Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton an internationally-known Poet, Singer, Actress, Photographer, Wife, Mother, and the first Black, Poet Laureate for the City of Houston. Heralded as a "Literary Genius" by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, this California native was formerly ranked the #2 Best female Poet in the World. D.E.E.P. has established herself as a notable force in the Performance and Literary World. Currently, she is a Resident Artist at the American Lyric Theater's Composer and Librettist Development Program and is working on new comissions with Opera Theater St. Louis and The Kennedy Center.
She self-published her first collection of poetry, Heartstrings and Lamentations, at the tender age of 19 while studying English at the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor. Her University years helped foster a love for writing that was noticed early on by her High School English teacher. After being introduced to poetry slam in high school, she knew she wanted to focus on refining her voice as a poet. In the midst of earning a dual Bachelor's degree in English and African-American Studies, she competed at CUPSI (The National College and University Poetry Slam Invitationals) as a member of the 2004 University of Michigan Slam Team while simultaneously touring with the WordWorks Poetry Troupe across the Midwest.
After falling in love with the national poetry scene, she moved to Houston and became a member of the 2007 Houston Poetry Slam Team. After this experience, she and a few friends, set out to establish a new voice for the city of Houston forming the H-Town slam team (which son became the Houston VIP Slam Team). D.E.E.P. was a 3-time slam champ and 8 year Coach and Slammaster of Houston VIP. In 2011, she coached the team to the National Group Piece Finals where they were ranked 6th in the nation. In 2012, under her coaching, VIP moved onto be ranked 4th in the Southwest at the Southwest Shootout Regional Slam. By 2014, the team were semi-finalists at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, CA. This year, the team returned to the Semi-final stage and were ranked 14 out of 72 teams in the world. Simultaneously, the youth team, Meta-four Houston which represented Houston at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Competition made their Semi-final stage under D.E.E.P.'s leadership.
She released her first full-length album in 2009 titled "The Unfinished Work of a Genius". It is a collection of original songs and poems that explore ideas around spirituality and personal growth. Her sophomore album, "Beautiful Rebellion" explores more socially themed poems. She has been featured on BBC, NPR, Upworthy, Blavity, Tedx, Button Poetry, ABC, and the opening video of the 2017-2018 Houston Rockets Season. Her collaboration with the Houston Ballet celebrated Houston's resilience and provided hope for the City after Hurricane Harvey.
She went on to share stages with Nikki Giovanni, Talib Kweli, MC Lyte, Amiri Baraka, John Legend, Slick Rick, Slum Village, Karen Clark-Shield, Raheem Devaughn, Trae Tha Truth, Devin the Dude, Def Poet Sunni Patterson, Def Comedy Jam's Rodman, Regie Gibson, Buddy Wakefield, Danez Smith, Roxane Gay, and multiple local and national political figures.
Off stage, had the honor of serving as a Juried Poet for the 2012 Houston Poetry Fest and an Honored guest in the 2017 Houston Poetry Fest. Her work can be found in Haymarket Book's Black Girl Magic Anthology (2018), Akashic Press' Houston Noir (2019) and Blind Faith Book's I AM STRENGTH Anthology, and more. Her fiction and creative nonfiction work can be found in Crimereads (2019), Fjords Journal (2019), and the Remapping Wonderland collection by Alternating Current Press (2020). She has served as a contributing writer for Glamour, Texas Monthly, Muzzle, and ESPN's Andscape.
This Writer's Hotel and Poetry Incubator fellow has been a finalist for the prestigious Breadloaf Conference, Kennedy Center Citizen Fellowship, and La Maison Baldwin Fellowships. She was appointed as Houston's third, and first Black, Poet Laureate by Mayor Sylvester Turner in 2017. In her two year term, she worked to shift the cultural and literary landscape of the City of Houston. She developed workshop series, readings, and directed an visual and audio tour of the city of Houston through the work of 38 writers, including her own. In 2023, October 4th was renamed Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton Day by the City of Houston. She constantly pushes literacy and the inclusion of performance poetry as a valid art form through local and international channels. Her work has been studied in England, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, and across America. In 2020, she had the pleasure of performing in the Kennedy Center's Art's Across America Presentation as part of the ensemble for the stage play The Women Have Something To Say, for which she also served as Dramaturg.
Her passion for literacy and culture pulses through her community. After earning her Master's degree in Education from the University of St. Thomas, she took the reigns as Executive Director of VIP Arts Houston: an organization dedicated to developing, empowering, and amplifying marginalized voices. Through VIP, she launched The Colony Summit, the first quarterly summit for Writers of Color in Houston's history. Her love for organizing was sparked when she served as the Project Manager of Life is Living; a hip hop and sustainability festival housed in Houston's 3rd Ward. This work with the University of Houston connected her in a new way to Houston. Her love of education already proved effective in the classroom. This love for words and knowledge propelled her into a College Education position. Upon answering the call of her art more deeply, she took on the call of a Teaching Artist. She has traveled and taught at multiple schools, community centers, homeless shelters, prisons, churches, and more recently the TedX platform through multiple talks and performances. She continues to pour into her community and is always looking for new and better ways to make poetry and the art of expressing oneself accessible.
Her poetry collection, Newsworthy, which examines incidents with police brutality and the Black body and how the media chooses to report them, won honorable mention for the Summerlee Book Prize, was a finalist for the Writer's Guild of Texas Book Award, and earned her a Pushcart Nomination. A German translation was is released in the fall of 2021 on Elif Verlag.
As a multi-hyphenate, D.E.E.P. endeavors to see all of the ways words can be used to pull audiences together. In 2020, she began to venture into opera, serving as the Librettist for Marian's Song- an opera centered around the life of Marian Anderson. This world premiere not only ushered her in through one of the most prestigious houses in the country, The Houston Grand Opera, but served as a permission slip to the theatrical dreams she kept hidden. In the following years, as the world pivoted to the crippling pandemic, she dove deeper into creating large stage works that heralded important voices and stories. She was awarded a Live Commission Grant by Performing Arts Houston to produce a visual poem and a work centered around Black life in quarantine during the pandemic, which also served as her directorial debut. The World's Intermission premiered at Jones Hall in Fall 2021 and was restaged for a short film recording with the Houston Museum of African American Culture in the summer of 2022.
Plumshuga: The rise of Lauren Anderson is her most recent choreopoem which she wrote and is co-directing with Stages own Eboni Bell Darcy. She also created original music for the piece with the brilliant composer Jasmine Barnes. It champions the life of the incomparable ballerina who broke ceilings across the world. In 2023, She performed, in collaboration with Kendrick Scott and Robert Hodge, Unearthed, a performance piece that shines a light on the Sugarland 95 and the atrocities of convict leasing.
Her second book, Black Chameleon, published by Henry Holt & Co, debuts in the spring of 2023. This stirring new memoir combines new mythology with powerful lyricism. Having gained praise of The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan, and Ms. Magazine, to name a few, Black Chameleon redefines the genre of memoir, injecting it with poetry, imagination, and mythology. Its release led D.E.E.P. on an ongoing international tour across the US, Germany, The Netherlands, and Austria. In addition, a storybook opera for young students, entitled "Lula The Mighty Griot," which reinterprets one of the myths from the book, was released in 2022 with the Houston Grand Opera and is currently touring schools and community centers. Asa community extension D.E.E.P. created the exhibit entitled "______ as Myth" which engaged local writers and artists to interrogate the use of personal mythology as a vehicle for social and self reflection, displayed at the Moody Center for the Arts in 2022 as part of her fellowship with Rice University's Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning.
Her upcoming projects include a full-length opera entitled She Who Dared, composed by Jasmine Barnes, that centers on teh Montgomery Bus Boycott, a song cycle for Houston Grand Opera, composed by Joel Thompson, a one act opera, composed by Jasmine Barnes, entitled On My Mind for Opera Theater St. Louis, and a one act opera, composed by Jaylin Vinson for the Kennedy Center's Cartography Project. She currently tours as part of the Texas Commission on the Arts touring roster.
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