Zachary Skinner, Flood Water with Water Towers and Hut-Raft

Speech and Spirit

Speech and Spirit is an ongoing collaborative project to think about a newly spiritual politics: a politics that is more-than-human, more-than-contemporary, more-than-just-historical. We are living in a time when our politics and our practices have made it nearly impossible to think through the true consequences of our way of life, and nearly impossible to change any aspect of that way of life. The hypothesis we are testing with Speech and Spirit is whether spiritual commitments – old ideas like spirit-possession, visitations from ghosts, communication with ancestors, treating the world as consciously alive – can offer us a new kind of agency amid the planetary emergencies that we face. What does it mean to treat a tradition as literally alive, reincarnated, in you, or in your children? As responsive to the world, as inhabiting landscapes or buildings other living beings? What techniques can we develop in an overwhelmingly secular age to enlarge the circumference of our sensitivity, and curb the radius of our actions? Speech and Spirit is a laboratory for the development of such techniques.

Speech and Spirit I: Joshua Bennett and Samora Pinderhughes

An evening of poetry, music, and conversation featuring poet Joshua Bennett, pianist Samora Pinderhughes, and NAPF President Matthew Spellberg. Joshuaʼs poems inspire Samoraʼs compositions and improvisations, which in turn inspire a conversation about tradition in an anxious age, humility as a form of courage, prison abolition as a credo for building up more than tearing down, and the political possibility of an art that makes sacred the habits and professions of everyday life.


Introduction: 00:00
Performance: 07:04
Discussion: 40:56

The Participants

Joshua Bennett is a poet, critic, performer, and teacher. A Professor at Dartmouth College, winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting award, he is the author of two acclaimed books of poetry, The Sobbing School and Owed, as well as a work of literary criticism, Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man.

Samora Pinderhughes is a keyboardist, singer, and composer. He has collaborated with numerous artists, among them Herbie Hancock and MeLo-X and Christian Scott. He was the first-ever Soros Art for Justice Fellow, and is the creator of the multidisciplinary “Healing Project.”