Buffalo is one of more than 350 cities in 70 nations to be organizing local events in conjunction with 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a global poetry initiative to be held on Saturday, September 24th worldwide.
Poet-scholar David Landrey, a professor emeritus of English at Buffalo State College and author, most recently, of "Consciousness Suite" (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2008), heads the committee that is organizing an inclusive, Buffalo community-based event which will take place on the Buffalo State College campus. In a recent telephone conversation with The News, Landrey said that the theme the steering committee organizing the Buffalo event had chosen was "healing" and the event would likely begin at 11:30 a.m.
When I asked him if he meant "healing" in the narrow, clinical sense, Landry said that he hoped that participants would interpret the theme broadly, and that it was inspired by a recent Buffalo visit by Canadian First Nations poet and playwright Daniel David Moses, who spoke of the healing modalities of poetry and art in both traditional and modern cultures. "Right now, we envision an outdoor event (weather permitting), with a circle of poets arranged in a Kiva-like fashion, stressing the democratic quality of the process and the essential equality of all participants, " Landrey said. He and the committee are looking into the rental of sound equipment, and exploring the possible use of several "commons" sites on the Buffalo State campus, including an indoor alternative site in case of inclement weather.
Those interested in participating in or simply knowing more about Buffalo's participation in 100 Thousand Poets for Change may visit the event's Facebook page at 100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE - BUFFALO & WNY.
100 Thousand Poets for Change is the brainchild of San Francisco Bay Area based poet, editor, and environmental activist Michael Rothenberg, founder of Big Bridge, the online literary magazine he started in 1997 with Terri Carrion to expand upon the mission of Big Bridge Press, a significant publisher of fine print poetry and art books Rothenberg founded in 1990.
Press materials describe 100 Thousand Poets for Change as "the largest poetry reading in history with over 400 individual events scheduled to take place simultaneously on September 24th to promote environmental, social, and political change...Poets, writers, artists, and humanitarians will create, perform, educate and demonstrate, in their individual communities, and decide their own specific area of focus for change within the overall framework of peace and sustainability, a major concern worldwide and the guiding principle for this global event.”
The self-selected, community-based events already planned range from "a poetry and peace gathering in strife-torn Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to poets in Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona reading poems to each other across the border fence." According to Rothenberg, "there are 13 events in Mexico City alone, 24 events planned in India and 7 in Nigeria. Poetry demonstrations are also being organized in political hotspots such as Cairo, Egypt and Madison, Wisconsin. Along the Platte River in Omaha, Nebraska poets will be demonstrating against TransCanada’s planned Keystone XL tar sands pipeline."
"Change" is a word that had a great deal of currency in the American political debate as recently as 2008, but global developments in economics, politics and the arts since then might leave some to question the over-reliance on it as a catch-all progressive mantra. Rothenberg seems to anticipate this criticism when he writes:
What kind of CHANGE are we talking about?...The first order of change is for poets, writers, artists, anybody, to actually get together to create and perform, educate and demonstrate, simultaneously, with other communities around the world. This will change how we see our local community and the global community. We have all become incredibly alienated in recent years. We hardly know our neighbors down the street let alone our creative allies who live and share our concerns in other countries. We need to feel this kind of global solidarity. I think it will be empowering.
And of course there is the political/social change that many of us are talking about these days. There is trouble in the world. Wars, ecocide, the lack of affordable medical care, racism, the list goes on.
It appears that transformation towards a more sustainable world is a major concern and could be a global guiding principle for this event. Peace also seems to be a common cause. War is not sustainable. There is an increasing sense that we need to move forward and stop moving backwards. But I am trying not to be dogmatic. I am hoping that together we can develop our ideas of the “change/transformation” we are looking for as a group, and that each community group will decide their own specific area of focus for change for their particular event.