Artist Statement   Leave a comment

Jourdan Imani Keith

Artist Statement

My work blends the textures of political, personal and natural landscapes with stories from the margins of American lives. As a result, I layer images to create visual poems which integrate the contours of text and topography as a method of exploring ancestry, heritage and environmental threats. Writing and performing my choreopoem/play, The Uterine Files: Episode I, Spitting Out the Rainbow, launched me into a clearer view of how losing our ancestral home as people of African and Irish descent exceeds the boundaries of geographical loss and includes the persistent loss of our health. Like Sisters of the Yam, by bell hooks, which “examines how the emotional health of black women is wounded…including our estrangement from nature,” my writing exams what it means to be estranged from a continent’s soils, its’ nutrients and its’ food.

As a collection, my prose simultaneously magnifies the urgency of understanding the risks of estrangement from both our ancestral and contemporary homelands and the dangers of not accepting the borders of our bodies as part of the natural world. It also transfers tranquility because of the influence of haiku and haibun on my work and my extended experiences living in Yellowstone National Park and surrounded by the cathedral peaks of the North Cascade mountains in Washington. As a student of Sonia Sanchez, I embrace the blues of haiku and the nature of every part of our being. My poems, essays, and creative non-fiction are rooted in the tradition of folktales, folk singers, Aesop’s fables and “witness” writers, including Bob Dylan, Terry Tempest Williams, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jack Kerouac, Zora Neale Hurston, Joni Mitchell, Langston Hughes, Barbara Kingsolver and Audre Lorde.

A fierce urgency compels me to be forged as a writer who intersects genres by blending poetic language with environmental knowledge while guiding the reader through the cultural and political terrains of race and gender. Such in the case with the essay “At Risk” from my Tugging at the Web collection and my TEDx Talk,  Human Estuaries: Your Body of Water which is often referred to as a poem because I combine metaphor with scientific analogy. My creative non-fiction has been recognized by Orion magazine and the curator of Humanities Washington for its startling juxtapositions which I use to shift our mindsets so that we see ourselves as nature, rather than continuing to believe that nature is something other than what we are.

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Posted January 23, 2014 by Jourdan Keith

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