Hailing from East New York to Queens, Topaz Rodriguez is a local poet with a concentration in the poetic dialects of spoken word, and prose. Topaz’s work mainly focuses on the perspectives of being marginalized in many communities, the aspects of love in marginalized cultures, as well as the exploration of self actualization, and defining one’s humanity from labels to ideologies. Topaz’s love for poetry stemmed from the discovery of a local organization known as Urban Word NYC- which helps youth across the country discover their poetic roots and how it can be used to lift up, speak out, and continue creativity in both support for themselves and their communities. Powered by the discovery, the continued fight for equality in the communities he found a home in- with the ability to change the systems they were a part of- Topaz joined TAP in 2019 to develop their aid in communities through education, and start a healthy foundation for developing newfound teaching skills. As well as being a part of the 2019-2020 class of TAP, Topaz has attended Guttman Community College for a major in Liberal Arts, with a focus in Social Sciences and Humanities, and hopes to continue their higher education with a bachelor’s degree in the near future. Topaz’s current projects include building up a better collection of poetry for future publication, while also developing a draft for a short novel they’ve been planning on starting soon.
TAP is Topaz’s first Teaching Artist Program. It was the first time he was able to be a student outside the guidelines of public school and higher education. This year under the guidance of their director Katie Rainey who is by far one of the best people to learn under, Topaz’s class focused on creative writing, specifically poetry, short stories with both fictional and non-fictional elements. Topaz’s place was supporting and relating to the student’s struggles in wrapping around writing that isn’t structured the way they were taught to be, and dismantling the gain system of writing they were conditioned to. Partnered with Vika Adutova- a visual artist with sophisticated prowess- both Topaz and Vika were able to present an art form that brought both visuals and abstract ideas that would later lead to bettering the foundation of their students’ creative voices- known as body mapping. Topaz in their solo procedures brought the perspective of under-represented communities as well as current issues students in the class years of 2019-2020 were facing in times of turmoil and fear for their safety or their family’s safety.
Most Memorable TAP Moment:
“I think my most memorable moment was on a workshop day where we were talking about how to help students in our age group we were assigned with, and being able to speak for the student demographic I was in, made me feel both heard and seen- as well as being able to bring views in which many individuals looked over. I also really appreciated being seen as an equal despite the fact I was one of the younger folks in the class. I also remember fondly as an ongoing moment of being with other activists, from the same community as I am being able to really sit down and dig deep into the ideologies that are used against us and how we could implement that into our educational settings, and how we could support each other, who support the world.”
Find out more about Topaz here:
You can catch up with Topaz on their social media blog on the platform Tumblr at the handle: honeygemtrashbag
Or their Instagram handle with the same name: @honeygemtrashbag
Check out the lesson Topaz presented with their teaching partner, Vika Adutova
“Thank you for existing. I appreciate you, and I see you for you. Thank you for continuing to be here even though it’s hard to be, you’re loved and needed. I’m very much glad to exist at the same time as you, so don’t you forget how important you are okay?”
was he ever of service to you the way you were to him?
(the way we were always taught to be w/ boys like him)
did he bend his spine into place the way you did?
(doubt he knows how little you make yourself for him)
did his hands know how to hold you still the way you do for him?
(i doubt he even knows when you waver.)
is it wrong of me to ask you this knowing that he doesn’t.
was it worth it all to kiss the way they do-
to make amends, or to silence them,
to reach but never grasp what it means to love,
but always what it means to want.
was it worth it to go back to silence.
to forget how sunlight kissed you as much as i did.
was it all worth it to you?
knowing what love was even if it was just for one night
but letting the rest of your days be without it?
i’m not sure if i admire you or if i’m afraid for you.
i don’t want to live afraid
but i don’t want to die young-
maybe that’s why i was stupid enough to love you, and keep loving the way I do
and you were smart enough to leave, and go back to the way you were before we ever were anything.
the things we do for life.
not ourselves, not even once.- the girl i loved died on that wedding in spring.
i fear the day someone asks me how to forgive someone.
Not because of what they will think of me,
Or what led to them asking.
But because I don’t know if the fire that keeps me alive has turned my ability to do so back to
Or if I’ve just grown complacent in being wronged.
I’m not sure when the anger stopped being new,
Or how long it’s been awakened
Or if it will ever rest- but I know it to be a companion more lively than misery.
I wonder if I will be honest to them,
And say I haven’t forgiven- even though I have forgotten most times where I have been wronged.
I wonder if this is what it feels like to be burned alive
Smoldering pieces of what was
and what will never be again,
Agonized screams for mercy that won’t come,
the constant burning being the only seen barrier between relief,
and the end of all things.
I wonder if it will ever burn out,
and if then will forgiveness rain down on the pyres of anger-
and end the endless inferno.
I fear the day someone will know this,
Not because of what will it mean for the person they think I am,
Or why it would be part of the person I am-
But only because it is a constant part of what I’ve lived-
and i fear that forgiveness will only be found when it is all over and done with.