Poetry has always been a form of activism for Yellow Rage, a two-person Asian Pacific American spoken word poetry group.“It’s been about education and raising awareness,” said Yellow Rage member Michelle Myers. “It’s about trying to initiate some sort of positive change in the world.”
Myers and Catzie Vilayphonh, who are currently on a college tour, have been writing and performing poems since 2000 when the two met at a workshop set up by Asian Arts Initiative (AAI), a community based arts organization. The topics they’ve covered range from APA women stereotypes, heritage and search for home to human trafficking, sexual slavery and other issues facing the APA community.
Before the Jan. 15 Borderlines open mic even started, Henry Mills chose random audience members to translate Spanish haikus and sections of poems into English. Candles flickered on tables and the smell of pizza floated throughout the room of about 40.
Though the Spanish texts were only written in one way, the English translations varied.
Poet Patricia Smith realizes the power language has to transport you from one place to a better place. That is one reason she taught poetry to a sixth grade class in Florida, to students whose parents had died or were dying from AIDS.
That is also why the writer of six books of poetry started writing poems about Hurricane Katrina in her “Blood Dazzler” collection, Smith said during a Writers Here and Now reading on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
Smith wanted to make Hurricane Katrina as detailed and accessible to readers as possible.
“The majority of people experienced Katrina as I did, through a computer screen.”