Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween + HUMAN MICROPOEM @ #OccupyChicago


Be safe and have fun if you trick & treat tonight!


(Since Shakespeare didn't create the word and apparently no one else has either*, I am going to: embogment. That is my state these days. In a bog of competing deadlines, responsibilities, layers of materials to read--and thus, the paucity of new blog posts. It's always hard to convey how the quarter system's pace creates ever new layers of tasks more quickly than some of us can tackle them, but so it is. Nevertheless before another week passes, I wanted to post some entries, so here is one, and as I complete the stubs for the prior ones, I'll post those too. - *Of course this word already exists in English, as quick Google search suggests. P. J. O'Rourke of all people has already employed it.)

Yesterday I temporarily broke my weeks-long engagement with (reading and marking up) fiction and joined some local poets who were reading at the Occupy Chicago main site, on the corner of Jackson and LaSalle Streets, across from the Federal Reserve Branch of Chicago. Dubbed The Human Micropoem, after the Human Microphone approach that Occupy Together protesters have adopted across the country, the gathering, organized by Jen Karmin and Laura Goldstein, drew a decent number of participants, among them the longstanding Occupy Chicago resisters, who for over a month now have been standing their ground, leading rallies and marches, and calling attention to the many gross economic and social disparities that the current Global Economic Depression has only magnified.

The organizers invited readers to bring poems to read--and be human miked aloud--of no longer than 5 minutes.  As with any human microphone, the speaker says a line and everyone who can hear it repeats it, roughly in unison. The call and response choral form has the effect of making the words of any statement linger in the mind, and the effect of hearing so many different types of voices speaking- the musical and rhythmic lines of the poems together, sometimes altering based on what was heard and misheard, was multiply resonant for me, not just aurally but at times emotionally. The repetition gave each line weight, but also made the pieces, no matter whether they were prosy or more conventional in their poetic form, comprehensible, and, as I noted, the amplification and harmonization increased their power.

I arrived a little late. Other local writers, artists and activists present, some of whom may or may not have read, included Jen, Laura, Andrew Cantrell, Lina ramona Vitkauskas, John Wilkinson, Kurt Heintz, Braden Coucher, Eric Elshtain, Barbara Barg, Daniel Borzutzky, Larry Sawyer, Chris Gallinari, and Jen Besemer. I was, I believe, the last to read and did not present one of my poems but instead chose Carl Sandburg's "I Am the People, the Mob," because of its appropriateness on many levels. Interestingly even though I mentioned Sandburg before I began, several people afterwards wanted to know about "my poem," so I directed them to the behemoth Google so that they could find it online. I think it, Sandburg, and all the late, past great poets of labor should be invoked as often as contemporary ones are, as often as possible, particularly during rallies and marches. Their words are important and vital today as when they wrote them, and when channeled through human microphones as Human Micropoems, they recapture, even if for a second, the worldly and otherworldly power that words had for our oral ancestors and still have for our mostly oral peers.

Jen Karmin (in the plum cap and coat) beginning to read, as a participant walks to the poem's music
One of the poets reading
Another poet reading
Some of those present
After the reading, the Occupy Chicago announcements photo
An important message (even though these days it often seems to be a foregone conclusion, to quote Shakespeare)

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