Poet Activists

Poet Activists

Poets Speak Out

By Michael Dickel

Poet activists from 100TPC gathered from all over the world in Salerno, Italy, in June.
Salerno, Italy
June 2015
Photo ©Michael Dickel

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] few years ago, poet activist Michael Rothenberg contacted me. He asked if I would be willing to organize an event for the world-wide 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) Day. He and his partner, Terri Carrion, began 100TPC organically five years ago, which means a couple of years before I became involved.

I have now organized or helped to organize 100TPC events in Jerusalem for the past three years. Poets, musicians, actors, mimes (yes, mimes) organize and perform all over the world in late September (and now, almost every other month in some corner of our spherical globe). With my organizing, I joined a global, poet activist community, many of whom are now close friends. I no longer feel isolated.

Terri and Michael organize all of this, mostly through the internet. However, each of us has ownership of our event and, fittingly for writers, author-ity to do what we like, invite whom we wish, and focus on the key issues that our context calls us to change. The organization, at an international conference that our two inspirational leaders organized in Salerno, Italy, did decide to generally work in three interrelated global change issues: Peace, Social Justice, and Sustainability. These, of course are interrelated.

Jamie Dedes guides The BeZine, a publication of The Bardo / Beguines, an collective of artists and writers, all activists, who seek to foster peace, community, and healing through a love of arts and humanities. They annually host an 100TPC online event, this year focusing on environmental justice. In addition to editing for The Woven Tale Press, I am a contributing editor at the BeZine. In my dual roles, I worked with The Bardo / Beguines on our collaborative effort for poetry month—The BeZine April Issue and this feature result from Jamie and my working together.

As each day goes by, I find that some poet activist I know has been part of 100TPC—as a reader, and organizer, a friend of Michael’s on FaceBook—my poetry community includes a lot of activist poets. Another poet activist, Reuben Woolley, runs a group on Facebook, “I am not a silent poet.” The title of that group strikes me as a good starting point for discussing activist poetry. The rest of the discussion will be quotes and poetry in this feature post other poet activists—Michael, Jamie, Reuben, and others share their thoughts about what it means to be a  poet activist below the fold—here on The Woven Tale Press website.


Michael Rothenberg

Poet activist Michael Rothenberg In Salerno, Italy June 2015 Photo ©Michael Dickel
In Salerno, Italy
June 2015
Photo ©Michael Dickel

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ctivism isn’t only the subject for a panel at a literary trade show. Activism isn’t only analysis and deconstruction of the social, economic and political paradigm in a poem, novel, and periodical. Activism isn’t only talking about or writing about the issues you care about. Some times you have to break down barriers, go beyond the mind and book. You carry a sign into the street. You feed the poor. You break down the walls, precinct a dream, and praise bad poetry and broken prose in the court of the Crimson King. It’s all good. We do what we can.

FEBRUARY 26, 2011


It never snowed last night.  But there was ice on the road.
Gaddafi says, “Libya will be red with fire.”

Irrelevant people have all the money.
You go to poetry school, get your poetry permit, your license to practice.

(Permission to breathe).


So what can a poor boy do/ Except to sing for a rock & roll band/ Cause in sleepy London town there’s no place for a street fighting man.

Rolling Stones sell MacDonald’s breakfast sausage sandwiches and recreational trucks. Record the soundtrack for our Times while engineers rule the world.


But where I live the game to play is compromise solution.


Now what will you do with all your green, green money?
Gray blue money? Black and blue dollars and cents?

Diamonds and gold? Rose colored hundred dollar bills, absolute yen, dissolute drachmas, and spangled lire?


Spyro Euros and spinach pie!

On the Heathrow runway ready to take off. The pilots are talking. “I’d like to invite you over to my house for a duck dinner.”

Black Simoleons!

Gravity falls short of expectation.



Have you ever thought of completing
one of those beautiful sunsets you began years ago
before you were widowed by alcohol and cancer?



“Raise the window please. It’s much too windy for me
back here. I’ve already got an earache.”



News junkie snorts the silver screen through electronic straw and the holocaust narrative resumes. We’re doing just fine considering how bad things are going everywhere. Sanguine shots, cold on the lips, warm as tears in the gut, intoxicates a tabloid flood of pretty tits and ass. Oh, so, so, so sensation!

Hooked on hooked, to see, buy, feel, fly at some safe distance above the global wreckage. Watch it! Truth is simple. It’s one side or the other until there’s a new other side. Dig? Paradigms, dichotomies, phenomenologies, and shadows. The forest doesn’t tell me all I want to know so
I stay tuned to find out.

That dead wood rat I saw on the road, Daily decimations, fuzzy fungus and toads. All goes back to the earth. But where does that shiny spirit, consciousness go? Out like a light? Or does it join the broadcast news cavalcade? Become part of the daily casualty parade, sports, hourly updates and weather?

Write it down! Every night a marching alibi at 7, 9 and 11.
I take a pill to fall asleep, my soporific entry to circumvent the nighttime questioning terrors. To turn off the broadcast entertainment of rising fame and falling stars. But the pill dissolves and dreams resolve to blog and post the disjunctive embroidery, tablet, stele, rune…

The bilious broadcast continues. I walk down zombie streets scattered with trash and light. I enter an abandoned building. Follow squeaking stairs into a basement strewn with beams and plaster. I discover a shimmering pool under the debris.
I climb in and sink below the mirrored surface. I swim through the monotone unknown and can only guess what I’m imagining.

It’s 6 pm or 1 am. I swim and swim. What happens next? The news takes me home.

(S&CD: Crack. Gurgle, gurgle. Blue)

Some more about poet activist Michael

Michael Rothenberg co-founded and co-organizes
100,000 Poets for Change with his partner, Terri Carrion. They also edit Big Bridge.
Michael’s “Poem for Mitko” appears in the April issue of The BeZine as part of a collaboration with The Woven Tale Press.

Jamie Dedes

Poet activist Jamie Dedes, contemplating the person she is in dialogue with at the moment.
Jamie Dedes

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]oetry is as necessary to life as water. With it we take our stand, raise the collective conscience, show a proper respect for intuition and instinct.  Poetry uncobbles our hopes and dreams and anchors our power.


we, the nobodies, the little people
whipped by the whims of the power mongers,
nailing us to a cross of narcissism and greed,
tossing us on the trash heap of history

we, the wounded and noble nameless,
with all our bone, blood, heart and soul
do declare unequivocally—
we find no redemption in chaos,
no joy in parting seas of blood,
no grace in killing one another

we now turn, not our cheeks, but our backs,
leaving the bullies to their naked delusion,
their rudimentary souls; relinquishing
the swords they hand us, we put our
muscle to the plow and reclaim our
birthright to all that is sane and good

Links to more of poet activist Jamie Dede’s world

The Poet by Day, a hub for poetry news, reviews, events and resources for poets and writers
The BeZine‘s mission is to foster peace, proximity and healing through a love of the arts and humanities, Jamie Dedes is Managing Editor
The BeZine and The Woven Tale Press collaborated for the April Poetry Month issue of The BeZine

 Reuben Woolley

Poet activist Reuben Woolley reads poetry at a microphone.
Reuben Woolley

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I write of abuse and suffering, I write for the silences and for the unvoiced. There is nowhere poetry cannot go.

the old crow welcomes winter

i change         not hill
not tree
to other rules

the next step’s
the liquid fall
are deeper
tales       like a still sea
whispering             we are
unobvious            & dead ships sail
to other songs

i keep the notes
close             & everything’s a little
a little
more tired
just asking
what it’s like to be human

there are places
where the world seeps through
where monsters
like shells
on empty beaches         holes
in the sky
singular response
from all my voices

a cold wind tonight

Some places to find poet activist Reuben Woolley

Visit Reuben Woolley’s blog.
This poem also appears in The BeZine April issue.
Check out the FB group: “I am not a silent poet.”

Michael Castro

St. Louis Poet Laureate and poet activist Michael Castro
St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]helley wrote “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” identifying the poem as an effective instrument of change. This truth has endured from before his time to ours as poets around the world have spread the seeds and rallying cries of change by supporting social movements.…from the 1970’s to today, my main and most consistent and persistent form of activism has been as an arts activist. Promoting poetry consciousness can be a revolutionary act.


Trust the flow Joe
you never know
just where you’ll go
but you get there o-
k—here today
as they say

Trust the flow Joe
the juice’ll rush
the river gush
& pause because
it must—
The laws
the laws are in-
the shadow
cannot be held
o no

Trust the flow Joe
just try & meld
yourself into the fabric
of the whole—
not to say
in any way
the soul—
but just the blend
of tree & roots & earth
on another plane
the simultaneous birth
of breath
& death


Trust the flow Joe
whatever you did is done
whatever you had is gone
you’ll never find
what’s left behind
yet today’s new sun
is the same old one
& the waves you’ve begun
keep moving on

Trust the flow Joe


Blue is the blues of this town
Blue as its blue burb
Whose cop killed Mike Brown
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the blues of this town
Blue heat street sign blue core flame
Gas blue blaze haze glazes a name
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the rain song, like tears it comes
From blue whale clouds that rumble like drums
Blue is the blues of this town
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the whiskey that gnaws in the gut
Blue is the uniform makes a man strut
Blue is the lead in the gun chamber rut
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the ghetto, blue the stone rubble
Blue the dope powder, blue the hope bubble
Blue are the trains, the veins, the migraines
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the ballpark, blue all the museums
Blue the caged monkey who swings between screams
Blue is the Arch, & the gateway of dreams
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the hit-man, blue in a bottle
Blue is the street girl, blue her eye shadow
Blue is the beat of the street & the news
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the song, blue the bird songster
Language as long & as strong as a dinosaur
The trees’ teeth are chattering–airplane chainsaw
Blue is the blues of this town

Blue is the smoke over rims of the stacks
Blue is the waterfront, blue both sides of tracks
Blue is the love that is eaten by cracks
Blue is the blues of this town

Three other poems by Michael Castro appear in The BeZine April issue.
Michael Castro writes about his poetry & activism In His Own Words, in The BeZine April issue.

brian crandall

American poet activist Brian Crandall: social and political issues motivate his writing.
Brian Crandall

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ocal and global social issues including political activism are what inspire me to write, to speak up for the oppressed, for those who suffer.…I am proud that the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces calls me a ‘Friend of the Revolution.’  They shared 4 poems I wrote about Syria on their social media pages including websites, Twitter and Facebook.

Can’t You Feel Their Pain?

More Souls will be
Lost in Syria today
The unfortunate ones
Who could not get away

Some believe we’re all connected
In a mysterious sort of way
A conscious universe
Where humans and animals
and even mother earth
Communicate each day

If this is true
When others suffer
When they cry for help, in vain

Can’t you feel their pain?

Tens of thousands killed
By a murderous regime
Is there nothing we can do?

We hear the echo from their screams

Villages burned
And the people are slaughtered
When ISIS comes to town
To kill the men
And rape the daughters

When others suffer
When they cry for help, in vain

Can’t you feel their pain?

They flee on foot
They run for their lives
If they don’t drown in the water
They seek asylum
In desperation to survive

Some nations grant them refuge
With help, a sense of pride
While others put up fences
Access is denied

When others suffer
When they cry for help, in vain

Can’t you feel their pain?

This should not be a world of divided people
A world of
‘Us, versus Them’
When we create a man-made border
We create a situation where violence will stem

We are all related
We are one human race
Let us help one another
Abandon violence, and disgrace

When others suffer
When they cry for help, in vain
We must unite and work together
To take away their pain

Illya Sumanto

Malaysian poet activist Ilya Sumanto in Salerno, Italy at the 2015 world conference of 100TPC Photo ©Michael Dickel
Illya Sumanto
Salerno, Italy 2015
Photo ©Michael Dickel

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s a teacher, I encourage my students to question and challenge my views, so they can be trained to question and challenge the System.

Aung Aan Suu Kyi’s Pseudo Ex-boyfriend

I don’t mind being a spinster
Spinning, twirling, whirling, swirling in a tornado of stars conquering the galaxy
Like a Sufi
Harmonizing the sacred spiral dance to celebrate the divine in me
I can twerk too
But I will first knock on the window of your altered state of
Before intruding your geopolitical utopia with how my butt can really shake
I’d rather be a nun
And get myself thrown in jail for refusing to renounce the Dalai Lama
Than chanting the hypocritical words of the national anthem
I don’t mind being a cat-lady
For I’m used to the spoor of piss of Self-proclaimed gods marking their Territory
I’d rather you take a piss on me
Than being married off to one.

Daddy said,
This is the land of our fathers, not theirs.
Use your womb as a weapon against the Enemy
We gotta maintain our votes !
Get it on and breed as many Buddhist babies
“We five and our 25”
You must not lose to over-fertile Muslim housewives.

But daddy.
I’ve fallen in love with a Muslim man whose anarchic nipple hair grew in random directions
Jesus looking Indian who inherited a slaughter house from generation to generation.
His favourite dish is a home-cooked Persian culinary concoction
Of casserole sized pieces of lamb
Red kidney beans
And mid-eastern preserved lemons
I googled the recipe
For I don’t mind cooking it although I’m pescetarian
I could’ve been a vegetarian
But I feel less attached to sea creatures.
He doesn’t mind not eating meat when I’m around

-You know what makes this connection we have more profound?

My halal-Jesus-looking butcher is a wacky inflatable sky dancer
Whose arms flail like a winged sea cucumber in the deepest part of the ocean
He moves in erratic directions
—Just like his nipple hair
Eyebrows try to keep up
Peeks from behind a pillar somewhere with a creepy smile before he comes to get me

Let me dance with him please, daddy.
He can probably twerk too.

This poem also appears in The BeZine April issue.

National Poetry Month 2016 Features Schedule at The Woven Tale Press

Sun, Apr 3, 2016Spotlight: Michael Dickel, Associate Editor, Poet
Mon, Apr 4, 2016Essay-Poem Hybrid Writing by American Poet Charles Banes
Wed, Apr 6, 2016Donna Kuhn, my lies have titles, video
Fri, Apr 8, 2016Eleanore Hooker—Interview
Wed, Apr 13, 2016My Entrepreneurial Spirit | Video Poetry | Aaron Fagan
Mon, Apr 25, 2016—Poet Activists
Wed, Apr 27, 2016David Loret De Mola — Guerrilla Poetry

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