For our very first lit segment of this new year, Devi Laskar shares poems in response to our open call for materials. Check out her poems below plus playlist curated by the poet herself.
BIO & INTRO TO LIT FROM THE POET:
Devi S. Laskar is from Chapel Hill, NC, a poet, an artist, a photographer, and a former journalist, who used to live in Makiki near Punchbowl and work at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Since moving back to the continent more than 20 years ago, Devi has been focusing more on hybrid forms, and focusing on poems that are at the intersection of personal and political. O‘ahu is where Devi first discovered she could speak her truth while still drawing from a mosaic of inspiration, whether it was her southern US upbringing, her family in India, her nonconventional non-model-minority path in life.
The poems Devi selected to share draw from this mosaic, and indirectly talk about assimilation decisions people of color make every day as they choose what they wear, what they eat, what they listen to, who they confide in.
Devi’s photographs and poems can be viewed at devislaskar.com
- SONG “Mera Laung Gawacha” by Bally Sagoo, featured in movie Bhaji on the Beach
- POEM “Unanswered, Untranslatable” is about words or phrases in Devi’s native Bengali language that don’t quite fully translate into English.
- SONG “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
- POEM “Stellar Evolution” (2016, Madison Review), finalist for The Phyllis Smart Young Prize, is about the poet’s response, years after her late teacher Lucille Clifton read her palms and told her there’d be trouble in her future. That story of trouble is available at joylaskarstory.com
- SONG “Over the Rainbow” (Israel IZ Kamakawiwo‘ole version)
I feel really fortunate to feature a poem by Will Giles during today’s show too. Will is a second generation Samoan-American poet, playwright, and educator from Hawaii. He is a Kundiman Poetry Fellow who studied with the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he debuted his one-man show Still Born. His work navigates postcolonial oppression, masculinity, and the disconnect of immigrant identity for those still drowning in their own blood. He currently works as the Workshop Coordinator for the nonprofit organization Pacific Tongues on O‘ahu, is a Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam Champion, and is the 2015 National Underground Poetry Slam Champion. Shout out to Will. Here is his gorgeous poem, titled “Zombies (Made in America),” which has been featured at Button Poetry Live.
Today’s final lit piece, which is actually a lit and music hybrid, comes from Hip Hop Caucus, creator of People’s Climate Music, who partnered with Taboo, a solo Hip Hop artist and member of the Grammy Award-winning pop group Black Eyed Peas, to debut the song “Stand Up/Stand N Rock.” This song and video were created in support of the Standing Rock Reservation and the Sioux Tribe, as they lead a peaceful, powerful, and diverse movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). I’m playing this song for you today as we remember last month’s victory, from December 4, 2016, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline route near the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation. Even as we continue to hold this victory, we know that there are reasons to remain vigilant, particularly since Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind DAPL, has said publicly that they have every intention of continuing the pipeline, and that they see this as a political decision. We also remain vigilant as we recognize what the change in U.S. presidents will mean for water and land protectors worldwide.