old_man_summer (old_man_summer) wrote,

Split This Rock Day 2: Off the Page and Into the Streets

Then I went to "Off the Page and Into the Streets: Reports from the Field," a panel about poets organizing and agitating with their work, hosted by Nathaniel Siegel and Susan Brennan. I developed an immediate crush on Siegel, who exudes a magnificient presence -- a cross between Thich Nhat Hanh, Patrick Scully, and Danny Kaye. Susan Brennan must feel the same way, because even though she is a brilliant organizer herself, she largely yielded the floor to Siegel, who talked about his various art projects and actions in New York to raise awareness about social issues, mostly the Iraq war. He brought a number of "tokens" to give away -- handheld Xeroxed guerilla art pieces that can be made in quantity, given away, and used to raise awareness. My favorite was a slip of paper titled "Declaration of Interdependence," which read, 

I am
(not at war)
with you.


X__________________    X___________________

Date: ___/____/____

I went home and signed mine and gave it to my husband to also sign. He also had slips with the Arabic phrase for "I'm sorry" written on them, which he handed out to some surprising results (one Jewish Arabic-speaking New Yorker thought he was a Palestinian issuing an apology). My only quibble was geographical: Doing these actions on young people in NYC is preaching to the choir, and I would have loved to have talked about handing out tokens to people in nursing homes, to farmers, to people outside the metropolises. They concluded with a "hatching session," helping those present strategize and problem-solve around their own activism, and they collected names for an ad-hoc listserv on the topic, which I thought was generous and forward-thinking. I walked away from this seminar wishing I knew Susan and Nathaniel better, and with a million and one cute ideas for t-shirts and street theatre and other direct poetry actions and agitations.
Tags: activism, peace, poetry, split this rock
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