The Guerrilla Poets Insurgency, Inclusion, and Collectivity

The Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency is a collective of individuals who utilize open space as their theater. The GPI blurs “the line between audience and performer,” pushing active spectating as a means of participation. Similar to the active spectating we’ve done in class and through our events, the GPI wishes to engage the public simply by their presence. Without expectation about audience or topic of discussion, the GPI is democratic, but without formal organization. In this sense, they are much more of a fluctuating network of individuals interested in action, empowerment, and expanding their network of artists.

The idea of a lyrical ambush sounds like it would be an exclusive, isolating experience for those on the receiving end. However, there is no “those” on the receiving end, instead the open mic and all the instruments that are included can be used by the public. In fact, the open mic doesn’t just have to include poetry, or spoken poetry. Instead, “bikes, dancers, and other forms of artistic expression” are welcome. This is super fascinating to me — I could definitely see a crowd gathering based off of the spectacular nature of the event. A random flash mob dancing, laughing, and rhyming is bound to draw in smiling passerby’s.

How were the lyrical ambushes planned so spur of the moment in the early 2000s? Was there an email list for those who follow the DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency blog?

The core “ingredients” of a lyrical ambush include a rotating mic, community building, active engagement, and artists as artillery in public space. I thought the last concept, artists as artillery in public space was most interesting. It is described on the site as “push advertising,” like a pop-up add, with the public sphere representing cyberspace. The spectacular nature of the event challenges the status quo. The collective outburst is the message, meant for those who don’t necessarily expect to see and hear such a thing, in a world “otherwise insulated from progressive critique.” Additional “optional ingredients,” involve more technical aspects of a lyrical ambush, including greater planning, a larger drumming crew, additional minor instruments and props, and permitting for ambushes in public parks.

This song from Shahid Buttar titled “Ferguson to Jerusalem,” was featured on the Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency Facebook page. Combining “dark, driving tech house with conscious, lyrics,” Buttar’s song explores institutional violence and the brutality of “security” services around the world. A recurring, kind of disturbing lyric throughout is “From Ferguson to Jerusalem, the criminals have badges.” It gets the message across though through its dark, pumping kind of sound. Buttar also references the CIA in connecting the “international dots” of corrupt policing. Maybe it was just the electronic nature of the song, but it felt really futuristic. It reminded me of a theme song for George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ I thought the song was great! Super political and actually, really catchy.


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