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National Poetry Month and May Day 2012

By Mark Nowak

On Saturday, I was again in the 9th floor offices of Domestic Workers United talking about poetry, about the function of politics in the creative writing workshop, about the 99%, about artists’ rights to their creative work, about documentary film, about the use of juxtaposition in couplets and stanzas, & about “show flow” for our Domestic Workers United event for the PEN World Voices Festival on May 5 at the New School.

Given that we’ve made it to the end of another April, I think I have to say that I officially like May better. Maybe I just like flowers more than showers? Maybe I like the immediate transition out of National Poetry Month (and the newish and a little awkard, to me, Poem-in-Pocket day) to the range of events on the docket for May. And re. National Poetry Month in general: Why an entire month for a genre when international workers only get a day? Is this a sign that maybe we fetishize “Poetry” just a little bit too much?

And while on the subject of May Day… Here in NYC , we’re all anxiously awaiting Tuesday’s massive reclamation of May Day as an international workers’ day.  While the DWU poets were busy making a few final edits to their poems on Saturday, I was reading a slew of fliers on our work table about May Day 2012. A yellow flier (pictured below) caught my attention, not so much for its design (this one isn’t great, but in general #OWS has also brought innovative graphic design and fonts other than the MSWord defaults back to the labor movement/social movements, thank god!), but for the incredible list of trade union endorsers at the bottom. I’m not quite sure what the day after National Poetry month ends will bring to Union Square and Wall Street and the public spaces of New York City, but I do know it’s going to be the greatest celebration of May Day as workers’ day that this country has ever seen. And I cherish being here in NY for it.

And if May Day isn’t enough, it’s also the month in which the PEN World Voices festival takes place. I’ve been collaborating with the PEN folks for the past few years on festival events, bringing participants to the college where I worked in rural Maryland in 2010 (novelist Rodrigo Fresán) and 2011 (novelist Leila Aboulela). This year, in addition to our May 5 event with Domestic Workers United, I’ve been helping (with my 11-year old daughter) create giant paper-machie “Ex Libris” puppets for the parade on the High Line, doing radio spots (including today on WBAI), and will be heading out to a series of other PEN events all week—except for May Day—including the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write lecture by Salman Rushdie on Sunday.

Later in May, the “Poetry and Revolution” conference hits Birkbeck College/University of London. Instead of giving an academic paper, I’ve organized a pair of creative writing/poetry workshops—one with members of United Migrant Worker Education Project and a second with Justice For Domestic Workers (J4DW). Instead of delivering an academic paper during my conference slot at P&R, I’ll be premiering (in London) the 10-minute documentary film shot during the past five months at our DWU workshop, talking a bit on critical pedagogy and the creative writing workshop, and sharing the podium with members of my two workshops who will be reading the poems they produce in the days leading up to the conference.

As much as poetry means to me, give me these May flowers over April showers any time. And Let Freedom Spring!

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Thanks, everyone, for reading these posts all month. And thanks to all the behind-the-scenes people who made all these blog postings possible.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, April 30th, 2012 by Mark Nowak.