I began to be asked to read poems at rallies and demonstrations. Now, there’s no reason to assume you have to “dumb down” or change the way you write for such occasions, but I felt this sense of publicness to what I was writing generally since beginning to blog for the movement, the sense of writing not out of “my own” practice and position, but out of the movement, collectively, and I really didn’t mind writing and reading “topical” poems for specific occasions/causes. I’m not sure these are poems that will find their way into books I publish, but I’m glad to have done them, and to have read them to large and affected audiences of “non-poetry” people. It’s a crossing over into a neighbouring zone—one maybe we don’t frequent as poets, but one in which musicians feel comfortable. Play the hit. Play the pop song. Play the one people can dance or sing along to.
It comes down to contexts I guess. And a revolution is a different context than an avant-garde, though they can overlap once in a while.
- Stephen Collis, talking about his involvement working and writing with the Occupy Vancouver movement, over on the Harriet blog. You can read the whole thing here.