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Slam This Louisville

We’ve got a new slam in town. Maxwell Sounds has been doing some big things in the city to support local musicians and has kept their mics open to poets as well. For the last year, they have been holding open mics all over the city with instruments on stage, ready for you to pick up if you didn’t bring your own. Now they are really ready to bring it…..they are hosting their first poetry slam, The College Coop Slam, July 9th, 2013. If you think you are ready for this, come show your face in the place. The College Coop is right by the University of Louisville at 329 W. Cardinal Blvd. Be there at 7. You can find Maxwell Sounds and all the info you need right on the Book of Faces, of course. So, go look them up and then get ready to slam.

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Be Brave

Does your city have a team going to Brave New Voices this year? If so, be sure to support these youth. These kids are choosing literacy, art, performance, leadership over violence, wasting time, and being followers. They are our present and our future, they are leaders now and will continue to lead. Don’t just show them the way, help them make their own path.

The programs that send these kids to Brave New Voices each year are doing amazing things. Check one out. Support it. Spend time there. Volunteer. Give. There are organizations all over the country giving the youth a safe place to speak, to learn and to grow. There might just be one in your area that you don’t even know about.

Are you In Des Moines? Founded by Kristopher J. Rollins and Emily C. Lang, RunDSM is giving kids a place to be heard and the tools needed to make it happen. Through the use of performance-based literacy and the art of spoken word they are creating a community that will not be afraid to speak or to tell their stories. These are the youth who will grow up to be better communicators, to embrace the arts, to make positive changes in their communities. The best part? They are teaching kids to give back. Proceeds from their “Share the Mic” performances are shared with other non-profits. They are sending a team to Brave New Voices this year.

Maybe you’re in the NYC. Be sure to check out Urban Word. They know “literacy is critical to survival.” They offer a variety of workshops and programs at their various sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx. A talented and dedicated group of staff and mentors make amazing things happen for the youth of the city. With one of the widest varieties in any youth program I have seen, there is truly something for everyone. Their open mics are not just run for youth, but by the youth. Support their cause and their team headed to Brave New Voices.

Right in here in my hometown of Louisville, KY we have Generation iSpeak. Executive Director, Julia Crittendon put into action her desire to give kids a platform to express themselves, something I thought about for years and never did. I applaud her tremendously. Generation iSpeak offers workshops, open mics and poetry slams throughout the year. This weekend is a slam and fundraiser for the team that will go to Brave New Voices. So if you’re in the ‘Ville, come check it out.

The Brave New Voices festival will be held in Chicago this year August 7th-11th. Brave New Voices, the first poetry slam for young people, has been going strong since Youth Speaks first founded it in 1998. It began with four slam teams, now it has as many as 50. This yearly event brings together young poets and spoken word artists, offering them artistic and personal growth, as well as an opportunity to connect with youth from all over the world.

Next time you see a bunch of teenagers standing around looking like their up to no good, ask yourself what you’re doing to change that, to give them an opportunity to do something with their time, their lives, their future. If the answer is nothing, do something, something Brave, something that makes a difference.

Cook Creative is Cooking it Up and It’s Hot

There’s a new publisher in town and you don’t want to sleep on this one. Owned by two amazing poets/artists/musicians/you name it, Cook Creative is the future of independent publishing because they are more than just a publishing house. Described as a “power house art hub,” Cook Creative marries all of the arts and vows to bring us the art we love, rather it be a book, a painting, graphic design, metalwork, or music.
With two books already under their publishing belt, they are well on their way to being a sought out publisher for independent artists and writers. Their first publication, Myth of Myself, combines a love of the visual with a love for the written word and morphs it into an amazing piece of work. It is one of those books you don’t want to put down, but that you must ever so often just so you can let the work speak to your soul and marinate. Cook Creative’s second publication is by none other than the amazing Ron Whitehead. I Refuse I Will Not Bow Down I Will Never Give Up is a bit of a best of the best. Say that three times fast. I’m just speaking the truth. Ron Whitehead is one of the best poets of our contemporary times and speaking the truth is just what he does. If you already love Ron Whitehead, this book is a must have for your collection. If you are not familiar with him, this book is the best introduction you could have, short of seeing him read live, that is. Nothing beats that. Hunter S. Thompson said it best, so I will quote him here. “I have long admired Ron Whitehead. He is crazy as nine loons, and his poetry is a dazzling mix of folk wisdom and pure mathematics.
I am looking forward to seeing what goodness Cook Creative cooks up for us next. Now go see what’s on their stove at http://www.cookcreativeworks.com.

National Poetry Awards

The National Poetry Awards will be hosted in Louisville, KY this year and I will go ahead and admit – I’m excited! This is the 4th year for the Awards and I am so happy to see this event continue to grow and support the art of spoken word. Do you know someone who is deserving of an award? You can nominate them now! Preliminary nominations are open now through May 16th. The four artists/poets/etc with the most nominations in each category will go on to the final voting round. Categories include Poet of the Year, Spoken Word Artist of the Year, Slam Team of the Year, Spoken Word/Poetry Album of the Year, among others. You can nominate and find out more info here: http://www.thenationalpoetryawards.com

The Awards will be held August 23rd – August 25th and ticket info and venue info will be forthcoming on the site soon. I will keep you updated here. Among the featured performers is the 2012 National Poetry Award Spoken Word Album of the Year winner, and Louisville’s own (by way of Michigan), Truth B. Told. After checking him out and falling in love with him, head back over to the Poetry Awards site and nominate him for Spoken Word Artist of the Year.

This will be an event not to be missed. So make a trip on over to the ‘ville and see how we do this spoken word thing around here.

Rakim Meets the Ink of Tasiir

Tasiir lives in Louisville, KY by way of Brooklyn, NY.  He is an artist in the truest sense of the word. A musician and spoken word artist, he now focuses on his true love, visual art. Tasiir is a caricaturist and illustrator whose medium is simple and somewhat rare: ballpoint pen. What he can create with a simple pen and some paper is nothing short of genius.

I first met Tasiir doing just that, creating, pen in hand, at a coffee shop in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, KY. Watching him work amazed me. Then he found out I was a poet and spoken word artist. He asked me, no….he told me, to spit something. I obliged. So began a back and forth of words and poems that spit fire. The good kind. The flame that warms you, without burning you. I first fell in love with his visual art, but when I heard that first line of that first poem drop from his lips, I was sold. His love is creating his visual art, which I do adore, but his words are what I most love. I can’t help it. I love a good eargasm.

I chose Tasiir’s caricature of Rakim to go with this post because I found it befitting of a spoken word blog. Rakim is THE MC. Please don’t argue with me on that fact. Let’s just be honest with each other. As a matter of fact, why don’t you stop reading for just a moment and put on some “I Know You Got Soul.” Now nod your head for a minute and then come on back to finish reading this post.

Are you nodding your head? Mmmhmm. Me too.

Tasiir is focusing on his visual art, but if you’re lucky, you might catch him on the mic somewhere. It is a rare sight, but it has been known to happen. He is also featured on CPHR DVN’s “Time Will Tell,” which you can take a listen to right here: https://soundcloud.com/cphr-dvn. And while you’re over there on the soundcloud, check out CPHR DVN’s other joints. You’ll be nodding your head again.

Be sure to visit Tasiir at www.tasiir.com. If you happen to be in Louisville, you can check out his work this month at Revelry Gallery, 980 Barrett Ave. The opening is January 5th from 7pm-10pm.

Saul Searching

Cover of "The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Los...

Cover via Amazon

I was soul searching today. It is the first of the year and all. In my soul searching I started Saul searching. He has, after all, spoke to my soul on many an occasion. I was reminded why I love him so. His written word IS his spoken word. They are the same. When you read the words on the page you HEAR them. They immediately take on an undeniable rhythm all their own. I have to go ahead and admit that I read Saul Williams before I ever heard him, which is why it is that more meaningful to me. I didn’t read him and hear his actual voice because I knew what it sounded like. I HEARD him because I felt him down in my soul.

I came to Saul by the way of “The Dead Emcee Scrolls.”  It is how I first met him. If you haven’t read it, do it immediately. You will fall in love. If you’re a hip-hop fan, poetry fan, spoken word fan, or just a fan of great story-telling, I guarantee it will touch you. As much as I love poetry, it is the “story” part of the book I love the most, “A Confession.” Don’t get me wrong, even Saul’s poems are stories. So, let’s speak in technicalities. It isn’t technically a poem, although it is poetic. It is a bit of an introduction, a story of how things came to be. It spoke to me in such a way that I couldn’t even read the rest of the book yet. I had to process, wait, savor, get my bearings. I was in love and this was the first kiss. I didn’t want to rush.

So started my love affair with Saul Williams. His books remain some of my favorites. And today, when I needed some words that really meant something, it was Saul I turned to. This is what he said:

morning meditation 
is the burial service
of impressions
made the day before

the naming ceremony
of the day

Speak on Saul,  speak on.

Are you a Saul Williams fan? Tell me about your Saul searching.

Mic Check

Mic check 1-2, 1-2. Is this thing on? Hey, we’re blogging! Come check the mic with me!