Looking at the mesmeric poetry of Ocean Vuong & Kayo Chingonyi
Last week, I had the privilege of attending a reading by Ocean Vuong and Kayo Chingonyi – two beautifully tender and adept poets. Before reading from his debut collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Ocean spoke a little about reading poetry as an act of resistance, particularly in today’s social and political climate. This sparked my thoughts around what seemingly small acts can have much greater meaning when seen in the light of the hostility and conflict raging around the world. Kayo Chingonyi’s stunning poem Some Bright Elegance explores dancing as an act of protest in and of itself. He paints a picture of joy against all odds and peers into the ways that a simple act, like dancing, can be therapeutic.
was some bright elegance the sad meat
of the body made
the walls of dance halls, I have little patience.
I say dance not to be seen but free, your feet
are made for better things, feel the bitterness
in you lift as it did for a six-year-old Bojangles
tapping a living out of beer garden patios to
the delight of a crowd that wasn’t lynching
today but laughing at the quickness of the kid.Throw yourself into the thick, emerging pure
reduced to flesh and bone, nerve and sinew.
Your folded arms understand music. Channel
a packed Savoy Ballroom and slide across
the dusty floor as your zoot-suited, twenties
self, the feather in your hat from an ostrich,
the swagger in your step from the ochre dust
of a West African village. Dance for the timesyou’ve been stalked by store detectives
for a lady on a bus, for the look of disgust
on the face of a boy too young to understand
why he hates but only that he must. Dance
for Sammy, dead and penniless, and for the
thousands still scraping a buck as street corner
hoofers who, though they dance for their food,
move as if it is only them, and the drums, talking.
How is dance shaped as a form of protest here?
Using Kayo’s poem as a starting point, what small seemingly insignificant acts can be a form of protest for you?
Write a list and see if any spark of an idea – start with a freewrite and see where they take you.