A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Mar 16, 2011
More than Words
Words about the governor’s budget-repair bill and the protests that followed have been abundant in the past few weeks. We’ve read news stories, press releases, tweets, blog posts, columns, statistics and protest signs; we’ve listened to interviews, speeches, chants, songs, and our friends’ and colleagues’ opinions. Can there be more to say?
Yes, and it’s something worth hearing.
Local poetry magazine Verse Wisconsin has been publishing poems about the protests on its website, versewisconsin.org. On February 18, co-editors Wendy Vardaman and Sarah Busse put out a call for submissions.
“The responses started coming right away,” says Busse. “We have been impressed from the start with the quality and passion of the work shared.”
They’ve received poems, songs, videos and “visual poems.” While the editors welcome poetry from all points of the political spectrum, most submitted thus far side with the protesters. But there’s great diversity in the poets’ words.
In Cahoots: Wisconsin Makes a House Call, Denise Sweet writes of:
the stream of total strangers, we are in cahoots
with a common indignation, a despair
we declare as our own …
Kay N. Sanders calls the protests Wisconsin Storm, saying:
Sometimes it takes a blizzard
to stir things up, a whirlwind
to let the world know
that ice and snow cannot
be legislated away.
No majority can hold it off …
Bruce Dethlefsen focuses on Collective Bargaining, stating:
fifty thousand strong
we stand up and scream to save
sitting down to talk
Len Kuntz thinks This Would All Be Different If We Were Still Children:
… We forget the important stuff:
like manners, grace, finding solutions instead of problems.
And, speaking for the other side of the issue in Do You Have to Ask?, John L. Campbell writes:
… Yes, I started a business in Wisconsin, made
money, paid all state and federal taxes, put
four kids through college, put money aside,
fretted over retirement, asking was it enough,
to get us through life, until death do us part? …
Poets have told the editors that being able to publish their work on the Verse Wisconsin website gives them a voice in an issue occupying so many people’s minds and that changes day to day. “There’s sometimes the perception that ‘political poetry’ is somehow lesser—that poets can’t write about events like these and do it artistically or quickly, but that’s certainly not true,” Vardaman says.
And poetry has encouraged ways of talking about the issues that other forms of writing have not.
“Conversations have begun out of these poems and people are talking to each other in a way not always possible in more politicized arenas,” Busse says. “I believe that poetry often provides us an alternate space to breathe in, and provides a way to reflect what is happening, to witness, to redress, and to answer.”
To read the poems or submit your own, visit Verse Wisconsin at versewisconsin.org.
Photo—of “Go Stream” by Matthew Stolte—courtesy of Verse Wisconsin.