POETS & WRITERS IS MORE than a magazine. We are a nonprofit organization that puts money directly into the hands of writers who give readings and lead workshops in museums, prisons, homeless shelters, libraries, and senior centers. Your subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine supports the all-important work of cultivating literary activity in urban and rural communities throughout the United States.
Money, Love, and Paperwork
The following are the top ten reasons I am grateful for Poets & Writers’ Readings/Workshops program:
1. Filthy Lucre
That’s right, I’m starting with money. Because the Readings/Workshops program gives cash on the barrel and has given, consistently, to Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness and to Sunday Kind of Love, our monthly series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C.
2. The War Works Hard
So poets and activists have to work even harder. In 2008, five years into the criminal disaster that was the Iraq War, we knew that as a people we needed poetry, we knew that our language needed the revitalizing power of poetry. Poets & Writers was the first literary funder of Split This Rock, helping us bring Patricia Smith, Ishle Yi Park, Stephen Kuusisto, Alix Olson, and Alicia Ostriker to Split This Rock Poetry Festival, the very first national gathering of activist poets in the nation’s capital.
3. Sherwin Bitsui
And Douglas Kearney, Minnie Bruce Pratt, José Padua, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Andrea Gibson, Lenelle Moïse, Jericho Brown, Jeffrey McDaniel—just some of the other, many and varied voices Poets & Writers has helped us present to local and national audiences.
4. Page & Stage in Love
During the Capturing Fire Spoken Word Summit in June, inspired by the teaching genius of Theresa Davis and funded by Poets & Writers, I saw young, queer, spoken-word poets of all colors writing side by side with middle-aged, white, “page” poets. No pistols at dawn.
One family celebrated Grandma’s birthday at Sunday Kind of Love, complete with balloons.
6. Bonnie Rose Marcus
A lunch that my cofounder, Regie Cabico, had arranged with Bonnie, director of Readings/Workshops (East), was the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal fund-raising and networking trip to New York City as we were trying to get Split This Rock off the ground in 2007. Every other funder or potential ally either discouraged me or turned me down flat. Plus, it rained the whole time. I am delighted to take this public opportunity to say, “Thank you, Bonnie. You saved my hide and rescued my spirit.”
7. The Forms!
Their elegant ease and sleek simplicity! Their beautiful brevity! All of you who write endless grants with their endless required attachments, as I do, will know of what I speak. And I hear we will soon be able to complete the application for funding online, where it will be even easier! Praises.
8. Uncle Walt
When articles such as Mark Edmundson’s polemic in Harper’s crop up, as they seem to do seasonally, claiming no one is writing poems that “slake a reader’s thirst for meanings that pass beyond the experience of the individual poet and light up the world we hold in common,” even as I’m throwing the magazines in which they appear against the real or virtual wall in frustration, I think of Poets & Writers and breathe again. American poetry has a rich tradition of socially engaged poets, beginning at least with Walt Whitman, and this impulse is alive and thriving in American poetries today—and Poets & Writers supports it. (Witness the above list of poets.)
9. Howling Rock Stars
Anne Waldman, Kyp Malone of the band TV on the Radio, a string quartet, and the immortal words of Allen Ginsberg—another inspired mash-up we brought to D.C. audiences, supported in part by Poets & Writers.
I began with money, so let me end on another unhip note—with gratitude to Poets & Writers, which helps our poems build what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the Beloved Community, our only hope for this beautiful, broken world.
Sarah Browning is the executive director of Split This Rock, an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, and author of the poetry collection Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007) and the collection-in-progress “Mr. Bomb.” The next Split This Rock Poetry Festival is March 27 to March 30, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Details are available at www.splitthisrock.org.
Photo Credit: Melissa Tuckey