100,000 Poets for Change By: Laura Winton

PoetjpgCan poetry change the world?  Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre didn’t think poetry had what it took to be considered committed art.  Yet, in December/January 1945/46 Andre Breton, one of the founders of the Surrealist movement in Europe, was travelling throughout the Caribbean at the same time revolution broke out in Haiti, a revolution that while not directly caused by Surrealism, certainly was influenced by the politics and the style of art and literature that Breton and the Surrealists practiced. William Carlos Williams famously wrote:

“It is difficult

to get the news from poems

yet men die miserably every day

for lack

of what is found there.”


Spurred by this sense of efficacy, poet Michael Rothenberg is coordinating the sixth annual international event, 100,000 Poets for Change.  100,000 Poets for Change is having over 500 events in 100 different countries.  The readings are part of an international day of action that includes events on all six continents (excluding Antartica!), in places such as Cairo, Kabul, Bogota, in countries like Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Australia and throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Poets gather to read poetry about concerns they have for their own communities ranging from the environment to poverty to issues of social justice, peace, etc.  Rothenberg says that the event “has grown very fast.”  Worldwide, the events include not only poets, but also musicians, actors, dancers, and even mimes!

Locally, there will be a poetry crawl in the Quad Cities featuring 3 sites.  There will be an open mic at Western Illinois University QC Riverfront, in the Atrium of the QC Complex from 12 pm – 2pm.  This leg of the event is sponsored by Karwane: Or, the Temporary Death of the Bruitist, a magazine devoted to experimental writers and artists who perform their own work.  The magazine is published by WIU grad student Laura Winton, who got a grant to publish it this year as part of a grantwriting class she took in the English Department.  Other on-campus organizations are being solicited as co-sponsors as well.

From 3-5 pm, there will be a featured reading with Lucas Gindell, Kevin Mitola, and Anthony Flanagan and an open mic to follow at Connect Coffee House in North Park Mall, sponsored by Roaring Rhetoric.  Roaring Rhetoric is a spoken word open mic in the Quad Cities. Started and preserved by lyricists from around the area who are passionate about the art of spoken word. It is audience engaging, powerful, inspiring, funny, and will leave you with dropped jaws and maybe even an infatuation with the art.  This leg of the slam will be held at Connect Coffee Shop at North Park Mall, Roaring Rhetoric’s current home.

Finally, there will be an open mic at Theo’s Java Club at 213 17th St., in the Rock Island District, from 5:30 to 8 pm, also sponsored by Karawane: Or, the Temporary Death of the Bruitist.

This is the second year that there has been an event in the Quad Cities.  The last event was in 2014 and was held entirely at Theo’s Java House.   About 10 poets participated.  Organizers are hoping that with 3 times the venues, there will be even greater participation by readers and musicians.

Even if you don’t write you own poetry, you are invited to come out to one or all of these events and read a favorite poem about an issue that is important to you.  This is a great opportunity to meet people and share ideas and concerns about what is going on in our communities as well as to be part of an international movement.

The date is Saturday, September 24.  Come for just a little while or spend 8 hours crawling, reading, listening for change.

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