Friday, April 27, 2012

Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival

Welcome to Poetry Friday. Sample a smorgasbord of poetry and poetic ideas rounded up at Tabatha’s blog. Thanks for hosting today, Tabatha.

Two weeks ago I walked into a roomful of revolutionaries. After years of encouragement from a family member, I attended the 10th Annual Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival sponsored by the University of Maine at Augusta. The festival honors Terry Plunkett, former U of M professor and poet loved by many.

This year’s theme was Poetry and Revolution. Maine poets gathered to celebrate courageous voices past and present. I came away with a new awareness of poets who have played important parts in both political and social revolution.

A panel discussed the role of poetry in revolution. Many of the panelists were involved in revolutions of their own choosing:

poet Henry Braun chooses not to pay war taxes to the U.S. government,

Gary Lawless translates emerging voices from China and connects with African poets,

Lee Sharkey participates in Split This Rock, a point of convergence for politically engaged poets.

They and panelist Annie Finch, Director of the Stonecoast MFA program, cited Claude McKay (“If We Must Die”), Mahmoud Darwish (“Identity Card”) and al-Shabi (“If the People One Day Aspire to Life”) whose poems either inspired revolution or resistance.

I learned that “Conscientious Objector” by Edna St. Vincent Millay was a response to conflicts in Cuba and the Balkans.

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
Hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Read the rest of this powerful poem here.

Festival attendees heard a sampler of revolutionary poets. Polish Wislawa Szymborska, Palestinian Rafeef Ziadah, and Nazim Hikmet, who is Turkey’s symbol of free speech, were new to me. Poems by familiar poets Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and Bertolt Brecht were also read. It was a day well-spent. Consider this annual festival if you’re in the Augusta, Maine area in April.

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