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BOA poet brings his voice to a chorus of resistance at MOCA Cleveland

SDougherty_MOCA Cleveland photo by Deidre McPherson MOCA Cleveland photo by Deidre McPherson BOA poet Sean Thomas Dougherty recently participated in a group performance, titled Rhythm and Resistance, in celebration of the power of the written and spoken word at the prestigious MOCA Cleveland (Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland). The reading was presented as part of the Mimeo Revolution: Artist Book + Zine Fair in connection with the summer exhibition How to Remain Human (on view through September 5). This 3-day event was inspired by poet and publisher d.a. levy and renowned comix creator and graphic novelist Derf Backderf, key figures in the exhibition. The spirit of levy's work (rebellious, ardent, and resolutely DIY), lives on in self-published artist books, zines, spoken word poets, and underground comix artists. As such, the Artist Book + Zine Fair featured independent bookstores, small presses, zine-makers, and pop-up exhibitions with 20+ artists from across the Midwest. Rhythm and Resistance, the capstone event, was a spoken word concert curated and inspired by the energy and DIY ethos of d.a. levy, the prolific poet and publisher of Cleveland's underground literary community during the 1960s. The event was a collaboration between Deidre McPherson, MOCA Curator of Public Programming, and Ra Washington, Cleveland’s activist poet. Readers included Veronica Hopkins,  sound poet Julie Ezelle Patton, Cleveland’s young wordsmiths Zena Smith and DL Woure, RA Washington, and BOA’s Sean Thomas Dougherty. According to Ra Washington, “The writers and poets we chose for Rhythm and Resistance reflect d.a. levy’s commitment to experimentation, being a voice for marginalized communities and speaking truth to power. We wanted to not only extend the traditions of DIY poetics, but to also question and push the historic misrepresentation of the time Levy was working. You see, there were dozens of women writers during the beat movement, and at the same time as the Beat Generation was rising there was also a strong African avante tradition of writers, working both in dialogue with the 'name' folks of the Beat Generation, but also in opposition to the prevailing white maleness of those writing communities. I think we have curated poets who can speaking to all of these divergent histories.” The Fair was co-curated by artist and zine enthusiast TR Ericsson, and comix artist John Greiner (co-creator of Genghis Con, Cleveland’s underground comic convention). Dougherty, a self proclaimed “Underground Sound” himself, says, “d.a. levy is not so well known outside of the Rust Coast, but he was a phenomenal poet who influenced everyone in the region. His work crossed borders of textuality, of spoken and written word. He was one of the first poets to truly utilize technology to get poems to the people, and he challenged ideas of censorship. He knew the antidote to the police state was the ability of the people to get information into the hands of regular folks. In many ways, he was a walking, speaking corporeal internet, a mimeo hackivist, a revolutionary poet, decades ahead of his time. To have such a prestigious institution as MOCA Cleveland honor him shows how far we have come in many ways, when the poets of the mimeographed pamphlet who wrote far from the academy do not disappear into the winds of history, but are held up as our real antecedents, as the necessary voices to guide us are speaking and marching into the future.” One of the poems Dougherty performed, “My Father’s Fro in the Mode of Romare Bearden,” is a poem he says was 'written' much as the old mimeograph magazines were constructed. Dougherty made the poem by cutting and “collage-ing” numerous phrases he wrote, with found text. The result brings us this poem , which deals with the (de)construction of racial signifiers, mixes personal and cultural referents, and challenges the current police violence through a lens of family and history. The poem appears in his book Broken Hallelujahs, and in his selected poems, All You Ask for is Longing:  Poems 1994-2014, both from BOA.

My Father’s Fro In the Mode of Romare Bearden

Our shoulders touch to build a real peace within   a heaven  one city    of my great-grandmother’s sweet potato pie    magnolias blossom   emerging    an embryo  the moon’s shimmering collective eye   tongues shudder  theory   okra  a bed  of  witnesses laid   so many  Marvins  sigh Mercy Mercy Me conch shells    a sequence  South Sides  whenever  we sleep  a sinuous cricket shines    my father’s fro   a pregnancy against draft cards  everything   plain spoken  to awake    a new alphabet   Georgia under lynchless skies  Legba  a cosmos of delicate gourds  Bootsy Collin’s bassline    Sly playing in the background of some  backyard bash  everyone shaking something for dinner   the noose   a bullet   They laughed as they hung Him from the trunk of the old sycamore  Halos windless comes Orishas    weeping   in white robes   my eyes turn in   the arms of his hair   the silver grass   strung with stars   sea shells Ellison  invisible Dejembe   no “warring”  I shall go wearing Kente    Kent  State    Ku Klux      sheets re-stitched into Egyptian sails Walt Frazier’s sideburns    Monk choreographing the sound that smoke shapes A jukebox that plays nothing but versions of Strange Fruit    Amadou Diallo’s passport photo    at night how it weeps    Molotov cocktails of monarch butterflies

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