal responses, how no one poem has to be "definitive." Multiple poems can present different angles of an argument, different POVs, etc. There are some examples below, but this framework has helped me as a writer: a poem doesn't have to be all things to all people. A poem doesn't have to be the conversation; it can be one piece of a much larger conversation (and different pieces may be able to do different "work" for different audiences, in different contexts). That realization, for me, has been freeing.
I don't have a lot of faith in the power of poems to changes minds, especially about issues like abortion rights. That being said, poems can do so many other things. They can open up spaces for dialogue, they can provide useful frameworks or metaphors for understanding, they can contribute in ways both large and small to the ongoing push-and-pull of how the larger culture frames and understands complex issues, and they can plant seeds (while watering other seeds that have already been planted!)

More Poems and Resources on Reproductive Justice
This summer, I've been sharing my lists a lot: poems about white supremacy, poems about toxic masculinity, poems that have been useful to me in educational spaces. The idea is that hopefully, teachers and other educators can use these poems as entry points to dialogue.

A lot of those lists pull from this bigger list of spoken word poems organized by topic. I don't have a specific list of poems on reproductive justice yet, but this is as good a time as any to start one. If you know of others, please share in the comments! Here are a few:
Finally, these aren't poems, but if there's anyone for whom this is a new issue, or you'd just like to learn more, or get involved, a few links:
Thank you! Please feel free to share. Full transcript:

Monday, August 12, 2019

New: A Playlist of 30 Poems I've Used in Classrooms



For teachers, student affairs folks, social justice activists, and beyond: this is a playlist of 30 poems that have been useful to me in classrooms, facilitated discussions, and other educational spaces.

It's not a list of the "best" poems ever, or the only poems about these various topics; but there is some really powerful work here, work that meaningfully engages with these issues and can serve as great entry points or dialogue-starters. If you're a teacher, another kind of educator, or just a person who understands the power of art, story, and conversation, I hope you find something to use here.

Of course, be sure to review the poems yourself first, since not every poem is going to be relevant or appropriate for every audience. Aside from these 30 poems, though, I hope people can fall down rabbit holes finding more work from these poets and these channels.

Additional lists and resources:
  • Poems on white supremacy (recently updated)
  • Poems on masculinity and violence
  • Poems on rape culture and consent
  • A list of 100+ poems on social justice issue, organized by topic.
Also wanted to share this piece that's been on my mind a lot this summer, as I get ready to hit the road again this fall: Towards an Antifascist Pedagogy by Guy Emerson Mount. A relevant quote for educators, poets, and everyone: "Following Davis and Robeson, the first rule of an anti-fascist pedagogy then is to refuse to continue with 'business as usual' and recognize that the anti-fascist battleground is everywhere."

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry Now Available as an Audiobook!

Some other big news on the way, but just a quick update: you can now listen to my book! I did the voiceover myself, in Big Cats' studio.

It's available via Audible, iTunes, or straight from Button Poetry. Here's the summary:

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.



Sunday, June 30, 2019

Two Big July Shows: CONvergence and a New Project Release

Lots going on; two specific performances coming up in July that I'd like to share (EDIT: switched them around so the latter one is on top):

Sunday, July 21: "The Art of Taking the L" Release Party at Icehouse
Official Blurb: Join MC, activist, and two-time National Poetry Slam champion Kyle "Guante" Tran Myhre for the release of his newest project, "The Art of Taking the L." Admission includes a copy of the poem, an exploration of how much dominant conceptions of masculinity are defined by "winning" or "losing" and how that binary connects to gender violence, mental health issues, mass shootings, and beyond. Along with that brand new poem, Guante will perform some of his most-requested work around the themes of masculinity, consent, and dismantling rape culture. Proceeds from the event benefit the Sexual Violence Center (SVC), an organization that serves youth and adult victim/survivors of sexual violence throughout Hennepin, Carver and Scott counties.

Definitely excited for this one. It's really an opportunity for me to do the kind of set that I do when I'm on the road, but rarely get to do here at home. It'll be a themed "arc" of poems, all exploring masculinity, gender violence, consent, and activism. Button will be filming it, along with the inter-poem framing stuff too, so it can have a life beyond live performance.

I'm honored to be joined by Chynna Heu Moua and Jada Brown, two local artists you may or may not know already; but they're great. Get your tickets early!

Saturday, July 6: Guante & Big Cats at CONvergence!
"CONvergence is an annual convention for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy in all media: a 4-day event with more than 6,000 members, and the premiere event of our kind in the upper Midwest."

As a duo, me and Big Cats don't play a lot of shows. This one just sounded like it would be fun. You can only go to it if you're already attending (and have passes for) the convention, but if that's you, please consider checking out our set! It'll be Saturday night, 8:30-9:30pm in the Hyatt 2 Regency Room (as part of Harmonic Convergence).

If you only know me because of my poetry stuff, or my political work, this free Guante & Big Cats sampler mix is full of examples of why our playing at a big sci-fi convention actually kind of makes sense. There's also the first single from our latest album, which is... out there.

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Few Thoughts and Links RE: The Ongoing Fight for Reproductive Justice

Image via Repeal Hyde Art Project
One of my all-time favorite tweets is this one from Mariame Kaba:

Questions I regularly ask myself when I'm outraged about injustice:
1. What resources exist so I can better educate myself?
2. Who's already doing work around this injustice?
3. Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them?
4. How can I be constructive?

It's interesting, to me at least, how much these questions line up with questions I ask myself about my own arts practice. Especially that last one: as a poet, I don't think my job is to write the "best" poem; it is to be constructive. To be useful. To offer something. Same with this blog: I don't write a lot of rabblerousing thinkpieces these days; I just want to share links and resources that have been useful to me, especially ones that point to specific, concrete actions (see more here and here).

And while those questions can be applied to any issue, I find them especially helpful when it comes to issues for which there isn't one big, obvious solution. With abortion access under attack (and for some of us, in states in which we do not live), it can feel overwhelming. I'm still trying to figure out how that poem (or poems) will work; I don't have a dramatic personal story to share here. What I do have, in the meantime, are some thoughts, links, and resources that have helped me wrap my head around this; here's what I shared on social media:

Thursday, April 11, 2019

National Poetry Month Writing Prompts

Photo by Tony Gao
For those who don't know, April is National Poetry Month. For some, that means they share poetry on social media, or book poets to visit their schools (wink); others engage in "30/30s," writing 30 poems in 30 days.

To be honest, I've never done a 30/30 and don't plan to. I definitely encourage others to try it, as long as it feels like a healthy challenge, and not something stressful; it just doesn't work for my personal process. I do, however, love the idea of sharing writing prompts, little poem starters or ideas for people who are looking for some inspiration, or are struggling with writer's block.

TruArtSpeaks is sharing a writing prompt every day this month. Young Chicago Authors also has an archive of prompts. There are plenty of others online. For this post, I wanted to share a few of my own, with a small twist.

Most writing prompts focus on form (and that's great!); just for a change of pace, here are a few that focus on content instead, leaving the form part completely up to you. Maybe it's a sonnet, or a song, or a persona poem, or an open letter, or something else; but here are a few topics I'd personally like to hear more poems about.

I am not saying that these are the only important issues of our time. I am not saying that every poet should stop what they're doing and write about these topics right now. I am not in the business of telling people what to write about (especially since we all face different interests, pressures, and expectations). But for poets, songwriters, and other kinds of artists out there who ARE actively looking for a challenge, I'd offer these five prompts: