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GENDERBEND: Poetry into Film Collaborations
A Heroic Couplets Initiative 
Co-presented with Defy Film Festival

Independent arts incubators Kindling Arts and Defy Film Festival unite once again for a second installment of Heroic Couplets: Poetry into Film Collaborations. This year's theme, GENDERBEND, is being explored by 8 pairs of local artists (one poet + one filmmaker) who together create a cinematic adaptation of a poetic work. All artists participating on the line-up are female-identifying, femme,  and/or LGBTQIA+, and many of the poetic works explore deeply personal topics of gender identity, fitting into societal norms, and complicated family dynamics from a uniquely queer perspective. 


The premiere screenings at OZ Arts will include all 8 short films, plus a chance to hear from some of the collaborating teams after each screening, moderated by Defy's Dycee Wildman.

Featuring Poet x Filmmaker collaborations from:

Simba Alik x Nichole Marie Lim

Rachel Ebio x Chalet Comellas-Baker

Kashif Andrew Graham x Jose Luis Benavides

Theo Hall x Tiffany Abreu

CJ Holiday x Samantha Szwaglis

Nora Masters x Abbey Johnson

Taria Person x Chanel Braswell

Amie Whittemore x Brynn Abner

Premiere screenings hosted by OZ Arts Nashville in May 2022
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This project is made possible, in part, by funding from: 


SIMBA ALIK (he/him), formerly Simba The Poet, is a Nashville based spoken word artist and communications wizard. He is most known for his contribution to the movement for Black and trans lives through his poetry. Simba is a storyteller, compulsive collaborator, and relationship builder invested in shifting cultures in the direction of justice and equity. Simba has a B.S. in Journalism and Sociology, a Masters in Organizational Leadership, and is pursuing a M.S. in Public Relations.

RACHEL EBIO (she/her) is a Poet and Writer from Birmingham, Alabama living in Nashville, Tennessee. Educated at The University of Alabama, Rachel stretches her Bachelors of Science in Business degree to its limits. Energized by art, fashion and spirituality, she explores writing poetry and fiction through feminine forms.  Rachel is a 2021-2022 Art Wire Fellow through OZ Arts Nashville and The Porch Tennessee. She is a perpetual student through education opportunities from The Porch writing workshops to her second non-credit fashion program from the Parsons School of Design.

KASHIF ANDREW GRAHAM (he/him) is a writer, poet, and librarian. His work explores themes of loneliness, the Black body, Black queer love, and family. He served as an ArtWire Fellow from 2019-2020. His writing has been published in outlets such as Nashville Scene, Chapter16, Theological Librarianship, and Justice Unbound. He is currently at work on a novel about an interracial gay couple living in East Tennessee. He also uses typewriters to write poetry on themes of queerness, protest, and the quotidian on Instagram at @kagwrites.

THEO HALL (they/them) has been doing graphic design for small businesses and nonprofits for 10 years, but their first love is storytelling. They love creating comics and other works that marry or blur the line between visual art and writing. They are a current ArtWire fellow for OZ Arts Nashville, and have done work for April Gloaming Press, Parnassus Books, Left Bank Artists, and The Porch, among others.

CJ HOLIDAY (shey - she/they) (MGHOSTS- The Mother of Ghosts) is a Nashville native poet exploring disenfranchised grief and complex trauma in a genre and gender bending time loop of the haunting places we find ourselves in. Deeply inspired by Southern Gothic, midnight trains, and inner angst, their work represents a genderless, nonbinary, spirit not limited by physical ability, material possessions, gender, race, religion, or where they grew up. Ghosts hate tiny boxes. They tell the stories that society tries to bury. They exist at the crossroads of isolation and redemption, loss and rebirth. Holiday is a mental health advocate and volunteers for the nonprofits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Southern Word. Their writing has been featured in the 2020 Nashville Design Week and online at They are a fall 2021 cohort of the Arts Board Matching program of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville.

NORA MASTERS (they/she) is a poet and singer/songwriter from Nashville, TN. A recent graduate of the literary arts conservatory at Nashville School of the Arts, their writing often explores darker themes from a queer and/or feminist perspective. They’re 1/3 of folk rock band Eve’s Curse.

TARIA PERSON (she/they) is an alum of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where they received a dual B. A. in English Creative Writing: Poetry, and Interdisciplinary Studies: Africana Studies. Person is the author of Rainbow Elephant, and was commissioned to write a book of poetry by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation entitled, At the Summit. Person won an Artistic Professional Development grant from Alternative ROOTS in 2018 to produce their original LGBT stage play, Hangers, and they won an artistic grant in 2020 to produce their hip hop folk tale, Storm. They have also won multiple 1st place regional Spoken Word and Hip-Hop Slam Championship titles (2012 - 2017), performed at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (2019), produced, and performed Hangers at the Arkansas Theatre Festival (2020), as well as performed with Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and The 5th Woman Poetry for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (2021). Taria Person is an annual Young Writers' Workshop instructor for Humanities TN, works as a teaching artist for Turnip Green Creative Reuse, and is the Write with Pride Coordinator for Southern Word.

AMIE WHITTEMORE (she/her) is the author of the poetry collections Glass Harvest (Autumn House Press), Star-tent: A Triptych (Tolsun Books, 2023), and Nest of Matches (Autumn House, 2024). She was the 2020-2021 Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Her poems have won multiple awards and her poems and prose have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Nashville Review, Blackbird, and elsewhere. She teaches English at Middle Tennessee State University.


BRYNN ABNER (she/her) - Influenced by the Appalachian mountain storytelling traditions of her Johnson City, Tennessee home, Brynn Abner ventured to Lipscomb University to study film production. Her artistic style stems from the desire to explore the whimsical aspects of the world since they are ever-present yet frequently overlooked. Her main interest is making a story come alive through cinematography, she also dabbles in directing and editing music videos. She delights in color, lighting, and unexpected images.

TIFFANY ABREU (she/her) is a mixed-race writer from South Florida who relocated to Nashville for college. Her expertise lies in using fantasy settings to explore grounded emotions. She believes that we can suspend our disbelief and be our most honest selves when there is something impossible before us.

JOSE LUIS BENAVIDES (he/him, they/them) combines collaborative, curatorial, moving image, photographic, research, and writing practices to queer media representations and institutional memory around race, class and gender. They are a Latinx and queer video artist, photographer and lecturer. Working primarily with a range of personal archives, their work explore issues relating to migration, sexuality, and memory. Their work has screened at Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, US (2020), and other festivals around the world.

CHANEL BRASWELL-PERSON (she/her) was a Music major at Kennedy-King Community College (Jan 2006 - May 2008), Marketing major Chicago State University (Aug 2009 - May 2012), and Vocalist at Carnegie Hall via Harriet Tubman Middle School (1999). From ages 6-18, Chanel trained as a classical flutist, saxophonist, piccoloist, and clarinetist by Ronnye Harrison and Grammy award winning trumpet player, Dr. Thara Memory.  She is co-videographer and editor for "Mission Uplift," multimedia artist for Storm, videographer and editor for To Launch a Dream with a Flame, stage manager for Hangers at the Arkansas Theater Festival (March 2020), stage manager for the pilot of "Hangers" (June 8th, 2019) and for ROOTS Week August 2018 & 2019.

CHALET COMELLAS-BAKER (she/her) - In video, sound, installation, and print Florida-born artist Chalet Comellas-Baker creates multidisciplinary projects that interrogate memory, environment, and place, referencing Latin American diasporic histories, through her personal lens of assimilation. She holds an MFA from Florida State University and has taught critical writing courses on contemporary art and the environment as an Assistant Professor. Both as a collaborator and an independent artist, her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in museums, galleries, and festivals.

ABBEY JOHNSON (she/they) is a filmmaker, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from Watkins College of Art, right here in Nashville. They have extensive experience in all things film production and are one of the three founders and creators of AMPM Video, a local collaborative video production company. She has made several music videos, promotional videos for artists and businesses, filmed live events and conferences, worked on countless short films, and a few months ago began recording a weekly movie review podcast with some friends. Several AMPM Video projects have been featured in Nashville Scene, Native Magazine, We Own This Town, and more. They are queer, very fun. and easy to work with. She is very interested in meeting new people, making collaborative art, and improving her craft.

NICHOLE MARIE LIM (she/her) is a multi hyphenate and has worked in the film industry for over 15 years. She began her career in the Makeup Department, with credits including Castle Falls, A Week Away, Adult Interference, Lifetime films, and the short film Never Too Old, for which she won an award. Now adding producing and directing to her resume, she loves a challenge and a creative work around and has often been referred to as the unofficial therapist on set. She thrives on exploring Light within Dark and the deepest parts of humanity.

SAMANTHA SZWAGLIS (she/her) is a seasoned writer/director here in Nashville, TN. Originally from Chicago, her production portfolio consists of projects such as the Starz series “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammer and the Chicago International Film Festival nominee The Girls on Liberty Street. Samantha’s most recent work includes a variety of local film projects: “Property Brothers: Buying & Selling”, “Fossils”, and the Nashville 48 Hours Film Project. Her debut short, Antebellum, is currently in post-production.


To support the work of Kindling Arts and Nashville-based artists, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.
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