An Interview with Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, a two-time National Poetry Slam champion.
By SAYMOUKDA VONGSAY
Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre is a two-time National Poetry Slam champion, who will be presenting the workshop, “Spoken Word 101,” at the inaugural Hmong Women Write Now! Retreat held September 9–11, 2011 at Villa Maria in Frontenac, Minn. For information and an application to the retreat, please visit http:// hmongwomenachieve.org.
Q: In the form of a haiku/senyru, tell us about yourself.
Kyle: I am mud made from / sweet red wine and gunpowder / mud for making bricks
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced within your discipline?
K: As a multi-disciplinary artist, I sometimes feel pulled in a hundred different directions, which can often lead to not moving anywhere. When you have a lot of options for projects and ideas, it takes a lot of discipline to decide to really pursue one and do it well, something I’m still definitely working on.
Q: What does the saying, “Each one, reach one, teach one,” mean to you? Should it apply to writers at all?
K: I think that artists—especially writers—have a responsibility to give back beyond their actual writing. All artists should be teaching artists. What we do is bigger than putting words on paper—I like to think of writers as warriors, in a very real sense, and you always have to train the next generation of warriors. Artists in a community are always better/stronger/more effective than artists alone.
Q: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
K: I’ve got a new Guante & Big Cats! album, a book of essays on hip hop and social justice, and a one-man spoken-word show all wrapping up in 2012. It’s an exciting time. Check out www.guante.info for more information.
Q: What is the future of (your discipline)? Where is it headed?
K: I think hip hop is becoming more and more DIY, more grassroots, which is a good thing. Spoken-word is moving beyond slam, with tons of artists doing theater work and non-slam shows. The best hip hop and spoken-word hasn’t been written yet.
Q: Be innovative or stay classic?
K: Always innovate. It’s a far better thing to be wack and unique, than to be a solid imitation of someone else. Ambition is the most important quality in an artist—more than discipline, more than skill, more than education, more than anything.
Q: What else do you wield with your hands other than a pen?
K: A microphone. I love writing for performance. It adds another layer to the words.
Q: Where is your happy place?
K: The Grand City Buffet.
Q: In the spirit of ‘wait 20 minutes before swimming,’ what should a writer NOT do before their pen hits the paper?
Q: Besides other writers, what influences your work?
K: Cowboy Bebop, the labor movement, comic books, legos, root beer, social justice activism and the Green Bay Packers.
Vongsay is a recipient of the Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry from NY and a Jerome/Mu Performing Art’s New Eyes Theater Fellow. She lives and writes in St. Paul.