Fatimah Asghar, Franny Choi, Nate Marshall, Aaron Samuels, Danez Smith, and Jamila Woods — otherwise known as The Dark Noise Collective — have made it their mission to rework and rewrite the standards of the literary world. On their Facebook page, they refer to themselves as a “multiracial, multi-genre collective featuring some of the most exciting, insightful, and powerful spoken word artists performing today.”
Dark Noise has been intentionally transparent in discussing their paths to success with open discussions, like their Twitter chat #bookswithmywoes, and have lead numerous workshops and performances that continue to fight for inclusivity and openness in poetry and the world at large. For the next three weeks, F Newsmagazine has chosen to profile the Dark Noise Collective in three parts.
Part 1: Fatimah Asghar
Fatimah Asghar is a poet, writer, photographer, and teaching artist at Young Chicago Authors. She also created Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Spoken Word Poetry group, REFLEKS. Her TEDx Talk discusses the current existence of language, how it can change in America, and the expanded ways we can define poetry. Her poems pulse with the cultural questions that float inside all of us like, “What to do then, when the only history you have is collage?”
F News: How did you get involved with Dark Noise and where do you see the collective going from here?
Fatimah Asghar: Aaron Samuels and I came up with the idea of Dark Noise. We had just graduated college and were looking to make a collective of poets that we could build with and support as we navigated the terrain of writing as a career. We decided that instead of doing it solo, we wanted to do it in community. As for where we are going, I’m not sure. I think it would be amazing to see Dark Noise as a non-profit, as its own artistic organization. But I also think it would be great to just have us exist as this close family, navigating the world together.
F News: What role do you think performance poetry plays in our society and how do you think that role is changing or shifting?
FA: I’m not sure what role it plays in our wider society. I know that, to me, it is vastly important and an instrumental tool in confidence building and education. I think that with things like YouTube and Twitter, spoken word poetry is becoming more popular. Now anyone can access it — you don’t have to live in a city, or have it in your family or be around a community that does it. You can watch it on your laptop, you can share it, you can watch the pieces you love over and over, which was not the case even five years ago.
F News: Are there any collaborative projects in the works for Dark Noise in the near future?
FA: Yes, we are working on a chapbook that will hopefully be released this spring. We also made a new form of poetry called a Rengapuntal at our last retreat and are looking to release that soon.
F News: A number of you are teaching artists, what would you consider the lessons of poetry?
FA: That’s a really hard question to answer because it depends on the poem and the teacher. For me, as a teacher, I try and demystify what a poem is to my students. Sometimes we have really intense preconceived notions as to what it is. Shakespeare, rhyme, form, etc. I try and say that’s not true, poems can be conversations with your mom, Kendrick Lamar lyrics, etc. They’re always around you, but often, we’ve been taught our language or stories are not valuable enough to be considered poetry. That’s just not true. Our language, our voices, the way we speak is worthy. We have to claim it.
F News: Do you have any advice for interdisciplinary artists on how to balance it all?
FA: Different art mediums inform each other. When I feel stuck with writing, photography is another release, a way to create and not put pressure on myself to write. It also informs the way that I approach the poem, and vice versa. You have one life, so do all you can with it. It doesn’t matter if you are ‘good’ or whatnot. If it brings you joy, do it. Don’t make excuses for yourself.