NORTH CAROLINA 100,000 Poets for Change
In North Carolina we adapted an egalitarian approach, with poets across the state invited to develop and run programs independently in their own areas. We offered a series of events and workshops designed to make poetry more accessible. There were some large events, like Barbara Conrad’s shindig in Charlotte, and Scott Owen’s gathering in Hickory, NC, but there were a series of smaller events, too, throughout the state.
In Raleigh, renowned poet Betty Adcock (Slantwise, LSU Press) offered free critiques to anyone who came to Quail Ridge Books. She was joined by myself (Richard Krawiec) (She Hands me the Razor, Press 53) and Tim McBride (The Manageable Cold, Tri-quarterly Books). I also taught a free workshop – Where are you? Where are you going? – to the Raleigh Divorced Women’s Support Group, led by Caroline Huerta.
In Hickory, Scott Owens gathered twenty-three poets gathered with about the same number of additional audience members at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory, NC, and read 70 original poems on September 24, 2011, (could omit) as part of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change initiative. The poems emphasized the themes of diversity, tolerance, peace, and sustainability. Many of the poets forwarded their poems to the President of the United States, as well as the Governor, Senators, and Representatives of the state of NC. Fifteen of the poems were included in a special 100 Thousand Poets for Change issue of “Wild Goose Poetry Review” that featured 2 dozen poems read at 100 Thousand Poets for Change events across North Carolina. That special issue can be seen at www.wildgoosepoetryreview.com
Barbara Conrad organized a large event at the Atherton Farmer’s Market. It featured a Poetry and Collage Workshop by two of our region's best poets -- Karon Luddy and Dannye Romine Powell, several bands, and a Slam Poetry Charlotte competition.
Greensboro poet and fiction writer Valerie Nieman, who publishes with Press 53, taught a workshop for children. It took place from at the Witherspoon Art Gallery, and was called Peeking Behind the Mask. It looked at how we hide our secret identities behind a mask of an unassuming face and daily clothing.
There were slightly unmapped activities, too. Poet John Amen, editor of Pedestal, read a poem on a jet as it flew from NC to California. Gail Peck, a Charlotte poet, stopped at one of her favorite restaurants, Tuscan Brio in Columbia, NC, to read a poem to the kitchen staff. Claudia Morneau had conferences with parents at Elon college, and she shared poems with all of them, before tucking poems into the mailboxes of her apartment complex.
One of our more unique events was run out of Appalachian State University by Joseph Bathanti (Land of Amnesia, Press 53) and Kathryn Kirkpatrick (Unaccountable Weather, Press 53). They co-organized a program which encouraged NC poets and poetry lovers to email poems to NC’s elected representatives. No haranguing, no pontificating, just email a poem. Or two or ten. Putting poetry into the inboxes of politicians, hopefully in such numbers they can’t ignore it.
Also, Fleur de Lisa, the award-winning (Best Original Song, Harmony Sweeps, D.C. 2009) women’s vocal group who write all original music using poetry as lyrics, visited Duke Hospital, where they sang for patients in their rooms, visitors gathered in an elevator, and even a group of women in the ladies’ room. They even visited a local animal shelter and sang to the caged dogs and cats.
Steve Roberts (Another Word for Home), Addy McCulllough, and others took to the streets of Wilmington and wrote poems on the sidewalks in chalk.
At the Hillsborough Health Center, Debra Kaufman (The Next Moment, Jacar Press) and Grey Brown(What It Takes) led a free workshop on Write to Health.
I know this sounds scattered, but that was our intent. To scatter poetry throughout the state, to make it important and accessible, to spread it out in our daily lives.