ALL THIS: Poets Aja Monet & Meghann Plunkett (012)

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For our poetry special I got to talk with two phenomenal women. Aja Monet (photo by Brandon Guzman) is a Caribbean-American poet, performer, and educator from Brooklyn currently based in Little Haiti, Miami, where she is a cofounder of Smoke Signals Studio, dedicating her time to merging arts and culture with community organizing through her work with the Dream Defenders and the Community Justice Project. Her most recent collection of poetry, My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter (2017), was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Meghann Plunkett (photo by Adam Courtney) describes herself as a poet, coder, and dog enthusiast. She has won critical acclaim from Missouri Review, Third Coast Magazine, Narrative Magazine, North American Review, and the Academy of American Poets, among others. Later this month she will graduate as a Master of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Aja and Meghann have been friends and trusted readers of each other's work since their undergraduate years at Sarah Lawrence College.

Special thanks to director Cam Be for granting permission to use a clip from his brilliant video of Aja's poem "What I've Learned"; to Shayfer James for supplying instrumentals from his album Haunted Things for this special episode; to Roy Chambers for designing the glassed unicorn thumbnail; to Paula Roy for suggesting questions; and to my uncle Peter Meister for reading his haiku "Squirrel in Winter" at the top. It got me wondering about how poems work when I was only old enough to read the words. 

Reviewing my questions one last time just before meeting up with Aja at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem

Reviewing my questions one last time just before meeting up with Aja at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem

Supplementary Materials

A basic YouTube search for "Aja Monet" will yield videos of her reading everywhere from the Nuyorican Poets Café in NYC to Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank of Paris. Here's #sayhername, from her most recent volume of poetry, My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter (Haymarket Books, 2017), a contribution to the online campaign to end violence against women. 

In her description of Meghann's work, Aja referred to a poem in which Meghann considers what many overlook when they see goldfish. This animated video, recently featured by Button Poetry, is also available in Portuguese!

As we mentioned in the episode, we taped at the Apollo Theater because Aja was back in town to host the finals for Urban Word NYC, an arts collective that played a significant role in Aja's poetic and personal development as a high school student. Here's more about that organization. 

Peter Horn