Averse to Trump, Amer­ica’s po­ets fight back with words

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Wil­liam J. Kole

Amer­ica’s lead­ing po­ets are averse to Don­ald Trump, and they’re not about to go gen­tle into that good night.

Po­etry slams and other lit­er­ary events are be­ing or­ga­nized na­tion­wide in the run-up to the pres­i­den­t­elect’s Jan. 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Some, like this week­end’s “Writ­ers Re­sist” ral­lies in New York, Bos­ton and 90 other U. S. cities, are overtly in protest. Oth­ers are merely an at­tempt to find a lit­tle so­lace and beauty in verse.

“Our c ountr y was founded on bril­liant writ­ing,” said Erin Belieu, an award-win­ning poet who runs the cre­ative writ­ing pro­gram at Florida State Univer­sity. She hatched the Writ­ers Re­sist move­ment “to re-in­au­gu­rate the best of our demo­cratic ideals.”

On Sun­day, po­ets, writ­ers and artists will gather in 32 states — as well as in Am­s­ter­dam, Hong Kong, Lon- don and Sin­ga­pore — to read aloud from their own works and quote in­spi­ra­tional pas­sages from oth­ers.

The lead event in the se­ries spon­sored by the writ­ers’ group PEN Amer­ica will be staged on the steps of the New York Pub­lic Li­brary and fea­ture for­mer U.S. poet lau­re­ates Robert Pin­sky and Rita Dove.

Pin­sky, a pro­fes­sor of English and cre­ative writ­ing at Bos­ton Univer­sity, told The As­so­ci­ated Press he’ll re­cite a new poem he wrote for the oc­ca­sion that will in­voke the cel­e­brated black poet Gwen­dolyn Brooks, Walt Whit­man and oth­ers who waxed lyri­cal about Amer­i­can demo­cratic ideals.

“Those of us who use words pro­fes­sion­ally have a cer­tain stake in the truth,” he said. “It’s hard to think of any­thing more im­por­tant. In the long run, lies and fabri­ca­tions wither away, but the truth en­dures for­ever.”

Daniel Evans Pritchard, a Bos­ton writer, said he and oth­ers in the lit­er­ary world are trou­bled by the tone of Trump’s tweets and wor­ried the in­com­ing new ad­min­is­tra­tion will have a chill­ing ef­fect on free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“Lan­guage is the tool we use to build our po­lit­i­cal and demo­cratic struc­tures,” he said. “To sug­gest that words don’t mat­ter is to say the Con­sti­tu­tion is just words; the Bill of Rights is just words.”

Trump tran­si­tion team of­fi­cials didn’t re­turn emails seek­ing com­ment. Trump’s camp hasn’t said whether he plans to in­clude po­etry in his in­au­gu­ra­tion — a tra­di­tion for pres­i­den­tial swear­ings-in.

Michael An­sara, founder of the group Mass Po­etry , which pro­motes po­etry in Mas­sachusetts, said in­ter­est in the genre has surged na­tion­ally since the elec­tion. In­ter­net searches of po­etry are up 20 per­cent to 30 per­cent, he said.

Even so, his group has or­ga­nized a po­etry read­ing at Bos­ton’s Hunt­ing­ton Theatre for Jan. 30 — well after the in­au­gu­ra­tion — sim­ply to up­lift and in­spire.

But for many men and women of let­ters, Trump is the gal­va­niz­ing fac­tor.

“I can’t just sit here and watch Net­flix for the next four years and dis­ap­pear into var­i­ous cos­tumed dra­mas,” said Belieu, the “Writ­ers Re­sist” or­ga­nizer. “I’m not go­ing to live in fear. And I’m not go­ing to keep my mouth shut.”


In this May 6, 2010, photo, for­mer U.S. poet lau­re­ate Robert Pin­sky re­cites one of his po­ems as he sits on stage at Fair­leigh Dickinson Univer­sity in Madi­son, N.J. Amer­ica’s lead­ing po­ets, in­clud­ing Pin­sky, are averse to Don­ald Trump and they have or­ga­nized lit­er­ary ral­lies in more than 30 states on Sun­day.

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