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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
BCP is always grateful for a nod of approval from fellow movers and shakers in Tacoma, and this month, in particular, we’re happy to report making it into Move To Tacoma’s newest article,
Read the article above to learn more about stellar literary organizations in T-Town, including Cascade Writers, Creative Colloquy, Destiny City Comics, Tacoma Poet Laureate Kellie Richardson, Tacoma Public Library, Write253, and of course, BCP!
Yes, I did get that from Write253’s Louder Than A Bomb Tacoma poetry slam, but listening to poetry and truly hearing the messages authors are conveying is more important than ever as our country continues to divide itself along political and racial lines. Despite our national division, I see poets, authors, musicians and artists trying to sew the gap back up with art. And I can honestly say I’m continually impressed not only the quality of their creative work, but with the strength of their messages, as well.
The impact of Tacoma’s local artistry hit me the hardest this afternoon at a post-workshop open mic hosted by Write253. The workshops and open mic were a part of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, which is happening all weekend (and includes a small press fair that yours truly will be peddling my wares at on Saturday afternoon).
Write253’s open mic was filled with young writers and musicians, all of whom blew me away with their performances. Students spoke with honesty and grit about alcoholism, violence, identity and race, community, friendship and politics, and they did so with a sense of abandon that I think many adults (myself included) struggle to achieve.
It was inspiring. They were inspiring. So I sat down to create something of my own, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. I went home and recorded a few poems as spoken word to share with you in the same way the young poets I heard this afternoon shared with me.
This fall and winter, I hope to record more poetry, to write new poems, and to share as much of it with you as I can. If I can swing it, I’ll record stories and poems by other local authors, as well. Listen in and let me know what you think.
More importantly, sit down and write. and share. and do it again and again and again.