Do not go gentle!… Poets strike against Trump on Jan. 15

Alan Kaufman, center, holding “Poetry Is Free!” sign, at the San Francisco Poets Strike in 1993. Reading, at right, is John Ross, who was the leading American journalist covering Subcommander Marcos in Chiapas at that time. At far left is Neelu Cherkovski, the great writer Charles Bukowski’s best friend and biographer. Police had shut down a poetry reading at The Blue Monkey Cafe for lack of an “entertainment permit.” Kaufman subsequently called a strike of 10 poets on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall. “The police came in riot gear,” Kaufman recalled. "But so did camera teams from all the major networks. It was an election year and no one wanted to see cops dragging poets off the steps of City Hall. We ended up getting the permit law revoked.” The event was reported in the national media, including Time magazine.

Alan Kaufman, center, holding “Poetry Is Free!” sign, at the San Francisco Poets Strike in 1993. Reading, at right, is John Ross, who was the leading American journalist covering Subcommander Marcos in Chiapas at that time. At far left is Neelu Cherkovski, the great writer Charles Bukowski’s best friend and biographer. Police had shut down a poetry reading at The Blue Monkey Cafe for lack of an “entertainment permit.” Kaufman subsequently called a strike of 10 poets on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall. “The police came in riot gear,” Kaufman recalled. “But so did camera teams from all the major networks. It was an election year and no one wanted to see cops dragging poets off the steps of City Hall. We ended up getting the permit law revoked.” The event was reported in the national media, including Time magazine.

BY ALAN KAUFMAN | Rage, rage against the dying of the light — and the coming of the Trump… .

On Sun., Jan. 15, I will lead, with Michael Rothenberg of One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change, a nationwide strike of citizen-poets: Poets Against Trump. From New York to Los Angeles and New Orleans to Austin, poets will assemble at their respective city halls and other locations to voice their opposition and commitment to struggle.

In Manhattan, we will gather on the steps of City Hall at exactly 1 p.m. Not only are all poets welcome to read but visual artists can bring works of protest art. Any caring citizen with something to declare in the space of a short poem can have his or her say, too.

Then, on Sat., Jan. 21, a Million Women’s March will rally in Washington, D.C., to voice a courageous mass opposition to the Trump presidency. There will also be women’s marches in New York City, San Francisco and other cities.

Meanwhile, in New York, Maria de Losangeles, an undocumented immigrant artist, has spearheaded We Make America, a tremendous new progressive effort comprised of chiefly women artists and veteran activists. Also in New York, Theresa Byrnes, the performance artist, has organized nights of exhibition and symposia at her E. Ninth St. East Village gallery to launch a new artistic front against Trump.

“Let Us” is my anthemic tribute to the love and dream that inspires such efforts: a paean to the poets, artists and bus riders who comprise a new civil rights movement in which we must all represent with the power of our art and the dedication of our ideals. It is a call to be a force not only for compassionate change but fiery revolt against the coming oppression.

 

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LET US

For the Poets of January 15 and the Women of January 21

 

By Alan Kaufman

Let us

take ourselves aboard a bus

and travel to the dispossessed

and let us praise their dreamless eyes and hardened smiles

with rogue words of truth

in the killing fields of their hopes

the slum wards and ragged towns and stolen farms

Let us take to them the carnival of our mad and scattered lives

Let us bring them the mountain, let us give them the vision

of an open window, an unlocked door, a bed to sleep in, a plate of food

Let us give them the keys to the house of our love

Let us bare our throats tattooed with roses, our breasts sequined with diamonds

our loins hot with dragons, our hands and feet pierced with beauty

Let us come to their dusty squares and drinking holes with canticles of magnificent defeat

Let us deliver in their mangers of pollution and penitentiaries,

shopping malls and tenements

the hard, beautiful birth of the heart

Let us bring renewal

Let us declare the death of despondency and tyrants

For I have seen our campfires beside the roads like fallen, still-burning miraculous stars

I have seen our bus voyaging to innocence

I have seen us tossed this century like a bone

after ninety years of science and war, reason and corporation

art and Auschwitz

I have seen my vocation descend like a pen to a page

that can never be filled with enough truth

I have crossed a continent of despair and I swear to you, Poets,

I live for greater than myself

You, street-Latin Elizabethan hustlers, I tell you time has come to deal

death’s passionate kiss to kings

Time has come to bare our asses in Paradise

Time has come to write the Constitution with our poetry and flesh

Time has come to costume up for Liberty and ride

with words like steel-tipped whips

into the soul of America

and rage there and sing

till the mouth of every starving child

is fed

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