Michelle Myers, poet & activist.

We first met Michelle Myers on YouTube, delivering an expertly foul-mouthed kick in the pants to Orientalists and sexists alike in her poem “Listen A**hole” as part of spoken word duo Yellow Rage.  Since then, we’ve grown to know her as a teacher, mother, daughter, mentor, professional performer, and most of all, an excellent and passionate poet. Her work from her new chapbook, “The She Book,” is forthcoming in APIARY 2.

My writing community includes:

the folks at the Asian Arts Initiative (www.asianartsinitiative.org), Yellow Rage fans (www.yellowrage.com), poets who share at Panoramic Poetry (http://www.octobergallery.com/poetry/), and the APIA spoken word poetry community who will be converging in Minneapolis this August for the 10th Anniversary of the APIA Spoken Word and Poetry Summit (http://apiasummit.com/).  And, of course, Apiary has also now become part of my writing community. Other poets who have influenced me are: Sonia Sanchez, Walt Whitman, Nikki Giovanni, William Wordsworth, Byron, Amiri Baraka, Beau Sia, 2 Tongues, Saul Williams, Jessica Care Moore, Ursula Rucker, Bao Phi, Letta Neely, Cornelius Eady, Chrystos, Ai, Sherman Alexie, David Ross, Kao Kue, On Point, Ink, and so many others who I can’t think of right now.  Of course, I also take great inspiration from Catzie whose rhymes always motivate me to keep my skills up.

I can’t talk about my experiences as a poet in Philadelphia without:

talking about the profound influence that the Asian Arts Initiative has had on my creative development.  The Asian Arts Initiative is a place where I’ve been able to feel like I could be an artist individually. Yes, I’m a part of Yellow Rage. Yes, I was a part of Something to Say. Yes, I’m a part of Asians Misbehavin,’ which was also born out of the second Something to Say group that I participated in. But I think that I’ve been given a lot of opportunity at the Asian Arts Initiative to be Michelle — to be Michelle, the individual, the artist. To sort of put it in a more personal perspective: for the past 10 years, the Asian Arts Initiative has provided me with a space and a community where I could really feel like I could be me.  And, “me” doesn’t necessarily have to be Asian American in a one-dimensional sort of way. I mean, yes, definitely Asian American, but also, Korean American, as well as biracial, as well as working-class or coming from a working-class background, as well as having an advanced degree, as well as being a mother, as well as wanting to do work that furthers the community and wanting to do work that has a positive impact on youth. AAI has allowed me to be all of the things that make up who I am–I really do believe that the Asian Arts Initiative has provided me with the freedom to do that.  So this what I love about being a poet in Philadelphia–having this support system.

In terms of what I hope to see change: it would be wonderful if more cross-cultural community building could happen between different poetry venues.  I think that Apiary has done a lot to initiate that process.

Right now, the best writing advice that I have ever heard:

was at a reading by Sandra Cisneros that I attended.  She said 2 things that have stayed with me. 1) If you only had 6 hours to live, what would have the greatest urgency for you to say or write?  That’s how you should always approach writing. 2) You should not worry about being published; she said that you should write what you are sure will never be published b/c that’s probably what most needs to be shared or read.

If I could give a reading ANYWHERE in the city -

Gosh, I have no idea.  I think I once answered this question with the Ben Franklin Bridge, but I think I’d like to change that to any Philadelphia public high school where the cross-cultural clashes are the highest or most intense.

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One Response to “Michelle Myers, poet & activist.”

  1. [...] how poetry helped him sort out the shaken “Boggle box” of his mind after coming home. Michelle Myers, mentor, teacher at CCP and founder of Yellow Rage, told us how she journeyed from watching spoken [...]

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