The Write Stuff

Outspoken Houston performer lands prestigious national poetry award

Outspoken Houston performer lands prestigious national poetry award

Outspoken Bean Houston 2022
Outspoken Bean is Houston's 2022 Poet Laureate Fellow. Photo by Daniel Ortiz

A local wordsmith has received one of the highest honors a writer can achieve. Outspoken Bean, the noted poet/spoken-word performer/raconteur/renaissance man, has been named the 2022 official Poet Laureate Fellow for Houston, the American Academy of Poets announced.

He will receive $50,000 for the honor, as part of the $1.1 million worth of funding from the Academy awarded to all national fellows to support their respective public poetry programs during their year-long term.

As fans are aware, Emanuelee Outspoken Bean is an acclaimed spoken word artist. He was the first poet to perform on the Houston Ballet stage in the company's production of the popular Play. He also conceptualized and produced Plus Fest: The Everything Plus Poetry Festival. He most recently took the stage for Loveletter, the multi-disciplinary concert hosted and produced by local legend DJ Sun. 

During his term as Poet Laureate Fellow, he will complete Space City Mixtape, a spoken-word and creative audio experience of Houston featuring more than 20 tracks from Houstonians telling their stories, the academy notes. Houstonians should look for him at Houston Public Library locations around Houston, as he intends to conduct bi-weekly writing sessions for the next six to eight months in order to capture stories for Space City Mixtape, which will be produced by local producer Russell Guess.

Space City Mixtape is slated to be released next year. 

Outspoken Bean joins another Texan to win the honor. Austin resident Cyrus Cassells has been named the 2022 Poet Laureate Fellow for Texas (he'll also receive $50,000 for this work).
 
Cassells teaches at Texas State University. He's received multiple awards for his work, including a Pushcart Prize,  the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
 
He plans to hold a statewide poetry contest in honor of Juneteenth, inviting students in the sixth through twelfth grades across Texas to submit entries describing what makes the day significant to them. 
 
Ten winners will be selected; they'll receive a travel stipend to the state capital, where the contest will end with a public reading and ceremony at the Neill-Cochran House Museum. The space features Austin's only intact slave cabin and has long served as a venue for African American events and cultural exhibitions.
 
Judges for the contest include Texas poets Wendy Barker, Jennifer Chang, Amanda Johnston, and Roger Reeves, and Texas historian Martha Hartzog, according to the academy. The contest screeners and judges, along with the top three winners and seven honorable mentions will receive an honorarium, plus copies of Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Reed's book On Juneteenth and Edward Cotham Jr.'s Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration.

Public Poets Laureate have been around since 1919, when the state of Colorado named the first. Fifteen other states named laureates of their own soon after. On the national level, the Library of Congress named Joseph Auslander its first Consultant in Poetry in 1937. This position was renamed the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985. 

Ada Limón is the current Poet Laureate Consultation in Poetry and was named to the position last month. 

Poets Laureate at every level promote and advocate for poetry, working to not only bring attention to the art form, but also using their platform to bring attention to issues of importance in their communities. The Academy of American Poets is the largest supporter of poets around the U.S. and has donated more than $4.3 million in fellowships to 81 poets since 2019.

The other poets and the communities they represent are Andru Defeye (Sacramento, California); Ashanti Files (Urbana, Illinois); B. K. Fischer (Westchester County, New York); KaNikki Jakarta (Alexandria, Virginia); Ashley M. Jones (Alabama); Holly Karapetkova (Arlington, Virginia); Kealoha (Hawaiʻi); J. Drew Lanham (Edgefield, South Carolina); Julia B. Levine (Davis, California); Matt Mason (Nebraska); Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia); Ray McNiece (Cleveland Heights, Ohio); Huascar Medina (Kansas); Gailmarie Pahmeier (Nevada); Catherine Pierce (Mississippi); Rena Priest (Washington); Lynne Thompson (Los Angeles); Emma Trelles (Santa Barbara, California); Gwen Nell Westerman (Minnesota); and Crystal Wilkinson (Kentucky).