About That Elephant on addressing the unsaid

Go into the store of your deepest, darkest secrets, the ones that you are so anxious about, you try your best not to think about them. Select one that you would just as soon forget. Have you found one? Good. Now you are going to explain it. You are going to talk about every mortifying detail of it. Oh, and not just to me, to a room of people whom you have never before seen, and who are going to loudly voice their opinions of every word you speak.

For many of us, the above proposal would approximate a nightmare. But for bxk and Cassandra Euphrat Weston, it is an opportunity. Rather than hide away their insecurities, they challenge themselves to embrace them wholeheartedly, and to perform them as the spoken word poetry duo, About That Elephant. I had the opportunity to watch the pair present several of their pieces last Friday.

The pair stands on the slightly-elevated stage of the over-crowded Pugh center, introduces themselves, and talks us through what bxk calls a Centering Exercise. “We need to center our energy in this room,” they (bxk, as a transgender person, prefers they) explain as they have us take a deep breath in unison.

“Reclaiming! Taking it back!” The pair says in unison as they launch into the first of their poems, which discusses the issues and dangers of the idea of reclaiming sensitive words, arguing for a deeper understanding of the often-overlooked etymologies and definitions before using them.

bxk and Euphrat Weston’s poetry, however, extends beyond the words themselves and into the movements of the poet’s bodies and the tone of their voices. The fact that they both write about issues they are in the process of working through allows them to fully inhabit their poems’ speakers.

Euphrat Weston, for example, discusses her reservations about writing and performing spoken word poetry, historically a black art form, as a well-educated white person—she holds a bachelor’s in Comparative Literature from Harvard—and often faces the conundrum of “loving much of the ‘Western canon’ while recognizing that it erases the writings and histories of people of color and women.”

bxk’s work, on the other hand, addresses their struggle with identity, as transgender, as well as Chinese and Christian, as well as the challenges of presenting all aspects of that identity to an audience. It is often difficult, they write, “to effectively and persistently bring conversations about racism into queer spaces.”

The performance ends with a collaborative piece on masculinity, an issue that unites them both. Vivid gesticulations and careful blocking make it seem as though I am watching a play.

During the questions that follow the show, someone asks bxk and Euphrat Weston to elaborate upon the reason they perform as they do. And they say explicitly what their poetry has already implied: they are trying to use art to make the world more just, doing their part to stimulate conversations about the elephants in each of our respective rooms.

“If you think what you say doesn’t matter, it does,” they say.

Cassandra Euphrat, one half of the poetry duo, About That Elephant Natalie Sill| The Colby Echo

Cassandra Euphrat, one half of the poetry duo, About That Elephant Natalie Sill| The Colby Echo

 

Leave a Reply