Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

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.

RED by Salena Godden

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Anything you can do we can do bleeding
We can do anything dripping with blood

Salena Godden released this poem and video back in September in collaboration with Nasty Women UK, a London art show that raised money to combat violence against women and girls, according to a blog post.

Salena Godden, one of the UK’s most iconic poets, has stepped forward to donate her latest poem RED in a collaboration with Nasty Women UK.

“RED is a poem about periods. RED is about stigma. This is about women’s autonomy over their own bodies and their own choices. RED is a protest poem against the tampon tax, anger that sanitary products have been considered a luxury item and therefore taxable. RED is a fury that money from the UK tampon tax is funding anti-abortion charities. I have great admiration for the work of the Nasty Women’s global movement and donate this work as an endorsement. We must end all violence against all women in all its forms. We must end the tampon tax. I wish all women to have a bloody safe and bloody healthy period. Period!”

Nasty Women is a global art movement that serves to demonstrate solidarity among artists who identify with being a Nasty Woman in the face of threats to roll back women’s rights, individual rights, and abortion rights. With over 40 events across the globe Nasty Women Exhibitions also serve to support organizations defending these rights and to be a platform for organization and resistance.

Click through for the text of the poem.

The video was screened as part of Godden’s headlining performance at this past weekend’s Filmpoem Festival in Lewes.

Thank You, Tree by Fatou M’Baye

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Nathan Tranbarger filmed and edited this video for the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas project, which has been going on now as long as Moving Poems. I’m happy to see that they’re not only still around; they’ve expanded into a proper online magazine as well as maintaining the public poetry poster side of the project. Kent State Magazine also has a short piece about this video:

[Fatou] M’Baye wrote the poem “Thank You, Tree” last fall as a fifth-grader attending the Holden Elementary School Writer’s Club, an after-school program. David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center, held a workshop at the club as part of the center’s outreach efforts to the community. “In the first session, we started with the idea of being grateful for something in our lives,” says Hassler. “Fatou chose this tree.”

“I wanted to thank her for helping me and my friends,” says M’Baye. “I wanted to thank all the trees. Without them we wouldn’t have healthy, happy lives.” […]

Since 2009 illustrated poems have made their way across Northeast Ohio, displayed on buses and transit systems and printed on posters and postcards as a project of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Wick Poetry Center. Now these poetry illustrations are journeying around the world as part of an interactive website and traveling exhibit that launched this fall, with support from the Ohio Arts Council.

Traveling Stanzas—an award-winning collaboration between the Wick Poetry Center and the School of Visual Communication Design—aims to facilitate a global conversation through the intimate and inclusive voice of poetry. Featured poems are curated from global submissions and illustrated by Kent State students and alumni.

Click through to see the poster made for M’Baye’s poem.