New York, NY (February 6, 2020)— This March, the more than 25 organizations nationwide that compose the Poetry Coalition will launch “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing: Poetry & Protest”, the coalition’s fourth annual programming initiative. For this collaborative effort, the organizations will offer a range of events and publications that speak to this timely theme. This programming is made possible in part by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation which were secured by the Academy of American Poets.
The line “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing: Poetry & Protest” is from the poem “New Year’s Day” by Audre Lorde.
The theme was inspired by a number of occasions taking place this year, including the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote and the 50th anniversary of the tragic shooting of student protesters at Kent State University. It also speaks to the role poetry has played in encouraging civic and grassroots engagement, and contributing to public debate and dialogue.
All organizations and others interested are invited to program on this theme in March and share their efforts using the hashtags #PoetryandProtest and #PoetryCoalition.
Here’s a look at some of the programs that will take place across the country in March:
The Academy of American Poets in New York City, New York, is dedicating five Sundays of its popular Poem-a-Day series in March to poems that explore the theme of Poetry & Protest. Poem-a-Day is distributed to more than 500,000 readers each morning via email, social media, and syndication.
The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers in New York City, New York, will produce a limited edition chapbook on the theme of Poetry & Protest, which will feature current and past National Student Poets. On a date to be determined in March, the Class of 2019 of National Student Poets will join their state Poets Laureate to co-host a celebration of the chapbook and theme.
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York City, New York will offer a one-day poetry intensive workshop led by renowned poet, artist, and activist Staceyann Chin on March 21. It will also co-present, with Poetry Coalition founding member Mizna, “I Am Deliberate And Afraid of Nothing: Poetry, Prose, and Protest,” a reading by Andrea Abi Karam, Romaissaa Benzizoune, Susan Muaddi Darraj, and Sham-e-Ali Nayeem on Thursday, March 26, at 7 p.m.
Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles, California, will partner with the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) to host a three-part workshop designed to produce protest signs inspired by poetry for social and labor justice organizations. Ten labor unions, immigrant-rights organizations, and tenants unions will be approached to send two representatives each to participate in the workshops. The first workshop will be held at Beyond Baroque and led by noted poets who will lead participants in writing poems for use on protest signs. The second workshop will be led by visual arts specialists at SPARC who will work with participants to create visually compelling signs that incorporate the poetic protest language from the first workshop. The final workshop will focus on the physical production of signs at SPARC’s production facility. The signs will then be used by the organization during the Los Angeles May Day march on May 1, which annually draws 50,000 people marching in support of labor and immigrant rights.
CantoMundo in Tucson, Arizona, will partner with Poetry Coalition founding member Poetry Foundation to present a reading and conversation with Deborah Paredez, Julian Randall, and Mónica de la Torre, celebrating both CantoMundo’s tenth anniversary and the theme of Poetry & Protest.
The Cave Canem Foundation in New York City, New York, will launch an online campaign to celebrate Audre Lorde's legacy and the history of Black protest. To elaborate on the theme of Poetry & Protest, eight poems chosen by Cave Canem fellows will be featured online twice a week through the month of March. These selections will testify to the history and breadth of deliberate black resistance and will be accompanied by reflections.
The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey is collaborating with the Mayo Performing Arts Center to present “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing: Poetry & Protest,“ an evening of readings featuring Pulitzer Prize-winner Tyehimba Jess and Marina Carreira, J.C. Todd, Vincent Toro, and Rashad Wright. The event will take place at St. Peter's Parish Hall in Morristown, New Jersey, on Thursday, March 19, at 7 p.m.
Kundiman in New York City, New York, will host “The Poetry of Protest,” a workshop led by poet and anti-violence advocate Purvi Shah in The Boardroom at The Ace Hotel in New York City. The workshop will focus on the ideas of activism in writing and community-building and examine poetic engagement with protest, particularly the connections of public engagement, craft, and lyrical activism on the page and shared aloud in the world. Kundiman will also be doing a month-long Postcard Project Exchange on the theme of Poetry & Protest.
Lambda Literary in Los Angeles, California, will co-host a dance party in New York City, featuring pop-up readings addressing themes of protest and immigration, with Poetry Coalition founding members The Poetry Project and Zoeglossia.
Letras Latinas at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies in Notre Dame, Indiana, has commissioned award-winning poets heidi andrea restrepo rhodes and Teri Cross Davis to compose poems that engage with the theme of Poetry & Protest. On the evening of March 25, they will perform their new and related work at a public event in Washington, D.C. at Busboys and Poets 450 K. The reading, which will take place on the eve of the 2020 Split This Rock Poetry Festival, is a “Pre-Festival Event” presented in partnership with Poetry Coalition founding member Split This Rock.
Mass Poetry in Boston, Massachusetts, will enlist students, teachers, and community members to create a video collage of a single protest-themed poem. The collaboration will showcase a chorus of voices and languages from across the Commonwealth, and the unifying power and the diversity of experience inherent in voicing the same poem. By filming at sites across Massachusetts, Mass Poetry aims to encourage dialogue and exchange among different regions of the state. The video collage will be shared at upcoming Mass Poetry events, on social media, and in large-scale format in Boston’s soon-to-open Center for Creative Writing.
Mizna in St. Paul, Minnesota, will present a reading from poets George Abraham, Tarik Dobbs, Roy G. Guzmán, Marlin Jenkins, Yama Omer, and Maitreyi Ray on March 12 at the Fallout Arts Initiative in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Inspired by Audre Lorde’s charge “I am deliberate/ and afraid / of nothing” and Sudanese artist Alaa Satir’s visual art series “We are the revolution,” the presenting poets will respond to the timely theme of poetry and protest. George Abraham will also lead a free poetry workshop on the topic of the personal and the political in poetry. It will also co-present, with Poetry Coalition founding member the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, “I Am Deliberate And Afraid of Nothing: Poetry, Prose, and Protest,” a reading by Andrea Abi Karam, Romaissaa Benzizoune, Susan Muaddi Darraj, and Sham-e-Ali Nayeem on Thursday, March 26, at 7 p.m.
O, Miami in Miami, Florida, will create a series of posters to address the issue of displacement in its community. The posters will imitate the fluorescent posters commonly seen around Miami made for commercial purposes and will feature poems by local poets, which will be gathered through a series of workshops. As the posters are mounted to chain-link fences, construction site walls, trees, and electrical poles, they will slowly transition the space of the city from a commercial space to one that hosts the voices of its residents. The poems will be presented in Spanish, English, and Creole.
On March 19, for “a day in honor of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker,” The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California, will gather a number of outstanding Bay Area writers and artists from multiple generations to pay respects and speak to the works and continuing influence and legacy of these two deep cultural workers. Committed to appear are Judy Grahn, Jewelle Gomez, Arisa White, and Leila Weefur. In a two-part program, different writers will be featured at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., with informal screenings/auditings of vintage recordings in between. These include recently released videos of Lorde at The Poetry Center in 1974; Lorde and Parker reading together at San Francisco’s historic Women’s Building in 1986; and the landmark 1976 Olivia Records LP, with a full side of the album devoted to Parker and Judy Grahn reading their poems.
The Poetry Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, will partner with Poetry Coalition founding member CantoMundo to present a reading and conversation with Deborah Paredez, Julian Randall, and Mónica de la Torre, celebrating both CantoMundo’s tenth anniversary and the theme of Poetry & Protest.
The Poetry Project in New York City, New York, will co-host a dance party in New York City, featuring pop-up readings addressing themes of protest and immigration, with Poetry Coalition founding members Lambda Literary and Zoeglossia.
The Poetry Society of America in New York City, New York, will present a web feature addressing the theme of Poetry & Protest, including poetry reading lists curated by Hala Alyan, Eloisa Amezcua, Sheila Black, Joy Ladin, Craig Santos Perez, and others.
Poets House in New York City, New York, will host “Poetry & Protest: The Climate Movement,” featuring Ed Roberson, Joan Kane, and Brian Teare, whose work engages with issues and themes relating to our dire Anthropocene. They will be reading and presenting from new and selected works that consider the place of poetry alongside pedagogy, protest, and demands for social justice and progress in the current global climate movement.
Split This Rock in Washington, D.C., will present the “Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness,” a three-day gathering of poets, writers, educators, activists, and scholars from March 26 to 28 at George Washington University's Cloyd Heck Marvin Center. The festival will offer opportunities to speak boldly for justice, build connections and community, and celebrate the many ways poetry can be a practice for social change. In addition, Split This Rock will lead a public action in partnership with the ICE Out of DC Coalition on March 27.
The University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson, Arizona, will feature new work by poets exploring the relationship between poetry, protest, and the role that language plays in advocacy and opposition. Featured writers include Brenda Hillman, Chaun Webster, and others to be announced. It will also feature educational materials and lesson plans that will support K-12 teachers seeking ways to explore the connection and the history of poetry and protest in their classrooms. Finally, it will feature the winning submissions from its writing contest on the theme of Poetry & Protest for incarcerated writers. The winning submissions will be featured in a reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center that will be free and open to the public on March 28, at 5 p.m.
Urban Word and the National Youth Poet Laureate Program in New York City, New York, will host a poetry concert celebrating the theme of Poetry & Protest, featuring Sarah Kay and Phil Kay, alongside the NYC Youth Poet Laureate and local Youth Poet Ambassadors. Additionally, throughout the month of March, Youth Poets Laureate from across the fifty-city network will launch a social media campaign featuring original poems inspired by the theme. Finally, the four finalists for the National Youth Poet Laureate title will collaborate with visual artists to showcase their poems on original works of art that will be mass produced and distributed in their home cities.
The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, will showcase its Armed with Our Voices exhibit, which prompts users to respond to historical documents, oral histories, and multimedia stories related to the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the tragic shootings, this immersive, digital experience provides a creative exploration of the relationship between peace and conflict, as well as the growing student activism movements around the world. The exhibit features a state-of-the-art “Listening Wall,” which the Wick Poetry Center developed with prototype funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will sponsor “On the Front Lines, Behind the Lines: Writing Poetry in Protest,” a four-session workshop throughout the month of March led by longtime activist and Wisconsin Poet Laureate Margaret Rozga. The workshop will consider approaches to developing poems that do the hard work of protest and will examine poetry by Simon Ortiz, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Claudia Rankine, and Layli Long Soldier, among others. Ahead of the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Milwaukee in July 2020, poets will create works that speak to social justice issues and attempt to open doors to new thinking and deeper, more liberated responses to political and societal problems. At the end of the workshop, Rozga and participants will give a public reading at Woodland Pattern, and a chapbook or broadsides will be printed for the occasion. The resulting poems will likewise be included as part of a larger public art project around poetry and protest being planned during the Democratic National Convention.
Youth Speaks in San Francisco, California, will launch a digital media campaign, featuring short-form video interviews with youth from around the country. These videos will tackle issues centered around youth that are not represented in the civic discourse, including mental health and identity, and will serve as prompts as youth demand to be heard through spoken word and poetry. The campaign will culminate in a series of town halls at the Brave New Voices International Spoken Word Festival and youth conference in Washington, D.C., this July.
Zoeglossia in New York City, New York, will co-host a dance party in New York City, featuring pop-up readings addressing themes of protest and immigration, with Poetry Coalition founding members Lambda Literary and The Poetry Project.