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

Soups: The Dark Side of Being Mixed

Ashaki Jackson: The Public is Generally Self taught and Uninformed

Rudy Francisco: The Heart and the Fist

Hieu Minh Nguyen: The Translation of Grief

Isha Camara: Loudest Burial

Bianca Phipps: When the Boy Says He Loves My Body

Suzi Q Smith: Bones

Pages Matam, Elizabeth Acevedo, and G. Yamazawa: Unforgettable

Bernard Ferguson: Love Does Not Want This Body

Muna Abdulahi: Explaining Depression to a Refugee

Kevin Yang: Come Home

Danez Smith: Trees

Guante: A Pragmatist’s Guide to Magic

EJ Schoenborn: Controversial Opinion: In Defense of Cargo Shorts


(to be continued)

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

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



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 basic 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!