New show provides platform for multiethnic poets

Back in March, poet Scott Woods' massive “Holler” series descended on Columbus, bringing 31 consecutive days of black art to the city. One of those events was a panel discussion, and a comment from one of the panelists resonated with poet Geoff Anderson, who listened from the audience.

“[He] stated that there really isn't a biracial community in Columbus,” said Anderson, who was raised in Philadelphia and San Antonio by a white mother and black father. “It's non-existent. It's like you're part of the black community or the other arts things going on, but there's nothing really dedicated to people coming from multiple ethnicities.”

And when biracial people are confined to just one of part of their identity, it is often not their choice, Anderson said. “I don't even know if [we] even have that much agency. It's almost assigned to you. People look at you and assume certain things.”

So Anderson was inspired to create “The Other Box: Mixed Poetry Performances,” featuring a lineup of 10 multiethnic poets, which will take place Saturday, May 20 at New Harvest Cafe & Urban Arts Center.

“So many people are willing to perform that I think that it shows that maybe the community is not there, but the people are there,” Anderson said. “So maybe the first step to building a community is creating that awareness.”

Anderson said the event is an opportunity for the poets to take control of establishing their identities with works that may touch on various aspects of their lives.

“I told the artists that when you're performing, you don't necessarily have to have all the pieces be about being biracial,” said Anderson, who mentioned his own poems in recent years are more about his childhood, though race is often a component.

“I don't think there's ever been a show quite like this before, so I'm really excited,” Anderson said, and shared that although Columbus has a robust poetry scene, there could be more racially integrated spaces. In addition to fostering that diversity, Anderson hopes “The Other Box” creates “an awareness that there are biracial people in the city” — for both the participants and the audience.

“First and foremost, my goal is that people enjoy the poetry that they're about to hear,” Anderson said. “These performers are really good. … And I think having multiple perspectives is a good way to learn about who's living in your city.”