After the plague took my sister, I punched the stone wall of her room so hard it shattered all the bones in my right hand. This is how the men in my family tell sad stories: we always add a little violence.
The first poem from the new book is here! NOT A LOT OF REASONS TO SING, BUT ENOUGH itself officially launches on March 29 (though if you order it from Button Poetry, you can get it early), and this poem is a good taste of things to come. Before I share some notes on the poem, I want to spotlight Casper Pham‘s incredible piece that accompanies this poem (Casper also has illustrations throughout the book):
1. If you haven’t already heard, the new book is a “concept album,” so to speak, and all the poems are written in-character. It isn’t always clear which character is the voice of each poem, though; there’s a kind of focal-point character, Nary, but Nary and his mentor Gyre travel from village to village across this prison colony moon, and they share their poems while also listening to the poems of the people in those villages. The book is made up of a sampling of all those poems, as well as the conversations around them. The big takeaway, I guess, is that even though I wrote this, I am not the speaker.
2. This poem is a play off of my most well-known poem, “Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’.” I just thought it’d be funny to be on stage and say “ten responses to…” and then something completely different from what the audience expects. It kind of sets up what the book is all about, in terms of… probably not being what people expect. That being said, this poem also demonstrates that the new, weird book is still covering a lot of the same ground as my older work: this is a poem creating space to think critically about masculinity, authority, and power.
Here’s the full text; thank you for reading, listening, and/or picking up the new book. Please feel free to share!
I first got into zines because it was nice to always have something useful or meaningful to give to people at shows, whether or not they buy my merch, whether or not they were into my artistic work. Find my other zines here. I just think they’re powerful containers for sharing what matters to us, and hopefully building community through that sharing process.
And after the last few years that we’ve had, I can’t think of anything I’d rather share with the people in my circle than the quotes here.
I’m not doing in-person performances right now (just virtual, at least through the winter), but when I do again, I’ll be sure to have copies of these to give away. For now, feel free to read the full text on this page, and if you want, you can download this PDF, print it on 11×17 paper, and make your own copies (folding directions here).
How small a seed it takes to birth a forest. How small a spark it takes to burn down an empire.
If I’m being honest, this is maybe my favorite poem of mine, or at least one that means a lot to me. I’m very grateful that Button was able to capture this footage and chose to share it. A few quick notes:
I wrote this during the pandemic, parallel to writing my new book. It’s not actually in the new book, though, since that book takes place on another world and this poem is full of very Earth-centric references. But both this poem and that book explore the idea of what hope can mean, and what it can look like, amidst great crisis, grief, and uncertainty. So if you like the poem, you might like the book too.
I also want to be clear that, to me at least, this is a poem about finding those moments when we can choose to step up, to show up, to act. I realize that it will likely be interpreted to be more about mental health, and I worry that a line like “it only takes one moment to choose to fight” might hit differently depending on how people are hearing the poem. Of course, everyone is free to interpret how they need to; I’m just saying that for me, the poem is less about dealing with depression in a mental health sense, and more about dealing with cynicism in a political sense.
The poem is built from not just some of my favorite songs, but my favorite individual moments in songs. Obviously, there’s a deeper metaphor at work here, and the poem isn’t actually *about* the songs. But compiling those moments was really fun; my favorite moments aren’t always from my favorite artists, and my favorite artists don’t all show up in this poem. I would recommend it as a playlist-building exercise for anyone. It forced me to really identify those rare moments when a song “turns,” or where an already-great song becomes something truly transcendent.
Speaking of playlists, I made one for this poem here, especially for anyone who isn’t super familiar with the songs I chose. Bear in mind, however, that the timestamps in the poem might not be perfectly accurate, since different versions of songs (especially with videos) might have additional content that changes when the moments happen. But they should be close, at least.
Thanks so much for watching and sharing. I’d love to keep adding to this list, by the way. So if you have a favorite moment from a song, please feel free to share with me, whether on Twitter or IG or whatever.
Here’s the text. The video is for an earlier draft of this piece; since then, I’ve added to it. Probably not necessary additions on a poetry level, haha, but just some extra shout outs that I wanted to include:
TENSION AND RELEASE
One minute and 42 seconds into Springsteen’s Thunder Road, when the whole song opens up exactly as though you had just… rolled down the window, to let the wind blow back your hair. 24 seconds into Yoko Kanno’s Tank! and how could we not jam? The dance choreographed to Nina Simone’s Lilac Wine, about 38 minutes and 58 seconds into the Netflix version of Beyonce’s Homecoming. Four minutes and 27 seconds into Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me, when Bushwick Bill says… I’m not going to tell you what he says! You have to listen to the song. Five minutes and six seconds into Donny Hathaway’s A Song for You. 18 seconds into Fortunate Son by CCR. 10 seconds into Lost Ones by Lauryn Hill.
I don’t believe in magic, or miracles, or destiny. Just tension and release.
In 9th Wonder by Digable Planets, Ladybug Mecca comes in at 3:11 with… “Now you see that I’m 68 inches above sea level/ 93 million miles above these devils,” …and that rhyme, like it was meant to be, like it couldn’t be any other way, answers a question I never knew I was asking. Four minutes into Radiohead’s Let Down, the lead vocal pulls itself apart, like the splitting of a cell, like the splitting of an atom. Like 44 seconds into Think by Aretha Franklin, when a song that was already great, and already would have been a classic, transforms, and transcends… that lyric: “freedom.” Expanding, overwhelming… miraculous.
We collect and catalog these moments. Mixtape our memory. Call it inspiration; call it ammunition. Call it evidence, the building of a case for our species, the idea that as much tension as there is in this world, the release is worth fighting for.
Pull up the footage of Sam Cooke covering Blowin’ in the Wind. Or Gogol Bordello performing Wanderlust King on Letterman. Or the video for Never Catch Me by Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar. Or Kesha hitting that high note in Praying. Or BTS tearing up as ARMY sings Young Forever at Wembley Stadium. Tension and release works so well in music because it’s a language our bodies already speak. At four minutes and nine seconds into Pa’lante by Hurray for the Riff Raff. We listen to our bodies. In Sabotage by the Beastie Boys: the breakdown at 1:40 and the scream at 1:52. We listen to our bodies. We feel. The bassline in Papa Was a Rolling Stone. The bassline in #1 Crush. The bassline in Come as You Are. The bassline in Dance, Dance. The bassline in Devil’s Pie.
At the lowest point in my life, I listened to D’angelo’s Voodoo every night, usually falling asleep about halfway through Send It On. But then there’s this moment, 42 minutes and 30 seconds later, in the song Untitled, where what feels like an entire album’s worth of sunrise finally erupts into day… and that would always wake me up.
And isn’t that art? Waking up.
Isn’t that the power of a moment? The DJ crossfades and a door opens. Between oblivion and being a body again. How does it feel? To step through it?
Because yeah, it takes more than a moment… to win. Or to heal. Or to build the world we want to live in. But it only takes one moment to choose to fight. So make me a playlist of those moments, and I will listen to it whenever I need to remember: how small a seed it takes to birth a forest. How small a spark it takes to burn down an empire. How all it takes to break an infinite silence, is one… two, one two three…
At the end of October 2021, I went live via Button Poetry’s Facebook page to preview my new book, as well as reveal the fantastic cover. Here’s a recording of the hour-long virtual event, which features three new poems, lots of commentary on the process and spirit of the book, and the cover reveal itself. The book comes out in March of 2022, and is available for pre-order here.
My next book is called “NOT A LOT OF REASONS TO SING, BUT ENOUGH.” The release date is March 1, 2022, via Button Poetry. Will be sharing more details over the next few months (like the real cover!), but for now, just in time for #NationalPoetryMonth, the preorder link is live! The official blurb: Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre’s NOT A LOT OF REASONS TO SING, BUT ENOUGH is a sci-fi-flavored exploration of the role that art and artists play in resisting authoritarianism. Featuring new poems, dialogue/theater elements, and visual art by Casper Pham, the book follows two wandering poets as they make their way from village to village, across a prison colony moon full of exiled rebels, robots, and storytellers. Part post-apocalyptic road journal, part alternate universe ode to Hip Hop, and part “Letters to a Young Poet”-style toolkit for emerging poets and aspiring movement-builders, it’s also a one-of-a-kind practitioners’ take on poetry, power, and possibility.
I usually share new videos by contextualizing them a bit, but I do that IN this video, so I’ll just go ahead and post the transcript below. One thing I’ll add that isn’t in the video, though, is that this piece came together little-by-little over the past few years, and a couple of influences/reference points were Umberto Eco’s “Ur-Fascism” and Amanda Taub’s “The Rise of American Authoritarianism.” There’s also stuff like Zeynep Tufekci’s “America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent” or even the episode of Last Week Tonight that dug into authoritarianism both in the US and beyond. Lots of good resources out there, and like I say in the video itself, this is much less about the specific vocabulary word and more about exploring some of the ideas underneath it.
I guess if there is a more focused “point” to this piece, it’s about exploring how authoritarianism can manifest not just as a method of governing, or a political system, but also as a set of attitudes, values, and ideals that impact a wide range of real-world issues and situations. Here’s the video, with the full transcript below (transcript contains some notes meant for the text version of this piece):
Hey- I’m about to share something new, but just to frame it a little bit: I probably said this in my last video, but since most of my poems go up on Button Poetry’s channel, I haven’t been using my own channel much. I do, however, have some plans for it for this coming year, including a series that should kick off shortly. Before any of that is released, though, I wanted to just do a little test run of my setup.
So THIS is a piece that never really found a home anywhere. It isn’t really a spoken word poem. It isn’t really an essay, or a speech. There was a specific thing I wanted to say, and so I let the content kind of drive the form… and the form it ended up taking was that of a parody of a specific 90s standup comedy routine: Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if…”
So the piece is written to kind of mimic that 90s standup comic delivery style but it’s about something really serious… and actually memorizing it and turning into a performance art piece, just didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. So I’m going to share it here, and I’ll also include the full text at my website. And hopefully it can be useful in some way to someone out there.
In the summer of 2020, I started an Instagram project sharing articles, essays, and other writings that I found useful or interesting. Sharing links on Twitter and Facebook is already easy; I just wanted to find a way to use what little IG platform I had/have to do something other than just promote myself (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I wanted to share some of the most powerful writing on the pandemic, abolition, anti-authoritarianism, the climate crisis, and other issues that define this moment. Here’s the list so far. Order note: most recent link at the top.
A few extended thoughts on the quote, in the context of the last few weeks.
Lots of people have been sharing this quote again lately, partly because Brené Brown, The Conscious Kid, and some other big social media accounts have shared it, but also because of how some 70 million people here in the US decided to vote in our last election. Wanted to share two thoughts.
The poem itself is really just me trying to write something for my 18 year-old self, illuminating the various arguments I’ve heard, from organizers over the years, about why and how voting matters. It’s very rarely “vote because you have to!” or “vote because it’s the only way you can have a voice!” The best arguments, or at least the ones that have been most persuasive to me, are more nuanced than that. Not that nuance is always my thing as a poet… but here’s the poem (and a link to an IG version):