Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean was the first poet to perform on Houston Ballet’s main stage with their production “Play.” He has been commissioned to write and perform a national campaign on diversity for Pabst Blue Ribbon and VICE, while creating and producing his own festival, Plus Fest: The Everything Plus Poetry Festival. In 2022, he received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship. Bean will compile Space City Mixtape, a twenty+ track spoken-word and creative audio experience of Houston from Houstonians telling their stories. He will also facilitate bi-weekly writing sessions for six to eight months through the Houston Public Library system to serve Houston’s diverse populations.
Poets.org: What do you hope for the future of poetry in Houston, and what support do you hope future poets laureate in Texas have?
Emanuelee Bean: The poetry in Houston is not only vast, but it has depth. Like Houston’s hip-hop scene, the poetry in Houston is rooted in legendary acts, present and past. From spoken word, poetry slams, and academia, all bases are covered when it comes to Houston’s poetic future. What I envision are large-scale projects with prominent placements, exclaiming that poetry is the culture that fuels Houston. I see poetry as a catalyst and an agent of change—that is, changing minds and hearts while building empathy. This is critical to Houston and to the state of Texas.
Poets.org: How has being a poet laureate changed your relationship to your own writing?
EB: I’ve gone more inward with my work, surprisingly. I’ve evaluated what I want my work to mean while I am carrying such a title. I’m more careful with my words.
Poets.org: How can a poet, or poetry, bring a community together?
EB: Again, poetry is an empathy builder. The poet cannot control what the audience takes from what we write,which is why I believe so much in intentionality when I am creating. I write from the heart to touch hearts. The community is not blind to that.
Poets.org: What part of your project were you most excited about?
EB: When I completed my mixtape, I could not express how satisfied and excited I was. But reaching out to different people from across Houston, which is a diverse city, meant a lot to me. I would not have been able to build stories and poetry without my community sharing their stories.
Poets.org: What obstacles, if any, did you experience when starting your project?
EB: Not many. Not many at all. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for my project, Space City Story Tape (SCST).
Poets.org: Space City Story Tape feels reminiscent of an archival project, documenting present Houstonians’ stories and experiences for future Houstonians to reflect upon. How has your project utilized poetry to preserve history?
EB: I never thought of it that way. I only saw it as a way to connect with beautiful humans in this humid city. Again, heart to heart all the way through. SCST is a snapshot of Houston’s humanity.
Poets.org: Is there a poem on Poets.org that inspires you and your work in Houston? How so?
EB:Yes! “Ode to Black Air Forces” by Bryan Byrdlong! I saw that poem the other day and thought it was such a powerful use of Black Air Forces as a tool of praise and song. On SCST, I have a poem called “Black Air Force Energy.” It’s essentially, and oddly, an ode to my mother, Rose Bean. I love how we both saw Nike’s Black Air Forces, a kindred connection, and we both decided to use the same analogy and bring it to audiences differently. In the Black community, Black Air Forces have a negative connotation. But, we both decided to see these shoes and use them as an apparatus of praise.