Occupy Art by Angela Sloan

Occupy Art: An Evening of Poetry and Protest

By Angela Sloan

The Occupy Art Poetry event, which was held on Sunday, January 26, 2014, at The Bowery Poetry Club in New York City was a culmination of open-microphone performances, (which gave the event a sense of spontaneity) as well as scheduled readings. It was organized by Carla Cubit, whose Occupy Wall Street artwork also decorated the wall space behind the stage. There were many different performers; poetry and works of fiction were read aloud, and there were also slideshows and musical performances. The event was held from 8:30 to 10:30 pm and a small donation was taken at the door in lieu of a cover charge. The Emcee for the night’s festivities, Robert Galinsky, opened the show with a spoken-word piece of his own. His enthusiasm was extraordinary and contributed greatly to the pleasant and friendly energy in the room.  

Jeffrey Chambers Wright, who will be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of his publication, Cover Magazine this year, read two new pieces of poetry, one of which was inspired by his passion for preserving the public gardens of New York City’s Lower East Side. Leonard Abrams, publisher of The East Village Eye newspaper read from his new piece, “One Percent Bible.” Other performances included a comic-strip slideshow accompanied by a young woman serving as narrator, multiple musicians and drumming. The mantra of the occasion, if I may borrow a quote from one of the performers of the evening, was: “You don’t have to fuck people over to survive.”

The evening ended on a hopeful note: the pervasive idea being that the occupy movement cannot be a lost cause, and its supporters cannot lose and will not be futile in their efforts, because there are millions of us who are all in the same canoe. There was a piece entitled The Phoenix, which was especially memorable because its recitation was accompanied by a lovely musical piece played out on a conch shell. Tom Weiss, who runs the newspaper and blog Up Front News, did not recite a piece of poetry, but instead spoke about  a subject that he is very passionate about, and that is the raising of awareness surrounding the unjust treatment and subsequent genocide of the people of Tibet.

Chris Flash was there to talk to the audience about his newspaper, The Shadow, which is New York City’s only underground newspaper. Their specialty, to use their own words, is “investigative journalism and in-depth reportage on important subjects that the mainstream media either under-reports, mis-reports and/or chooses to ignore.” It has been published on the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 1989, the catalyst for its birth being the distorted mainstream media coverage in the aftermath of the infamous police riot in Tompkins Square Park on the sixth and seventh days of August, 1988.

The show’s finale piece was a piano composition entitled “Occupy Love”, which was the title voted on by the audience members, and it was played very beautifully by Eric A. Dahl: it was a lovely and moving ending to an important evening of art and activism.