In-Depth Look: Guante – “A Pragmatist’s Guide to Magic”
Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
“We don’t have spells, but we do have songs.”
Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre
Get Guante’s Book Here
Doing these write-ups, I haven’t had a chance yet to cover my own work, and I appreciate the opportunity to write about this particular poem. This one took years of revisions– and the experiences that informed those revisions– to get to this point.
I remember that I had actually challenged myself to write about hope. For me, that’s harder to wrap my head around than critique, or the calling out of problems, or the kind of tell-it-like-it-is realism that informs so many spoken word poems. So in order to explore the idea of hope, I decided to lean into its opposite: the idea of disillusionment, the creeping dread and cynicism that’s so difficult to not feel if you pay any attention at all to the world.
I definitely feel it, which I why I needed to write this poem: to remind myself that although cynicism as a feeling is absolutely valid, cynicism as some kind of pompous, above-it-all political position is bullshit. Because no matter how bad things get, the reality is that everyday people, organizing together, have fought and struggled and won, over and over again, for centuries. Change is possible. Hope isn’t naive; it just takes work. Hope is something we build, not something that’s given to us.
Even when my poems are explicitly about race, or gender, or class, the thing that I’m really interested in writing about is power. While power can be wielded by tyrants and bigots and institutions, it’s also something that we have. For me, poetry has always been a way to affirm that, to push back against the narrative that we’re just spectators drifting along through history, and not the people who actively shape it.
This poem is new, so it’s not in my book, but my book might be a good place to start if you like my work. Find more at my website, and on Twitter.
While you’re here, head over to the Button store to check out our books and merch, including books by Sabrina Benaim, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, William Evans, Rachel Wiley, & our newest release from Neil Hilborn!