What fun it was to broadcast poetry using the People’s Mic at Broadway and Liberty! There were four of us, initially: Alicia, Pam, Darren, and I. Alicia had taken the train in from New Jersey, Pam from Brooklyn, and Darren–my old neighborhood organizing comrade–had flown in from Canada where he’s currently in a graduate program. Almost immediately, we decided to try out the locally popular amplification method and had a great success with a poem by Canadian poet and philosopher Jan Zwicky (read by Darren) and one by Judy Grahn (read by Alicia–the one about the voracious elephant with a trunk the size of the world, and what an insect intruder up that trunk could do to disrupt its depredations). It’s an amazing experience to use the People’s Mic with poetry, because the requirement to repeat each line or portion of a line causes the hearer to internalize the words in a new way. The technique seems, on the whole, best suited to poems employing a good deal of repetition; to short poems; and possibly to poems that invoke a childlike sense of absurdity and discovery (which was how Alicia read Judy Grahn’s elephant poem). Jan Zwicky’s poem used surprising juxtapositions, which added an extra fillip to the experience.
At various points, the four of us attracted other listeners and vocalists. One was a Haitian man who demurred when asked if he had a poem to contribute (“I am the poem–I don’t even speak English”–which he clearly did). Then he talked about the unacknowledged history of Haitians who’ve fought for the U.S., “but they don’t want to recognize it because these people were black.” Another man volunteered to recite Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” and did a pretty good job of it (with a little help from the rest of us, from time to time). All in all, we had a great range of material–from poems by Claribel Alegría, Gioconda Belli, and Bessy Reyna that I contributed (all from the 1987 anthology Ixok Amar go, edited by Zoë Anglesey and published by Granite Press) to material by Grenadian Merle Collins and American Muriel Rukeyser. Finally, we were frozen to the bone and getting ready to leave when a stout, elderly man came up to Alicia and me and delivered a quite lengthy speech on how we ought to check out William Wordsworth’s poem “England, 1802” (the sonnet beginning “Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour…”). “He was a revolutionary poet!” “Yes, for about five minutes before he turned into an old reactionary,” Alicia conceded.
It seems I’ve forgotten to write about several significant developments of recent days…the march of military veterans on Wednesday, yesterday’s People’s Tribunal on the crimes of Goldman Sachs, and rumors of a women’s gathering mentioned to me by a friend. More on this tomorrow.