WBEZ | Roger Bonair-Agard http://www.wbez.org/tags/roger-bonair-agard Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Roger Bonair-Agard’s flea circus http://www.wbez.org/story/agriculture/roger-bonair-agard%E2%80%99s-flea-circus <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/flea circus photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When I spoke to Chicago poet Roger Bonair-Agard earlier this week he was in New York. Having narrowly escaped the Snomageddon he was en route to Washington, D.C. to attend the celebrated literary conference <a href="http://www.awpwriter.org/conference/">AWP</a> and looking forward to the American release of Gully, his second book of poems.&nbsp; The poetry collection deals with cricket culture in his native Trinidad, as well as his own personal history in America.</p> <div>I wanted to talk to Bonair-Agard about a poem he wrote for last June&rsquo;s edition of the <a href="../../../../../../episode-segments/encyclopedia-show-presents-series-2-volume-10-circus">Encyclopedia Show</a>, a cabaret event sponsored by <a href="http://www.youngchicagoauthors.org/">Young Chicago Authors</a>. For each event, the organizers come up with a topic, in this case the circus, and ask each performer to address a sub topic. In Bonair-Agard&rsquo;s case, it was flea circuses.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>&ldquo;At first I was like what the&hellip;?,&rdquo; Bonair-Agard says about receiving his writing assignment. &ldquo;The flea circus is such an obscure bit of Americana that I did not know where I fit in personally to write this piece. I wasn&rsquo;t sure where to enter.&rdquo;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>So he researched the historical phenomenon of fleas trained as tiny circus performers, juggling tiny balls, cracking tiny whips, powering tiny Ferris wheels, and found himself strangely enticed by the subject matter.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>&ldquo;The first thing that drew my attention is the general madness of people deciding we&rsquo;re going to make these creatures entertain us,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not trying to be all PETA, but they did mad cruel things to fleas! Then as I read more it became symbolic of a larger human imperative of whiteness to dominate stuff for our personal enjoyment. This is by no means making fleas till the land.&rdquo;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Based on these thoughts he wrote the elaborately titled, <em>The poetic analysis of the socio-cultural relevance of the flea from the classical period through the Industrial Revolution</em>. And somehow from that obscure bit of Americana Bonair-Agard produced a poem that&rsquo;s both stunning and funny, tracing as it does the connection between this &ldquo;frivolous entertainment&rdquo; and the historical subjugation of people of color, while managing to evoke intersex South African runner Caster Semenya, Grandmaster Flash, the Arizona legislature and &ldquo;the whole cast of <em>Gone with the Wind</em>.&rdquo;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>You can hear Bonair-Agard recite his poem in the audio excerpt posted above.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><em>Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Roger Bonair-Agard spoke to an audience assembled by </em><a href="http://www.youngchicagoauthors.org/"><em>Young Chicago Authors</em></a><em> this past June. Click </em><a href="../../../../../../episode-segments/encyclopedia-show-presents-series-2-volume-10-circus"><em>here</em></a><em> to hear the event in its entirety, and click </em><a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/wbez/id364380278"><em>here</em></a><em> to subscribe to the Dynamic Range podcast.</em></div></p> Fri, 04 Feb 2011 22:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/agriculture/roger-bonair-agard%E2%80%99s-flea-circus