Wednesday, 7 September 2011

100 Thousand Poets for Change


The 24th September marks a global initiative uniting poets across the planet with a voice of social and political conscience. With 500 events in 400 cities across 95 countries already scheduled, this is one of the most ambitious artistic outcries of the millennium to date.

Here, I talk to one of the founding organisers, Michael Rothenberg, poet and editor of Big Bridge Press and zine, to find out what 100 Thousand Poets for Change is all about.

Organisers: Michael Rothenberg    &        Terri CarriĆ³n


I take it this is the first time that 100 Thousand Poets for Change has been held? Where did the idea come from?

Yes, this is the first time for this global event. So far there are already 500 events in 95 countries being scheduled!

I came up with the idea through a conversation with a friend. I was saying how bad things are going around the world: wars, poverty, violence, genocide - and it occurred to me that there ought to be 100 Thousand Poets for Change. My friend said: "That's a great idea". So I created a Facebook event page and invited my Facebook friends. Immediately people started to write to me. 

The date was selected through discussions with friends on the event page. It just seemed like a convenient time for all of us.


You talk about using poetry to effect 'serious social, environmental, and political change'. What sort of changes are you talking about, and how can poetry help to attain them?

You can check out my discussion of this on the 'About' section of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change website.

Here's an excerpt:

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.


Who's involved so far - anyone we might know?

There are tons of famous poets and infamous poets involved in this event. We are looking at over 500 individual organizers from around the world. You can go to the website and look at the Event Location List to check out who is doing what. We have been very fortunate to reach a broad community of poets, slam poets, spoken word poets, experimental poets, surrealist poets, hip hop poets, MFA poets - it's global and inclusive and decentralized.


What will happen to all of the material generated from this event - will it go into something more long-term?

All the material from this event that is posted on the website and blog will be archived by Stanford University. This archive will provide a great history and refection of this event. It will help us to know ourselves and each other better. This is how I think we can create a global community, and encourage the empowerment of a global poetry community. We can hear each other's poetic voices and become better poets.


How do you see this movement developing in the future?

I hope that September 24th is the kick-off for 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and not the endgame. We have a lot of work to do to spread the word that we can do better!

I know there will be another event next year on the same day. 100 Thousand Poets for Change 2012. And I hope organizers and participants will talk about what they have learned from this event, and know more about what they want to do to make change. I have asked that organizers put together a manifesto of their group for compilation in a grand 100TPC manifesto. From what I hear from participant, things have already begun to change.

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