When I brought the idea of a Poets in Resistance Reading and Rally to the folks on the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation Social Justice Committee early this year, I was not really sure it would fly. After all poetry is not the most popular of public art forms these days. In fact, it occupies a narrow niche of interests among such exotic forms as Inuit folk dancing or Tibetan throat singing—a built in audience of literally dozens. Folks would rather “get their eyeballs sanded” has been my standard crack about verse and it always gets a round of knowing laughter.
Secondly, although few people actually read poetry, a lot of folks try to write it, most of them trying to jam their thoughts about their cat, lost love, or death into conventional rhymes without understanding the conventions and mechanics necessary for that kind of formal verse. The results, no matter how heartfelt the intent are usually predictably dreadful. If I sent out a blanket public call for poets would any accomplished versifiers respond or would I be deluged with sub-par wannabes and posers?
On the other had we were all witnessing the slow motion train wreck of the incoming Trump administration, every day revealing a new outrage and plans to systematically demolish the whole legacy of 20th Century progressive reform; to attack and demonize immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folk, women, Blacks and just about anyone not created in their own spitting image; and to make enemies of the entire world—except Russia. Of course things got even worse when the Cheeto in Charge moved into the White House and started making random tweets and stump ravings into policy by executive fiat.
I thought that this was as good a time as any to revive the tradition of poets as prophets of their people, defenders of the oppressed, champion of justice, and fearless voices ready to speak truth to power. Such poets and such poetry might just be voice that now needs to be heard, might just be relevant enough to be dangerous. And dangerous is what we have to be. Worth a try any way.
|Tree of Life Music Director Forest Ransburg and sings as Devin Fanslow picks the mandolin a the Rattle the Walls Concert, one of a series of arts in service to justice programs at the church.
Our Social Justice Team was excited by the idea. And if fit into an emerging strategy of using the arts to bolster our courage in dark times and inspire acts of genuine resistance. First we hosted the free Justice for All Ball, a joyous counter to inaugural pomp, where we all danced and celebrated who we are. Then there was the enormously successful Rattle the Walls benefit concert featuring a broad gamut accomplished musicians performing in a range of styles and genres which raised over $2000 for the critical work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Turning our attention to the spoken word in March seemed like a natural next step.
We announced the Poets in Resistance on March 10 at 7 pm at Tree of Life, 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry, Illinois and issued a call for poets at the end of January. Response was slow at first but as word got out in the press, on news web pages, and especially in social media, the floodgates opened. It turned out that poets of every level of achievement were literally aching for a place to speak their mind.
Currently 18 poets are registered participants, including several published authors, accomplished poetry slam artists, and local notables. There are also high school and college students and your neighbor down the street. Taken together they will present a vibrant program—and hopefully inspire resistance and action.
Here is just a sampling of who you can hear this Friday.
Egan Click has a Degree in Writing from Columbia College and is a produce Inspector for Sysco.
Kyra Sullivan is a high school student and aspiring writer.
|The poet performing as Hannalisa
Hannalisa is a poetry slam veteran who is familiar to many in Woodstock for her work with the homeless.
|Jacqueline Nicole Harris.
Jacqueline Nicole Harris is a writer, performance poet, and Shimer College graduate from North Chicago, Illinois and a member of the Deerfield Library Poetry Group. She is the author of five chapbooks, Random Acts of Verse, My Revolution, A Brown Girl’s Story, 7 Random Things, and ON LIFE who is currently working on her first novel.
Lea Grover writes about parenting, relationships, and social justice for a variety of magazines, and has contributed to many non-fiction and poetry anthologies. She speaks on behalf of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), and writes for World Without Exploitation and the Voices and Faces Project. She is a two-time recipient of The Stories We Tell writing scholarship, and a cast member for the 2017 production of Listen To Your Mother. She is looking forward to the upcoming publication of her memoir, about the similarities between battling mental illness and brain cancer.
|Mojdeh Stoakley of the Interfaith Poets (Chicago Slam Poets).
Interfaith Poets (Chicago Slam Poets) features Mojdeh Stoakley, a Baha’i, Persian / Middle Eastern and African American career artist and philanthropist with Anjana Gupta, a Hindu of Indian decent by way of London and an activist with a career is in the financial sector. Together they perform works derivative of the Baha’i, Hindu, and Muslim faiths in solidarity. Though neither is Muslim, the Interfaith Poets have been performing works by Muslim poets in solidarity since Trump’s ban. For info on Interfaith Poets visit http://www.interfaithpoets.org
Ivan Ewert has published three novels in the horror genre, which makes him uniquely qualified to comment on current events. His roots in McHenry County and social activism are deep, but only recently has he opted to use his voice in service to our cause. He is also an actor who performs with the Williams Street Rep Company.
Andrea Hawkins-Kamper is an author, artist, poet, and storyteller from Woodstock. Her most recent performances include The Election Monologues: Chicago, Lifeline Theatre’s Fillet of Solo performance series, and an upcoming show at Story Club Chicago: South Side. Her website is ourladynhytefall.com, where she blogs about almost everything.
|Amy Petrie Shaw.
Amy Petrie Shaw is a queer minister, writer, and artist. Her hobbies are heresy, asking uncomfortable questions, and shining floodlights on the elephant in any room. She serves the Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church in Hartland, Wisconsin.
|Phillip Charles Denofrio
Philip Charles Denofrio is Poet in Residence at the Raue Center for the Performing Arts in Crystal Lake, host of poetry nights at the Raue and Hidden Pearl Café in McHenry, and is known as the McHenry County Sonnet maven.
Jan Bosman is a Woodstock resident and former high school teacher who is currently an active poet and creative non-fiction writer.
And there are still others!
Your host is the Old Man and the proprietor and official Chief Blowhard of this blog and the author of We Build Temples in the Heart. Despite having a raft of new verse inspired by all of the recent madnesses, he promises to keep his yap mostly shut in view of the crowded program.
Poets in Resistance is free and open to the public. We will pass the hat in the time honored tradition for donations to support the Social Justice Ministry of Tree of Life.
Light refreshments will be served and adult beverages available for the legally mature.
Some of the poets will have their books, chapbooks, recordings and other material for sale.