Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Here is a fun conversation I had for fellow poet Tamara Wood's YouTube channel via Google Hangouts on Air. We talk craft, activism, and future endeavors.
Tamara Woods is the author of The Shaping of An "Angry" Black Woman.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
After a tumultuous first half of 2015 in which South Carolina has been at the forefront, it is more upsetting that my state's black artists have been hidden. Now, I have seen our black politicians swept to the forefront as they should be. I have seen lawyers, preachers, and activists at center stage as they should be in these perilous times. However, the lack of black poets, writers, and artists in the same line arm and arm with those figures shows a disparaging indictment on South Caroina arts culture.
|Top left: Cadace Wiley; Bottom Left:|
Jennifer Bartell; Top Right: Marcus Amaker
Bottom Right: Tonya Gregg
There are remarkable black poets like Candace Wiley and Jennifer Bartell, even from Charleston like the young and gifted Marcus Amaker. The art of Tonya Gregg remains a South Carolina treasure. The music of Wendell Culbreath speaks revolution and restoration.
Although incredibly transparent articles have been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books by Delana R. A. Dameron and Kwame Dawes, these pioneers left SC to fulfill other projects although the wealth of their work still lingers here. Most of our best artists and writers leave South Carolina for a variety of reasons. I would venture to guess a factor is the arts are marginalized in our state for lack of support and interest. I was in a poetry workshop where Nikky Finney expressed her return to SC was in part based on this reality. Poet Kendra Hamilton has also returned to South Carolina after success in publishing.
I have to accept that I am in a state where Gov. Nikky Haley whom I have never met from my own small, rural home town constantly cuts funding and representation for the arts in our state and even downsized the inaugural poem by our own Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth for dubious reasons. Even with these setbacks to the arts, I have to be optimistic that someone outside of SC's borders will recognize our best contemporary artists especially in times of national turmoil surrounding our state.
I cannot rely on writers not from SC to write about Charleston when my own gift burns within me each day. If CNN or The New Yorker wants nothing to do with our arts movement, we will thrive here.
|Poets Respond to Race on Facebook|
Nonetheless, it is only one vision among many here. Speaking Down Barriers, co-founded by spoken word artist Marlanda "Sapient Soul" Dekine, seeks the same conversation with workshops and open discussion of controversial topics on race.
Working together with this and other projects like The Watering Hole in South Carolina show me that what the cameras and literary journal pages don't see is the work of gifted and talented individuals unifying toward the same objective. We have a responsibility to exhibit, teach, and impart what Gil Scott Heron told us will not be televised.
I am after the growth of SC black arts at its finest and purest. It may not be acknowledged nationwide, but it will be chronicled--starting with me if no one else. Otherwise, we will wait for the world to return to South Carolina in due season.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
|"Viable Option" by Esteban del Valle|
Photo from estebandelvalle.com
|"Beast of Burden Two" by Esteban del Valle|
Photo by SCGA
|Photo by Alex Seel|
Conversation with Esteban del Valle Pt. 1
Conversation with Esteban del Valle Pt. 2
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
|Photo by goldenbellarts.com|
Before my ekphrastic poetry reading based on his exhibit at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, Thursday, May 21, 2015, 5:30-7:30 PM, I had a conversation with Antoine concerning his process and the state of art as expression. The talk is below on SoundCloud.
|Photo by Charlotte Magazine|
Conversation with Antoine Williams
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
|Photo from snipview.com|
Many homeless people gather at this bus station for warmth and rest. One of the homeless appeared upset that he was asked to leave the station by several security officers for what we assumed was loitering. The conflict grew intense when two friends of the homeless black man individual attempted to calm him down. They mentioned to him that he had just left prison and did not want to go back.
Surprisingly, one of the security officers antagonized the homeless ex-con with shouts and threats. My friends and I felt this behavior was unbecoming of an officer whose job was to keep the peace.
The conflict subsided when the two friends pushed the angry black man all the way across the street although he still shouted back and forth with the security officer.
|Photo from snipview.com|
Each of us wrote a poem as our own interpretation of the incident. Both of my fellow poets' poems are below. My poem can be found in the upcoming March/April 2015 issue of Jasper, a Columbia, SC arts magazine.
Orphan of the soccer practice.
Black widow of the altar.
Pretending I didn't just turn this bench
While the cops be like
like too soon.
Do you mean Back?
in five to ten,
is not what I had in mind.
This is not what I had
bad attitudes, badges
and somewheres to belong.
You pretend you are here
to protect people like me
from people like me.
time and time again.
how to get off.
As the inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, NM (2012-2014), Hakim Bellamy is a national and regional Poetry Slam Champion and holds three consecutive collegiate poetry slam titles at the University of New Mexico. His poetry has been published in Albuquerque inner-city buses and various anthologies. Hakim completed his M.A. in Communications and Journalism Department at the University of New Mexico. He is the proud father of a 5 year-old miracle and is the Founding President of Beyond Poetry LLC. More at www.hakimbe.com
Monday, February 9, 2015
|Photo by Jennifer Bartell|
The Langston Hughes Poetry Center and Library at Allen University in Columbia, SC, is a project ten years in the making, developed by Charlene Spearen, Chairperson of the Humanities Department at Allen, and Kwame Dawes, currently the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. The center was also established to commemorate Hughes' visitation and poetry reading at the college. It features art and books of poetry by Hughes and African American poets. The center acquired hundreds of titles through donations from poets and other libraries.
|Kwame Dawes workshop|
Photo by Bhavin Tailor
Kwame opened the day's workshops with his theme of humility and originality in poetry. He admonished the emerging poets in attendance to understand ourselves and our place in the canon of poetry at large. He encouraged us to embrace our gift of writing that has already been around for lifetimes. He asked everyone, "Who do you write like?" and "Do you know who is influencing you?" in an effort to dispel the notion that poets must be original without traces of contemporaries in our work. He said, "Don't feel pressure to be original," but "maintain your voice." Once we identify our influences, according to Kwame, we can take control of them in our writing.
Next. Ernest Williamson III, Assistant Professor of English at Allen, gave a workshop on writing ekphrastic poetry. Ekphrasis is poetry based on art. As both an artist and a poet with over 550 publications, Ernest shared his insight on using paintings as inspiration for poems.
Fayaz Kabani, English Instructor at Allen, gave a workshop on writing sonnets.
|Nikky Finney workshop|
Photo by Jennifer Bartell
Then, Nikky's workshop focused on Langston Hughes' essay "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/mountain.htm).
In the essay, Hughes responds to a young poet who confesses to him, "I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet," Upon reading the text, we all reflected on the black experience in America from past to present. During the discussion, a member of the audience gave a stunning revelation about Hughes, stating that when Hughes visited Johnson C. Smith University for a poetry reading, he had no money, but his poetry was amazing.
The following letter from the Johnson C. Smith archives confirms that Hughes did, in fact, visit the school (http://cdm16324.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15170coll8/id/132/rec/2).
After Charlene gave a workshop on short poems and their large impact, Bhavin Tailor, Writing Center Manager at Allen, gave a workshop on poems about nature.
Having fellow members of The Watering Hole Collective with me in the workshops made the experience all the more enjoyable.
|A few members of The Watering Hole Collective (twhpoetry.org)|
(l to r) me, Stephanie Suell, Jennifer Bartell (administrator),
Candace Wiley (founder), Joyce Rose-Harris
Photo by Bhavin Tailor
Located at 1329 Pine St. in Columbia, the center is open to the public and available for book clubs, workshops, and poetry readings. For further availability, email Charlene Spearen at email@example.com.
Friday, January 9, 2015
|Courtesy of Anna K. Stone Photography|
|Photo by Amoni Thompson|
7) Candace Wiley's Poem
During the morning readings, Candace shared a transparent poem on the final day of the retreat. What made the poem even more intense was the fact that her parents were present as she shared lines she had never shared before about her life. According to Candace, being in the community of poets gave her the courage to express such lines. It showed the power of the community of poets to help each of us face our fears and doubts head on. Candace is a fighter.
6) Group B Night Session
Poets were split into three groups (A, B, & C) to attend workshops throughout the day. My group (B) had excellent poets; we fed off each other's ability to raise the bar with each writing prompt. On a night of downtime, we decided to share poems we brought to the retreat to get feedback from one another. It strengthened our bond all the more culminating in members from other groups joining us in our cabin that night. Our focus on the work drew us closer as individuals.
5) Roger Bonair-Agard's Evening Lecture
|Photo by DaMaris Hill|
4) Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie's Workshop
Ekere Tallie is a poetry editor, author, and an activist. Her emotion and sensitivity exude through her every word. Our group's workshop with Ekere did not begin with a discussion of craft; it began with a journey into self. She asked us plainly what our goals are and what we want our poetry to do. As she heard our responses, she told us exactly what we are truly seeking. For me, she interpreted my goals as a desire for validation and worth. This broke me down to my core. It took me back to my goals before at went to the retreat. Roger's evening lecture confirmed this. My drive to write and publish was rooted in a search to prove my worth--that I had "it"--to prove to others that I am serious about my craft and respected amongst peers. The release of those feelings lifted a burden for me to find that next level I had been searching for. Ekere's openness was the catalyst.
|Courtesy of Akinfe Fatou|
3) Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie's Morning Lecture
Ekere shared her manuscript entitled Letters to Continuum in which she writes letters to emerging poets and writers answering tough questions she had early in her writing that no one could answer for her. This completely aligns with her compassionate personality. Questions about needing an MFA or PhD, publishing in critically-acclaimed literary journals or other outlets, and knowing when the work is truly ready to publish flowed from her pages. It was in this morning session that my own questions surfaced about why I was at the retreat. Thankfully, those questions were answered in subsequent sessions with Ekere as a guide.
2) Candace Wiley and Monifa Lemons Jackson's Final Moment
|Courtesy of Anna K. Stone Photography|
After all the smoke cleared and the retreat neared its end, Candace and Monifa shared a touching moment at the center of the floor in the all-purpose facility at Santee State Park called the Village Round. With their tears and hugs for each other, they exuded the hard work, pressure, and obstacles ever present in taking on a grassroots poetry conference. These ladies are pioneers, and in this moment, we received only a glimpse into their daily struggle.
1) Nikky Finney
|Courtesy of Anna K. Stone Photography|
"Don't keep handing the work out if you haven't done the work on the page...You have to understand that you don't have to be modest: you have to be humble...You've got to be willing to work with the spotlight off...Do not move [from the page] until you write something that surprises you!"
A bonus of the retreat was (not networking) developing relationships with hungry poets who focus on their craft and their place in poetry and history. This was one of the top ten moments of my existence, and its full impact on my life is yet to be determined. This movement among poets of color is set to change the world one line at a time, especially in the face of threats against our humanity.
|Photo by Roger Bonair-Agard|