Micah Fletcher, the sole survivor of last Friday’s knife attack by a white supremacist on a train in Portland, Oregon, is featured in this brief YouTube promo from September 2015:
Micah Fletcher from the Whatcha Wanna Do Crew spit a freestyle at Poetic Justice in the Park. Check it out. Don’t forget to come out to Poetic Justice Every Last Saturday of the Month!
It’s an unremarkable video, but Fletcher is clearly a remarkable man who doesn’t merely talk the talk, but walks the walk, as The Oregonian reports:
One of the men who came to the defense of a teenager wearing a hijab on a MAX train Friday won a 2013 poetry competition with a poem condemning prejudices faced by Muslims.
Micah David-Cole Fletcher was injured in the attack after he and two other men approached suspect Jeremy Christian, who was allegedly yelling racial slurs at two young women, one of whom is Muslim.
Christian is suspected of stabbing all three of them, killing Rick Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and injuring Fletcher. Fletcher, now 21, was a Madison high school student when he won the poetry contest.
At first, Fletcher refused painkillers. He had seen people become addicted, Helm said, and didn’t want that to happen to him. But his family’s pleas and the growing pain made him change his mind, Helm said.
“‘This is the most exquisite pain I have ever felt,'” Fletcher told her.
The young man’s family could not be reached.
Last Memorial Day weekend, Fletcher and other poets part of Spit/WRITE, a youth poetry group, were reading poems about social justice on a MAX train. The purpose was to give them the space to call attention to social justice issues, one of his poetry mentors, S. Renee Mitchell, said.
Fletcher has already established himself as a poet passionate about social injustice. One of his poems in a 2013 poetry slam that he won railed against the prejudices faced by Muslims.
“When two towering trees of wrought iron and glass and cement are brought down to their knees,
We let it leave an ugly footprint on america that hasn’t disappeared in 12 years.
As in one third the amount of civilians killed by drones in the middle east per one terrorist caught in the crossfire,” Fletcher read from a black book.
Portland poet Maia Abbruzzese said Fletcher was a mentor to her and another 11 poets in 2015. She’s come across him numerous times since then at poetry slams. His poems are philosophical and often have a social justice angle, she said.
Because of the themes in his poetry and what she saw of his personality, Abbruzzese said she wasn’t surprised he was involved in the incident on the MAX train.
“Just because of who he is as a person,” Abbruzzese said. “He deeply cares about other people.”
For more about Fletcher and the other two victims of the attack, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Rick Best, see “These three men stood up to hate in Portland” on CNN.com. I don’t usually get on the soapbox here, but as a U.S. citizen and a leftist, I will just say that although it’s tempting to be endlessly cynical about U.S. war-making and neoliberal economic imperialism, that’s not necessarily who we are. We are David Christian a bit, yes, but we are also the young women he abused and the three men who stood up to oppose him. As a poet, I’d like to think that I would’ve done as Micah Fletcher did, but I’m not sure I would’ve found the courage. In any case, there’s no need to indulge further tribal feelings here. I’m simply proud to be part of the same human race as Micah Fletcher.
An exemplary spoken-word poetry film directed by Dave Tynan, featuring actors Jordanne Jones and Deirdre Molloy as well as the poet himself, Emmet Kirwan. It was selected for Special Mention this past weekend by the jury of the Weimar Poetry Film Award, on which I was honored to serve along with animator Ebele Okoye and writer Stefan Petermann. Our statement, translated from the German:
What questions can a poetry film take? Perhaps: in what kind of a world do we live? And in what kind of world do we want to live? In a stirring manner, Heartbreak pursues this question. The film by Dave Tynan tells the story of a young, Irish girl who unintentionally gets pregnant and had to raise her son all on her own. At the same time it is the history of a misogynist structured society and this, not only in Ireland, but everywhere in the world. Carried by the passionate, multi-faceted oration of the Spoken- Word poets Emmert Kirwan, an efficient camera and a wise narration Heartbreak plays around the questions of self-determination about own bodies, objectification, sexism and gender roles. The film succeeds in an impressive way, to translate the powerful words into touching images while remaining clear and direct. Tynan and Kirwan know how to arouse empathy, stimulate thoughts concerning a situation, but above all, anger!, yet, looking into the future with confidence. Heartbreak is a feminist poetry film for women and men. Courageous, angry, heartbreaking; an exclamation mark. A film the world must see. C’mere, C’mere, C’mere.
The YouTube description notes that it was “commissioned and developed by THISISPOPBABY as part of RIOT, Winner of Best Production at Dublin Fringe Festival 2016.” To date it has been viewed over 1.3 million times on Facebook and 201,000 times on YouTube, where it has inspired a lively discussion, with the usual #notallmen idiots vastly outnumbered by those resonating with its message.
I have Googled the earth and I’m tired of paradise. This city is home. I am its key and broken door.
Coventry-based poet Antony Owen performs his poem in this 2015 film by Adam Steiner (director), Brian Harley (camera and editing) and Alan van Widjgerden (sound), which kicked off a poetry-film project spearheaded by Steiner called Disappear Here. Last year they raised enough money from a crowdfunding campaign to produce a whole series of films exploring the Modernist/Brutalist superstructure of Coventry Ringroad: 27 in all, from nine writers and nine filmmakers. The launch screening is on March 16, and although it’s free, registration is required.
This sounds like a truly commendable use of film to bring the perspectives of poets and artists to bear on pressing local issues (which are also global issues, capitalism being what it is). Here’s a blog post from last year that explains what they hoped to accomplish:
The challenge of Disappear Here is to bring together artists of different stripes, some more experienced practitioners, others up and coming and hungry; native Coventrians and people who might be coming to the city for the first time and seeing it with fresh eyes; expressing the human aspect of what is so commonly seen as an inhuman structure, another one of HRH Charles’ “concrete monstrosities” – by way of contrast, witness the faux-Kensington banality of his ideal housing estate, Poundbury – but it is also fair to say that few near-monolithic concrete structures inspire such intense feelings of love and loathing.
But there is a positivity to the project. As much as it is anything, Coventry Ringroad is an archetype of reinvention. Each time the same A4053 road, but every journey around it different. It is the eye through which Coventry is (notoriously) seen, and can be seen, from above and below; a looping horizon where tarmac sea and brilliant blue sky meet and form a sinew of shuffling perspective. […]
Coventry is an ex-working-class city, chock-full with post-industrial grit from crumbling fire of red brick, after many of its 70s, 80s and 90s industries successively closed down. As such, the city has become an affordable and welcoming haven for artists with a burgeoning community of creative and socially-conscious practitioners – there is a story to be told there. I think the people and the city’s physical attitudes speak to this, guarded but protective. As both defensive wall and encircling stranglehold – the ringroad echoes this taut insularity, but also provides us with a blank canvas for reimagining public space. I think this push/pull reflex makes for an interesting tension as to how we define a city and its search for its centre.
Another compelling short videopoem from Conceição Lima (poem, reading) and David Shook (video, English translation) filmed in Lima’s native São Tomé and Príncipe last month. The back-flipping children in the opening shot are a perfect counterpoise to the still statues in the succeeding shot, all in service to the text’s central paradox. Are the proverbial “feet of clay” truly a liability, or perhaps instead a sign of groundedness?
The Vimeo description notes that the poem appears in the collection O País de Akendenguê, and that Shook is in São Tomé on a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. I’m not sure how much NEA money has been spent on poetry films over the years, but I’m guessing very, very little.
Moving Poems’ first poet from São Tomé and Príncipe, Conceição Lima, is featured in this ultra-short but effective video by David Shook filmed in São Tomé earlier this month. The poem is from her second collection, A Dolorosa Raiz de Micondó, and if its brevity left you hungry for more, check out the four additional poems Shook translated for World Literature Today. There are also three of Lima’s poems in translation by Amanda Hopkinson at Words Without Borders.