Poetry News

The New Yorker visits the protest library of Occupy Wall Street

By Harriet Staff

The New Yorker's Book Bench covers the library shaping up at Occupy Wall Street, mostly due to poet Betsy Fagin, author of Poverty Rush (3 Sad Tigers Press, 2011), the science seemed so solid (dusie kollektiv, 2011), and other works. Fagin, also a librarian in Brooklyn, "came to the protest [a few days ago] for the first time and found a short stack of books lying on the ground where everyone was camped out." And then:

She decided to go to one of the organizational meetings for the protests and ask if anyone else thought it would be a good idea to start a proper library. People did. So Betsy posted a sign asking for book, newspaper, and poetry donations. She says that since then protestors, bystanders, and even Wall Streeters have been stopping by the park with stacks of books. Because she doesn’t keep track of who checks out what—the library is on the honor system—she has no idea what the most popular book is. She has seen a couple of people reading Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” and has noticed that the manga is flying off the shelves.

But surely, I said, literature of a more overtly political nature must be in demand. Where are the manifestos? The pamphlets? Betsy said that she had seen people passing around “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,” by Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of The Center for Nonviolent Communication. And she’d placed Noam Chomsky’s “Profit Over People” front and center on the table. It’s flanked by the works of Howard Zinn, Karl Marx, Ray Anderson, and Cornel West, who visited the protest two days ago.

We wonder if Fagin spied West; whatta sight! “You got me spiritually break-dancing on the way here. Because when you bring folk together, of all colors, of all cultures, of all genders, of all sexual orientations, the elite will tremble in their boots. And we will send a message that this is the U.S. [Fall], responding to the Arab Spring. It's going to hit Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Arizona..." Watch it all here.

Originally Published: September 29th, 2011