What makes a TC Jewfolk Poet with Chutzpah? Edge, insight, zeal, passion… But really, we have no exact definition. Instead, we asked Yael Miriam, our first “Poet with Chutzpah” this month whether she thought she was a Poet with an edge.
Q: Do you think you’re a Poet with Chutzpah? Why/why not?
YM: Anyone that chooses the life of an artist must have chutzpah. To write and perform your truth, and do it well, takes an immense amount of courage. I happen to be of the sassier persuasion and I like to write edgy, provocative, complicated pieces that spark conversation. If I didn’t have chutzpah I wouldn’t be working, and luckily I have more than enough.
Yael Miriam is no stranger to the streets of Saint Paul. She grew up in Saint Paul (she was known as Yael Silverman back in the day), but headed off to Brooklyn once she grew old enough to walk and talk on Broadway. She has a B.F.A. from New York University’s famed Tisch School of the Arts (think Tony Kushner, Christopher Guest, and Debra Messing). Her theater productions include: In White America (Penumbra Theater Co.), The Libation Bearers, For Colored Girls…, Polaroid Stories, and Peter Pan (NYU), Voices of Africa, Mass Persons (The Manhattan Theatre Source), and the world premiere of Drunk (Playwrights Horizons/Naked Angels). She is a member of Hemispheric’s EmergeNYC for emerging activist artists and Storahtelling Jewish theater company. When not performing she is a Jewish educator, social change agent, traveler, and active Brooklyn artist.
But it’s National Poetry Month so our interest in Yael is her slam poetry. The words and beats that make her a “Poet with Chutzpah.” Yael’s poetry has been performed in Birthright Israel NEXT’s national tour of I.D: An Evening of Solo Performances Exploring Jewish Identity. We asked her to talk a bit more about her poetry:
Q: Why do you write poetry? Why that medium specifically?
YM: My words come out most organically as poems, specifically spoken-word. I don’t feel my writing resonates as successfully on the page as it does when performed. When I open a journal and free-write I immediately hear a rhythm and visualize a performance rather than a piece that remains in a book, though often that is exactly where my work ends up. The musicality of language is what excites me and is where I am able to find the power to tell a meaningful story.
Q: Do you consider yourself a Jewish poet? Or a poet that happens to be Jewish?
YM: If only I could hyphenate every one of my titles. I am Jewish and I am a poet. I am also an actress-activist-humanitarian-educator-woman-daughter-sister-friend…in no particular order. Each part of my identity effects every part of my life, especially in my art. As a poet the relationship between my identity and my work is even more present as I am speaking about my own experiences, and in this particular case, experiences relating to my Judaism. The question then is which parts of my identity are permanent and which are ever changing. At this moment I am a Jewish poet, or perhaps a poetic Jew, and while I hope to always be both of these things, I know I will always be a Jew.
Get a taste of Yael’s slam poetry with Chutzpah here:
In honor of National Poetry Month, we’re featuring a Jewish Poet with Chutzpah each week. Do you know of a Poet with Chutzpah we should feature? Let us know in the comments.