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November 2020

Poetry and Media #021

Al Robles's first and only collection of poems, Rappin' With Ten Thousand Carabaos in the Dark, was published in 1996. Long out of print, the book's second life officially began this month with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center's publication of an expanded edition. "The struggle and promise of becoming a Pilipino in America can be found in the poetry of Al Robles," wrote Russell Leong in his preface to the 1996 edition. Robles was a pillar of the San Francisco Filipino American and Asian American literary scene. Through his work at the Kearny Street Workshop, Robles mentored countless young writers, including Barbara Jane Reyes.

Poetry and Media #020

Henrik Nordbrandt is the subject of A Poet's Odyssey, a new film from Denmark's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It's an austere and compelling portrait of a man reflecting on the central themes and experiences of his life. Nordbrandt on being born in a warzone says: "I was born on March 21st, 1945. It was about two hours before the Royal Air Force bombed Copenhagen. When people asked me as a child why I was so nervous I said, 'I was born with shell shock.' It was a joke, but it's probably true." Nordbrandt's recollection of his earliest childhood memory: "I shit on the bed and spread it all over myself. It was a lovely feeling. My grandmother scolded me. She didn't like having shit on her bed. She put me in the sink and washed me with cold water.

Poetry and Media #019

Shirley LeFlore was the second-ever poet laureate of St. Louis. She got her start as a member of Black Artists' Group, an interdisciplinary collective of St. Louis musicians, dancers, actors, and writers. BAG is the subject of The Black Artists' Group: Creation Equals Movement, a documentary streaming through November 22nd as part of this year's virtual edition of the St. Louis Film Festival. The film tracks BAG's rise and fall, exploring the feeling of revolutionary potential that informed Black art in the late 1960s. The film also documents acts of authoritarian repression perpetrated by the United States government against Black artists and activists. "A lot of us was subject to get arrested," LeFlore says in the film.

Poetry and Media #018

Vahni Capildeo and Xasan Daahir "Weedhsame" will be joining forces for "Poetics of Place and Displacement," a virtual reading and discussion happening on November 11th. With all the talk of politics and elections, it can be all too easy to lose sight of how damaging, on a human level, the strange rituals of nations can be. From the UN: "There are now 80 million displaced people around the world--almost double the number from a decade ago--owing to war, violence, persecution, and other emergencies." Capildeo and Weedhsame are uniquely equipped to talk about this global castastrophe. Capildeo is the author of Measures of Expatriation, a book burdened by associations with leaving and distance--from mythical exodus, to bird migration, to recent conflicts in the Middle East and their human consequences.