Redbone: A Biomythography | Book Review x Interview With Mahogany L. Browne

Redbone: A Biomythography | Book Review x Interview With Mahogany L. Browne

Redbone: A Biomythography is a masterpiece of personal narrative mixed with strikingly dynamic storytelling through poetry. One of the things that struck me most about this book of poems by Mahogany L. Browne is how intimate it felt. Her writing has a way of sitting you down and demanding you to get comfortable. Although I live in Atlanta, I felt like I was reading this book in her Brooklyn living room with a cup of coffee and the sound of traffic sweeping thru a cracked window. I thought I was sitting down to read a bunch of poems, but as cliche as it may sound, you don’t really read this book– you experience it. You live inside of it, and it lives inside of you. It makes you think about your own family, it provokes questions about how you came to be that you may have never considered. After reading this book of poems I actually called my mother and asked about my own grandmother. I explored my genealogy in a way — from a lens that I never had. That right there is what good literature is, what a powerful narrative should be.

At times Redbone is a window, it ask you to sit and be a witness. At other times it is a wide open door, it invites you to sit Indian style inside of it as you to inhale the love and damage – the survival and carnage.

One of my favorite things about this body of work is how Mahogany defines and redefines ideas I thought I knew to be true. We explore what it means to be a victim. We explore what it means to be a black women carrying all of this world on her shoulders. The way she brings you into the struggle of a woman who has experienced so much: which makes her strong, tough, and a force within her own right. Yet, she renders abuse in attempts to be love.  The protagonist Redbone reveals our humanity in what she accepts and encourages readers to explore their own truths, how hard lines switch between black-and-white to shades of grey.

It is the humanity in the words, the complexity in the story, the complexity of love and the psychology of victimization. It is the non-stigmatizing of addiction, the familiar side of it. It is both what the family was doing to itself, and what the nation was doing to the black family. It is layered, and rich, and human. Redbone is a woman, a black woman living in her blackness, she is not here for your pretty box of what a black woman should be, or what black women were. She exists in her own multiplicity, her story is hers written through the lens of her daughter and offered up to us as a bullet through the definition of what blackness or womanhood should be.  It shoots through the stories offered to us from the mainstream, stories that has been defined by non-black women writers and producers that have largely locked black women out of telling their own stories.

The main character manages to be strong and soft, a victim and the author of her own fate, calloused but yet still in love and wanting to be loved. You are taken to a time when people made the best of what they were given, and much wasn’t given. You are able to see the good in the bad, and the bad in the good in a time where being black and alive was a struggle in and of itself.

If I had to say the thing I loved most about Redbone it would be the journey it takes you on. You know the dynamic that happens when you are reading a really good book and you have to put it down, but the characters stay with you? The story stays with you. You might be doing the dishes or feeding your kids and you can’t stop thinking about the story you are reading, the characters that are developing. Redbone is one of the few books of poetry that I have read that contains that dynamic. While I was at work I found myself wondering about Betty Sez’s life, wondering what events in her life molded her slick tongue. I thought alot about Grandma Coco and how religion molded so many black families, how much that identity matters to our larger collective story. I wondered about Bam, wondered if we would find out what made him violent wondered where his character would go as the book progressed on. I found myself thinking about the big house, about Alcatraz. I wondered if the house would smell like my grandmothers, If Bam’s hands were my grandfathers hands.

Often times when I write a book review I pull out some of the best parts from some of the best poems to really showcase the writer’s strength. This was almost impossible with Redbone. Every word builds on the one before it, every poem is important and necessary, every stanza is made of steel. The writing found in Redbone is gorgeous and I strongly suggest that you pick up a copy as this is a must have for any fan of writing, poetry, or just good story.

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Photo from the Redbone Stage Play Written and performed by Mahogany L Browne

I had an opportunity to sit down with Mahogany Browne to talk about her new book:

MS – So Redbone is a story about your family, centered around your mother, why was it important for you as a writer to share these stories?

MB- It is important to me to share the stories of my family, because we have a clear understanding of what happens when you allow others to retell your history. A lot of the sauce is lost in translation and sometimes — it’s just revisionist as hell. So if not me, then who? And if several of “me’s” then we have an entire picture being painted. I am only speaking from my perspective — there are at least 30 other people that remember the story…A different lens and vantage point can offer a vivid (and maybe) slightly different story of the same moment.

MS – Redbone is a BioMythography explain to our readers exactly what that is, and why you took that approach?

MB – Ted Warburton defined “biomythography” as the act of “weaving together myth, history and biography in epic narrative form that represents all the ways in which we perceive the world.” This was a definition of the term created by Audre Lorde in her book from 1982 Zami. And if we consider Audre Lorde and her sense of urgency to tell the thing to a world that refuses blackness and variations of womanness, then we should very well be ready for the type of revolution that will destroy the machine that gathers black people into a fist of silence. The machine that perpetuates only images of hypersexualized and bitter black women. When that machine is only a pile of ashes, we can learn black women (like all women) have layers. We are sexual beings. We are mothers. We are sisters. We pop shit in the hair salon. And pick women up from the floor of heartache. We love hard. And laugh hard. And drink liquor. And go to church. And prayer. And are prayer.

And sometimes, we are silent. And sometimes we are laughing. We are loud and unafraid of all our roundness and all our wombs vibrate like a chant of yes. Redbone is only one offering to the myriad of black women. I am prepared to speak for myself.

MS- What was the hardest part about writing Redbone?

MB – This story is about my mother so there is plenty of unpacking to do. My mother who fell to addiction after surviving domestic violence and after bouts of depression was my first lesson in how women break. It was a real lesson on what (and in my case who) gets left behind. I still have a hard time reading the poems in public. Because the truth is hard to hear. And those feelings, while in the air make it easier to understand who I am and how I became this fractured rib cage.

MS – In terms of the writing process for this book, did you have a special time to write? A special Process? how is your writing structured?

MB -I interviewed folks in my family. I kept it under wraps for several years. I thought they would keep it PG if I told them I was writing about it. I never knew it would turn into a book. I was just intrigued to hear the stories of how I got here. Like most of us must be. The difference is — I couldn’t sleep without typing out the stories. And then the stories turned to poems. And then it was 50 different stories. Sometimes, the same story revisited. And it was scary. I felt like a snitch. I sent the manuscript to several writing gurus for their eyes and honest opinions. And they returned it to me with edits and a resounding “YES” with different publishers to submit to. I also recorded most of the poems and made the first component available to the public an audio/visual offering of the Redbone manuscript into a poetry music and dance production. And this act propelled the necessity of the manuscript into orbit. It blew my mind how many people flooded the venues to hear Redbone: A Biomythography.

MS – What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

MB – Read everything. Write until it hurts. Write until you are afraid. Until you reach the fear. Until you walk through it. And write some more. Read everything. Experience life. Workshop with people that you trust. And workshop with people whom you do not know but could learn to trust. Sometimes this is harder than it seems. But even the person you dislike and distrust has a view that can spin your work on its head. Consider everything a work in progress. Be afraid of nothing. You were meant to be here.

To Find out more about Mahogany Browne visit her website below:
www.mobrowne.com

 

MoBo

Justin Lamb | Yes New Friends | Eternal Graffiti

Justin Lamb | Yes New Friends | Eternal Graffiti

First and Foremost, any poem, by any poet, that is an open letter to Drake deserves your attention. I mean, cause drake is probably out right now, In NYC, listening to Sade while rubbing Serena’s feet just winning. This point alone is enough to weed through every poem that is an open letter to anyone and click on the one that is an open letter to Drake. And I am glad that a couple months ago when I ran across this video I did. This is a really dope video, filmed by Write About Now, at an after hours cipher during this years Southern Friend Poetry Slam. This poem has stuck in my head since the first time I listened to it and for good reason.

New Orleans poet Justin Lamb, offers up a humorous yet poignant narrative about friendship, connections, and the things that tie us together in this world. About humanity and the impact the messages rap carries on our youth. This poem offers up such an interesting perspective on the tangible effect of this message “no new friends” on kids that learn a lot about their place on this planet from the music they listen to. The honest truth is that our children are consumed by hip-hop. no matter how you shelter them, it is embedded in all facets of culture and it is pervasive on almost all levels, there is no running from its messaging. And without strong parental figures, teachers, ect anyone who can act as a counter-narrative, hip-hop can have damaging effects.

So when someone as influential as Drake says “no new friends”, they believe it, they hold tight to what they know, they shrink into the comfort zone of their block or street, their neighborhood or high-rise. As an adult we know, or at least we should, that opening yourself up to new opportunities is what makes us grow, meeting and interacting with people you don’t know who are not like you, who are not from where you are from.

New friends are the best way to realize that YOU don’t know

In light of recent events I would like to think that this hook was written by Quentin Miller, that in his cocoon of ghost writing he does not need any new friends that anyone new in his circle was too risky, might have let the world know that he was pseudo-drake

So I agree with Justin Lamb, because there is value in dealing with your day 1 friends people who you know are true and there for you through thick and thin, but I too think we can augment the criteria Drake puts forward in the song. I think the most valid thing said in this whole poem is “why not some new friends and a more vigorous vetting process”

Also Justin Lamb sings the chorus like several times which is both jarring and awesome at the same time.

More about the poet – Justin Lamb is an educator, writer and a 2013 National Poetry Slam champion. A two-time Slam New Orleans Grand Slam Champion, Justin has represented New Orleans at regional and national competitions for the last four years as member of the nationally acclaimed Team Slam New Orleans (Team SNO). He is also the author of a live performance poetry album titled However It Turns Out Is Perfect

 

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Justin Lamb

Fanny Lou Hamer’s Speech At The Democratic National Convention

Fanny Lou Hamer’s Speech At The Democratic National Convention

The establishment [read- men throughout all of time] have always tried to silence women. They have gone through great lengths to make sure that the voices and stories of women are not included in the national discourse. In this instance, President Lyndon Johnson tried to straight shut down Fanny Lou Hamer because he did not want the world to hear her voice, to hear her truth.

During the 1964 Democratic Convention, He cut away from her speech thinking that would silence her, he thought the world would care more about the nothing he had to say, than the struggle of black people in this country at the time, but it back fired. All of the news outlets, realizing the blatant attempt to silence Fannie Lou Hamer, ran the speech over and over and the impact was immediate

During her testimony this sharecropper from Mississippi grabbed the mic and told a story of her struggle that was so real and so visceral it sends a chill down your spine as you are listening.

Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, the youngest of her parents’, Ella and James Lee Townsend’s, 20 children. Her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi in 1919 to work on the plantation of W. D. Marlow as sharecroppers. Hamer picked cotton with her family, starting at the age of 6. She attended school in a one-room schoolhouse on the plantation, from 1924-1930, at which time, she had to drop out. By the age of 13, Hamer could pick 200-300 pounds of cotton daily. In 1944, after the plantation owner discovered that she was literate, Hamer was selected to be the plantation’s time and record keeper. In 1945 she married her husband, Perry “Pap” Hamer. They worked together on the plantation for the next 18 years.

During the 1950s, Hamer attended several annual conferences of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The RCNL, a combination civil rights and self-help organization, was led by Dr. T. R. M. Howard, a civil rights leader and wealthy black entrepreneur. The annual RCNL conferences featured entertainers such as Mahalia Jackson, speakers such as Thurgood Marshall and Rep. Charles Diggs of Michigan, and panels on voting rights and other civil rights issues.

While having surgery to remove a tumor, in 1961 Hamer was also given a hysterectomy without her consent by a white doctor as a part of the state of Mississippi’s plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. The Hamers later raised two impoverished girls, who they later decided to adopt.

Watch the first video which is an except from the Documentary “Freedom Summer”

If this was a slam poem it would receive a perfect 30 from me.

You can check out the entire speech at the link below@

 

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Clint Smith | Beyond this Place | Future Of StoryTelling

Clint Smith | Beyond this Place | Future Of StoryTelling

One of my favorite things to do on Eternal Graffiti is showcase poets when they do really amazing things, or produce really top notch quality content. Today’s spotlight checks off both boxes with soaring colors. We have had Clint on Eternal Graffiti before so I won’t spend too much time on his bio. He is an amazing poet and thinker currently pursuing a Doctorate at Harvard University.

In the video below he teams up with Future Of Storytelling (FoST) which is an incredible organization that puts on a really dope conference each year. (One that we hope to be involved in next year) This year Clint will be one of the speakers, and I also saw that Pages Matam will be teaching a workshop which is dope!

I personally feel like our subculture houses some of the most brilliant storytellers around. Poets who can relate a story to a room full of hipsters, but can also use the elements of story to workshop with a Law Firm or a media company. The conference has had spoken word artists before and its good to see our contributions to the art form of storytelling being recognized

Click to see the list of presenters

On to the video, Clint does a masterful job of relating his experience working in the prison system. The poem by itself is dope but when you pair it with the visuals it takes it to a whole other level. I would love to see more videos like this being produced by spoken word artist, I know there are many limitations (budget, resources, etc) but this would take a huge step forward in showcasing some of the really cool spaces we can (and already do) go.

Now don’t get me wrong I believe there is a huge need for the single camera, live slam – kind of poetry videos as well. Those videos contain a rawness, a certain kind of – you had to be there – raw, emotional felling that the video below can’t capture. I am glad those videos are readily available as well.

Watch the video and connect with the poet and let him know what you thought about it. Also Tweet @FosTorg and let them know how you are feeling the collaboration

Clint Smith is a teacher, poet, and doctoral candidate at Harvard University. In 2013, Smith was named the Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Humanities Council and is featured in the book, “American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom” (Welcome Books, 2013). As a poet, he is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, an Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, and has served as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State. His TED Talk, The Danger of Silence, was named one of the top 20 TED Talks of 2014. His new TED Talk, How to Raise a Black Son in America, was released in April 2015.

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Clint

Jonathan Samuel Eddie | Comedic Poem | Curated by Theresa Davis

Jonathan Samuel Eddie | Comedic Poem | Curated by Theresa Davis

The Comedic Poem

 

In the past, I have had folk ask why I don’t write more serious poems. I think all of my poems are serious even when dressed in humor. The fact that a chuckle might erupt during a poem when talking about the government in my pants, or my son relating to my sexuality, or the expectation of my being an angry black woman, doesn’t make them less serious. If I walked around constantly channeling the way this world treats me as a black woman, black queer woman, black queer educated woman, black educated queer mother, and on and on, I’d be so angry there would be no words. There is a line in the Avengers Movie, stay with me here, where Captain America (oh the irony) tells Bruce Banner, “Now would be a good time to get angry.” And Banner replies, “That’s my secret, I’m always angry.” This is what it is like to be Black in America, a constant slow simmer. So I don’t Hulk out every other day, humor channels that anger and sometimes I make other people boil.

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I met Jonathan Samuel Eddie, the man with three first names, several years ago. The first time I heard his poetry it was so funny in that uncomfortable way, I thought,” WHO IS THIS HUMAN!! AND WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING TO MY BRAIN?” He has a way of wrapping his experiences of blackness in humor while still communicating the message of mistreatment, family, history and the pain of loss.

Jonathan Samuel Eddie, the man with three first names, is not just a poet. He is an actor, director, playwright, and coaches the Fountain City Youth Slam Team in Columbus, Georgia. He is currently a member of the Java Monkey Slam Team with poets Mista Funn, Adan Bean, Miss Haze, and Nate Mask, who will be traveling to Oakland soon to compete in the National Poetry Slam.

Jonathan Samuel Eddie is a Spoken Word Comedian, delicately and hilariously merging both art forms with every syllable that falls form his lips. A native of Columbus, GA. and an alumnus of Georgia Southern University, Jonathan Samuel Eddie is a lover of any and everything that is art and humor. This love has lead him to the spoken word, having competed in and won several poetry slams across the USA with his wit and writing. Jonathan Samuel Eddie is the poet your mother didn’t warn you about.

Whether writing humorous poems about being a choreographically challenged black man, the stereotypes attached to black folks and tardiness, or seriously about fashion and not in a funny way.

Don’t discount humor in poetry and don’t think that we don’t have range. We do. He does.

And did I mention his sock with flip flop game is on point!

Jonathan Samuel Eddie – Jonathan Samuel Eddie is a spoken word comedian hailing from Columbus, GA. This alumnus of Georgia Southern University is a lover of any and everything that is art. He represented the city of Atlanta at the National Poetry Slam competition as a member of the 2012 and 2014 Art Amok Poetry Slam Teams. He was also the 2012 and 2014 Grand Slam Champion at Art Amok. At the 2014 and 2015 Southern Fried Regional Poetry Festival, he ranked among the top 10 individual competing poets. Jonathan is now a proud member of the 2015 Java Monkey Slam Team, representing Atlanta. As an actor, he has graced stages in productions such as Blues For An Alabama Sky, The Foreigner, and Clybourne Park to name a few. He portrays Crispus Attucks in an interactive video display at the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. As a director, Jonathan has overseen numerous productions, including three of his original works to stage, STIMULUS, Blues For Mama, and WORDS through his company, Yellow Mojo Productions. He has opened up for the likes of comedians such as Bruce Bruce and Earthquake, and was a featured stand up comic at the 2014 Black Box Comedy Festival in Atlanta, GA. He currently serves as the founder/director of the Fountain City Teen Poetry Slam, an organization that inspires youth to use their creativity as a positive outlet in their daily lives. From his work as a wellness instructor with the Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court system, he has also designed an effective and fun-filled curriculum that teaches students life skills through creative writing. Students have experienced the benefits of this auxiliary arts education in their intellectual, personal, and social development. Through weekly workshops, poetry slams, national/regional/local performance opportunities, and community service, he’s blessed to watch the future take shape one word at a time.

 

 

 

 

Website soon to go live JonSamEdd.com
Twitter @ISAMUEL_EDDIEP
Instagram @JonSamEdd

 

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