UW News

January 31, 2017

Poetry, passion and social justice: Activist poets to gather at UW, perform at Seattle Public Library Feb. 3

UW News

Poet activists from around the nation will gather at the University of Washington for a daylong conference Feb. 3 about creativity in activism — and then give full voice to that creativity in evening performances at the Seattle Public Library. All are welcome.

The conference, called “Activist Poetics: Affect and Audience in the Digital Age,” sponsored by the UW Simpson Center and organized by three UW Bothell faculty members, will explore the importance of creativity in activism. It will be held in the Petersen Room of Allen Library from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Then from 7 to 10 in the evening, many of those participating will convene in the Microsoft Auditorium at the Seattle Public Library’s Central Branch for a free public performances of their poetry.

“Each of our selected performers has been inspired by — and deeply engaged with — the surge of public and digitally inflected social movements,” said co-organizer micha cárdenas, assistant professor of interdisciplinary arts and sciences and interactive media design at UW Bothell and director of the UW Poetic Operations Collaborative.

Joining cárdenas in organizing the event are Amaranth Borsuk and Sarah Dowling, both also assistant professors of interdisciplinary arts and sciences at UW Bothell.

“Hashtags such as #Blacklivesmatter, #sayhername and #blacktranslivesmatter have become incantations — the poetic phrases that have helped mobilize social movements via social media and other digital networks, building new solidarities as they go,” said Borsuk.

“We are bringing together a unique group of poets who are also activists to reflect on this unprecedented historic moment, following up on the Jan. 21 marches, which numerous media outlets named as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.”

Several local artists will join these conference participants for the evening performances at the library:

  • Alexis Pauline Gumbs, founder of the School of Our Lorde, an inter-generational multi-media education initiative
  • Kai Green, assistant professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Fabian Romero, writer, performance artist, activist and UW doctoral student in gender, women and sexuality studies
  • Carmen Gimenez Smith, assistant professor at New Mexico State University, editor-in-chief of Puerto del Sol and publisher of Noemi Press
  • Layli Long Soldier, Arizona-based poet and recipient of a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation artist fellowship

The day’s discussions, cárdenas notes, are academic in nature, aimed at “advancing questions on a theoretical/aesthetic front,” and the evening’s performances are more geared toward a general audience — but press are welcome at both.

“Since Seattle’s role in both Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March has global significance,” cárdenas said, “we will be reflecting this back to earlier moments such as the WTO in 1999, in which Seattle was also at the center of global movements for social change.”

Co-organizer Dowling added, “We strive to bring these conversations to the larger Seattle community and celebrate the voices of poets who are fusing their practices of activism and poetry.”


For more information, contact cárdenas at 425-352-5350 or michamc@uw.edu.