I love teaching.
Part 1 of I AM...Renaming the Sexual Revolution (a "slam poetry meets sex ed." workshop I'm facilitating this fall, sponsored by Planned Parenthood and the Ithaca College Office of Multicultural Affairs) went really, really well! Six hours is a long time to be immersed in the Spoken World (my jaw still aches from all the reading and discussing) but nobody complained when we went twenty minutes overtime! YAAAAAY! The fifteen (or so) poets who showed up were ready and open and willing to take risks--in thinking, in speaking, in moving.
As I shared all the herstory and info I've been re-researching this summer about the spoken word movement, I was reminded of the context I work in as a performance poet. The artists who came before and come beside are so fiercely diverse. Our content, our approach to craft, and the techniques we employ from the page to the stage are wide-ranging in sociopolitical perspective. As true-storytellers and cultural witnesses, performing poets today embody a Third Wave kind of explicitness about our beyond-the-box-and-binary lives. I am so privileged to teach the names Roger Bonair-Agard, Reg E. Gaines, Andrea Gibson, Suheir Hammad, Essex Hemphill, Letta Neely, Ishle Yi Park, Shailja Patel, and Patricia Smith (among countful others). I especially love being able to introduce poets to the (queer/ed) women of color writers who are often the last to be formally documented, the mothers of our protests. And I am blessed to remind that language can be used for more than mere communication; that language is also for casting spells, re-creating reality, recanting the spirits that live in and protect us. We call God by name everytime we say "I Am." What more do we need to know than that?
It was also exciting to see the reflection of grateful listening (and awe, and inspiration and cathartic awakening) on participants' faces as I played them selections from my personal aural text library (composed of all the spoken word CDs I've traded my chapbooks for over the years.) For me, one of the highlights (I'd do better to say "bright lights") of the day was reciting "coercion" (my poem about sexual coercion) to demonstrate the "stream of consciousness" performance of an edited poem. Everyone gathered in a cellular-type clump and the piece came through me (in my moment as nucleus) in a much more clear-channel way than it ever has. The warmth and love in the room demanded that I make room for voices that were not just my own, but the voices of women who have known the violence rape in the softest touch.
Another bright light was chanting OM together. OM is truly the hot mama of all sounds! It broke the chill in the room better than any name game could.
I'll see you all on October 8th for Part 2.
Write like giving blood, Elle.