Alumni Spotlight: Sea Sharp

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Sea Sharp (B.A. ’10)

 

Like so many in my graduating class, when I graduated from Kansas State University in 2010, the very first thing I decided to do with my life was “get the heck outta Dodge.” Unlike the majority of my college peers though, I moved to Manhattan, Kansas when I was twelve years old, so naturally when I found an opportunity to flee, you best believe I took it.

Despite having absolutely no direction or aspirations to speak of, I was convinced that I was on the cusp of a new life. With a shiny new degree in Creative Writing and Literature and two sparkling minor degrees in Theatre and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, I was supposed to be going places (and let’s be really clear here, I would have gone anywhere just to leave Kansas).

So I left. I left my parents, my job at AJ’s Pizzeria, my cheap studio apartment on Fremont Street, and I U-Hauled it out of there, ending up in a bohemian, tourist destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Unluckily for me, I didn’t belong there either though. I stayed just long enough to become vegan and find a clever Brit to marry and sweep me away over the Atlantic to England. It wasn’t until I was completely uprooted, completely absent of the only culture I ever knew, that I was able to put my education and creativity to professional use.

So here is a run down of my creative accomplishments since abandoning Kansas for Great Britain:  Since 2013, my poetry has been featured in over 25 publications across several countries. My first published book, The Swagger of Dorothy Gale & Other Filthy Ways to Strut (Ice Cube Press), won the Prairie Seed Poetry Prize in 2016. The same year, I also self-published a chapbook (a pay what you can option is available on my website). My most known poem from the Swagger collection, “The Tallgrass Shuffles,” was nominated for and awarded the Pushcart Prize in 2017. In 2019, Waterloo Press (Hove, U.K.) published my second book, Black Cotton, and I was also a selected participant for both the LIT-UP Publishing and Mentoring Programme and also the Writers Place Poets programme (both based in Brighton, U.K.). I was also a finalist for the Raze Up Collective commission for queer artists of colour.

With some success as a published author and local performance poet in the southeast region of England, I began toeing between boundaries of many art forms and blurring my vision of both the page and the stage. Since 2016, I have been a Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam finalist and have performed in over 30 events and festivals. As a result, I am proud to say that I’ve “rubbed elbows” with seasoned artists such as Travis Alabanza, Dean Atta, Disraeli, Lemn Sissay, Anthony Anaxagorou, Elba Inez, Kat Francois, Juno Dawson, and “the grandfathers of hip hop music,” The Last Poets.

My ability to deliver poetry via performance is best evidenced through the innovation of my first theatrical show, Brother Insect. Taken from the perspective of an exasperated beetle desperate to thrive in a world set out to exterminate it, Brother Insect aims to inspire the liberation and empowerment of marginalized groups, specifically in dismantling misogynoir, internalised oppression, and microaggressions. The performance offers an unorthodox glimpse into what it means to be an outsider carrying the weight of “otherization” by spinning a web of personal with political, and playful with dangerous.

This work was created in 2018, when I was one of four writers selected to take part in an Apples and Snakes facilitated event at Brighton Fringe. It was my aim to address sensitive topics directly with an audience in order to encourage social responsibility and promote political discourse around contemporary feminist and racial issues. Soon afterwards, Marlborough Theatre (Brighton, UK) awarded me with an Artist Development Opportunity commission to further develop Brother Insect into a work-in-progress theatrical show for a touring scheme called New Queers on the Block. With this sponsorship and also from others such as Jerwood Arts, The Space, and New Writing South, I was able to obtain Arts Council England funding to further develop this writing into a theatrical solo-performance, showcasing excerpts at Theatre in the Mill (Bradford, U.K.) and Kings Place (London, U.K.) and two full performances debuted at Camden People’s Theatre (London, U.K.) and one sold out performance at the Marlborough Theatre (Brighton).

This opportunity enabled me to collaborate closely with, and also manage, a team of experts to further my artistic growth and expand creative knowledge of performing arts practices. The creative process included experimentation and direct observation with established performers, Rachael Young and Season Butler.

In a lot of ways, writing and performing still feels like a hobby rather than a career. Like so many others, I cannot afford to pursue writing or performing full-time. I have always been dependent on an external job, working standard office hours, doing work that is irrelevant to my creative pursuits.  Perhaps I always will. Nevertheless, I have not allowed this to diminish my writerly persona. With so many barriers blocking the financial security for the creatively-minded, I’m often reminded that being a black, queer, part-time poet who gets paid is a rare privilege on this side of history — so I guess I can’t complain (much).

If you’ve managed to read this far and would like to connect with me, please don’t hesitate to reach out via www.seathepoet.com.

— Sea Sharp (B.A. ’10)

 

 

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