Rez Metal, Visual Sovereignty Poetry Workshop, Indigenous Open Mic Poetry Night
Rez Metal Pop Up
On Thursday, February 2, 2023 from 7 to 9:30 pm, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center hosted a night of Rez Heavy Metal. In partnership with the American Indian Studies Association Graduate Representatives, the Labriola Center invited 4 bands from different American Indian communities in Arizona. Sage Bond (Diné) from Flagstaff, AZ, Guardians from the Tohono O’odham Nation, Alliance from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and M.I.S. from Phoenix, AZ performed in front of approximately 100 attendees. The show was held at the ASU Tempe Memorial Union stage.
Heavy Metal music, in general, is often seen as too extreme and violent. But, for Rez Metal, once you get past the seemingly chaotic sounds of blaring drums, screaming electric guitars and vocals, it is a genre composed of Indigenous youth where they can express their emotions in a community that shares their values. There is real anger in our communities that results from intergenerational trauma. In this process, Rez Metal has become a part of cultural resilience, where the youth can celebrate their culture and people through music. Moreover, Rez Metal is often a source of providing awareness to Indigenous issues that plague Indigenous communities. The show was an expression of that and, as many Indigenous youth shared, was one of the best nights they had in a long time. Some attendees shared that this show was one, if not the largest, audience turnout for a Rez Metal show and they loved every minute of it.
Visual Sovereingty Workshop with Jake Skeets
This past Wednesday, February 22nd, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center recently partnered with Center for Imagination in the Borderlands to host Jake Skeets (Diné), author of "Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers," winner of the National Poetry Series, Kate Tufts Discovery Award, American Book Award, and Whiting Award. Jake Skeets attended the Institute of American Indian Arts while working in Phoenix, Arizona. He taught at Diné' College in Tsaile, Arizona before moving to Oklahoma where he currently teaches poetry at the University of Oklahoma.
Jake Skeets' intuitive and reflective personality scintillates through the inky articles mapping his poetic landscapes. Before hosting the Indigenous Open Mic, Jake Skeets facilitated a poetry workshop encompassing "Visual Sovereignty." He introduced students and patrons to the fundamentals of writing a poem: write on a topic, and in this case we wrote about the wind. He then asked us to get rid of articles (and, a, the) to hone in on the core pieces that bridged the descriptive sentence into a poem. Jake spoke about the "politics of the page" in poetry, where traditionally in Western academic spaces, poetry is created from left to right. It is rather radical to create a poem that plays with the shape and space within (and without) the borders of a page, especially if the poem begins anywhere but the traditional left to right format. We folded a piece of paper and within the creases we put the poem on wind within the Word Doc onto the paper. He then asked us to transfer that shape into the Word Doc. At first, I was at a loss because I had never created a poem in this manner, and it was not until Jake mentioned using a text box and programs like InDesign and Canva to create text that danced across the page. Thus, we created poems that challenged traditional forms of poetry. Like liquid, poetry is a moving form that cannot be contained. It is living rivers of words passed down and given to us through sound, people, and place.
Inidgenous Open Mic Poetry Night
The following night, Jake Skeets opened the evening with original poems from his book, "Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers." The Open Mic took place in our Open Stacks on the 2nd floor of Hayden Library. Jake was an extremely amicable and gracious host and introduced each performing poet with attentive enthusiasm. After Jake, Sarah Camille Chiago (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community) read poetry that gave voice to Indigenous women and our rights as well as our plights and her own personal journey as an Indigenous woman. Her poetry glowed fiercely like a candle in a dark room, with all eyes caught in her flame like a reverie. She is currently a junior completing her MFA in Poetry at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Following Sarah was Ruben Cu:k Ba’ak (Tohono O’odham). Ruben is a Traditional Tohono O’odham member from Sells, Arizona. He is an advocate for restoration from personal trauma as well as de-victimizing oneself from historical trauma. His power, knowledge, and self-advocacy is upfront and present in his poetry. The best way I can interpret Ruben Cu:k Ba’ak's poetry is that his words are edged and rocky like the cliffs of a mountain, with words that pop like lightning in monsoon season. He wore dark shades and read his poems unapologetically.
Lindsey Allison Curley (Diné) read poems on love and family, and although her voice was gentle like female rain, her words were powerful, rooted in kinship and experience as an Indigenous academic and poet. Like the rain, her words soothed the audience and touched them deeply. Lindey is currently completing her library degree at the University of Arizona. Lastly, Dakota Yazzie (Diné) read original poetry and sang songs from his band, "Earth Surface People." His poetry is prophetic and passionate, interlaced with Indigenous sovereignty and historical facts about the Indigenous experience in American society. One of the songs he sang was "500 Years," which voices the epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous women across Turtle Island.
Each poet brought forth personality and authenticity into the Open Mic, reflecting on the diversity in Indigenous communities, especially here in the Southwest. The Center for Imagination in the Borderlands was gracious enough to raffle out books to those who attended the Poetry Workshop and the Open Mic. It was a successful event, full of delicious food and good company. We are honored that Jake Skeets hosted this spring's Open Mic and we are looking forward to hosting our next Indigenous Open Mic in the fall semester!
Pictured above: Tait Wilson (Tohono O'odham), Yitazba Leigh (Diné), Lindsey Curley (Diné) Jake Skeets (Diné), Sarah Chiago (SRPMIC), Ruben Cu:k Ba’ak (Tohono O’odham), Chris Luna (Coahuiltecan/Chichimeca), Eli Shepherd (Diné), Dakota Yazzie (Diné), Nataani Hanley-Moraga (Diné)
Interested in reading Jake Skeets' book, "Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers"? Check it out at our Open Stacks!