No, no cops. Neighbors. Family. Helpers. Experts. Medics. Shamans. Scrappers. Friends-of-friends. Preachers. Healers. Mechanics. Witches. In-laws. Volunteers. Whatever. We’ll figure it out. But no cops.

A little context, for anyone interested: In my book, “Not a Lot of Reasons To Sing, But Enough,” there is a series of “tall tales” about the exile folk hero Hen March. I don’t know if I’d call them “poems,” but it doesn’t really matter; like stories and songs in our own world, they communicate a set of values about the society in which they are told.

For some real-world context, this is one of the many pieces in the book about abolition. This one is definitely the most straightforward; aside from the sci-fi conceit of “a folktale being told by a travelling poet on a prison colony moon where the prisoners have had their memories erased,” it’s a relatively blunt story about prevention vs. punishment, about how a world without police or prisons doesn’t have to be some perfect utopia; it can just be not this. Being able to imagine not this is important.

In a 2019 interview, Mariame Kaba said this about the prison industrial complex:

You’re allowed to say ‘not this.’ Your critique in and of itself is valid. You’re allowed to say ‘not this,’ and keep it moving. Why? Because we didn’t get into this problem yesterday. We got into it over time. This is a collective problem that lots of people’s hands are involved in. This is bipartisan to the nth degree. So why then is a problem that was formulated by a lot of people over a long period of time expected to be resolved by one person giving the solution to the problem or having to shut up? Because what they’re selling you is not just like ‘you don’t get it,’ it’s ‘you come up with solution or you say nothing’ and I absolutely reject that. I reject that on its face. I think that is a way to silence people with radical critiques.

So that’s a starting point. For this piece, I wanted to use the “tall tale” format as an entry point into these ideas. There’s a lot of freedom in that approach—it isn’t my voice telling people what to think; it’s a character being referenced by another character, and the different layers of voice, hopefully, create room for readers/listeners to engage with the content as a story, as opposed to a powerpoint presentation of talking points.

A sketch of a smiling, old woman holding a staff + the text "No, no cops. Neighbors. Family. Helpers. Experts. Medics. Shamans. Scrappers. Friends-of-friends. Preachers. Healers. Mechanics. Witches. In-laws. Volunteers. Whatever. We’ll figure it out. But no cops." from "not a lot of reasons to sing, but enough." words by KTM/Guante. Art by Casper Pham. ButtonPoetry.com

A big goal/project/impulse in the book is that kind of “entry point” work. This poem, as well as poems like Good Apples, Wireless It Might Scream, Why Do You Write Poems When Death Is All Around Us, and others all engage with abolitionist ideas, although that specific word is never used. That relates to another theme in the book: the idea of how individual poems, songs, or other creative efforts can contribute to a larger story, without having to be the whole story. My book is absolutely not the book you read if you’re already interested in abolition and want to learn more; my hope is that it can plant a seed, especially for people new to the concept, whether they’re Button Poetry fans, sci-fi fans, or just people who randomly saw the book in a bookstore and thought the cover looked cool.

All that being said, if you ARE already interested in abolition and want to learn more, I have some fantastic resources to share:

Also, I may grow this into a separate post later, but for now, here are a couple of other abolitionist (or abolitionist-adjacent) poems I’d recommend:

Finally, here’s the full text of the poem:

Continue reading “Hen March Outlaws Cops (Video + Text)”

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.

To jump into this conversation, here’s a chart:

[Image: a continuum titled “SOCIAL MEDIA AS HELP VS. HINDRANCE TO MOVEMENT WORK” with green/good on one end, and red/bad on the other. Starting on green and moving to red: (1) signal-boosting organizers: sharing Their asks, information, and calls o action; (2) Sharing resources related to the issue; (3) Sharing stories + personal connections; (4) Outrage (which can be mobilizing or demobilizing); (5) Uninformed hot takes, "deep thoughts," and cutesy cleverness; (6) Performative platitudes + “thoughts and prayers" disconnected from action; (7) Silence + attempted "neutrality;” (8) spreading misinformation + disinformation]
Continue reading “Beyond Hot Takes: How Can Social Media Meaningfully Support Movement Work?”

A graphic featuring photos of KTM and Ollie Schminkey, plus the text "a conversation with Kyle 'Guante' Tran Myhre (author of not a lot of reasons to sing, but enough) and Ollie Schminkey (author of dead dad jokes)

I’m excited to share the first installment of what I hope to grow into a SERIES of conversations with other artists. The idea is that this kind of “dual interview” format might allow us to dig a little deeper into questions of craft and “the work” of our work, and just be a fun way to connect.

Ollie’s work is incredible, and I’m super grateful that they agreed to do this (and create the pullquote graphics sprinkled throughout); my initial thought was that these would be relatively short, but of course we ended up with… a lot. But this whole conversation is so good, and I hope aspiring/emerging writers, poets, and/or just people interested in our work can find something useful in it.

Get Ollie’s book, Dead Dad Jokes, here. Get my book, Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough, here.

Finally, check out the pandemic-delayed-but-here-a-year-later Dead Dad Jokes release party on May 19 at the Strike Theater in Minneapolis! The show will also feature Neil Hilborn, TaneshaNicole, and Zach Goldberg!

Continue reading “In Conversation: Poets Kyle Tran Myhre and Ollie Schminkey”

(Editor’s note: this video was scheduled to be released today, and there’s obviously other stuff on a lot of people’s minds because of yesterday’s supreme court news. While the thread in this poem of masculinity only being able to make sense of itself through the lens of power and control is relevant, if it can be useful to anyone, I’ve also pulled together a list of poems on reproductive justice here).

This is actually an older piece; Button Poetry posted a version of it back in 2019, but there was an audio issue, so we decided to record this new version. I’m grateful, as always, to them for giving an admittedly… nontraditional poem/speech/thing like this a home. 

It’s also a fun break from promoting my new book; the sci-fi-driven “Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough” definitely has a thread running through it examining masculinity and its relationship with authoritarianism, but a poem like this, taking place on our world, written in my own voice, can be a lot more straightforward. I don’t think “straightforward” is a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just one way for a poem to be, and I like experimenting with multiple ways.

NOTES AND FRAMING

Continue reading “The Art of Taking the L (new video + big list of counter-narrative masculinity resources)”

A photo of KTM/Guante, holding his book “not a lot of reasons to sing, but enough” in front of his face.

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!

Continue reading “Launch Event Links and Resources”

This is a special preview chapter from my book, Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough. The book is more-or-less a poetry book, but it’s written from the perspective of various characters; sometimes, those characters do other things beyond writing and performing poems—they have conversations, get into arguments, tell stories, and participate in panel discussions. Since Button will be posting a bunch of poems/videos from the book (like this one) over the next few months, I figured I’d share one of these non-poem pieces here.

In this excerpt, the robot poet Gyre has been invited to be part of a panel discussion; Gyre doesn’t want to, though, so makes their apprentice Nary do it instead.

A colorful illustration of four people seemingly talking over one another: a professor, a musician, a performance artist, and a poet.
Image by Casper Pham, one of many from the book

The Role of the Artist in Times of Authoritarian Brutality: A Panel Discussion

The Great Hall of Castle Whitecap, temporary host of the Floating University, the largest and onlyest center of learning outside of Heart. Our cast is seated on a bench behind a long, elevated table at the front of the room; students, faculty, and staff haphazardly occupy some 30-40 of the 200 rickety wooden chairs below. An owl tries to sleep in the rafters of the impressive, if not a bit ostentatious, hall.

Moderator: Welcome, students, faculty, and staff of the Floating University. We have some very special guests with us today for this important conversation. As many of you know, the council of Heart has been moving further and further away from the principles set into place by Hen March and the First Congress all those years ago. From the increase in propaganda, to the expanded role of the guard corps, to the ongoing saber rattling between districts—our society would be nigh-unrecognizable to March, were she still with us today. We are here today to discuss what artists can do in response to this reality. Allow me to introduce our panel.

Continue reading “(Book Preview) “The Role of the Artist in Times of Authoritarian Brutality: A Panel Discussion””

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.

Continue reading ““white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water.””

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.

Continue reading “Election 2020: Why I’m Voting + Resources for Getting Out the Vote”

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.

Continue reading “Resources on Masculinity, Consent, and Accountability”