Distribution: 3 Printed in Urbana 27/02/98 22:40:17 FREE
Strategies for activists and radicals / Why I write newspoems
I met with a group of people who had formed to protest the U.S. bombing of Iraq. I realized immediately that I would not be able to work with them.
Their strategy was to get the word out, to spread their criticism of the U.S. policy through e-mail, bulliten boards, flyers, a web site, rallies, flyers, meetings, speakers, broadcast and print and electronic media. At times I felt that some of them didn't know what the word was, exactly, and that lots of articles would be reproduced and distributed and experts would be sought. I don't know if the purpose of this was to find people who were undecided and to change their mind, to make connections between people already opposed, or if there were people who were opposed but needed the reassurance and support of a group to hold these opinions, or if there were people who were opposed and knew something needed to be done but needed other people to tell them what. Did they think that popular opinion could affect the war? And were they trying to effect military policy, or the media, or had they distinguished the two?
I think we live in an information-dense and numb civilization. I imagine myself going to a rally and noticing that I was being given a pre-articulated position to accept if wanted. None of these forums were set up to solicit new opinions. I imagined myself prefering to be undecided than to join a mob of angry people withm megaphones. By writing newspoems my hope is to confront people with something they can't understand right away, and something they can't disagree with without reproducing. In order to disagree with an anonymous poem found taped in a restroom, an elevator, or a library or grocery store; the only way to argue against it is to show it to someone else and tell them why you disagree÷ It is not confrontational the way a sign or a megaphone is, it can only lure you into a confrontation with yourself. It is trying to get you to clarify yourself, not divide yourself to incorporate a new point of view. It is an act of love, not valor. I had hoped, also, that an anonymous poem found taped in some unlikely place would seem like a more personal message than would an individual addressing you, somehow÷
Newspoetry at Spineless Books