Esther Kondo Heller – 2022 Cornell Biennial

Ceaseless Waves

Hosted by Esther Kondo Heller
Visual & Auditory Performance
  • October 6, 2022
  • Sage Chapel
  • 7-10pm

Ceaseless Waves

Ceaseless Waves is a night of sounding out poetry and otherwise possibilities. The night will include a headlining poetry performance by award-winning and current Poet-in-Residence at the Guggenheim Museum Taylor Johnson. There will also be readings by Professor Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon, and current MFA in poetry students. The event will be moderated by W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature Emeritus Professor Kenneth A. McClane. More artists will be confirmed, so do watch this space. 

Ceaseless Waves takes its name from a line of a poem by Haji Gora Haji, which is a poetic guide to navigating the ocean. Inspired by his poetics of sound repetition and ceaseless rhythm the night brings together artists, poets, and musicians to participate in a conspiring (together breathing) improvisation of poetry, performance, and sound. As Glissant writes “one way ashore, a thousand channels,” other tributaries of works that articulate the movement of this night are Audre Lorde, Alice Coltrane, Lucille Clifton, June Jordan, Harryette Mullen, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Raja Lubinetzki, Fred Moten, fahima ife, Nina Simone, Simone White, Dorothea Smartt, Don Cherry, Kamau Brathwaite, Petero Kalulé, M NourbeSe Philip, and more.

Esther Kondo Heller (she/they) is a multilingual poet, writer, and experimental poetry filmmaker. They are a Barbican Young Poet 18/19, Black Obsidian fellow, Ledbury Critic, and Poet in the City producer. They have performed their poetry amongst other places at the Roundhouse, Literary Colloquium Berlin, and the Barbican. Her films have been shown at the Zebra Poetry Film Festival (Berlin), Visible Poetry Project (NYC), and Film Video Umbrella (London). They co-run a monthly radio show called Poetic Healing with Zen & Kondo on THF radio Berlin.

Event Moderator:

Kenneth A. McClane was educated at Cornell University. The author of eight books of poetry, his poems and essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including The Best African American Essays and Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African American Poetry.

In 2002, McClane’s essays received the Distinguished Prose Award from the Antioch Review. He is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature and a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University.

Event Artists:

Taylor Johnson is from Washington, DC. He is the author of Inheritance (Alice James Books, 2020), winner of the 2021 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. His work appears in Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, The Baffler, Scalawag, and elsewhere. Johnson is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a recipient of the 2017 Larry Neal Writers’ Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the 2021 Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers from Lambda Literary. Taylor is the inaugural 2022 Poet-in-Residence at the Guggenheim Museum.

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is a poet and sound artist. Her multilingual work addresses themes of global inequality, displacement, and forced migration. Diggs’s first full-length collection of poetry, TwERK, was published by Belladonna* in 2013. She self-published the chapbooks Ichi-Ban: from the files of muneca morena linda (MOH Press, 1998) and Ni-Ban: Villa Miseria (MOH Press, 2001), and the album, Televisíon (MOH Press, 2002).

Her work has appeared in anthologies including Freely frayed: Translingual Poetics (hochroth publishers europe, 2019); Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing (Kore Press, 2018); The Golden Shovel Anthology (University of Arkansas Press, 2017); The Break Beat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015); The Force of What’s Written: Accessibility & The Avant Garde (Night Boat Books, 2014); Me No Habla With Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry (Rebel Satori Press, 2011); Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem (University of Michigan Press, 2006); and Everything But the Burden (Broadway Books, 2003). She has been published in magazines and journals including: Arroyo Review, Art21 Magazine, Black Renaissance Noire, Coldfront Magazine, Fence, jubilat, Mandorla: New Writings from the Americas, The New Sound: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Arts and Literature, and Ploughshares.

Diggs has presented and performed at California Institute of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, The Museum of Modern Art, and Walker Art Center and at festivals including: Explore the North Festival, Leeuwarden, Netherlands; Hekayeh Festival, Abu Dhabi; International Poetry Festival of Copenhagen; Poesiefestival, Berlin; and the 2015 Venice Biennale.

KeiyaA is a singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist based in NYC. Raised in Chicago’s South Side, KeiyaA synthesizes her jazz training, R&B sensibilities, and hip-hop upbringing to create new soul sounds inundated with her powerful, sultry voice and dense lyricism. She aims to center the narrative and intellect of the black woman in the late-stage capitalist world.

KeiyaA’s debut album Forever, Ya Girl released on March 27, 2020. Forever, Ya Girl is a nu-soul landscape capturing the life of a Black woman. The project is primarily self-produced, and received a “Best New Music” review from Pitchfork as well as placement on several “Best of 2020” lists. Forever, Ya Girl has also earned KeiyaA fans in fellow artists such as Solange, Earl Sweatshirt, Blood Orange, Moses Sumney, and Jay-Z.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi is Associate Professor of Literatures in English at Cornell University and the author of The Rise of the African Novel: Politics of Language, Identity and Ownership, the novels Mrs. Shaw, Black Star Nairobi, Nairobi Heat, and two books of poetry, Logotherapy and Hurling Words at Consciousness. Unbury Our Dead With Song, a novel about competing Tizita musicians, was released from Cassava Republic Press in May of 2021.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as the chapbooks Leading with a Naked Body with Leela Chantrelle and Poems in Conversation and a Conversation with Elizabeth Alexander. She has been awarded fellowships from Cave Canem, the Lannan Foundation, and Civitella Ranieri. She has written plays and lyrics for The Cherry, an Ithaca arts collective, and in 2018, her work was featured in Courage Everywhere, celebrating women’s suffrage and the fight for political equality, at National Theatre London.

Juan Harmon holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is interested in revitalizing the Nanticoke language linguistically and/or creatively.

India Sada Hackle / ISH (she/her) is a MFA in poetry graduate and creative writing lecturer at Cornell University.  Her poetry, playwriting, mythology mapping, and other inventions are dreaming, remembering, and feeling their way(s) to free.

Shenece Oretha is a London-based multidisciplinary artist sounding out the voice and sound’s mobilising potential. Through installation, performance, print, sculpture, sound, workshops and text she amplifies and celebrates listening and sound as an embodied and collective practice.

DJ ha-MEEN (aka Ben Ortiz) is the Assistant Curator of the Cornell Hip Hop Collection, which is part of Cornell University Library’s Rare and Manuscript Collections division. The CHHC is the world’s most extensive research archive on Hip Hop music and culture (a very broad subject through which a wide diversity of topics can be explored). The CHHC is nearly a decade old and continues to grow each year. It contains an estimated quarter-million artifacts!

Ben served as an inaugural member of the CHHC’s advisory board upon its creation in 2007, and took on his current role in 2011. Prior to that, he worked at Cornell in other capacities including coordinator of K-12 Outreach in the Cornell Public Service Center, New York State Higher/Educational Opportunity Program Counselor in the Office of Minority Educational Affairs (today called OADI- Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives), and residence hall director for the Risley Residential College for the Creative and Performing Arts, as well as Clara Dickson Hall, and the Multicultural Living-Leaning Unit (McLLU).

In addition to his position with Cornell Hip Hop Collection, Ben is also active in the local music scene, and can be found rocking dance floors as his alter ego, DJ ha-MEEN. Other pursuits include painting, mountain biking, and playing Afro-Cuban and other forms of percussion.

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