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Conversation & Writing about Performance & Poetry

We are not the only ones implementing programs for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other cognitive and physical disabilities. Every year, as more theaters, movie theaters, museums and venues cater to this population, the more empathetic and understanding we grow as a culture. Not only content to watch—these young people want to make art. Doing so will make them more aware of themselves and the world around them. It makes for some profoundly amazing theater too.

Part of how we go about organizing is aligning ourselves with a consensus, non-hierarchical framework. We see many private and non-profit organizations out here in the community that bring about “change,” but these very organizations see themselves as separate from the community; they label themselves “organizer,” “director,” “community partner.” We don’t believe in creating a hierarchy amongst our people. We believe we, la gente, the people, have the solutions and ingenuity to transform our own comunidad and have the capability to create change as we see fit. As a collective, we are very much influenced by the Zapatistas in the way that we “lead by obeying” or “mandar obedeciendo” with our community. This is why we seek to remain grounded and humble, to be of and for our communities, to work with ourselves and share the power we all have.

Notes Toward a Live (DIY) Poetry Journal, or Another Report from the Micro Republic (aka Beautiful Back Corner Neighborhood) of Verse, WI, or How the Wisconsin Protests of 2011 & Hip Hop Pedagogy Transformed the Practices of Two Poetry Editors, or How I Survived the Zombie Apocalypse

a paper given at the Popular Culture Association Meeting in Chicago, April, 2014, by Wendy Vardaman  

I’m starting with a poem by Fabu that appeared in an anthology I co-edited, published in November, Echolocations, Poets Map Madison.

Macaja Revels Camped at a Stream of Water

In Black Settlers in Rural Wisconsin

there is a notation that a Black man

Macaja Revels, born in 1800 on the Cherokee reservation

migrated to Dane county and camped at a stream of water

eighteen miles north of the village of Madison.

Macaja traveled on to buy land elsewhere.

There is no record of physical description; light, dark or medium

what he accomplished or who his parents were.

In 1800, a Black man was both an oddity and invisible

but the land welcomed him.

The land was cheap, fertile with plenty

there was schooling for children and protection for escaped slaves

so Macaja could rest briefly.

Who remembers Macaja Revels, Black settler in the 1800’s

Who camped at a refreshing stream

Eighteen miles north of the village of Madison

but moved on, maybe knowing there would be no welcome in Madison.

Who remembers that Black people came to Wisconsin

to be free?

—Fabu

from Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, Cowfeather Press, 2013

As an independent academic operating outside the university, I move among topics and among the roles of publisher, editor, poet, curator, activist, critic, teacher, administrator, designer, producer. I belong to creative communities & circles—not institutions—and have the freedom not only to move among roles, but also to invent and inhabit new creative contexts, inviting others to collaborate. I don’t get paid for most of the work I do, but flexibility, meaning, and freedom are also forms of compensation, as well as privilege. One of these creative communities, Verse Wisconsin, is a hybrid print-online poetry magazine that I co-edited, published, designed, and was the webmaster of for 5 years with another Madison poet, Sarah Busse. Our final issue came out this month, providing opportunity for reflection: What have we learned? What can we share with creatives, inside & outside universities, who are building their own artistic republics and neighborhoods? What happens out here in the community (as “Public Humanities” likes to call the vandals at its gates) that doesn’t occur inside the university or other large arts institutions? I offer the perspective of a failed—and I mean that in the best way—tiny arts organization: a print-online publisher of poetry and verse drama, spoken word and visual poetry, seeking performance-based, activist alternatives to publication; a pedagogy & editorial praxis informed by performance-poetry; and a Midwestern poetics/aesthetics informed by the present moment, not just the past: more barn razing than raising; more meth than myth; goth & gothic; informed by current political/economic/cultural realities; always, but also increasingly, urban and non-white; the human in the humanities besieged not just by external forces, but also by its own non-responsiveness to the immediate human, to local problems, concerns,  resources and changing circumstances.

 

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Phillip Agnew: “This is my tome to 2013; my poem to the year of my dreams”

youngist:

by Phillip Agnew

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Phillip Agnew, Executive Director of the Dream Defenders, on bus bound for 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. – Photo by Trymaine Lee/MSNBC

For 364 days, at least, I found myself in a constant state of conflict.
Almost daily my alarm clock awoke me at the corner of a crossroad: asking that I decide
… And every day I oscillated away.
I was readiness & unsteadiness, joy & sadness,
deletion & depletion, Completion;
I was cool confidence in a cracked case.
I was the reluctant leader, the forlorn follower.
I was a horrible mentor, a deplorable mentee.
Always kept it together, rarely kept in touch.
I was here, there, everywhere and no where.
I longed for home and grew restless for the road.
I moved too fast and proceeded with much caution.
I served and rarely felt deserving.
I was selfishly selfless.
I spread love and squandered it.
I sailed in the sure serenity of certainty & in the swaying seas of insecurity.

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(Source: youngist)

EchoLaunch (for Echolocations, Poets Map Madison)

Launch event for the anthology, Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, with poems and poetry collage created at the launch by contributors and community members. Audio excerpts are from Echolocations' contributors and can be heard at http://cowfeatherpress.org/echolocations.html. More information about Echolocations and Write Your Madison/ #writeyourmadison is also at the website. A Google map of poem locations in the book is available at http://tinyurl.com/kw4paxp.

Toward a Live Poetry Journal: Notes on Poetry & Performance from the Republic (aka the Beautiful Back Corner Neighborhood) of Verse Wisconsin

A version of this essay was delivered at the Midwestern Modern Language Association Annual Conference, 11/8/2013,  by Wendy Vardaman

How many of you are sometime poets? Performance poets? Editors and/or other producers of poetic content? Teachers? More than one of these?

Razones en el Invierno

     Para Erik, Flavio, Gustavo y Oracio Sosa Villavicencio

Escribo para que nuestra sangre hable
con el río de la calle donde nadie sabe de nadie.
Para que tú desde una esquina de la noche me consumas
con la fuerza de un barco que se hunde.
Escribo para que el aire respire aire.
Escribo para que me piense el musgo del camino.
Para que me descifre en la pradera el ganso y el búho.
Escribo cuando tengo hambre,
cuando estoy por cerrar la puerta de mi alma.
Escribo para que ustedes me escriban,
para que me consideren uno de los suyos,
de los que reúnen semillas y se abrazan con las llamas,
como si nada pasara y solo yo pasara.
Escribo para que mis hijos un día sepan que tengo otra voz,
no la voz del que indica a qué hora apagar o encender la mirada,
sino la voz que ustedes también reconocen en los almendros,
y en el movimiento de las nubes,
voz que desde hace siglos me nace
con cascabeles y plumas.
Escribo para que ustedes se hallen ante mis palabras.
Escribo por los que no escriben y se ríen solos,
para los que aman y andan entre el polvo.
Escribo entonces para nombrar las cosas que no tenemos,
para inventarlas,
para los que se deshacen de tristeza,
para los que nos golpean y nos encierran,
para los que yacen bajo las raíces de las aguas.
Escribo para que juntos nos asombremos.
Escribo para los que no pueden ver la luz y sostenerla en sus manos,
como lo hacen nuestros hijos todas las mañanas.
Escribo para que ustedes dispersen con su risa el ritmo, el canto.

Reasons in the Winter

         For Erik, Flavio, Gustavo and Oracio Sosa Villavicencio

I write so our blood speaks
with the river that is this street,
here where no one knows about anyone
so that from one corner of the night you consume me
with the force of a drowning boat.
I write so the air breathes air.
I write so the moss on the path thinks about me,
so that the goose and that owl on the prairie understand me.
I write when I am hungry,
when I am about to close the door of my soul.
I write so you write me,
so that you consider me one of yours,
one of those who gathers seeds and embraces flames,
as if nothing happened and only I happened.
I write so my sons one day know that I have another voice
not the voice that tells them when to turn on and off their eyes,
but rather the voice that you also recognize in the almond trees,
and in the movement of the clouds.
A voice that was born many centuries ago
with rattles and feathers.
I write so that you find yourselves before my words.
I write for those who don’t write and laugh alone,
for those who love and walk among the dust.
I write, then, to name the things that we don’t have,
to invent them,
for those who undo themselves from sorrow,
for those who strike us and make us prisoners,
for those below the water’s roots.
I write so that together we are amazed.
I write for those who cannot see light and hold it in their hands
like our sons do every morning.
I write so that with your laughter you disperse the rhythm, the song.

Moisés Villavicencio Barras  (Spanish & English versions, from Luz de Todos los Tiempo / Light of All Times, and Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, Cowfeather Press, 2013)

Although I have a PhD, I am not an academic: that means I don’t have to focus, publish, or cite sources for the sake of proving I know things. I can move among topics and among the roles of publisher, editor, poet, curator, activist, critic, teacher, administrator, designer, producer. I belong to creative communities & circles—not institutions and have freedom to move among, to invent and inhabit new creative contexts, inviting others to collaborate. I don’t get paid for most of the work I do, but flexibility/ meaning/ freedom are also forms of compensation, as well as privilege. One of these creative communities, Verse Wisconsin, is a hybrid print-online poetry magazine that I have co-edited, published, designed, and been the webmaster of for 5 years with another Madison poet, Sarah Busse. We’ll stop publishing VW next fall, providing opportunity for reflection: What have we learned? What can we share with creatives, inside & outside universities, who are building their own artistic republics and neighborhoods? What happens out here in the community (as “Public Humanities” likes to call the vandals at its gates) that doesn’t occur inside the university or other large arts institutions? I offer the perspective of a failed—and I mean that in the best way—tiny arts organization: a print-online publisher of poetry and verse drama seeking performance-based, activist alternatives to publication; a pedagogy & editorial praxis informed by performance-poetry; and a Midwestern poetics/aesthetics informed by the present moment not just the past: more barn razing than raising; more meth than myth; goth & gothic; informed by current political/economic/cultural realities; always, but also increasingly, urban and non-white; the human in the humanities besieged not just by external forces, but also by its own non-responsiveness to the immediate human, to local problems, concerns,  resources and changing circumstances.

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 Cover of current online issue of Verse Wisconsin.

 

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