Thursday, March 06, 2008

An Interview with Anthem Salgado

Anthem Salgado is a multi-disciplinary Filipino-American artist based in California with credentials a mile long.

A graduate of the historical San Francisco Art Institute, he's exhibited art in numerous spaces including the Oakland Museum of California.

But it's Salgado's love of 'real time' language that inspired his role as poet and spoken word artist.

He has presented throughout New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Manila. He has worked with artistic luminaries such as Last Poets, Jessica Hagedorn, and lyricist/beatboxer Radioactive of the international music group Spearhead.

An amazingly active artist and community activist, Salgado founded and directed numerous poetry, dance theater and music events to popular acclaim and is a board member of Mind Power Collective, a network of educators committed to social justice and youth empowerment, and he regular conducts workshops with students across the country.

Salgado's spoken word has lately combined forces with classically trained instrumentalist Innokenty, who also finds inspiration in the "electronica" club scene. Combined, this unique duo work together to composes original word and music to create a rich sonic experience that crosses through monologue, poetry, and hip-hop.

We had a chance to catch up with him recently:

What are you working on these days, artistically?
Anthem Salgado: I always have a couple burners fired up at the same time, especially between writing for performance and writing for the page. Right now, I'm focusing on developing my work in song-writing as well as short story writing.

What's been the biggest challenge for you, as a writer?
AS: I was working on a Spanish-English piece when I asked a friend to translate "challenge" in the context of "thing to overcome" or "thing to accomplish". That's when I was taught the Spanish word "meta" which means goal rather than challenge.

And I learned/realized that only in English is challenge synonymous with goal, but they're very different words, producing very different outlooks, and consequently, very different outcomes. Meta at its root means beyond.

Today, as a writer but moreover as a person, I actively choose to seek out the goal, the meta, and the beyond, instead of the challenge. It's healthier living. So, I haven't any challenges; simply goals. One ever-present is to keep a strong hustle - to push my artistic craft alongside my management skills.

As Bruce Lee says, "Here is natural instinct and here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony. Now if you have one to the extreme, you will be very unscientific. If you have another to the extreme, you will all of a sudden be a mechanical man, no longer a human being. The ideal is unnatural naturalness or natural unnaturalness."

I love Bruce Lee.

How did you first get into writing?
AS: High school when Mr. Peroni intro'd poetry to my sophomore English class. Ha ha. I joke. But not really. I've always been an instinctive writer. That is, though I've taken a couple workshops, I've never trained formally in literature. My degree is in visual arts. So while some may recall a moment of epiphany when they decided to be a "serious" writer, I've approached my literary art overall with the eye of an amateur, from the start through the present, always for fun.

What are some of your favorite themes and ideas to work with?
AS: Recurring concepts seem to be urban survival, word play, search for sanctuary, and only recently, love. Or longing. A sort of blues-poetry.

Who's on your reading list these days?
AS: I read books like I turn channels on the television. I always have a handful that I skip through and never quite finish. Presently it's:

SEASONS BY THE BAY by Oscar Penaranda


YOU'VE GOT TO READ THIS edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard


HYPHEN magazine

Do you have any advice for emerging writers?
AS: * FEEL GOOD. The anguished artist is sooooooo clich̩. Would you ever write "It was a dark and stormy night"? No, because it's corny. So don't create equally cheesy attributes for the most important character in your story Рyou.

* QT WITH KIN. That is, quality time with your artist brethren and sistren, and not the posers, y'know who I mean, but the ones that strive for excellence! The ones that are always researching and producing. Your good friends. And also, your mentors. They'll inspire you to talk less and prove more.

* FOLLOW YOUR CURIOSITY. In the real world, you are your own best academic advisor. Customize your experience for maximum education by trusting your "Hmmm, I wonder how…" Yes, ask questions, listen for the answers.

You can visit Anthem Salgado online at or