USA TODAY ARTICLE LINK TO WEBSITE:
Sean Hill is waging a ‘war’ for peace — through poetry
Sean Hill is a man determined to “bend reality.”
The 32-year-old poet is determined to make progress towards world peace through his poetry and work on college campuses.
Hill has dedicated most of his recent years to teaching workshops and performing his poems at various colleges — inlcuding the University of California – Santa Barbara, California State University, Northridge.
But why colleges?
Hill revealed it’s about “making sure the next generation is better.”
RELATED: Not your average poetry reading. Students turn to slam poetry to ‘release’
Hill describes college classrooms as “tiny communities” where students are able to learn and think about a topic or problem in the best way possible and then talk about it in a safe environment. For him, the supportive nature of college campuses represents a microcosm of his vision —”a snippet of world peace.”
Hill believes every college classroom is a snippet of world peace.
Despite experiencing loss and death at an early age, Hill maintains a positive outlook and believes that words — the building blocks in which his eloquently crafted poems are constructed — are “infinitely powerful.”
“Words have been said to someone and a family can get separated. Words whispered into a headset or microphone can make an entire genocide happen,” says Hill. “The ideas behind the words are what make them infinitely powerful.”
Hill thinks words are also able to remind a son or daughter that they are loved. And love is what Hill depicts in one of his poems titled “Non Violent War,” which was written after reflecting on all of the world’s “atrocities.”
“I tote my heart like a gun,” reads one of the poems lines.
As he reflected on the poem as well as recent rioting and issues with police departments that have taken place in America, Hill recalled a time when he was racially profiled and put in handcuffs.
There was one instance in which he did not feel safe after being “put in the back of a police car because he looked like someone else,” he says.
“I know throughout the history of time, whenever people resort to violence or anger or frustration, it’s because they’re not happy in the most basic sense of happiness: food, water, shelter and security,” says Hill.
RELATED: Student photojournalist on covering Ferguson riots: ‘It was a complete war zone’
“It was a dark-skinned guy, the police officer who put me in the back of the cop car,” says Hill. “And when he let me out, he did say something like: ‘We’re sorry about that, brother.’ But the thing is, to be told that after I was just suspected of doing something illegal, it was like no amount of that [brotherly endearment] could erase what I just felt.”
However, despite this experience, Hill said he’s not “mad” at law enforcement, but he has learned to understand a situation from many perspectives, conjuring up the time when he first felt sympathy for the officers after coming to understanding their rigorous training procedures.
One of the main goals that Hill works towards with his poetry is for listeners of his work to look at an issue or topic with different perspectives.
“If I tell everyone every single angle that I’ve been able to understand and put that into a poem, where we can all feel the same things from every single angle, then we’d look at riots as like: ‘Oh, well of course we’d riot because we’re not being heard,” said Hill.
By Matt Gottesman
Sean Hill smiles. Things slow down. His afro bobs with the beat of the universe.
A poet whose mention is commonplace at open mics throughout Southern California, Hill’s known for spinning messages of depth, weight, and beatboxing into engaging spoken word performances.
His words easily make him out to be a thinking man, someone who considers sincerely, perhaps gravely how each moment can be used to bring the best out of the world.
This makes his harmless deportment all the more intriguing: the world is on his shoulders, he just makes it seem so light.
A working actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild, a teacher, and an often-featured performer at venues like the Cobalt Cafe’s Open Reading, Soapbox Sessions, and Au Lac’s Open Mic Night, he’s hard to tie down. But wherever he is, he seems to be nowhere else.
After watching Gandhi a few times, Hill’s central message of “universal inner and outer world peace” was illuminated.
“Through TV. Through music. Through workshops. Through dialogue, especially,” Hill says. “I want to teach people how to express themselves as fully and as clearly as possible.”
As an artist, he has a diverse toolbox, but he says poetry is the mainstay of his altruistic arsenal.
“I feel like the power of poetry to do that is unrivaled,” he says.
Hill’s performance of his original poem “Only Human” earned him first place in a spoken word competition hosted by indi.com which saw submissions from across the globe late last year. He points to his class discussions at California State University, Northridge as pivotal experiences that nurtured his craft.
“Poetry is beautiful,” Hill says. “But then, if it’s not discussed and interpreted, and re-thought about and re-discussed, it doesn’t have its full potential achieved.”
Hill led an after school workshop at Oscar de la Hoya High School in LA for two years, walking students through poetic exercises, writing techniques, and improv games. He says he wanted to “help get them out of their shells. Basically, get them to a comfort level where they would want to express what’s in their minds and hearts.”
As he describes a guided meditation he used in that workshop, a rhythm creeps into his voice.
“Stare at one point and only let thoughts come to you about the thing you’re looking at.” It’s like he’s singing a Buddhist ballad. “Relax your body. Relax your mind the best you can, and then start letting those thoughts go out.”
He shows his listeners’ thoughts in and out of an imagined revolving door until only one thought remains.
“Focus on that one thought, and then let that one thought go.” The quiet pause he lets linger seems to float.
With emphatic calmness, he quotes a Chinese proverb, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” It means a lot to him.
The excitement in his voice, as it often does, dials up. “If people fully grasped what that meant, we would be on the next evolutionary ladder towards absolute unity, towards absolute freedom of thought and heart to where we know we’re all trying to do our best on this planet.”
The open mics he frequents make for a sort of hallowed ground for Hill’s community-oriented poetic purposes.
“We can talk about the hardest things and feel the hardest things in this life through poetry and have a fun time doing it,” he says.
The phrase “critical compassion” slips out as he paraphrases the Dalai Lama. There’s a curious ring to it, but it sums him perfectly.
“It’s one of the greatest things we could ever hope to accomplish,” he says.
Hill is collaboratively writing a book, iWrite, with fellow poets C.R. Cohen and Jason Brain that will offer the trio’s perspectives on the modern writer’s journey. His work can be found on his formidable YouTube channel and Bandcamp store, and he can be reached via his Facebook page.
A Safe Haven: ‘An Evening of Spoken Word with Sean Hill’ Encourages Sharing, Honesty
By Yuen Sin
( FULL ARTICLE )
It was a hodgepodge of dazzlingly disparate topics, ranging from home-cooked food and zombies to poo and the essence of true love. But for two hours at Isla Vista’s Biko Garage on Oct. 18, it all came together in a magical confluence of raw honesty and vulnerability during “An Evening of Spoken Word with Sean Hill,” the first of a series of poetry open mic events organized by University California Santa Barbara’s Multicultural Center.
Los Angeles-based actor and spoken word artist Hill was in town to headline the event, and he did not fail to light up the stage with his gregarious personality that complemented his signature afro hairstyle.
The setting was appropriately cozy and intimate for a night of sharing that promised to be a “safe space for edutainment,” and the sense of heady anticipation that filled the crowded room right before the readings began was encouraged by the presence of a DJ and host who later also helped to seamlessly weave the different acts together.
Hill’s rhythmic ruminations on life, love and other assorted miscellany were light-hearted and accompanied by self-deprecating jokes and up-tempo beat boxing. However, they still struck a deep chord with audience members who laughed and snapped their fingers along in empathy when he touched on a childhood anecdote about being frowned upon for exhibiting his emotional side, complete with a hilariously spot-on reenactment of the precise sentiment he experienced at that point.
What I particularly appreciated about this first open mic event was its emphasis on sharing and dialogue; Sean Hill interspersed his pieces with other equally outstanding performances by audience members, and many of these honest confessions inspired short discussions or commentary during the transitions as well. The sign-up list for performances was initially short, but began to fill up fast throughout the night, buoyed by the supportive and encouraging environment.
Also helpful were Sean Hill’s tips for first-timers who have nerves about speaking or performing in front of an audience.
“Being nervous is probably the most selfish thing you could ever do for the audience,” he said. “You have so much inside you that you can give to them.”
“For one night, I felt that I was part of a safe space of artists and thinkers, people who create and inspire,” said Kristin Minasian, a fourth-year English major who shared her written work for the first time at the event. “Sharing my work was liberating. It felt like people were understanding and encouraging something that has been a part of me for so long.”
At the end of the night, Sean Hill summed the event up as a “safe haven where people can speak their minds, an oasis.”
I couldn’t agree more, for as much as there was such great diversity in the opinions shared that evening, and among the people who turned up that night, we were united in our vulnerabilities, in our understanding and baring of our inner worlds.
USU Expressions Poetry Slam
By Christina Bennett
Students gathered in the USU Games Room, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, to enjoy open mic performers at the Expressions Poetry Slam event. The launch event for Expressions, hosted by CSUN alum Sean Hill, also included auditions for the CSUN poetry slam team. Typically, at Expressions, students can perform spoken word poetry, comedy or even music, but a requirement of performance is for all material to be original. The venue was relatively packed, and the audience was participatory in applauding the performers; offering snaps for both polished material and moments of memory lapse.
Free refreshments, including coffee and pastries, were provided for attendees.
Guest Columnist: Sean Hill. On-line Floricanto for the Ninth
Last week on La Bloga-Tuesday, I featured a group of poets reading their stuff on the Los Angeles subway and Hollywood sidewalk, Poesia Para La Gente: Poetry Underground. The event marked yet another success in Poesia para la gente’s commitment to bringing poetry to public spaces. It’s the kind of thing that adds vibrancy to a city’s cultural life, and it doesn’t cost the city a dime.
As with any major event, follow up from organizers and participants inevitably brings more good news. That news includes release of the video from videographer Kevin Lynn and his KLLVideo Productions.
Puro good news is poet Sean Hill’s guest columnist sharing a poet’s-eye view of the event. And, in a capstone of good news, organizer Jessica Ceballos sends a note from Isabel Hirama, the beatboxer who joined Sean Hill in the MacArthur Park reading.
• Michael Sedano
So I brought bubbles.
by Sean Hill
|Sean Hill at Union Station|
So I brought bubbles. Lots of bubbles.
To a poetry event where I knew (1) bubbles would be allowed and (2) just in case of any trouble…I got bubbles.
Case in point: baby crying. Sitting across from me as the second round of poetry started. We’re sitting on our first subway ride and this child is about to erupt bigger. This is a job for BUBBLES! Disaster immediately averted as she now laughs and screams too loudly in happiness, but the poet was on the far side of the train. I continue to blow bubbles for her happiness until my lungs begin asthmatic actions.
|Yago S. Cura reads on the Red Line platform.|
Next bubble incident. I decide in the next train it isn’t fair if I blow bubbles only on the first train…as soon as the first bubbles land on strangers…one woman slowly ascends from the mass of strangers, floating to me, like said bubbles, and saying…”What…!!! I have bubbles too!” and immediately bubble mates exist. We begin blowing them at each other and at people around us, while exhanging conversation between the enchanting, consistently dissipating bubbles. “I went to a wedding and they had these for all the guests, it was like 3 months ago, I decided to keep them.” I let her know, “Sweet, because it would be awkward if there were just other people in the world walking around with bubbles in their pocket.”
It was time for me to share a poem and I do, her friends I just introduced myself to look in wonder and delight realizing they just became a part of something so alive with all these poets sharing so openly, lovingly, and sincerely with strangers…who now become friends.
|Sean Hill reads underground between Union Station and Hollywood & Highland|
They decide to tag along for a bit and witness Conney Williams and Billy Burgos next, she asks me if she can do something too, she beatboxes she mentions with the light of life pouring out of her eyes, happy to just be a part of this artistic adventure someway somehow.
I ask Jessica Ceballos, our Ultima Momma Bear and Adventure Guide. I met Jessica first at the Last Bookstore where she invited me to feature at The Bluebird Poetry Reading she has at Avenue 50, beautiful venue, fun people, elegant vibe. Jessica approves of Isabel, the bubble blowing lady who can beatbox, and says sure, once we get up top.
Steps and steps and more steps later, which are usually easily taken, pretty strenuous at the moment since I have a cane for the time being, torn MCL (whatever that is) in my knee from doing “the Matrix” move in a b-boy-ish battle at a fundraiser for a human right’s campaign for the Filipino people. The ligament was a worthy sacrifice.
|Jeffrey Alan Rocklin reads while departing passenger looks on.|
We arrive at MacArthur Park and blow bubbles for 5 or so poets, each poem seemed perfect for bubbles in someway…love, self love, yearning and work towards a better society…which seemed great to me especially today. Friends and fellow artists Ryan Nance and Devereau Chumrau along with Karineh Mahdessian all not only helped with bubbles and the blowing of them into the world…but also carrying my main two bags and sign with the #’s and @’s of as many things I could fit on there to keep the world in contact with us.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s the beauty of being human and being an artist. I tell a quick synopsis of how Isabel Hirama and I met on the train and I intro her as a beatboxing college go’er visiting LA for the first time from outta town. She is welcomed quickly…she smiles widely…I give her the “start when you’re ready” look…and BAM.
Beatboxing bursts out of her body like a one woman team of acapella artists! Fluidly, crsip, and clean, I freestyle poetically something about infinity, sharing our love and craft, and something about hoping a bird doesn’t poop on us. Yes, it all made sense somehow, trust me…it did.
|Ryan Nance reads for the videographer, Jessica Ceballos surveys the car, Yago Cura focuses.|
Applause and high fives, hugs and “where did she come from’s” begin to echo as we had the first open mic’er who was not part of our original crew of craftsmen and women demonstrate their love of what they love to do.
I look at things in the big picture alot…and honestly…if everyone joined an open mic for a day out of nowhere: world peace.
I aim high. Sometimes I think I’m joking when I say things like that…sometimes I don’t.
What Jessica Ceballos did was get a bunch of poets together to cannonball with love into the pool we call Los Angeles. What Isabel Hirama did was not only get soaked by the wave we made…but she smiled, wiped the water off her eyes, and dived in to make her own splash.
If everyone did what Isabel did…world peace.
What Happens When You Read Poetry On The L.A. Metro
By Joseph Lapin
Poesia Para La Gente
At Union Station on the Gold Line platform this past Saturday, the commuters and sojourners of the Los Angeles weekend are greeted by the unfamiliar sound of…poets. A group of men and women — all ages and ethnicities — are reading lines in Spanish and English, blaring out their tropes into the air with the courage of warriors before battle. They all take turns reading. Some of the passengers try to ignore the voices, others are listening casually, and some are entranced, standing around and clapping, ignoring the MTA official’s voice coming through the speakers.
This group of poets is called the Poesia Para La Gente (meaning “poetry for the people”) — an organization that attempts to bring poetry to places and people who would normally not be exposed to the art form usually seen at coffee shops, poetry readings at books stores or the occasional slam-poetry night at a rock club.
“There is no better way than motion,” says Jessica Ceballos, a poet and curator at Beyond Baroque and Avenue 50 studios and architect of Poesia Para La Gente, on how to bring poetry to the masses. “Moving to one part of the city, to the other, with each stop, and the motion of the train, you have a new demographic within all the boroughs of L.A….It’s a communication across all cultures, and poetry can break down some walls that we have in communication.”
On Saturday, Ceballos and 16 other poets rode and read on the Gold Line from Union Station to South Pasadena station. They later stopped and read at the Memorial Park station and walked to Colorado and Raymond, finally ending their night back at Union Station, where they walked to the Last Bookstore to take part in a reading at the Lit Lab Fest presented by Writ Large Press.
But not everyone riding the metro is happy to hear poetry. Back in August, when the Poesia Para La Gente were reading on the Red Line, they were met with mixed reactions. One girl who was slumped against the window watching the emptiness of the tunnel said she was too hung over to deal with them and wanted them to stop.
“It’s definitely offensive,” says Yago S. Cura, a poet who reads about “soccer” players and is the editor for Hinchas de Poesia Press. “Offensive in terms of a contact sport. We’re making poetry a contact sport.”
“I think it’s some silly shit,” said a passenger who identified themselves as D. Niro, waiting at the Red Line platform at Union Station back in August. “They just trying to over talk the train. You can’t talk over the train. This is some silly shit. Everyone has somewhere to be. Everyone has somewhere to go. Something on their mind. And this bitch is reading poetry. No one cares.”
But this was one type of reaction Ceballos expected. She is not only launching a mobile poetry reading — she is leading an experiment in social space.
In August, Sean Hill, a poet with a delivery similar to Chris Rock, was swaying back and forth in the train, holding onto a metal bar and blowing bubbles at the passengers. “I saw a drive by of shooting stars,” recited Sean Hill. He was telling people on the train that he loved them.
Together the poets are like something from Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test: strange, random, in your face, with the hope of awakening something human and lost in the lives of Angelenos. They even made an appearance at Hollywood and Highland, trying to match the madness of costumes and movies.
“We really want to be able to reach people who wouldn’t get to poetry on their own,” says Ryan Nance who has an MFA in poetry from Columbia University and reads in Mandarin, Spanish and English. “There is a lot of talk about poetry being irrelevant or you have to be hushed and quiet while people are reading…But being able to see the people’s faces, even though they’re not intending to listen…they’re listening. You can see that recognition of thought or meaning breaking across their face when they’re just sitting and going where they’re going.”
It was easy to see the people on the train who the Poesia Para La Gente were not connecting with on Saturday and back in August, but as the their voices battled against the humming and shaking of the cabins, of the tunnel lights flickering like illusions in a dream, they were certainly reaching some.
“People need to be made to feel awkward, especially in public,” said Lee Shepard, a young man listened to the poetry while heading to a rave, back in August. “That way they realize they’re human and what humanity is. It’s not just a little cookie cutter, sitcom, Ikea bubble life. There are people out there who want to be expressive. If you’re annoyed it’s more of your personal hang up than [them] annoying you.”
It’s more than Poesia Para La Gente, It’s Amor Para Los Angeles (or Beware of the Many Inverted Commas)
By Jessica Ceballos
I’m back in full swing, from an amazing weekend. Amazing weekends are easy to pull off when they start on the right foot, and I think I’m getting good at helping to make that possible.
Saturday afternoon’s Poesia Para La Gente (PPLG) went a little different this time around. What we usually do is hold a reading, and maybe allow for some “open mic” time, inviting the public to participate. But this time I thought to try an experiment in writing poetry on-demand, the popular literary performance that gets poets closer to their audience by writing a poem for them “on demand.” The difference was that I wanted to change the medium that the poem was to be written on, not just to make it exciting but also to experiment with perception and communication. And it’s the holidays so why not incorporate some giving, why not solicit donations?!
And it worked! It was amazing from the start. Of course there’s always the very beginning, the moment everyone arrives…when we wonder what’s next. But that’s my favorite part, when everybody finds their place and I can see in their eyes that they “get” it…the reason why we all agree to do this. And that’s when the excitement begins.
Every time I do one of these Poesia’s I fall in love with the poets I invite, this time was no exception. They were all so wonderful. They brought their enthusiasm for what this is all about, they let go of ego and fell into the process of writing for others…more importantly, they brought themselves – which, after all, is who I invited. And they wrote good poems, on demand, for a few hours…you trying doing that in public…it’s tough! So from the bottom of my heart I thank each and every one of the poets that featured on Saturday – Iris De Anda, Brandon Brown, DM Collins, Yago S. Cura, Peggy Dobreer, Bill Friday, Sean Hill, June Kim, Brooke Lundgren, Karineh Mahdessian, F. Albert Salinas, Elena Secota, Urban Voodoo and Daniel Austin Warren.
They, along with past participants of PPLG make me want to organize an alternative society. Good things happen when talented people lend themselves to the community.
What stood out this time, that made this PPLG experience so different, was that I fell in love with the community that stumbled onto/into us at Pershing Square. They let us in, they allowed us to explore a new way of doing what we love to do, as if we’ve always been doing it. The security guards didn’t care that I had a shopping cart of books, that people were looking through. And from the first emotional interaction I witnessed between a very grateful Angelena (who moved here from Germany in 1966) and the lovely poet June Kim, to the strangers I met who heard about the event via Facebook and decided to come down to support the poets, the idea, Para Los Ninos, and to donate books. Surprise! Los Angeles is a wonderful city!
But this idea really got going back in August when Peter Woods, Chiwan Choi and I were conspiring to cause some wonderful trouble during an installment of DTLAB’s Music To Drink To. At some point the idea of having the public “steal” books, i.e. taking ownership of their literary rights, from a shopping cart of books (temporarily called “Hoffman’s Books”) came to mind, (think Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book”). While trying to justify the concept of “stealing” within the context of a workable ”message” I kept referencing Marshall McLuhan’s phrase “the medium is the message” from his 1964 Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. And of course this led to an expanded thought and concept that works very well with our Poesia Para La Gente program. And this is a shortened story of how Libros Para La Gente was born.
Shopping carts are not allowed in Pershing Square. Was I worried, not at all. Actually, “using” shopping carts outside of their intended use is illegal. Soooo, donate those good books of yours and we’ll see you at the next Poesia Para La Gente, with our Libros Para La Gente cart de books!Coming up for Poesia Para La Gente:
– de la Moda³! / Fashion³!
– a Natural State / Estado NaturaAnd more! Stay tuned for details!Again, thanks to everyone who had a part in making Poesia Para La Gente such a fantastic experience this Saturday, from donating books, to asking for a poem, donating a buck or two (and more). Thank you! And thank you to those of you we know, who showed up to support us as friends. Joe Wagner, Ryan Nance, Vachine, Abel Salas, Gloria Alvarez, Abram Gomez (and thanks for the poems and music!), Trista Hurley Waxali, Michael Sedano, Keith Martin, Felicia Verdin, and of course Chiwan, Judeth and Peter (of course) – you are all beautiful friends.OH!!! And how can I forget, we raised $218 for Para Los Ninos. Not bad for $1 poems. And the cart of books? From 48 books to 7! Just about every person looking through the cart was ready to donate an amount of money, so they were surprised when all I asked in return was a promise that they read it, or at least try. They each promised.
And of course thanks to Kathy Gallegos and Avenue 50 Studio, for making this all possible! XO 4LIFE
DM Collins, Brooke Lundgren, Peggy Dobreer, Brandon Brown, June Kim, Abel Salas, Jessica Ceballos, June Kim’s daughter,Abram Gomez, Karineh Mahdessian, Elena Secota, Iris de Anda, Sean Hill. Not in the photo – F. Albert Salinas, Urban Voodoo, Daniel Austin Warren, Yago S. Cura and Bill Friday. (Photo by Sean HIll)
KSBX Radio Soapbox
KSBX: Radio Soapbox S2 E6
Valentine’s Poetry & Spoken Word
with Special Guests M. Tease, Sean Hill, & Chelsea Cohen
Join Host, Jason Brain, and the Soapbox Danger Team for Radio Soapbox; our weekly BlogTalkRadio program where creative arts and conversation connect. We’ll be coming to you LIVE from the Elbow Room (Encino, CA) and would love to see you there for the live broadcast.
ALSO, come to the Elbow Room and share a poem or two to our worldwide audience. We’ll have the microphones hot and all we’ll need is you and your sweet poetics. And if you can’t make it in person, you can always call in.
Join us every Monday night, 8pm for KSBX Radio Soapbox, brought to you by Soapbox International / Call In # (805) 727-7108
P.S. Submit your music and poetry (in mp3 form) to firstname.lastname@example.org to possibly hear yourself on the KSBX airwaves!
With Matt Gottesman
Speakeasy is a weekly radio talk show hosted by Matt Gottesman discussing topics about poetry. On this episode, Matt is joined by Sean Hill, an actor, spoken word artist and all-around creative personality, to jam on djembes, beatbox and talk about the art of the spoken word.
Essential Techniques for Creativity and What Makes Great Hip-Hop
By Kyle Williams
Some people are just awesome to be around. Enter Sean Hill.
Poet and overall awesome guy, I met him at Soapbox Sessions in Los Angeles and was immediately drawn in by his personality and ability to reach out emotionally and creatively with his poetry. Being very active in the San Fernando valley, Sean has developed a creativity and uniqueness of his own and also performs with the musical group The Ki.
It’s all about the energy and enthusiasm that you bring to your craft and now I want to share his methods for inducing states of creativity.
He’s also a big hip-hop fan and integrates that into his poems so we’re going to delve into what makes for great hip-hop. It’s like a bonus topic!
(CLICK TITLE OF ARTICLE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO)
Sean Hill: Building Schools and Inspiring the World!
Rated G Radio – Radio Interview
Sean Hill is a SAG actor, poet, activist and world changer!
Tonight, Sean shares his story on what he’s up to and how he is changing the world – and you can be part of this incredible story!
Call 323 657-1493 to ask Sean a question and join in the fun!
Check out Sean’s website by clicking here!
Sean is currently fundraising with friends from some of your favorite TV shows & films to build schools in Nepal, Haiti, and Malawi, Africa.
See Sean in USA Today from 05-05-15 here!