COVINGTON: Dennis Formento and Margie Vicknair-Pray 100TPC Northshore email@example.com Covington, Louisiana
Covington’s open-mic poetry events aimed at inspiring change (article from Nola.com
On Sept. 24, more than 500 spoken word and music activities will take place worldwide as part of 100,000 Poets for Change’s global event day. That includes two local open-mic poetry readings: Sept. 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. at St. John’s Coffeehouse, 535 Boston St., Covington and Sept. 24 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Community Book Center, 2523 Bayou Road, New Orleans.
The nonprofit was founded in 2010 by California poet and editor, Michael Rothenberg, and graphic artist, Terri Carrion, as a response to the BP oil disaster. Both edit the webzine Big Bridge, bigbridge.org, giving them access to hundreds of writers.
“They felt they were helpless to do anything in the wake of the spill,” said Dennis Formento, a Slidell-based poet who staged 100tpc’s first event in New Orleans six years ago and its first North Shore one last year.
“The kind of global movement that 100,000 Poets represents is something I’ve wanted to see all my life,” he added. “There are all kinds of writers: from realists to avant garde sound poets, poets from India and Bangladesh, Nigeria, Uruguay, Malaysia. It’s not hype; it’s really a world-wide movement.”
The organization, Formento said via email, “is an attempt to get articulate, informed and impassioned people together, to show each other who we are: conscious human beings, not blocks of uninformed voters or terrorists.
The group’s focus is “an end to violence, ecological sanity in Gulf of Mexico, an end to police violence and acts of firearm terrorism, and understanding across so-called racial and ethnic lines. We need to end the violence among ourselves and in our foreign wars and concentrate on rebuilding this country from the Gulf Coast on up. 100,000 Poets for Change exists to bring these ideas into action and provide a platform,” Formento added.
When asked how poetry can be a platform for change, he cited poets such as Percy Shelley, Adrienne Rich and Aime Cesaire.
“Poetry has always functioned as conscience, public and private,” he said. “You wouldn’t see the underground hiphop movement, the open mics, if there hadn’t already been a tradition of dealing with conscience in poetry. Poets are among the most personal, intensely reflective people in the world. They tell the story of what it’s like to exist, through language, sound and imagery.”
While both local events are open-mic, there are a number of poets who already are slated to participate. On the North Shore those include Formento as well as Richard Boyd, Eve Brouwer, Dave Easley, David Schoen, Isabella Smith, Raymond Russell, Dionne Charlet, and Stephen Langley.
Formento, who is an English professor at Delgado Community College’s Slidell campus, writes poetry that deals with “history, dreams, personal life, music, ecology, culture with a little ‘c’ but a long memory. My first really contemporary poet was Allen Ginsberg,” he said.
He has published two full-length books, as well as some chapbooks. He also released a CD with jazz guitarist, Ed Barrett. For several years, the two had a free-jazz, improvisational group called the Frank Zappatistas that included dancer Nanette Ledet.
“I guess people will write new works specifically for the event. But there is no restriction, and there is no set theme,” Formento said. “Poets say what they want to say. It doesn’t have to be political at all. Poetry is an art form and a joy. It’s liberating in itself.”
Both events are free and open to public. For more information on the north shore event, visit facebook.com/100ThousandPoetsNorthshore. For more information on the New Orleans reading, visit facebook.com/NewOtpc. For more information on 100,000 Poets for Change, visit 100tpc.org.