Monday, June 13, 2016

New Video Featuring a Powerful Poem from Duncan Slagle, Plus the #BeHeard16 Send Off Show

Lots happening, as always. Three thoughts:

1. New Poem Video: Duncan Slagle's "Salem"

Thinking about young people being courageous and brilliant, and how important it is for us to listen to them. Here's a brand new video of Duncan, one of the ‪#‎BeHeard16‬ team members, with some powerful words on victim-blaming, scapegoating, and rape culture.

2. The #BeHeard16 Send Off Show: June 17
I'll be performing alongside Duncan and the whole team at the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series Team SEND OFF SHOW is this coming Friday (7pm at the UMN Rarig Center; only $5).

Desdamona, Danez Smith, Khary Jackson, and members of the TruArtSpeaks Youth Advisory Board will be performing as well. That's quite a lineup, so if you're in the Twin Cities and into spoken word, do not miss it.

It's also the team's last performance before they head to Brave New Voices to rep Minnesota, and we can't wait for you to see what they've been working on.

More details, parking/transportation info, and a link to reserve tickets ahead of time here.

3. Orlando
Just one small addition to the larger conversation. Thanks to Sierra, Abeer, Igor, and the thousands of other voices (especially LGBTQ Latinx voices) driving the anti-homophobia, anti-Islamophobia, anti-"thoughts and prayers and nothing else" narrative that's so important.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Spoken Word Tips, Tools and Tactics Part FIVE: On Revision

It's been a minute, but here's the fifth entry in my video series sharing tips, tools, and tactics for aspiring spoken word artists and writers of all kinds. This video is sharing the questions that I ask when I'm revising a poem. Here they are:
  1. What is the poem's thesis? What, specifically, do I want the poem to say?
  2. Is every line necessary? Are there parts of the poem that are redundant?
  3. Are my opening and closing lines as powerful/memorable/engaging as they could be?
  4. Are there moments when I’m being abstract when I could be concrete?
  5. Can I push my imagery further? Can I avoid "level one" imagery and make this poem "more mine?"
  6. When I read the poem out loud, does it feel right? Does the poem "move" in a compelling way? Is there a some kind of intentional structure to it?
  7. Have I gotten feedback from anyone else?
  8. Bigger picture questions: What is the work that I want this poem to do? Who is this poem for? Who do I want to hear it, and who is most likely to hear it? Am I offering something to the larger conversation? Am I telling my own story and not trying to speak for someone else? Can I turn the lens of the poem more on myself? Can I be more present in this writing?
As always, I hope some of this stuff can be useful to any writers out there. Feel free to share. Also, here's my consolidated list of resources for spoken word poets.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

A Few Thoughts on New Twin Cities Hip Hop from Tony the Scribe, Desdamona, GP Jacob, Maria Isa (Plus Links to More)

Yesterday, BK-One posted this excellent rundown of some of the great music released here in the Twin Cities just in the past couple of months (including new stuff from Lady Midnight, Meta, 9th House, ZULUZULUU and more). I wanted to highlight a few projects I've been listening to lately, especially ones that may have crept under some listeners' radars.

Tony the Scribe: Mixed Blood
I can say from a decade-plus of experience: the temptation that indie MCs face to be “intense” can be overwhelming. Rapping kind of fast, kind of loud, kind of angry (or, alternatively, doing a lot of turn-up songs) is a quick way to get audiences who may not care about who you are or what you have to say to pay attention (that’s most audiences, by the way, at least until you break). I’m obviously guilty of this; not that it’s necessarily a bad thing-- I mean, I enjoy being loud and angry on stage. But that pressure to “sound hungry” also closes some potentially compelling stylistic doors.

The willingness to break from that mold is probably my favorite thing about Tony the Scribe’s new project. Better known as the MC half of duo Killstreak, Tony is a disciplined writer, excellent technical MC, and an artist very comfortable with conceptuality and storytelling. These are all great qualities, but the thing that sticks out on this project is how intense it is without being “big and shouty.” The intensity is emotional. The intensity is subdued, simmering, evocative. From the intentional pace and conversational tone of “Checkmate” to the barely-there whisper of “Out-of-Doors,” the intensity is earned through the subject matter of the songs as opposed to telegraphed by the hardness of the vocals.