weekend links: arts funding, sensitive rap, weird religion

Tracy K. Smith. Image courtesy Tanya and Zhenya Posternak /Vogue.

Tracy K. Smith. Image courtesy Tanya and Zhenya Posternak/Vogue.

Last Wednesday, Congress released their FY2018 spending bill, and in a surprise twist, they allocated an increase in funding for both the NEA and NEH. Read the specifics on the bill and what this means for artistic communities around the world. [Arts Action Fund]

More great news for the poetry world: current poet laureate of the United States Tracy K. Smith has just been confirmed for a second term, and she has a new collection on the way. For the project, Smith traveled to Geechee country, Georgia, to research its Civil War–era history. She says of the experience, “I had stood that same afternoon on a bridge where slave auctions had taken place. There was nothing there. A picnic table. Then, that night, to have somebody say, ‘Here is this living force that I want to give you.’ I think it just woke me up.” [Vogue]

Marvin Bell, Iowa’s first poet laureate and author of over 20 books, published a poem for his wife, Dorothy, in 2000. Eighteen years and multiple technological advances later, the poem has become a viral hit and was included in Bustle’s “10 Romantic Valentine's Day Poems To Recite To Your Sweetheart.” Discover the story behind the poem and how it came to be so popular in this interview.  [The Rumpus]

In the past couple of years, a subgenre of rap that deals exclusively with emotions and feeling has emerged. Today, there is rap made about desperation, mental illness, and general struggling to get better. Learn how artists like Nolan the Ninja, Danny Brown, and Jazz Cartier use their lyrics and images to convey balance in a fight to become the best versions of themselves. [DJ Booth]

Religious inspiration may seem passé, but painter Ben Sanders attended service at a California church for two years and came out with some of the most innovative and chilling paintings in his career. The works, currently on display at Ochi Projects in Los Angeles, display guilt and repression personified through 1970s Teleflora vases and giant insects. Here, he discusses his inspiration for the paintings and shows a glimpse of the humorous and weirdly frightening pieces. [Artsy]

And happy birthday to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the famous co-founder of San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore, who turns 99 on Saturday. Ferlinghetti’s influence as both a Beat poet and an independent publisher is impossible to overstate, and even in his old age, the man remains as vibrant and important as ever. [San Francisco Chronicle]

—Nia KB and Sean Redmond