Sure, the media hype surrounding national and local protests for social justice has died down, but the issues are still present, the protests continue, and our conversations about our roles as artists and community members in this collective struggle continue to deepen. As part two of a collaboration with Write253, a youth literary arts non-profit encouraging young people in Tacoma and Pierce County to express themselves through writing, performance, and publication, we dived into a conversation about poetry as activism.
In this episode, guest host and Write253 executive director Michael Haeflinger sat down with three hard-hitting youth poets to discuss the crossroads of poetry and activism, especially as they relate to artistry, action, and community. The episode features guest poets Emerson Pimentel, PJ Sorem, and Tashawn Deville.
Each of these poets has been a part of Write253’s annual teen, team poetry slam, Louder Than A Bomb Tacoma (LTAB-Tacoma), and they sometimes perform for audiences in the greater Tacoma area. We’ve included recordings of their LTAB-Tacoma performances below , but for now, press play and listen in, friends. You won’t regret it.
About the Guests
Emerson Pimentel / Empcxt
Emerson Pimentel, also known as Empcxt , is a performing artist in Tacoma whose work can be found on most music streaming services, including Spotify. A video of one of his past poetic performances in Louder Than A Bomb – Tacoma, is also featured below. The video is from Write253’s Youtube Channel.
PJ Sorem is a poet and artist in the Tacoma area. Check out PJ’s poetic works (which they sometimes post) on Instagram @peej.ss. Below is a video of them performing at the 2019 LTAB-Tacoma poetry festival.
Tashawn Deville is a 20 year old poet, poetry slam coach and Tacoma Community College alumni living and working in Tacoma. She’s been writing poetry since high school, and is influenced by J. Cole, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Tupac Shakur. Watch the video of her performing poetry at LTAB-Tacoma below. You can also hear more of Tashawn’s poetry in The Prickly Pear Podcast Episode 11: Tashawn Deville.
Originally from the Midwest, Michael Haeflinger is the author of the poetry collection, Low Static Rage (Blue Cactus Press, 2019), and two chapbooks, Love Poem for the Everyday (2011) and The Days Before (2014), both from Dog On A Chain Press. In 2016, he released Let’s Don’t Be Crazy, a spoken word and music album. He is the recipient of the Rutgers-Camden Award for Community Engagement (2013), The Amocat Award for Community Engagement (2017), and a Tacoma Arts Initiative Program Award (2015). He is the Executive Director for Write253, a literary arts organization in Tacoma, WA.
*This episode is part two of a collaboration with Write253. Part one ,The Prickly Pear Podcast, Episode 12: Poetry as a Tool for Self-Healing, came out earlier this month. It features guest poets Gloria Muhammad and Celia Nimura-Parmenter. Be sure to follow Write253 on social media to find out what they’ve been up to this summer and have in the works this fall!
Everything is a mess nowadays (we’re looking at you, COVID-19, rampant and continued racism against BIPOC , the unsettling state of local and national economy, zealous over-policing, etc.) and it can feel incredibly overwhelming to just get out of bed some mornings and trudge through the day. For some of us, though, poetry and art are things we can hold onto as an anchor amid the turmoil, or tools in our efforts to self-heal during times of upheaval.
This podcast episode is all about that healing process. We asked guest poets Gloria Muhammad, who also serves as a writer, teaching artist and educator, and Celia Nimura-Parmenter, a youth poet active in the arts community in Tacoma, to join us in conversation about poetry as a tool for self-healing. Hit play and enjoy, friends!
*This episode is part one of a collaboration with Write253, a youth literary arts non-profit encouraging young people in Tacoma and Pierce County to express themselves through writing, performance, and publication. Part two will be The Prickly Pear Podcast, Episode 13: Poetry as Activism, and it’ll drop later this month. It features Michael Haelfinger, executive director of Write253, as guest host in a conversation with youth poets Emerson Pimentel, PJ Sorem, and Tashawn Deville about the crossroads of poetry and activism. Be sure to follow Write253 and Blue Cactus Press on social media to find out exactly when that episode drops!
About the Guests
Gloria Muhammad is a teaching artist, educator, and writer. She is passionate about community building and bringing people together. A current para-educator, Gloria has worked with young people and adult learners in various educational settings. As a teaching artist, she enjoys hosting writing workshops rooted in healing and personal development. To book Gloria for a writing workshop or to learn more, send her a DM @whoisgloriajoy or email email@example.com.
Celia Nimura-Parmenter is a proud Queer, mixed, Yonsei high schooler. She currently attends an arts high school and is majoring in theatre and humanities. Celia is a believer in the fight for civil rights and using the arts in favor of activism. Someday she hopes to be a senator, a director and professional actress, and a grade school humanities teacher.
Gloria’s Go-To Tools for Feeling Good
- Books: Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold, Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
- Acupuncture: Tacoma East Asian Medicine (free/donation based, donations go towards the family of Manuel Ellis
- Yoga: Yoga Wild
- Healing Crystals: Crystal Spirit
Celia’s Go-To Tools for Self-Healing:
- Educational Course: Civilrightstoolkit.net
- Books: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki, Nepantla edited by Christopher Soto
Christina’s Go-To Tools for Self-Soothing
Hello there. Its been a hell of a year so far, friends, but we’re doing our best to keep moving forward and to do so as community members with a standing responsibility to fight for social justice and ending institutionalized racism. In a beautiful synthesis of timing and energy, we just finished our newest podcast episode, The Prickly Pear Podcast, Episode 11: Tashawn Deville.
This episode features spoken word poetry Tashawn is known for around town. The incredible poem Tashawn chose to share, “AmeriKKKa,” was inspired by “the many social inequalities and injustices that I and many People of Color face,” says Deville.
Hit play and listen to Tashawn’s poetry (seriously, listen). And if you enjoy her work and find value in it, please donate to her directly via Cash App, at $heypaymeh.
TASHAWN DEVILLE is a 20 year old poet, poetry slam coach and Tacoma Community College alumni living and working in Tacoma. She’s been writing poetry since high school, and is influenced by J. Cole, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Tupac Shakur.
We’re having trouble keeping up with all the cool arts events happening around town for Tacoma Arts Month, so naturally, we retreated to the great garage to catch our breath and *settle down.* We convinced Lucien Vedego, a multi-disciplinary artist with work in the fields of music, painting, writing, acting, and modeling, to join us while we did so. This podcast episode is the very silly but also heartfelt result of that.
This conversation is about you, Tacoma, and what keeps cool kids like Lucien walking through your streets. We deep dived into conversation about honesty, “facebooking it” in real life, friendship and the artistic process. We hope you enjoy it.
LUCIEN VEDEGO is a multi-disciplinary artist with work spanning the fields of music, painting, writing, acting, and modeling. All of his work stems from his mission to spread the messages of unity, vulnerability, and innate power. He is also active within the field of metaphysics, sharing esoteric teachings by holding space, as well as working as a Reiki practitioner. Most recently, he founded decriminalize nature tacoma, a branch of the larger decriminalize nature effort.
That’s right, Blue Cactus Press snagged an interview with Abby E. Murray, award-winning author, educator, and the 2019 – 2021 Tacoma poet laureate! Abby joined us earlier this spring for a delightfully weird conversation about expensive-AF writing retreats, juggling balls and spinning plates, and figuring out how many snacks one can fit into their PhD regalia (spoiler alert: approximately 8-9 snacks, unless one is lumpy, in which case one can fit many, many more snacks).
More importantly, we chatted about Abby’s incredible, community-centered work at The Selma R Carson Home, where she holds writing workshops for undocumented and unaccompanied boys, and her role at Collateral, a literary journal showcasing creative writing and art exploring the impact of violent conflict and military service beyond the combat zone.
Abby E. Murray is the 2019-2021 poet laureate for the city of Tacoma, Washington. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Abby has moved around the country and taught writing in Colorado, Georgia, Alaska, New York and Washington. Her first book, Hail and Farewell, won the 2019 Perugia Press Poetry Prize and was released in September 2019. Previous chapbooks include How to Be Married after Iraq (Finishing Line Press, 2018), Quick Draw: Poems from a Soldier’s Wife (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Me and Coyote (Lost Horse Books, 2010).
We’re bringing the weird, friends! We’ve been stuck indoors all winter and we’re LOSING OUR MINDS! Luckily, though, we’re losing our minds with filmmaker, writer and multimedia artist Jonah Barrett.
In this episode, Jonah chats about their obsession with dark places (we’re talking caves, abandoned houses and creepy forests), “finite experience on the YouTubez,” and past, present and future creative endeavors. There’s also a fair amount of sh*t talking (you’re welcome), and an ridiculous Q&A session fueled by friends.
**BONUS: Jonah rehashes their experience performing a personal essay, “Anal Pleasure & Health,” on this podcast episode. They debuted the essay at Creative Colloquy in January 2019 (a video of his performance is below), and we’re *incredibly* excited announce that we’re featuring “Anal Pleasure & Health” online here at Blue Cactus Press.
Jonah also chats about one of their biggest ongoing projects, Wordsmiths, during the podcast. Wordsmiths is a video mini-series featuring literary groups in the Pacific Northwest and their impact on their local communities. We’ve included the first installment of Wordsmiths, “Chapter One,” for you below. In “Chapter One,” Jonah interviews Jackie Casella and Joshua Swainston of Tacoma’s Creative Colloquy – a nonprofit where writers come together and read their work monthly.
To see more of Jonah’s creative work, visit their YouTube channel, LazyEyesInc, or visit his website, Malicious Wallydrags. Jonah’s writing can be found in Creative Colloquy, Everyday Genius, Lit.Cat, OlyArts, and the bestselling Portland anthology City of Weird. Jonah has directed and written two feature films, a dozen-ish short films and three web series. He’s also worked as a literary magazine and anthology editor, journalist, assistant director, script supervisor and art conservator.