Skip to content

Three Things: The Spotlight Edition

2013 September 16
Comments Off on Three Things: The Spotlight Edition

Three Things

This Wednesday, we’re inviting you (yes, you!) to step into the spotlight* (or at least, stand in front of our microphone) and read your work at our third Words at WAM. Co-hosted by yours truly and our dear friends, the WAM Collective, this third iteration of Words at WAM will feature writers Katie Sisneros and Dobby Gibson, and however many more of you we can get through in an hour and a half (get there early to sign up!).

Intimidated, ever-so-slightly, by the idea of a spotlight? Don’t worry, it’s much easier than you think. It won’t be anything like the following three performances. Unless, of course, that’s what you want. In which case, it will be exactly like that.



Pablo Picasso, Curtain for the ballet “Parade”, 1917. Tempera on canvas. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.



Lisa Swerling, portion of All the World’s a Stage. Mixed media; shadowbox sculpture.



George Bellows, Dempsey and Firpo, 1924. Oil on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.


* We don’t have an actual spotlight. Sorry, folks.


The Writing Life: An Interview with Dobby Gibson

2013 September 10
Comments Off on The Writing Life: An Interview with Dobby Gibson

The Writing LifeDobby_Gibson_Headshot

Editor’s Note: We’ve long been admirers of poet Dobby Gibson, thanks to his witty and humanly vulnerable approach to his art. You can imagine how tickled we were when he agreed to be one of our two featured readers for next week’s Words at WAM open mic at the Weisman Art Museum (co-presented by WAM Collective and yours truly). If you haven’t encountered his work, we strongly urge you to check out his newest collection of poems, It Becomes You, from Graywolf Press (you can read Wren’s review of it here). We hope you enjoy this teaser of an interview with Gibson as much as we do. See you next week at Words at WAM!

Hazel & Wren: Who is an author that continuously surprises you? 

Dobby Gibson: If you mean “continuously surprises” in a good way: Mary Ruefle.

H&W: E-reader or book?

DG: Both. Very few poetry titles are available on e-readers, so I still experience poetry primarily via codex. And for general around-the-house reading and perusing, I definitely prefer the book-as-object. But for traveling, I go with an e-reader. I travel a lot for work, and the way I pack has an entire methodology. I have highly defined ideas about global voltage converters alone.

H&W: What books are stacked by your bedside table (or your equivalent) right now, waiting to be read?

DG: Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter, a terrific biography despite the galling title. And Ex-Voto, a book of poems by Adelia Prado.

H&W: Which authors and/or teachers have most influenced your writing? How so?

DG: I write in a genre that I never studied formally in school. I took one poetry workshop in 1997 and found it to be waste of time. So my “teachers” have all been other poet-friends. Last week I had a great conversation with local poet Steve Healey at the State Fair that helped me realize things about poetry. Children of America, skip school and go to the State Fair with Steve Healey!

H&W: Most productive place for you to write (physically and/or mentally)? 

DG: You know how some authors’ book-jacket biographies say things like: “He divides his time between New York and Maine,” or “She splits her time between Berkeley and Colorado”? I split my writing life between the Dunn Bros. on East Lake Street and the Blue Moon Coffee Shop on East Lake Street. I’ve written two books in those shops — while being subjected to the sight of way too late-middle-aged men in cycling shorts on Saturdays. What is it about wearing those shorts in public that immediately requires a hot cup of coffee?


Psst: Check out this gorgeous MotionPoem of Gibson’s poem, “The Painter,” animated by Mark Rubbo. It’ll make your day.


See You Tonight at the 2nd Annual Words at WAM!

2013 February 27
Comments Off on See You Tonight at the 2nd Annual Words at WAM!

Words at WAM 2013: An Open Mic
Wed, Feb 27, 2013
Free and open to the public

6:00–7:00 pm: Social Hour & Open Mic Sign-up
 (first come, first served): Social hour with refreshments, music entertainment, plus WAM exhibits Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series and Our Treasures: Highlights from the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

7:00–8:00 pm: Open Mic begins, in order of the sign-up sheet. The open mic is open to all interested wordsmiths of any genre: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, spoken word, and all literary mischief welcome.*

8:00–8:30 pm: Featured Local Rockstar Readers: Spoken word artist, activist, and founder of TruArtSpeaks Tish Jones, and U of M student fiction writer Matthew Ullery.


The fine print: Each reader will have four minutes to read their work(s), with a 30-second grace period. Readers will be given warnings if they go over the time limit, and at 4 minutes, 30 seconds, will have trashy dimestore romance paperbacks thrown at them. Readers will go in order of the sign-up sheet. The open mic will end at 8:00 pm, regardless of how many people are left on the sign-up sheet, so get there early to ensure your reading slot! No props (costumes, music, etc) allowed.

See you there!


Psst: RSVP at the Facebook event here.

Double-psst: Wanna see what last year’s was like? Peruse photos and read the recap here.

The Writing Life: An Interview with Tish Jones

2013 February 19
Comments Off on The Writing Life: An Interview with Tish Jones

Tish Jones, photo credit: BFRESHPhotographyEditor’s Note: An inspiring, yet down-to-earth person on all accounts, Tish Jones is, among other things, the founder, executive, and artistic director of a developing non-profit arts organization called TruArtSpeaks, in addition to spoken word artist and educator from St. Paul, MN. She’s well-known both nationally and locally as a spoken word artist, including as a 2006 Minnesota slam team member. She is also our headlining featured reader at the second annual Words at WAM, copresented with Hazel & Wren and the Weisman Art Museum on Wednesday, February 27, 6-8:30 pm.

Hazel & Wren: What initially drew you to spoken word/poetry?

Tish Jones: I had always been a writer and performer. My first performance was in 2nd grade at Maxfield Elementary School in St. Paul. It began with theatre and progressed into Spokenword. The Black Arts Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement and Hip Hop also had a great deal to do with it. These were the (rhythmic) orators of my youth.

H&W: What experiences and/or mentors were most helpful to your development as a poet/writer?

TJ: Experience: Brave New Voices 2005 in San Francisco. It was my first time attending the international youth poetry slam festival and my life was genuinely changed. I met youth that I would grow into adulthood with and adults that would serve as mentors, colleagues, and sources of great inspiration. I became part of a rich and welcoming community that year. I am so grateful to that experience and the people that helped make it a possibility for me.

Mentors: Marc Bamuthi Joseph has probably been the most influential in terms of my development. I’ve been blessed to have workshopped and studied with him several times over the last few years and his pedagogy is filled with social justice content as well as honest, difficult, and beautiful identity-based work. All rooted in the Hip Hop and Spokenword aesthetics. Also, Sha Cage. A woman who continues to stay true to herself and exenplify hard work, amazing writing and an incomparable presence.

H&W: Where do you consistently find inspiration for your writing? 

TJ: Inspiration is all around. As cliché as it sounds it’s true. I find it all around and in me.

H&W: Tell us about TruArtSpeaks: when did this become something bigger for you, what made you take that step from a passion into an organization?

TJ: Actually, TruArtSpeaks has been taking action since its inception. We have been teaching, curating shows, producing events, organizing protests, collaborating in the community and so much more since 2006. The decision to get a fiscal sponsor came this year when adding new programming and strategically planning for our future. The mission is as follows:

TruArtSpeaks utilizes elements of Hip Hop, Spokenword, and the arts to contest literacy and leadership, supporting a generation of vibrant young voices as they make their claim on the world. We provide a platform for youth to find, develop, study, and share their stories in safe spaces. TruArtSpeaks dares participants to give back and become agents of the change they seek, while remaining students of the culture and histories past.

H&W: What role does a sense of community play in your work, as a spoken-word poet, and for TruArtSpeaks?

TJ: Community is at the center of all things that I participate in. The community has supported, nurtured, and disciplined me and it is my responsibility to return the gift.

H&W: What, in your opinion, are some common traits that make a spoken word piece resonate with the audience?

TJ: This question is tricky. How a poem resonates will depend on the audience as well as the poet. For me, honesty and authenticity are always two very good qualities present in any work.

H&W: When you get up in front of the crowd at an open mic, what is going through your head?

TJ: At open mics, I am generally hoping that we can create a safe space for everyone to express themselves, feel supported, and help one another grow. Open mics that have created this atmosphere are my favorite places to go.

H&W: What’s next for you, as a poet, artist, activist, educator, and/or as founder of TruArtSpeaks?

TJ: What’s next is what’s now. I am always hoping to learn, love, and live more. Experiences make life rich. I am in it for quality experiences to share with my community and the world around me. I am finishing up my bachelors, hoping to create quality programming through upcoming collaborations with TruArtSpeaks and other community organizations, as well as remain (and increase) my presence in the community as an organizer and supporter.

H&W: What advice do you have for the future Words at WAM open mic-ers?

TJ: Have fun. 🙂

H&W: If you were going to write a poem (or creative prose) inspired by any piece of visual art, what piece of art would you write about?

TJ: Basquiat’s “Untitled (Skull)” – 1984 or his work “The Radiant Child