Graham Hackett’s blue eyes hang under his slightly crooked hat. He believes his poetry can invite the healing of social wounds from Oakland to Appalachia. Born to a hippie mom and a Viet Nam vet dad, Graham stepped into journey of paradox. As a military child, he moved to 8 states within 7 years. In each place he lived, he took on the stories of the place, the culture, the humans. Through his journeys, his perception of reality grew in complexity. Living across the continuum of social experience from rural Leesburg, Virginia to inner city Philly, Graham was collecting a mosaic of threads that weave the foundational fabric from which his poetry is born.
After spending a decade in the theater, Graham found himself living in Brooklyn where his life, along with legions of others dropped to its knees, with the collapse of the Twin Towers. It was in the days that followed where he performed his first spoken word performance to a community of grieving Brooklynites. Through this and the conversations that ensued, he witnessed connection and healing within his community. He realized that his poetry invited people’s hearts and minds to poke out from their shell like turtles. He left that evening asking the question, “Can my poetry affect the world?”
Graham discovered the answer to his question a few months later when he saw a performance by Robin Williams. Williams spoke to the pain, the anger and the sadness resulting from the advent of the war in Iraq. Directly resulting from Williams’ message, Graham knew that he had the power to open people up and expand their world. Since then, he has collaborated with musicians such as Digable Planets, Michael Franti and Patricia Smith. He has affected the lives of thousands through performances at diverse happenings such as the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and as a catalyst for experiential arts workshops for incarcerated youth.
Graham is now poised to unleash his poetry to a new level through the CIVILIAN Project; a culmination of his life’s experiences and the realization of his life’s work. CIVILIAN is A TED Talk-style presentation spliced with performance poetry followed by facilitated conversations. The one-act touring event is designed to explore complex social issues and inspire innovative solutions.
Just like that evening in Brooklyn following 9/11, Graham will invite people into the paradoxes and challenges of edgy topics such as classism, race relations, women’s rights, juvenile justice, and living in wartime era. What makes Hackett’s approach unique is that it doesn’t dwell on pain, come from a place of dogma or leave a melancholic aftertaste. Instead his performances are designed to invite hope, transformation and positive action.
CIVILIAN will launch a national tour in 2015 where these poetic performances will invite critical conversation across colleges, universities, festivals and any other venues that value critical thought and meaningful action.