In Your Face 

Performance poet takes on white male establishment

Performance poet takes on white male establishment

Adopted as a Chamorro child in Guam to white parents from the American South, performance poet Ami Mattison grew up as the perpetual Other in an Atlanta that was always either black or white. On her debut spoken-word CD, Strange and Potent Mixture (Fluid Mosaic Records), Mattison depicts herself as a “heartbroken colored girl turned raging Chamorro woman” who’s had enough. She no longer tolerates being pigeonholed by skin color or, for that matter, sexual preference: “I’m a dyke, get it right... / I’m the lack of your imagination.” The dislocation of youth has become, in adulthood, a brand of empowerment: “I’m not your fucking mirror,” Mattison proclaims. “[I] no longer [burn] with shame but with fury and with passionate love.”

If all this sounds confrontational, that’s because it’s meant to be. Mattison’s poetry is not for the faint of heart or those with sensibilities too delicate to confront tough issues straight on. Of the nine poetic performances on Strange and Potent Mixture, all deal with identity, all are political, and all but a couple rage against American antipathy toward people of color, women, homosexuals and the poor. Often, however, that rage is expressed in humor: In one track Mattison takes on the persona of a straight, white, wealthy male speaking to everyone on the planet except other straight, white, wealthy males: “Don’t hate me; just be my bitch.” Even the love poems included here are meditations on coming apart, the first a play on the words “come” and “go,” the second culminating in a metaphorical car crash.

Mattison’s poems are not the stuff of university literary magazines. Though she is presently completing her doctoral dissertation in interdisciplinary studies at Emory University and has published scholarly papers, Mattison in performance is decidedly less academic; her poems are broadsides against a hostile culture of hate and greed, an America ultimately defined by “remote corporate control.”

A member of the spoken-word performance group Cliterati, Mattison recently won the Atlanta Black Gay Pride, Girls in the Night, 2003 Grand Slam poetry competition. She will perform at Bongo After Hours Theatre on March 5 at 7 p.m. and at Lipstick Lounge on March 7 at 7 p.m. Local performance artist Minton Sparks will open the March 7 show.

—Pablo Tanguay

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