On Oct. 4, UC Davis’ English Department is set to host day two of “Poetry and/or Revolution,” a conference created to continue discussion about the changing political tides and whether poetry has role in it. The event is a gathering of 13 poets hailing from the Bay Area and the United Kingdom.
Amid the recent years of political turmoil on a local and global scale, people are starting conversations around the rapidly changing times. Many of these contributors are artists and, in particular, poets.
UC Davis English professor and poet Joshua Clover, UC Santa Cruz professor and poet Chris Chen, and Mills College professor and poet Juliana Spahr are the organizers of the event. Their purpose for holding the conference stems back to a recent meeting in the UK called “Militant Poetics” in which remarks were made regarding Occupy Oakland — a happening in which Clover, Chen and Spahr were involved.
“A few participants had some comments to make about Occupy Oakland and the role of poets within that, and a bunch of us involved didn’t necessarily agree with these claims,” Clover said. “We wrote a letter of response, but rather than leave it at an angry exchange, we decided we’d work through our differences as well as our commonalities.”
The conference originated from a gathering in the UK called “Poetry and Revolution.” The gathering was brought to order in the midst of the Arab Spring — a series of political protests held in the Arab Nation beginning in December 2010. In the wake of the uprisings along with the recent anti-austerity protests in London, poets and scholars came together to discuss poetry’s part in these global affairs.
Marianne Morris, a poet and scholar from the UK, gave a reading at the “Poetry and Revolution” conference and became invested in the dialogues regarding the topic. Though she didn’t attend “Militant Poetics,” she felt the urge to contribute to the continuing conversation and will be attending the conference in Davis.
A follower and admirer of Occupy Oakland, Morris looks forward to hearing the perspectives of those who experienced it firsthand.
“I think the discussion will be interesting, particularly for the UK contingency, due to the ways in which being removed from habitual context [of what one’s used to] can open up space for new ideas and new ways of talking about things,” Morris said.
Though the event will provide a haven for attendants to converse about the Occupy Oakland commentary, its overarching purpose is to discuss how poetry and revolution relate to one another, or if they have any relation at all.
Some of the attendants have found it unclear whether poetry plays a vital role in society today, especially in regard to revolution, but many have found they personally connect their poetic work to the current political antagonism taking place.
Poet David Buuck found it easy to write with a radical basis after being submersed in the political movements of the last few years and will be reading some of his work at “Poetry and/or Revolution.”
“Given the events of the last several years around the world, the political uprisings and revolts raise new and vital questions for writers and artists everywhere,” Buuck said. “I try to think critically about politics in all my work, including at the levels of both form and content.”
The conference will offer a space for anyone who holds interest in revolution and/or poetics to voice their opinions and decide for themselves where poetry belongs in the changing current.
“I have no claim about what poetry ought to do. I’m not in favor of having a program in which it declares what the poetry’s purpose is,” Clover said. “For me, revolution comes up as a matter of course, not a matter of purpose. I don’t know if poetry’s a centerpiece of contemporary society that people need to be worrying about. Then again, maybe it is.”
Day one of “Poetry and/or Revolution” will be held at UC Santa Cruz on Oct. 3, day two will be held at UC Davis in Voorhies Hall 126 on Oct. 4 and day three will be held at UC Berkeley on Oct. 5.
For further event details, visit the UC Davis Humanities calendar online at dhi.ucdavis.edu/?tribe_events=poetry-andor-revolution or go to revolutionandorpoetry.wordpress.com.
AKIRA OLIVIA KUMAMOTO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.