This is the second piece in a new aspect of MN Mic called “MN Speaks”, highlighting pieces written by Minnesotan spoken word performers. Spoken word performers are asked to send a link to the text, video, or audio of the poem; a brief discussion of the piece and its inspiration; and a bio of themselves including where in MN they’re from.
This piece by Kyle “El Guante” Myhre is the second in a series featuring “political pieces”, which will run for the rest of June and for July. Writing is a powerful part of recording and also impacting history, and the spoken word medium is no exception. There’s a whole lot going on in the world right now, and we’re also looking at pieces that address political action from the past.
I wrote this in response to the ICE raid in Postville, Iowa back in May of 2008. It just seemed like such a blatantly unjust attack on people who were simply trying to make a living. This kind of stuff happens all the time, but this raid was just such a big, clear example of the wrong-headedness of U.S. immigration policy that it made a very natural entry point for a poem.
I didn’t, however, want to just regurgitate the news story. I think too many poems do that; it’s easy to hold up a current events story and say “this is good” or “this is bad” and get a high score at a slam. Instead, I wanted to touch on immigration issues, but really have the poem be about privilege, about how even good people benefit from terrible, hurtful policies, whether or not they agree with or understand them. This is a more challenging topic to think about, and something I continue to struggle with all the time.
Heartland at Kyle’s website.
Here’s the actual essay that inspired the poem:
Link to NY Times essay
And some basic background info:
Kyle “El Guante” Myhre is an emcee, spoken-word poet, activist, educator and writer. He is a former slam champion of Madison, WI and Minneapolis, MN, and facilitates spoken-word and hip hop workshops for youth through the Minnesota Spoken-Word Association. Kyle lives in Minneapolis.