Joni Whitworth: Welcome to 2020! I hope you're easing into the New Year. The artists of Future Prairie have just returned from a snowy residency at the Suttle Lodge in Sisters, Oregon. We had a great time hiking in the forest, making and sharing new work and planning for upcoming shows. Thank you to the Suttle Lodge for hosting us and making our stay so memorable.
We're also celebrating this week because we just got the news that we've received a grant from the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition to continue our programming. This funding is going to help a lot to offset the rising cost of production and transcription and publishing our podcasts. We’re very grateful to the grant committee there for recognizing our hard work.
Today we're going to hear from Kyra Rickards. She's a model poet and actress exploring art and expression through gesture. In this episode, she reads some beautiful poems from her new book, Crescent Moon, and talks about making art as a woman of color.
Kyra Rickards: Hi, my name is Kyra. I'm a poet and a freelance model here in Portland. I just self-published my very first book of poetry. It's called Crescent Moon.
I'm a mixed race woman of color. I'm Filipino and half white, born in Hawaii, and then I moved here when I was a kid. Everyone I grew up with was like, mixed race or they’re people of color, except for my dad and my brother. And then I moved here and all of a sudden I was a minority. It took a long time to sort of renegotiate my identity. It's a strange thing where people know you're different because they can see the color of your skin so they automatically other you, but then they don't want to talk about it, but then they really want to talk about it.
People define Asian-ness as what they are familiar with. How do I take that and articulate the pain of otherness and , create art from it? And also, how do I create for myself a source of strength from it? , while growing up, I always loved reading and writingI'd always thought of myself as , “Oh, you know, , I do poetry as a hobby.” And then I discovered modelling. , this is such a different and interesting way to interpret art and to use my body in a new way that I had never really experimented with before because I was , there's no way that anyone's going to cast a short brown skinned Asian girl , you have to look a particular way if you're an Asian model.
Poem: After the Cold Moon
I think of myself in parts. Remove teeth, line them together along the cell. Small white stones, I sow to call me home after I have forgotten the hour.
Poem: After July
My silhouette in the afternoon fill space between gaps and conversation, the arch of you leaning back, but I am distracted. Come closer. Let me kiss the tips of your fingers. Let me remember movement, the warmth of midsummer on your mouth.
I did a project with my friend Salimatu this summer about mixed race identity. We did a short video and photo set on film. And we were talking about the tension that you feel as a multi ethnic person growing up and how people always want to figure out what you are and make you choose. And that's the thing; people always want to make you choose. Andthe project that we did was about occupying and owning that middle space of identity.that was really wonderful and beautiful to do. And it was a great way to intersect all these things that I've been thinking about for a long time with also modeling. It's also a great source of empowerment to be , okay, here I am. I’m a woman of color. I’m a brown Asian woman of color, and I'm finally being able to make a mark visually in a way that I want to, and to create art in a way that I want to.
There's pressure people of color who write, to write only about that experience. But being a person of color isn't always about pain. And just because I'm not writing about my identity doesn't mean that it's not steeped into my work. How I think about love and how I think about touch and how I think about connection has everything to do with my identity as a person of color.
Poem: After Making Small Talk
I keep this silence, this mouthful of desire, a low chorus repeating. Maybe it’s the scent of you. Maybe it is the weight that makes me soft beneath your teeth, making love a slow sigh exhaled singing. What always come back to this moment. I want to be lost. I want to lose track of my breathe.
I always find myself coming back to this idea. The idea is to make everything different and make everything matter differently and to feel unique and being , okay, how can we make something new different and unique and cool every single time and really innovate and bring forth voices and uplift voices that haven't been heard before, or show experiences that haven't been depicted before?
Poem: After Leaving My Window Open Overnight While it Rained
Tender hearted lost sigh of summer, come here. I had something to tell you but I swallowed it and let it simmer deep in my belly where it grows sweet white tooth and gentle. There is nothing to fear, is there? It is only the kind of dark that is velvet and billowing, a quiet welcome curling and pooling over the cell.