I’m writing this before the results are in, so can’t comment on that. What I can comment on, however, is that it’s been really weird to have my poem about voting go viral over the last 48 hours.
If you’re here because of that piece, and are new to my work, welcome! Please feel free to take a look at my about page for some more info on what I do.
Anyway, a big part of the *point* of that poem is that voting is important, and also that voting is insufficient. Voting is a small thing we can do that can make a difference on the margins—and the margins matter—but the work of building a better world is much, much bigger than electoral strategy.
So this is a post with some readings and resources that have been useful to me about that idea of “the day after.” These aren’t deep dives into tactical questions; just some potential places to start, especially for people who haven’t been involved in organizing, activism, or advocacy work before. I hope these can be useful.
Just finished facilitating a six-week course for Button Poetry called “Writing to Cancel the Apocalypse,” which focused on “political” poetry: analyzing examples, sharing tools and tactics, and exploring the role(s) of poets and other artists in times of crisis (which is also ground my new book covers). I’d like to synthesize some of those discussions into a few posts here over the next few months; I already shared this updated list of poems on reproductive justice. Here’s one that uses social media as an entry point into thinking about the broader issue of how we (artists or otherwise) use our platforms.
I wrote a version of this years ago, but here’s an update. Some framing:
1. This is a tool that’s been useful to me, and I’m sharing it in case it can be useful to others. I’m not interested in policing what other people post about, or “calling out” people with different social media practices. I’ve just had so many conversations with people who want to speak out, but don’t know what to say, and my hope is that this can be useful food for thought.
2. We already know that social media, by itself, is not the work. It’s not radical. All of the platforms are owned by awful people and built to be addictive. But it is a tool that a lot of organizations, collectives, and individuals still use, for better or worse, and it can do some good when used with intentionality. (And as long as we’re talking about social media and activism, here’s a good thread from Evan Greer on digital security basics).
3. The primary audience I have in mind for this piece is people like me: artists, minor celebrities (extremely minor, in my case), people with some kind of platform. These days, however, almost everyone has “some kind of platform.” Whether it’s 100k, 10k, or just a few dozen followers- we all have access to our own specific micro-audiences, so we might as well do something with it.
“We teach boys how to wear the skin of a man, but we also teach them how to raise that skin like a flag and draw blood for it.”
(a bit of a content warning, in that this piece does eventually connect toxic masculinity to relationship violence, self-harm, violence against trans people, etc.)
Just to get this out of the way: I know it can be risky to re-release new versions of old work. I’m sure there will be YouTube comments pointing out how the original version, the one where I curse in the very first line, was so much better. But a “radio edit” of this poem is something people have asked for for years; there are other clean versions online, but this is the *definitive* clean version, and if it means more people can use it (in classrooms, youth groups, and beyond), that’s great.
And honestly, I like this version better anyway. I understand why the original took off all those years ago (over a million views on YouTube and 16 million on Facebook), and I have nothing against cursing in poems; I just think the shock factor or whatever doesn’t play the same way it did back then.
Speaking of “back then,” it’s the tenth anniversary of this poem, more or less. I performed it for the first time at the Artists’ Quarter in Saint Paul, sometime in January or February of 2012. The Button Poetry version that went viral is from a different show, and went up in 2013. The poem was a response to a specific series of beer commercials (here’s a Bitch Media piece with an overview of that campaign), and that phrase was part of “the discourse” at the time, from the work of Carlos Andrés Gómez (check out his book, “Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood” and TEDx Talk, “Man Up: The Gift of Fear”) to a very early commentary on it from political analyst John Dickerson: “Man Down.” A local poet named Jeremy Levinger also had a poem using the phrase as a jumping-off point.
With lots of voices critiquing something from lots of different angles, it can be tempting to feel like the culture has moved on from that moment, and in some ways, I really think it has. But only in some ways; I’ve talked about this before, but I don’t think it’s a matter of “things getting better” or “things getting worse” when we talk about men and masculinity in the US—I think it’s both, simultaneously. So the work continues. For poets, sure, but also for teachers, coaches, mentors, advocates, parents, and so many others- engaging young people (and not-so-young-people) about issues related to how we understand masculinity is foundational work for preventing domestic violence, sexual assault, mass shootings, and so many other things. Hopefully this piece can be useful.
We’re having a free, virtual launch performance for the new book on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, at 7pm Central. This post is collecting some of stuff that I’ll likely be talking about, so they can all be in one place instead of a dozen different links.
This page also doubles as a good “how to support the book” page for people who want to; that is very much appreciated!
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).
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.
I wanted to set up a post sharing some resources on voting, and on engaging in electoral politics more broadly. I may continue to update this as November approaches; hopefully it can be useful; please feel free to share, or make your own version.
***UPDATE #1 (10/14/20): A new poem that speaks to some of the stuff in this post.***
***UPDATE #2 (10/26/20): I put together a Twitter thread of what a bunch of activist organizations are saying about voting. Read it via the link, though I’ve also put a transcript at the bottom of this post.***
***UPDATE #3 (10/30/20): If you’re still thinking about voting, know that it’s too late to mail your ballot, but you can still drop it off or vote in person (early or otherwise). This link has some great info (MN-specific).***
Pressure on the Wound: Why I Vote.
I’ve written before about my own position on voting (as someone who can vote; it’s worth remembering that it’s a right that too many people are denied). To summarize: I believe that change is driven by mass movements, not by individual politicians. That being said, elected leaders are power bottlenecks, and whether their policies are imperfect, bad, or catastrophic has a direct impact on the kind of movement-building that can happen in opposition to those policies.
In other words: Voting is pressure on the wound. Applying pressure to a wound doesn’t heal it, but it can buy time for the healer to arrive, for the real work to be done. That pressure, alone, isn’t the solution to the injury, but it can still be the difference between life and death.
That’s my reason, and I get that it’s not the best soundbite for a mass audience. I’ll share some better quotes from people smarter than me below. But first, let’s pause on the why and focus on the how.
This past week, dozens of survivors have come forward to speak out about abuse, harassment, and sexual assault in the local music scene (and beyond). Their voices have joined those that have already been raising the alarm, and prominent artists, labels, and venues are now releasing statements, doing damage control, and considering next steps.