The Political Poem That Was Bullied Out Of Me (in solidarity with CTU)

Stand with CTUIn solidarity with our allies in the CTU, we are sharing the text of this poem by slam poet and teacher Molly Meacham. She was kind enough to perform it for us at an Occupy Rogers Park strike solidarity event on Friday.

THE POLITICAL POEM THAT WAS BULLIED OUT OF ME
By Molly Meacham

I had never been small
until I heard how evil I am
for being a teacher. With the lie levels
rising in newspapers, emails,
interviews, announcements,
the steady flood of anti-
teacher propaganda
dissolves dignity
past patience
until I am in-
visible and
taste of
salt.

Me—
the frightening muse of room 202
is this incredible
shrinking
violet.

I’ve often told students to absorb
environment and squeeze it
into writing, but I, hypocrite, cannot
check my mail without earplugs
and blinders now. There is always a top
story that burns my cheeks ashen,
and I am scattered by breath.

But there’s no headline for me
or for colleagues who’ve sold houses,
who’ve taken on loans and grey-streaked temples
to brace for the fight.

These headlines are about these politicians,
their pockets, and their pride. Articles
full of double speak and forked tongue
hissing. The mayor and the board deal students
as playing cards in stacked decks.

They know nothing of the kids themselves:
Her grammar jokes, his zombie impression. That he’s afraid his father
is never getting out of jail and his mom has breast cancer.
That she is the first in her family to go to college
and got a full ride. That he came out of the closet, and his mother is praying
for evil to cease its possession. That she reinvents the world
on the page and then stages it. These kids swirl
in cutbacks, media overload, starved affections, and poetry.
They swear and swagger and smile metal.

The fact these kids are alive and breathing knowledge
in deadly communities is more miracle
than Lazarus rising. And they do—they baptize
their papers in ink and wash drafts clean
with red. They highlight, spotlight, moonwalk. I mean,

they are teenagers…there are mad dashes through
the halls, too many tardies and dress code violations.
But they are green and sprouting: dandelions
and dahlias, ivy, wisteria, and willows.

I am a simple gardener, tilling
with words, preparing the ground—
loam, sand, silt, clay. The clay models itself
into familiarity. Into the expression
of understanding that’s unique to each child.

The board wants me to see only numbers,
to measure the kids with percentages,
to see them as payment and value-added.
But I am an English teacher.
Numbers have never been my thing.

I see that their learning is the shape of a yellow raft
on a green river. We are the river dwellers.
There is no salt in our water.

It feels wrong to hate politicians who have never met me,
but they made us feel miniscule—buzzing winged
things like gnats or mosquitoes—for being teachers.
It makes me hunger for Biblical
retribution. So I will be an insect…
in a plague of cicadas. We will be dressed as
a river of blood, a torrent of chant and noise.

There is no poem for this fight, for watching
the mild mannered lose their voices
from screaming chants, feet raw with marching.
Hands, callused for chalk, will be rubbed with new blisters
from holding signs.

If we are faceless, let us be the drought, the blight,
the salt in this freshwater city
so our students will not be nameless, faceless scores
in a city that hunts them for statistics.

We will be living the politics.
Not writing a poem.
I invite you (and ask you) to stand with me,
for them.

The Revolution Will Be Well-Read

Friend of the library Samwise tweeted out a call for #ActivistNovels this morning.  We think we can help.

Below is a list of fiction either dealing with a revolution or with themes of social injustice, war, and repression.  It’s not definitive by any means – leave us your comments with any additions you have.

List is organized alphabetically by author’s last name.  Because we’re book snobs.

Baum, L. Frank – The Wizard of Oz

Bradbury, Ray – Fahrenheit 451

Card, Orson Scott – Ender’s Game

Dickens, Charles – A Tale of Two Cities

Doctorow, Cory – Little Brother

Doctorow, E. L. – Ragtime

Eliot, George – Felix Holt, the Radical

Ellison, Ralph – Invisible Man

Finney, Jack – Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Hansberry, Lorraine – A Raisin in the Sun

Heinlein, Robert A. – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Heinlein, Robert A. – Stranger in a Strange Land

Hugo, Victor – Les Miserables

Huxley, Aldous – Brave New World

Lee, Harper – To Kill a Mockingbird

Le Guin, Ursula K. – The Left Hand of Darkness

Levin, Ira – The Stepford Wives

O’Brien, Tim – The Things They Carried

Orwell, George – 1984

Orwell, George – Animal Farm

Remarque, Erich Maria – All Quiet on the Western Front

Sinclair, Upton – The Jungle

Steinbeck, John – Grapes of Wrath

Stowe, Harriet Beecher – Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Vonnegut, Kurt – Cat’s Cradle

Vonnegut, Kurt – Sirens of Titan

Wolfe, Tom – Bonfire of the Vanities

It’s NATO time!

Resist NATOWe want to welcome all who are in town in solidarity with Occupy Chicago protesting against the NATO summit! Stop by room 501 at our 500 West Cermak location to check out the library.

Our lending policy is: please use the books as you see fit. Read them here, take them home, lend them forward.

We have a community journal where you can leave thoughts, poetry, artwork, etc. Leave us a note!

We also have printed copies of the documents sent in response to the Truthout DHS FOIA request (1st set) and the full text of the “sit down and shut up” ordinances.

You can also subscribe to podcasts by our friends at Political Discontent Radio by scanning the QR code found on any wall in the library. Do it!

The People’s Library will be at Woodlawn on Sunday!

Books!We are very excited to announce that about 150-200 books from our collection will be out at the Woodlawn Save Our Clinics occupation this Sunday.  Please stop by, get a book to read, drop some off for others to read, or just say hi!

We will also have some collaborative projects going, including a community journal where you can record your thoughts, hopes, dreams, or just a fun doodle or sketch.

When: Sunday, April 22nd, starting at noon.

Where: 6337 S. Woodlawn, Chicago IL

What: A mobile library, donation drop, and other fun things!

Who: Occupiers, STOP Chicago, mental health patients, and YOU!

Please RSVP to the Facebook event if you can come!  We’d love to see you.

Tell us why you love bookstores!

We’ve posted a lot this week.  Today we want to hear from you.  Tell us… Why are local bookstores important to you?

Leave your response in the comments, on our Facebook page, or if it’s concise, tweet at us.

We’d like to share this response from Kelly Hayes of Occupy Rogers Park:

Armadillo’s Pillow, a used bookstore in RP, brings something special to our neighborhood. It has character, and personally, I find the place downright enchanting. I did a photo shoot there, a couple years ago. I asked about bringing in a model and snapping some shots, and the owner didn’t even have to think about it. She was immediately down with her place being used for an art project. A corporate store wouldn’t have allowed such a thing, and they wouldn’t have had an ambiance that would have made the idea appealing in the first place.

Since the Pillow’s books are used, it’s easy to wander in on any given day and find some treasure that you can afford to take home with you. It’s cozy, and it feels like the kind of place where you can go to dream, or learn, or just get lost in possibility. If it ever closed, a beautiful piece of my neighborhood would disappear. How many chain stores can you say that about?

P.S. Don’t forget to attend our first event next week for Occupy Your Local Bookstore!

First Occupy Your Local Bookstore event announced!

Thanks for the overwhelming enthusiasm and positive feedback on our launch of Occupy Your Local Bookstore last night!  It’s exciting to see so many people on board with this idea.

We have just created a Facebook event to announce our first of many such events/actions.  Please RSVP on Facebook or in the comments section below to let us know if you will be able to make it.

Details:

When: Monday, April 16th at noon

Where: Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore

7419 Madison St, Forest Park, Illinois

What:

Our first event will be to visit Atria’s Great Mystery Bus Tour when it stops at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park next week. This event features not one but FOUR top-notch mystery authors (John Connolly, William Kent Krueger, Liza Marklund, and M. J. Rose) signing books and meeting readers.

To learn more about Atria’s Great Mystery Bus Tour, visit their Tumblr: http://mysterybustour.tumblr.com/

Centuries & Sleuths is easily accessible from the Forest Park stop on the blue line. Learn more at their website: http://centuriesandsleuths.com/

Please stop by, meet some authors, and buy a book from one of our favorite local indie booksellers!

Occupy Your Local Bookstore

Today we are proud to announce an ongoing initiative we call Occupy Your Local Bookstore.

Eat Sleep Read LocalBookstores do more than sell a product.  They are community centers where people meet, ideas are exchanged, and knowledge is gained.  But they are threatened by businesses who sell books at a deep discount, hoping you will buy other products to make up for the money they lose on book sales.  These businesses do not cultivate community experiences or host events where you can meet authors and fellow readers; they just sell you cheap books – and often only the most popular titles.  Plus, according to IndieBound: “Spend $100 at a local [bookstore] and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.”

We at The People’s Library of Occupy Chicago have a great fondness for local bookstores, and many of us have worked as booksellers in the past.  As such we would like to encourage the 99% to occupy local bookstores and show them how important they are to our city and all its communities.  As an added bonus, we hope to highlight what physical bookstores have to offer and the value of interacting with knowledgeable booksellers, authors,  and other readers.

Occupy Your Local Bookstore

Here’s how it works:

  • Once a month or so, we will choose an event at a bookstore in the Chicago area.
  • We will put out a call on this blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter account to “occupy” the event.
  • All you have to do is show up for the event – it might be a poetry slam, an author signing, or some other community gathering.  (Extra points if you bring your friends!)
  • Relax! Learn something! Enjoy!
  • Before you leave, please consider purchasing at least one book – even just a paperback – to help support a local business that promotes literacy.  If you need a recommendation, ask a bookseller!

That’s all there is to it.

A few notes:

  • We will choose events that seem interesting, not necessarily thematically connected to the Occupy movement.
  • The goal of this action is simply to highlight existing community resources and put our money into businesses that serve the 99%.
  • If you are an author or bookstore planning an event in the Chicago area that you’d like us to consider as part of this action, please email OChiLibrary [at] gmail [dot] com.

Hope to see you out occupying local bookstore events!  Our first action will be announced tomorrow, April 11th.  See you back here then!