The Sunday Poem: Idris Goodwin... Response #1

Idris Goodwin was one of the first poets ever featured on The Sunday Poem.  The work of this playwright, poet, and indie rapper has received praise from all quarters--including NPR and the New York Times.  His first book, THESE ARE THE BREAKS, is receiving a lot of attention.


It was only a short while ago we could see Idris at the Q-Staff and the Outpost.  He now lives in Iowa City.


Response #1



On February 21st, 2010, the east wall of the Art Institute of
Chicago’s New Modern Wing was defaced with a fifty-foot graffiti
piece painted by a team of writers in about 20 minutes.

On March 10th, a graffiti writer named SOLE was painting a mural
on the wall of an abandoned factory. When police showed up and
gave chase, he flung himself into the Chicago River and drowned.

“We began shocking common sense, public opinion, education,
institutions, museums, good taste, in short the whole prevailing
—The Dada Manifesto, 1918

“Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most
destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man”
—American Art News, 1918

So somebody went and done drew a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
Which is to say, somebody took aerosol to staple, mocked how we
consume our culture. I imagine them smiling when they did it.
Because it’s all just make believe, isn’t it? Private space // public space.
Unreal lines. Agreed upon modes of presentation.

The image has long since been blasted away. It’s business as usual at
The Art Institute of Chicago: Euro

centrism and expensive cheese shoved down throats that reflux the
same tired conversations.

Law abiding artists, civilized, pontificate: What does it mean?
Building upon the legend, filling up temporary space. Is it:
Vandalism? Street Art? Graffiti? Whatever it is has proven gatekeepers
ignorant by infiltrating the institutional art machine.

Terms like “hip-hop” woo corporate philanthropists, “urban” a call
to arms for chic intelligentsia the world over. It’s widely emulated.
Detroit, Michigan. Iowa City, Iowa. Those same bubble letters,
jutting angles. Santa Fe, New Mexico. Cheyenne, Wyoming. Those
same stencils and polemic sentiment. Nairobi, Kenya. Amman,

I am a rapper introduced to hip-hop culture through commodity.
My early engagements with rap music were mediated by radio,
cable television, the sterilized confines of the mall’s record chain. I
experienced the renegade of rap after it had been scrubbed, bleeped.
I felt the furious wild style from a safe distance, witnessed the body’s
pops and spins behind glass. I copied.

I, like many artists, have benefited from those who risked their
bodies crossing invented boundaries. Those who risk their bodies to
steal, hustle, con, bend the bars to prove another paradigm is possible.
We pick and tear, wear their skin, swallow their tongues to better
define ourselves. We press their remains on t-shirts long after they’ve
been crushed by narrow, elitist agendas.

It’s all make believe. Institutes are machinations like constructs of
race, wealth, success. A shared hallucination. All that is real and
undeniable is this animal need to survive, the human desire to exist
after the flesh dissolves.

There will always be those who loiter outside our hallowed halls,
those who haven’t a taste for stinky cheese. And if they are not
greeted, they will introduce themselves.

It will not be creased nor presentable. It will test the patience of
the liberal and learned. We will have to stop for a moment, mute
ourselves, and think about what it really means.



--Idris Goodwin



Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 36

Comment by Gina M on February 27, 2011 at 7:45am
Idris is an amazing poet. Down to earth, too. Thanks for posting!
Comment by Margaret Randall on February 27, 2011 at 8:10am
This is so right for right now, Idris, so necessary to our understanding who we are as we struggle to survive the death being dealt us. I love the way you quote "both sides" while the power of your words leave us with no doubt about which is the one we should be listening to, acting on, moving with. Thank you thank you!
Comment by Dee Cohen on February 27, 2011 at 9:23am
Art has the ability to shake things up, make us look at things in new ways. It is both liberating and threatening. I appreciate how Idris credits those who have preceded him. We owe a lot to those who have challenged the status quo in the past. Thanks for posting this. Dee
Comment by Don McIver on March 1, 2011 at 6:53pm

Glad to read that I'm not the only one thinking things like this.  


Oh those tired gatekeepers. 


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