Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

Dear White America by Danez Smith

This may be a basic video (from the livestream by Katalogon of Poetry International Festival Rotterdam, 2 June 2018), but it is nevertheless essential watching: a master poet at the top of his game calling out the rot at the heart of the American dream. The text is from Danez Smith’s award-winning collection Don’t Call Us Dead and has been reprinted online at Literary Hub.

Elephant by Elisabet Velasquez

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Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican poet Elisabet Velasquez took the top prize in Button Poetry’s 2017 Video Contest with Elephant, which she calls

a short choreo-film entirely produced by women of color against street harassment. The video is the collective effort of a group of interdisciplinary artists from New York City who came together to highlight the importance of looking at street harassment from a lens of reclamation of power.

We believe that all people who identify as women as well as gender nonconforming individuals who are impacted by street harassment have a right to their bodies and in this video we take our bodies back.

If you or any one you know has been impacted by street harassment in any way we invite you to share.

Peruvian filmmaker Connie Chavez directed the film and Keomi Tarver is the dancer and choreographer, with body art by Alicia C. Cobb.

Elegance/Refusal by Sojourner Ahebee

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A wonderful primer on the personal and political meanings of hair in the Black community by Palo Alto, California-based poet Sojourner Ahebee, directed by Christian Osagiede. I saw an earlier version of this film appear on Vimeo five months ago, and didn’t share it then because the credits indicated that it was a submission to the 2017 Button Video Contest, and I had a hunch it might place. Sure enough, it’s a runner-up! Here’s the description that Ahebee posted then:

This poem, “Elegance/Refusal,” is interested in mapping a brief history of hair in the Black community. The poem’s title is drawn from a Coco Chanel quote in which she says: “Elegance is refusal.” For me, Chanel’s words lit a fire inside of me and pushed me to document/give language to the ways Black women/femmes perform resistance (“refusal”) through fashion/hair; how they use beauty aesthetics to ask the world to see them, and how they create and constantly re-create new visions of themselves for themselves. This is also a poem about intimacy between Black women. Hope you enjoy.

To read more poems from my debut poetry collection, check out my chapbook, “Reporting from the Belly of the Night” at sojournerahebee.com

Lantern Smoke by Dagogo Hart

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This film by Steven Beatsmith for a poem by the Dublin-based poet Dagogo Hart was a runner-up in Button Poetry‘s 2017 Video Contest.

How To Love Your Introvert by Kevin Yang

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Performance poet Kevin Yang’s poem in a film directed and edited by Vokee Lee, who writes:

The narrative in this music/poem video expresses the thoughts and feelings of being lost, lonely, the comfort of being in your own bubble, all the while the poem is meant to express a possible love letter to an ex-wife/lover/girlfriend. The video and poem itself is meant to be an awakening of “loving & finding”[.]

Aeryn Austin-Elbaz stars, and Ricardo Vasquez—not Kevin Yang—is the narrator. This is part of a short series of spoken word films produced by Motionpoems last year between its regular Seasons 6 and 7.

For those who want to hear and see the poet’s own interpretation, here’s the super popular video (712k views) from Button Poetry:

shhh! by Leah Thorn

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A dance-infused poetry film by Leah Thorn and filmmaker Clare Unsworth about the systematic silencing of women — and the need to rebel against it. Leah told me in an email,

The poem was written out of a passion to challenge the invisibility of the many ways women are silenced and I tried it out in performance with many different audiences of women – in schools, universities, feminist groups, at poetry events and in prison. Clare and I then collaborated with three drama students at the University of Kent, Canterbury, England who interpreted the poem through movement.

This locally-produced, no-budget film has been screened internationally at feminist film festivals.

The dancer/choreographers are Kristin Bacheva, Vanessa Owusu and Elle Payne. The sound is by Daniel Battersby, with music by Jahzzar and Ars Sonor.

I Am A Woman by Jade Anouka

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Inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman,” actress and poet Jade Anouka enlisted the help of a huge cast to recite her text for the camera, resulting in a uniquely polyphonic presentation. See YouTube for the text and complete list of contributors. The music is by Grace Savage.