Episode 37: Poetry Under Pressure (w/ Jo Elizabeth Stewart)

Hey everyone. I hope everyone is staying safe. My school in China has currently moved to online teaching for the foreseeable future as no one knows how long the virus will affect China. As I mentioned in my previous episode, I rerouted my flight to Thailand to wait out the virus. I stayed in Chiang Mai and enjoyed living in warm weather and eating a lot of amazing northern Thai food, also called Lanna cuisine. I was also able to check out the Land Foundation, an art project started by Rirkrit Tiravanija. The foundation was hosting a solar panel cookout with local Lanna recipes and it interesting to see the whole event play out. I also met two other professors from Shanghai and Beijing who also left their cities and are teaching remotely. The longer I stayed in Asia, the more the news seemed to get worse and worse, so my original plan to teach remotely while traveling across Asia didn’t seem too good. I left for Seoul for a week, but by the time this episode will be released, I’ll be flying back to the US.

For today’s episode, I have Jo Elizabeth Stewart. Jo is a poet and theater maker. She uses a combination of gesture, voice, and text to make performance that investigates entrapment, borders, and freedom. Jo graduated from Reed College with a BA in English literature (2014) and continues to study poetry under the guidance of experimental poet Tracie Morris. She is a cross-disciplinary MFA candidate in the Literary Arts program at Brown University.

I met Jo at a recent residency I did at Vermont in the winter break between semesters. In the residency, I met a wonderful group of artist of color and was lucky to interview a number of them. Jo was the first one I interviewed during my time there. Jo and I got to know each other by doing early morning meditations together before breakfast and on snowy walks in the woods. In our discussions, we talk about learning how to be uncomfortable, finding meaning in meaninglessness, and how to move the body in relation to the grammar of a language. I hope you enjoy this.

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