Poets unite for hope and change with worldwide event - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Poets unite for hope and change with worldwide event

The events were well planned but the participation was largely spontaneous.

On a warm sunny day last September, more than a hundred and fifty Baltimoreans stepped out of their comfort zones to take part in a day promoting poetry and peace. An open microphone and a stack of donated books set the stage at the Waverly library, while dozens of white t-shirts bearing simple words spurred creative juices at the Baltimore Book Festival.

Building on the success of last year’s events, poets from Poetry in Community and Little Patuxent Review will again be staging readings and more this Saturday, September 29th, as part of a worldwide effort called 100 Thousand Poets For Change. Co-Founded by poet and environmental activist Michael Rothenberg and poet/translator Terri Carrion, 100 Thousand Poets for Change was launched in 2011 with the goal of promoting change and sustainability on both planetary and local levels.

Each participating group is left to decide its particular tack and how change is best implemented, either through acts of community service or by raising the collective consciousness of their friends and neighbors. Last year’s happening featured more than 600 readings in 95 countries. This year, 800 events in 115 countries have thus far been confirmed.

“Peace and sustainability are major concerns worldwide and the guiding principles for this global event,” said Rothenberg. “We are in a world where it isn’t just one issue that needs to be addressed. A common ground is built through this global compilation of local stories, which is how we create a true narrative for discourse to inform the future.”

The official Headquarters’ Event will take place at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, California. Along with poetry readings, it will feature music, group meditations, workshops and dance of various styles including hip hop, flamenco, African drums, reggae, salsa, folk and more.

The HQ event will also live-stream other 100 Thousand Poets for Change events worldwide. And, like with last years event, Stanford University in California will once more archive the complete contents of 100TPC.org, as part of their digital archiving program LOCKSS.

Locally, Little Patuxent Review will again sponsor an event at the Baltimore Book Festival. This year’s theme will be the poetry and legacy of the late Lucille Clifton. Beginning at noon at the CityLit tent – located in the shadow of the Washington monument – moderators Virginia Crawford and Laura Shovan will host a panel of local poets and authors who knew and worked with Lucille Clifton.The panel, which includes Clifton’s daughter Alexia, will discuss the newly released book, The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010.

For more information on events in Baltimore check out the website.

In keeping with the creative aspect of last year’s book festival event, audience members may be invited to write on-the-spot poems reflecting on Clifton’s work. Setting a day aside for poetry may strike some as frivolous, but Christophe Casamassima and Douglas Mowbray of Poetry in Community see it as a means to a greater good. The duo, who sponsored last years event in Waverly, will not only host another poetry reading there but also oversee a tree planting at the Chestnut Hill Natural Lounge.

Adroitly billed as PoeTree, this year’s Waverly event combines the written word with ecological action. “What kind of change do you want to see?” Casamassima asks. “How can you make the change through poetry? You incorporate action. Planting a garden is a social action. This event could be, ‘100 Thousand Gardens for Change.”

Casamassima is careful to note that he is looking to engage people, not to offend.

“This event gives people outside the poetry scene a chance to speak. It gives them an outlet. Reading poems aloud or writing them with sidewalk chalk allows students who are (only) taught to pass tests to be creative. Kids by nature are creative. That energy has got to go somewhere.”

Mowbray recalls, “At last years event at the Waverly library, two girls, maybe 7-8 years old – nieces of a local resident – asked to read from one of the free books of poetry the librarians had set out on our table. They were very excited and did quite well. Neither one had ever read in public before.”

Mowbray feels that last fall’s event was a resounding success. The open reading drew between 75-100 people and recordings made that day were added to dozens of others captured by Mowbray and Casamassima, at various poetry venues, in the weeks leading up to the main event. There was change, too, as the reading helped to solidify a relationship with the Waverly library.

Mowbray and Casamassima have been asked by the staff to stage other literary events. Casamassima smiled as he said, “It’s a good way to bring neighbors together.”

Poetry in Community will plant the PoeTrees at the Chestnut Hill Natural Lounge, located at the 600 Block of Chestnut Hill Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21218. This Saturday event also starts at noon, rain or shine.


About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun, standout reporter at the Voice of Baltimore, and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you see his work elsewhere, please let him know. As the Good Book says, "Thou shalt not steal." Contact the author.

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