The Operating System



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A question to our creative audience – poets and non poets alike: if we imagine ourselves in an epic, global room, whose hand would I see raise when asked if you were aware that today is World Poetry Day, an annual celebration of the craft writ into being by UNESCO (that’s the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, fyi) at its 30th meeting, in Paris, in the fall of 1999? Anyone?
Thanks to contributor Jennifer Sertl who tagged me into awareness this morning, I thought I’d take a moment to inform myself further, and then to publicly shed some light on this worthwhile global intention.
…and to check in with its efficacy, too: in so far as to say, where and how has this annual recognition become visible? I consider myself a pretty “in the know” gal-about-poetry-town — as well as a social media early adopter/influencer, and long time educator, and if I’ve ever heard of World Poetry Day, I can say that it didn’t make much of an impact. But I wish it had!
I found myself saying… why? and… how can we make these efforts more visible, more effective, more focused, perhaps? And who can help, at what scales, in what ways?
On the UN’s website, there’s this lovely quote:
[superquote]As a deep expression of the human mind and as a universal art, poetry is a tool for dialogue and rapprochement. The dissemination of poetry helps to promote dialogue among cultures and understanding between peoples because it gives access to the authentic expression of a language ”
The site speaks to a variety of lofty intentions, with the celebration slated to “recognize the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind,” “encourage a return to the oral tradition,” and “reaffirm our common humanity” – as well as to promote poetry education, publishing, and other public engagement.
It’s an education in and of itself to read the official proclamation, the introduction to which I offer you here:
[box] An analysis of the situation of poetry in this end of century has highlighted the following considerations:
(i)  In today’s world there are unfulfilled aesthetic needs. Poetry can meet this need if its social role of interpersonal communication is recognized and it continues to be the means of arousing and expressing awareness.
(ii)  Over the past 20 years there has been a strong revival of interest in poetry, with a proliferation of poetic activities in the various Member States and an increase in the number of poets.
(iii)  It is a social need, which incites young people in particular to return to their roots, and a means whereby they can look into themselves at a time when the outside world is irresistibly luring them away from themselves.
(iv)  Moreover, as an individual, the poet is taking on a new role as the public becomes more and more appreciative of poetry evenings with readings by the poets themselves.
(v)  This shift in society towards the recognition of ancestral values also represents a return to the oral tradition and an acceptance of speech as a means of socializing and structuring the individual.
(vi)  There is still a tendency in the media and among the general public to refuse to take the poet seriously. Action is needed to free ourselves in order to make this image a thing of the past and to give poetry its rightful place in society. [/box]
[h4] HELL YES, UNESCO! [/h4]
But… now what? Who’s doing WORLD POETRY DAY celebrations? How can we engage? Where to begin?
Well, networked being, don’t be shy in admitting that you might search Google or see what’s trending on Facebook or Twitter for ideas or to find events you might participate in. 
Don’t give yourself too hard a time: Google is a fine place to begin!
You’ll first find, of course, info on Wikipedia and the UNESCO site itself about the event’s history, but a little more spelunking finds gems like this article from PEN International in The Guardian highlighting the words of dissident poets from around the world, complete with links to collective action efforts in support of each at the PEN Website.
[h5]It’s worth a trip over to PEN today – a #worldpoetryday field trip you can do at your desk, if you will. [/h5]
On PEN International’s Poetry Month focus on their site, you’ll find more information the organization’s own efforts – long campaigning on behalf of poets at risk and for the protection and promotion of minority languages.
Today I learned that in 2011, PEN’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee developed the Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights – a ten point document designed to be translated and disseminated widely as a tool to defend linguistic diversity around the world – and that this document is available as an issuu e-book, which I’ve shared below with you – and which hopefully you will continue to share with friends, students, and colleagues.

If you didn’t already know, PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee works on behalf of persecuted poets, writers and journalists worldwide, monitoring between over 1000 cases across the globe each year. The WiPC mobilises the wider PEN community to take action through its Rapid Action Network alerts, targeted regional campaigns, and by utilising PEN’s consultative status with the UN to engage in advocacy at an international level. Every and any day, you can plug into their campaigns and help by raising awareness.
@UNESCO is making an effort in the Twitterverse, too, with the hashtag #worldpoetryday making a subtle ripple: @poetshouse asks how you’re celebrating, @berfrois is doing a nice job with quotes and links (as they do), and @occupylondon has organized online and offline events honoring extradited poet Talha Ahsan… and that’s where I’ll close my search.
Have I answered the questions I set out to ask? Well – I’ve learned somewhat about the history of (the official) WORLD POETRY DAY, and reminded myself about the efforts of PEN, and doubled back in my intentions to support their work. I’ve read beautiful words from poets prosecuted for their creative practice, and felt an almost crushing, shameful gratitude that my own struggle is none in comparison.
Susana Chávez Castillo (Mexico), Aron Atabek (Kazakhstan), Liu Xia (China), Mohammedal-Ajami (Qatar), Enoh Meyomesse (Cameroon)

Susana Chávez Castillo (Mexico), Aron Atabek (Kazakhstan), Liu Xia (China), Mohammedal-Ajami (Qatar), Enoh Meyomesse (Cameroon)

But I’ve also, in my own efforts, reminded myself of my always mantra, in which we build a new model to make the old model obsolete: perhaps it’s not UNESCO that will save us, but the idea of a UNESCO, the idea of a #WORLDPOETRYDAY initiative that we can choose to latch on to and make effective via OUR efforts.
No one is going to hand us the revolution, just like no man in the sky is going to save us. HOWEVER: this post is a celebration! I’ve never been more enthralled with poetry than I am RIGHT NOW, and I say without reserve that the efforts of educators, organizers, poets, publishers, and lovers of the craft are crushing in their gloriousness, here in 2014, on WPD and EVERYDAY.
[box]So here’s a little mini-manifesto: In every which way I can, I’ve used The Operating System as a buoy for this global community, and will continue to celebrate and draw attention to the craft of poetics as it evolves across countries and languages – ancient, modern and digital. I am proud of our efforts in collaboration with the great international efforts of organizers for 100,000 Poets for Change, and grateful for the many voices who’ve joined in conversation and celebration here. [/box]
That being said, we’ll be celebrating poetry every day of April for our  3rd annual 30/30/30 Inspiration, Community, Tradition series, with contributions from:
Randi Ward on Steinbjorn B Jacobsen, Barrett Warner on Keith Douglas, Dia Felix on Philip Lamantia, Jacob Knabb on John Berryman, Edward Toney on Louis Reyes Rivera, Laurel Callen on Jacqueline Osherow, Alysse Kathleen McCanna on Diane Gilliam Fisher, Charan Morris on Natalia Diaz, Laura Henriksen on Helen Adam, Conor Messinger on Michael McClure, Royce Vavrek on Kathleen Edwards, M. Krochmalnik Grabois on Charles Bukowski, Davy Knittle on Nathaniel Mackey, Casey Scott Leach on Billy Collins, TC Tolbert on Cynthia Spencer, Chy Ryan Spain on Karen Finley, Eliza Blue on Marie Howe, Penina Roth on Margaret Atwood, Sparrow on Philip Whalen, Maiga Milbourne on Nazim Hikmet, Cristina Preda on Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Christina Rodriguez on Clarice Lispector, MC Hyland on William Wordsworth, Andre Bagoo on Derek Walcott, Shivanee Ramlochan on Vahni Capildeo, Sabina Ibarrola on Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha, and Shannon Camlin Ward on Li Young Lee.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about this year is that most of our participants came on the recommendation of former participants – with all included expressing genuine excitement and appreciation to be part of the project.
The series, like this post, is predicated on the deep belief that a frequent expression of gratitude circulates the kind of energy everybody needs – perhaps those of us who express it, most of all. So, with every intention of being cheesy I give you this suggestion:
[h5] make EVERY day #worldpoetryday. Stay engaged. Stay involved. Be aware, care, and share.[/h5]
Yep, and I’m not at all embarrassed about it.
I leave you with this beautiful sentiment from revolutionary Salvadorean poet Roque Dalton.
With love, little things, landscapes, and bread –
Lynne DeSilva-Johnson
[column_one_half] Como Tú
Por Roque Dalton
Yo, como tú,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los días de enero.
También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.
Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan, de todos.
Y que mis venas no terminan en mí
sino en la sangre unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.
[column_one_half]Like You
By Roque Dalton (Translated by Jack Hirschman/L. DeSilva-Johnson)
I, like you,
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky- blue landscape
of January days.
Like you, my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.
And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.
With the United States’ National Poetry Month right around the corner and the annual Chapbook Festival coming up at the Graduate Center in New York City April 3rd, these are heady poetry times here at THE OPERATING SYSTEM!

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