16 posts tagged poetry
Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene (@myloveisaverb) is an Ijaw and Urhobo Nigerian dyke performance activist, poet, dancer, essayist, playwright, actress, video blogger and mixed media visual artist who was born with a mouth full of dynamite and sugarcane. She uses her poetry to chisel a verbal sculpture of her soul for listeners while addressing issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, war, imperialism, love, self-esteem and family. Etaghene has self-published three collections of poetry, toured nationally and performed in over 30 u.s. cities.
In Fly’s own words, being apart of such an amazing community at a Berkeley class “Poetry for the People” (Originally developed by June Jordan and now taught by Aya de León) made her realize how crucial it is for writers to have a space and a community to bring their work to and receive powerful, life-changing feedback and encouragement. And thus, the Sugarcane Writer’s Workshop was born.
After seeing the culmination of this workshop at the Sugarcane Showcase, and the amazing work of all of the writers, I asked Fly some questions about Sugarcane, her own writing process and delicious baked goods. Here’s what happened:
theGAQ: I’ve known you virtually through your youtube videos, tweets and poetry for a while now, but we’ve only recently met and spent time together. Through social media and your amazing poetry, there is a wealth of information to be gained about you. What is something that people don’t know about you that they would be surprised to hear?
Fly: Yikes. Lol. Hmm. I want to be a carpenter and car mechanic at some point in my life. Not so much go into business, but I just want to have those skills and do it for fun. I love being covered in saw dust and table saws are awesome! The idea of being in coveralls, greasy hands replacing an engine or whatever—so much fun. ;) Mainly, because I love building things, I love understanding how things work and why, knowing how to put things together and take them apart and put them back together fascinates me. This is why I cook from scratch and why when I eat at restaurants, I try to figure out how to recreate the recipe. I also love the smell of gasoline so I like gas stations for that reason. Plus I like to fix broken things. That’s part of why I like to know how things work so I can understand them, yes, and so I can fix them if needed. And I want a motorcycle.
theGAQ: I’ve heard the testimony from a number of people (and tasted for myself) the deliciousness of your baked goods. How, for you, is food and writing linked?
Fly: Food is an expression of home and where so much culture lives. Who we cook for, why, when we eat and who we eat with—this is culture. Food is a big part of how I feel at home. Sometimes when I’m homesick for Nigeria, I’ll cook something I love—jollof rice or okra stew and eba. This makes me feel closer to home and closer to myself. Writing is also my home. Sometimes I don’t fully know what I think or feel until I write it. Writing is such a tremendous space of freedom for me, where I use words to paint my soul for others to see, where I tell stories, where I place words on paper and look at myself. Sometimes I just write for me, and those are words that no one may ever see but me. Writing and cooking are home to me—they both feel like home and are spaces I go to when I feel homesick, and reminding of who and why I am who I am. Both these spaces hold and take care of me. So they go together very naturally for me.
theGAQ: The Sugarcane showcase at Show & Tell was an amazing culmination to the workshop you facilitated over 11 weeks. What are some of the things you learned about yourself during the process?
Fly: Wow. These questions go right to the heart of the matter, I love it. I learned a lot, a lot, a lot. I learned that many people care about the work I do. I have lots of ideas, dreams and visions and sometimes I’m not sure if anyone else is interested in or cares about those dreams as much as I do. I learned that they do. I learned that I can move 3000 miles (I recently moved to Oakland from New York) and not know that many people and still inspire folks to be about the work I’m creating. I learned that when people say they want to support my work, they mean it and I need to let them. I learned that the cure for sadness is in giving. No matter what stress or sadness was going on in my life before the beginning of each workshop, by the end of it, I always felt better, because I was doing what I love and giving to a community I care deeply about. I learned that we can make things happen by handling one small thing at a time—that may seem over-simplified but it’s true. I learned that my vision for Sugarcane as an example of liberating artistic education is hella dope and super transformational.
theGAQ: The writers in Sugarcane vary in genre and writing levels, but all came together to produce a cohesive collection of amazingly beautiful work. Why do you think the writers felt safe enough to be so forthcoming and true to themselves?
Fly: Hmmm. Well, from jump we created community agreements together about how we wanted to the space to be. We created agreements around confidentiality and making sure everyone knew that the intention of the space was for us to be vulnerable together such that we can write our best work. The intentions were clear and pure. It was never about me mandating what was so. It was about me offering agreements just like every other member of the community that we all agreed on. And then, each and every person bravely chose to take risks and share intimate parts of themselves and be seen by the community and accept feedback on their work. We all took that risk and were all held by each other. And we all wanted to be there together. All these things created a powerful space of trust, sensitivity and love where we held each other’s writing as sacred and offered powerful feedback in order to deepen the amazingness of our work.
theGAQ: I’m a huge believer in the power that names hold for people and objects alike. From Sugarcane to Guava (your poetry tour) to Hibiscus (which is the name of your bike) you’ve got a dope naming system going. How do you do it? What inspires them?
Fly: You are sooooo insightful! Well, I feel called to fruit—I’ve felt that my whole life and especially right now. Don’t know exactly how to describe it. Many of the poems I’ve written this year have names of fruits in the title (e.g.: mango soul, guava, persimmons) and as you mentioned, many of the projects I’ve been working on (and my bike too) are named after fruit. Fruit mean a lot to me. Mango and sugarcane and coconut all remind me of Nigeria and in most, probably all, of my writing about Nigeria I mention some or all of those fruit. For me, they are as much a part of Nigeria as the sun, red soil, my last name. Those fruits are home to me. They comfort me. And as I name projects that mean the world to me, I choose names that make me feel at home, grounded, that make me feel loved. When I tell you mangoes, coconuts and sugarcanes have been loving me my whole life, that’s serious. I never really thought about why I’ve chosen those names, but I think that’s why—those names feel good to me, make me feel at home, and comfort me in deep ways.
theGAQ: Lastly, what’s up for the next iteration of Sugarcane? What, if anything, will be different from this first workshop?
Fly: Yes! Things will be different and things will stay the same. I will shorten the workshop season a bit—from 11 weeks to 8. I will also change some of the weekly themes/topics we addressed each week. Each season will be about what I feel called to share at that time, as well as what folks want to learn about and explore together. So for instance, if in the next season, some folks are interested in improv or playwrighting, then we might have a week or 2 focusing on that. And the syllabus would reflect that (I’d assign some writing and homework in line with those genres) and I’d design some exercises for us to do together in our workshop. Sugarcane will constantly be shifting and growing. Some things, many things, will stay the same—we write each time we meet, we share writing each time we meet, we check in with each other about how we’re feeling, we create safe space, we eat yummy things, we make brilliant art, we build community.
Much love to Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene for allowing me to interview her. Peep more of her work on her website, HERE. Also support GUAVA, her performance piece about queer African sexuality that will be performed in Nigeria & South Africa in partnership w/ LGBTQ African organizations, HERE.
Photos of the Sugarcane showcase taken © Mekhi B. for theGAQ at Show and Tell Oakland. More photos can be seen on Flickr, HERE.
“I have no sickness or a condition, there is no cure, I am nothing but life. God named me like everything else; I was not to be subject to your spit, or your fire, or fences, fist, faggots, fairies, your fantasies that you attempt to beat out of me, or to get me to beat it out of myself. I am no Demon. I was born to mean happy, can’t you see my beauty? Can’t you see my gorgeous, can you see my humanity before it’s rejected, pushed into closets cramped with empty men looking to be filled, I am no Demon. I am not evil, I am not.”
Excerpt from “For Those Who Pray In Closets” by Danez Smith (Poet/Author)
Zyon Gray aka Gray the Poet spits some incredible poetry.
“to the un-trained eye I’ve died and re-incarnation is served in hormone cocktails..”
“excuse you for transcending deception…this is my immaculate conception of self…I am he…”
Check out part III’s teaser, here.
I was an undergraduate when José Muñoz was just beginning to make a name for himself. His book DISIDENTIFICATIONS: QUEERS OF COLOR AND THE PERFORMANCE OF POLITICS was all the rage in my circle and off they went, my Queer friends, to put Muñoz’s theory into practice. I never could get behind disidentifying. I wanted all the identities at once. In some respects, I still do. I much enjoy telling the world, when it gets up in face, “Yes. I am that, too. And what?” When I think about being a poet, however, I have to question which aspect of my multidentity is responsible for that being. If I were not Black, I would still be a poet but I do not believe my being a poet would be possible if I were not a homosexual. My sexuality was the catalyst for childhood introspection and, having to keep a major part of myself hidden, forced me to hone my powers of observation. I had to be aware of everything around me, to protect myself when I thought no one else would. As the images and language began to commandeer the synapses, an outlet was needed. Poetry. I think all poets must have an experience that makes them see themselves outside the center of things. For me, it was the gift of homosexuality–for which I am eternally grateful.
(via For Southern Boys who Consider Poetry)
Poet, Activist and educator, Yosimar Reyessits down with DebugTV to explain his thoughts on the intersection between queerness, the Latin@ community as well as the working class and immigrant communities. He discusses how many QPOCS operate under multiple layers of oppression.
In addition, he talks about the dynamics between sex and power for queer folks. Check it out.
Side Note: That picture in the beginning is too cute…eelllllaaaaaaaaa.
Yosimar Reyes “For Colored Boys that Speak Softly”
*two snaps and a silent praise dance*
By Gabe Moses
Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.
Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.
When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.
If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet itLet her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.
If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.
Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.
New bklyn boihood blog post by Khi Baldwin @theGAQ (.com) read the full article and check out the videos by clicking here!
limchoy lee’s bio says that she is currently interested in “recoding the symbols used in shaping attitudes towards women of color in the media”. She goes on to say that she is “most interested in complex social situations and the transparency of the lines separating one point of view from the other.” In order to accomplish this, much of lee’s approach in her work has been to use opposing images - making the viewer think about the contradiction; and in turn question both perspectives.
Take for instance her video “Feminist or Womanist”. In this video she takes strip club and music video footage and chops it up with Staceyann Chin saying: “Am I a Feminist or a Womanist?” from her poem of the same title. The viewer is forced to think about Chin’s poem while looking at these hyper-sexualized images of Black women in the media. To me, Chin’s poem is about having to choose between one thing or another; to fit into a box - Girl or boy, Buddist or Christian, Straight or gay, etc. She says:
“The truth is I’m afraid to draw your black lines around me, I’m not always pale in the middle, I come in too many flavors for one fucking spoon. I am never one thing or the other. At night I am everything I fear, tears and sorrows, black windows and muffled screams. In the morning, I am all I ever want to be: rain and laughter, bare footprints and invisible seams, always without breath or definition. I claim every single dawn, for yesterday is simply what I was, and tomorrow even that will be gone.”……
follow the link to read more//view videos.