The title of Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre’s recent book gives you a pretty good idea of his mission statement.
A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry is a collection of Tran Myhre’s poems, lyrics, and essays. But it also stands as a defiant clarion call for all artists, educators, and activists.
In addition to potently voicing his concerns and criticisms of modern society as a spoken word artist, musician, and author, the 36-year-old Tran Myhre is educating people, here in Minnesota as well as across the country.
“Whether I’m brought out by colleges, conferences, or community groups, the work that I do involves using spoken word as an entry point into deeper, more critical conversations about a range of social justice issues,” he says.
These topics are taking on added significance with the #MeToo movement and the Trump presidency.
“The last two years have been busier for me than any other time in my life,” Tran Myhre says. “Some of that work is straight-up poetry stuff, some of it is youth work, some of it is around issues of racism and white supremacy. But a lot of my bookings these days focus on masculinity. There have always been connections between stereotypical masculinity and violence—from mass shootings, to war and imperialism, to racist violence, to sexual assault. And now with Trump, any subtext that remained in that connection has become text.”
Tran Myhre has worked with TruArtSpeaks founder Tish Jones to help provide guidance for young people to amplify their voices through hip-hop and spoken word.
“Tish has done so much to build that organization over the past few years into something really special,” Tran Myhre says. “It’s not just, ‘Let’s make space for kids to recite poems.’ It’s something much deeper, founded in critical, hip-hop pedagogy that affirms youth as central, active shapers of this work and not just observers or beneficiaries.”
But Tran Myhre stresses that funding is pivotal for any arts program to thrive. He has faith that the inner voices kids find today will lead us to a better tomorrow.
“At the end of the day, spoken word is just people telling their stories, standing up for what they believe in, and authentically engaging with one another,” he says.
“There aren’t a lot of platforms like that, where we have space to say the thing we need to say, and time to really dig into it beyond a tweet or soundbite. I think that resonates with young people because young people are so often ignored or condescended to. It’s about finding community through shared values and then cultivating the power that can come from that. It’s about the relationships that are formed, and the networks that are built from those relationships. All of that stuff impacts our ability to build movements that can shift both culture and policy.”