The writer of today’s guest post, Jamie Dedes, is a name you may have seen on this blog before, but not as a guest blogger. Jamie published an interview with me about activism and Yopp on her poetry and writing blog, and shortly after, she proposed a guest post about a world-wide social justice initiative that’s been brought about by thousands of poets all over the world. Fun fact about me, before I was a blogger I was a poet, so the idea of promoting a group that combines activism with poetry really made me smile. I hope you’ll go check out 100TPC and consider getting involved after you finish reading today’s post. I just received an update today that there are now 500 registered events for 100TPC this year that will be occurring in over 50 different countries!
Shelly famously wrote and is frequently quoted for saying, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Activist poetry in the service of making change, of protesting war and injustice and in giving voice to the oppressed has a long and honorable recorded-history and probably started before written language. It didn’t come to me as something approaching a way of life until I was benched by a disability and forced into medical retirement.
Ruderal species of plants are the first to colonize lands disturbed by natural events or human activities. Typically, they dominate the disturbed area for a time, gradually losing ground to the competition. In extraordinary circumstances, the ruderals may become permanently established.
In 2011 poet Michael Rothenberg posed a question on Facebook: “Would you be willing to organize a day of poetry to celebrate change in your community?” That question went out into the social networking sphere like ruderal seeds in the wind. Poets and even other artists responded enthusiastically. Since then, 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC) Cofounders Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion have supported poets, writers, artists, musicians, mimes and other creatives in the organization of arts events advocating for peace, justice and sustainability.
Each year hundreds of 100TPC events are held simultaneously in communities around the world on the fourth Saturday of September. This is always an encouraging adventure with diverse voices of like mind connecting across borders.
In June 2015, an International 100,000 Poets for Change Conference was held in Salerno, Italy. Michael Dickle wrote of it: “Imagine, if you can, more than 80 poets from all over the world—every continent, 33 countries. Imagine poets from every generation, spoken-word artists, poets with books or no book, all come together to share the spirit of poet-activists, as 100TPC organizers. Now imagine us all talking about poetry, about arts and activism, women’s issues, oral versus print traditions, and organizing—with interpreters translating into Italian and English. That’s how our four conference days were (mostly) spent.”
As I became more involved with 100TPC, I remember thinking that if we were rioting in 120 countries instead of sharing poems, music and art for sure you’d see us on CNN. It’s a sad reality in today’s world that good news doesn’t travel well or far. Over the years I have come to appreciate that there is something rather majestic about the ground-swell of hope and possibility that happens when thousands of visionary people across the globe simultaneously bare witness to the desire for, the possibility of, and the potential paths toward peace, justice, and sustainability.
“A poet’s work . . . to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.” Salman Rushdie
I cut my protest teeth with Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War (Iraq). I wrote three poems for that, which were accepted and then picked up elsewhere. In 2011, before I learned of 100TPC, I held a virtual event for Poets Against War at Into the Bardo, which is now The BeZine.
In 2012, I attached our Zine virtual event to 100,000 Poets for Change. My thought was that there were a lot of other people out there who were also homebound or otherwise constrained by circumstance and couldn’t organize or attend events. I wanted to give these folks a chance to have their say and to be able to participate in 100TPC.
Now, every year at the Zine we host Virtual 100TPC, an event registered like all the others with 100TPC.org. It has become a tradition for poet Michael Dickel to be our master of ceremonies and for artist Corina Ravescraft to design a new The BeZine 100TPC Banner each year. Additionally, we publish our Zine each quarter and three of the four issues are after 100TPC and themed Peace (March), SustainABILITY (June), and Social Justice (September).
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
Certainly, literacy is the critical foundation for change and “Poetry is good for development leaning,” writes Robert Lee Brewer, Senior Editor of Writers’ Digest: “In child education, children’s verbal and written skills are somewhat underdeveloped. Poetry helps by teaching in rhythm, stringing words together with a beat helps cognitive understanding of words and where they fit. Additionally, it teaches children the art of creative expression, which most found highly lacking in the new-age educational landscape.”
100TPC continues to evolve, most recently in support of literacy, specifically poetry literacy, with Read A Poem To A Child Week and with a compilation and curriculum that is the result of a collaboration among 100,000 Poets for Change, Florida State University, and Reading Is Fundamental with selections from The John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection of Florida State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives.
“This is the good fight for us and we will continue to provide a global platform and venue.” Michael Rothenberg, Cofounder of 100TPC
In an update this month, Michael Rothenberg wrote me that, “So far we have 400 events [now 500] confirmed for 100 Thousand Poets for Change and the "Read A Poem To A Child” initiative. People are still actively signing up.
“I would like to see the Read A Poem To A Child expand in the schools this coming year. We have developed a partnership with the largest literacy group in the USA, Reading Is Fundamental, and we are hoping that this relationship will help with outreach to teachers and schools. They have set up a landing page on their website and will be sending out announcements of the upcoming event through social media. We have put together a free downloadable pdf compiled by Florida State University Libraries and a selection of poetry in the classroom curriculum ideas to make participation in this event easy and accessible.
“And of course, we continue to encourage and support participation in the 100TPC global event, with the hopes that we can encourage poets, musicians and artists to stay vocal and engaged in these difficult times. It is so easy to feel hopeless and lose heart when it seems the world is coming apart around us. 100TPC hopes to counter despair and disillusionment, encourage and support celebration through the arts of peace, justice and sustainability. This is the good fight for us and we will continue to provide a global platform and venue.”
Register your event for 100TPC and Read a Poem to a Child Week at 100tpc.org
100,000 Poets for Change Facebook Communication Hub
The BeZine 100TPC Facebook Discussion Group
Read a Poem to a Child Week
September 23rd – September 28th, 2019
About the guest blogger: Jamie Dedes is a bed-bound freelance writer, poet and blogger. She is the managing editor of The BeZine, published by The Bardo Group/Beguines, a virtual arts collective she founded. She runs a webzine, The Poet by Day at jamiededes.com, an information hub for poets and writers meant to introduce stellar but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights. Connect with Jamie at The Poet by Day Facebook Page, on her personal facebook under G. Jamie Dedes, and via email - firstname.lastname@example.org.