Photo of the OWS Poetry Anthology at the Tree of Life in Zuccotti Park
The 10th Update of the OWS Poetry Anthology is now online. Sadly, the poems aren’t pouring in the way they used to so I’m not going to update the anthology on a weekly basis anymore. Instead, I’ll update every few weeks once I’ve received a chunk of poems.
Besides sending in poems, everyone is also welcome to contribute to the “POETIC INTRODUCTIONS” section of the anthology. The introduction section is a place for “essays/writings/stories” about what the Anthology means to you. It’s a space for you to write an introduction for the anthology. Danny Schechter sent in the first introduction. I finally wrote one and it just went into the anthology with this update.
And in case you don’t know, the OWS Poetry Anthology is open to submissions from anyone. All poems are accepted. In all languages. If you want to have your poem in multiple languages, it’s up to you to determine translation.
Find out more about the anthology and read it HERE!
And one of America’s great living poets, the poet CA Conrad, sent in a poem for Update 10. It’s currently the last poem in the anthology… Here’s a video of CA Conrad reading it New Year’s Day at St. Mark’s Church. I LOVE YOU, CA CONRAD!
If you’d like to read my POETIC INTRODUCTION just continue reading…
The OWS Poetry Anthology Story
By, Stephen Boyer
Poetry was my entry to Occupy Wall Street. My first few days in the park, I walked around listening, soaking in the vibrant energy and diverse conversations. I wanted to be part of the new imagining of community and politics but didn’t know how. The third day, I was introduced to Travis Holloway, who was helping form the Poetry Assembly, a weekly re-imaging of a traditional poetry reading:
“The reading will take the form of a direct democratic assembly. Poets will add their names and be chosen by lot. We have no headliners or special privileges but rather presume the equality of each poet’s voice and to try to listen to one another. We ask that each poet try to keep their poems under 3 minutes. And we hope that poets will select poems that they feel are relevant to the hopes and demands of the people here.”
Text from the November 25th Poetry Assembly@OccupyWallStreet announcement.
The idea of the Assembly immediately excited me and I joined Travis in painting cardboard signs, with no realization that I was participating in the beginning of my deep involvement in the movement.
The OWS Poetry Anthology was born the second week of the Poetry Assembly. Earlier in the day, I had gone to Liberty Plaza to make signs for the Assembly. I had been asked to be the facilitator for the evening and to ensure that the assembly ran smoothly. As I made cardboard signs, I met the People’s Library librarians for the first time and immediately fell in love with the few bins of books the library had collected, safeguarded by tarps. The librarians enthusiastically expressed gratitude for the Poetry Assembly and through those initial conversations; it was made apparent the freewheeling Poetry Assembly needed to be archived for the future and for the people coming through the People’s Library on days that the Assembly was not taking place. I initially imagined the Poetry Anthology would exist as a few poems stapled together sitting in the People’s Library, just a small document of the multitudes of voices who had been moved by the Occupations happenings and had been inspired to reflect on them. The Library loved the idea and immediately took it on as their publication. They offered to provide the necessary funds to cover printing and with that I joined the People’s Library as a librarian. All there was left to do was to ask the Poetry Assembly if they liked the idea. The response was unanimously positive amongst the poets who had assembled. The poet Filip Marinovich immediately offered to join in the compiling of poems. A few days after the anthology was announced, the poets Eliot Katz and Vivian Demuth came to OWS to discuss the project and offered to reach out to America’s great living poets – Anne Waldman, The Allen Ginsberg Society, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Wanda Coleman, Michael McClure, Kevin Killian, Dodie Bellamy, Frank Sherlock, Eileen Myles, Adrienne Rich, and more.
Once I moved into the park, life became a whirlwind of participation, conversations bleeding into one another – “how to survive a maritime disaster” to “Broadway theater” to “global politics” to “philosophy” to “queer issues” and ever onward. Time warped, hours became days and it felt like I hadn’t even blinked an eye. Without realizing it, I had fully given myself to the OWS movement and the People’s Library. Life in the park was a continually ecstatic outburst of psychedelic transformation, philosophers engaged gardeners, poets engaged politicians and the freewheeling demonstrators engaged the vampiric Wall St. in unflinching, self reflecting, ongoing conversation. Filip Marinovich said it best in an interview with the Huffington Post, “We are psychically echoing and playing variations on each others’ waking dreams of being here at Liberty. The grove of trees here is the Greek Akademia Democratic Polis grove of trees moving and the anthology pages are its leaves falling in the American Fall Wind. Welcome to Sherwood Forest, merry human.” For as beautiful and exhilarating as all of this was however, life in the park was also exhausting and trying… if you think life with a few roommates is hard, try living with thousands of people all bent out of shape that their lives have become overshadowed by a vampire nation. Needless to say, working on the Poetry Anthology proved to continually be the highlight of my week, keeping me focused on the long term goal and adding sanity to my days.
For three weeks, the poetry anthology lived exclusively in the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street. We reasoned its limited presence gave it a powerful and magickal aura. Visitors in the library seemingly never let it rest. It was our gleaming diamond. Journalists wrote about it, visitors anxiously thumbed its pages; the original copies were stolen and replaced all in a very short amount of time. It soon became apparent that more copies needed to surface as demand to read the anthology grew. We placed a copy at Poet’s House. People that never felt compelled or ready to enter Liberty Sq. found that copy and suddenly wanted to visit and see the spectacle that these poets had engaged. Things were active and beautiful.
Then on November 14th, 2011 the NYPD raided Liberty Plaza. The Nation very generously told the tale of the OWS Anthology and my relation to it:
“During the raid, Stephen Boyer, a poet, friend and OWS librarian, read poems from the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology (see peopleslibrary.wordpress.com) aloud directly into the faces of riot police. As they pushed us away from the park with shields, fists, billy clubs and tear gas, I stood next to Stephen and watched while he yelled poetry at the top of his lungs into the oncoming army of riot police. Then, something incredible happened. Several of the police leaned in closer to hear the poetry. They lifted their helmet shields slightly to catch the words Stephen was shouting out to them, even while their fellow cops continued to stampede us. The next day, an officer who was guarding the entrance to Zuccotti Park told Stephen how touched he was by the poetry, how moved he was to see that we cared enough about words and books that we would risk violent treatment and arrest just to defend our love of books and the wisdom they contain.”
A couple days after the raid, the poet Sarah Sarai and I met up and turned the Poetry Anthology into a PDF so we could get it onto the People’s Library wordpress site. Now that the People’s Library had been destroyed, it became necessary to give it a new home. The Internet seemed like the obvious choice in order to spread the message across the globe instantaneously and have the anthology occupying computer screens everywhere. The anthology went online with instructions on “how to print” and “how to make your own copy” so people everywhere could place copies in their community. In this way the anthology demonstrated the power of limited access and total access. Since the anthology has gone online, I’ve received numerous emails from people from across the world that have told me they’ve printed the anthology and placed a copy in their community and community is what Occupy Wall Street is all about. Without the community that banded around the anthology, it would have never happened.
My personal life has always been a constant rotation, with various interests taking more dominant roles depending on the outside forces and astrological aligning at play. Currently, political engagement has superseded the more frivolous art for art’s sake attitude of last year, my first in New York City. Memories of my “face covered in glitter” still up-sparkles in the ether, however, and always will no matter what mask I’m currently wearing. And I know I’m not alone in my ever widening mystical lifestyle. How could we ever expect politics to change unless we radically re-imagine. So it’s this sentiment exactly that guided my decision to push for a politically minded anthology that set no parameters on poetic content and form. After all, who is to say what is and what isn’t? This movement is about constant re-definition, about the open ended and perpetual, the imagined and the re-imagined. We have been placed in the middle of a transitional scenario that has the possibility to remain fluid and that very well could carry on forever. This is the birth of a new mindset, a new way of addressing the universe, the powers that be and each other.
This anthology is in no way intended to be our guide. It is merely meant to illuminate and inspire and I hope that in its pages you come closer to tasting the spark of beauty and excitement that led to this document’s creation.
So with that, I’d like to acknowledge the community of people whose input, conversations, support and help shaped this anthology (in no particular order): Cory Rockliff, Filip Marinovich, Eliot Katz, Vivian Demuth, Sean Allingham, Michael O’Brian, Betsy Fagin, Sarah Sarai, Lee Ann Brown, Tony Torn, Elisa Miller, Jonathan Ross, Cynthia White, Molly Crabapple, Laura Weibgen, Ayesha Adamo, William Scott, Sparrow, Thom Donovan, Travis Holloway, Grey Space and Anelise Chen. And a very special THANK YOU to everyone that has contributed their voice to this document, you give me and everyone else hope, poems matter, voices matter, people matter!