Before I get to Mahogany’s actual poem, I want to take a second to celebrate the person she is. I met Mo in 2007 in Austin Tx, at the national poetry slam. I don’t naturally gravitate towards poets, but there was something very genuine about her from the first time we met. We spoke in passing a couple times during the competition, but did not really kick it until final stage when Slam Charlotte and Nuyorican were both competing. After finals, when all the teams go back to the host hotel for the finals after party, I got a chance to talk to her a bit more. Although it was brief, I knew then that we would be friends for a long time to come. Through the years Mahogany has continued to be one of the realist poets in the game, and someone I have grown to see as a mentor and friend.
Quick story – In 2008 (I believe) I got invited to be a part of the SoundBites Performance Poetry Festival she was planning in New York, long story short there was a lot of “he said she said” things going on between a poet in my city and Mo around where we were supposed to be staying, (I can admit now that it got a bit gossipy) I will never forget the message I got from Mo that said simply (Brother, Listen Brother, we need to talk, this is MO Call me back) I was instantly nervous, it was akin to when your teacher would say she is calling your parents and you wait all night jumping every time the phone rings. I was hesitant to call her back because her tone in the message was all (you know you done F’ed up)! But when I did call back I was actually met with grace and counsel.
Mo probably does not remember this but during that conversation she broke down our subculture and all of its dynamics, the actors, the pitfalls and things to avoid, she taught me how to engage with honesty and integrity when dealing with poets. How to be generous but not waver, she did not mix words with me, it was harsh in spots, I was getting a personal letter to a young poet as I sat on the phone. That conversation set the framework of how I would interact and move through the poetry community forever, how I would value my name, and the integrity that comes with it. I am eternally grateful to Mo for taking some time, for her mentorship, for how she manifested love without even knowing it.
To me she is the Brooklyn Bridge, she is art and van rides through alphabet city, she is old bookstores and house parties in bed-stuy, bottomless mimosas and strange restaurants on the Lower East Side.
She has always been there. And for that I want to publicly say thank you!
Now to the poem, this poem is gorgeous, its silk, as all her poems are. Mo has a way to slow you down, her poems say sit down child – I am here to be listened to. There are some poets that shout their face off to capture the energy in a room (nothing wrong with that) but I have always been impressed with how she can capture that same energy with just her words, no pomp and circumstance. I choose this poem because it does what poems I love do, it allows you to get something different out of it each time you watch it, it is direct and abstract at the same time.
I am more than proud to have the honor to present to the Eternal Graffiti Audience
The incomparable Mahogany L Browne
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