Voices from the 99%: the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology

You must download this: a massive (and still-ongoing) compilation of poetry (and, it seems, a few prose pieces) submitted to the People’s Library by people from around the world, professional writers and amateurs alike, in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Editor Stephen Boyer explains the philosophy behind the anthology:

First of all, we don’t say no to anyone. Everyone that sends their work gets their work into the anthology. It’s not that I’m against anthologies that are critical about what they print. It’s just that this movement is a move toward inclusiveness and the Occupy Wall St. Poetry Anthology must reflect that. And this inclusiveness allows for a range of work that I’ve never seen. Children are sending their poems. Queer writers are sending their poems. Kids obsessed with hip-hop are sending their poems. Grumpy old men are sending their poems. Daydreamers are sending their poems. Professors are sending their poems. Homeless people without access to computers or places that put out calls for submissions are sending their poems. Famous poets are sending their poems. It’s truly an anthology made of and by and for the people. It seems that someone from every walk of life is making space for their vision in the anthology.

The first poem, “Taking Brooklyn Bridge” by “Stuart,” is a sprawling, soaring, joyous, and brave response to Walt Whitman that embodies the anthology’s spirit. A taste:

I came to atone for my apathy,
I came to teach the future vigilance,
better to be loud, be awkward, be dirty, be flawed,
you who are to come, make the people uncomfortable
because they are too timid to join you,
make the leaders uncomfortable
because they know you are unafraid,
I tell you that it is better to be one of the great democratic
people than it is to be a lord or a peasant.

We began to march from Liberty Square, a place
that now fully deserves its name, toward
the Brooklyn Bridge, and we chanted and sang
and called to those who watched to join us,
and there was a feeling in the air, a passion that
joined together every hearty soul, we all knew
we were on the side of the just, that we meant
no harm to any person, that we sought no more
than what was fair and sought it not only for ourselves,
and several times on the march my eyes welled with tears,
my emotions overwhelmed by the chaotic, brilliant
beauty of those marchers, of that which we marched for.

The long line of the protestors wound beneath
the towers of those who would squander the world,
devouring all that is good with their insatiable appetites,
making our way to the Brooklyn Bridge and when I saw
the towers of the bridge before me I started to laugh,
what better way to pay back Walt Whitman than to honor
his song at the crossing to Brooklyn, to march across the bridge
over the waters he crossed so many times, the bridge that poets
have embraced as a symbol, not only of ingenuity and progress,
not only of endeavor and perseverance, but as a symbol of democracy,
of the great crossing of humanity from tyranny to freedom.

They are here Walt and I am with them, the African father
pushing his daughter in a stroller, she holding a sign that proclaims
she too will fight for her future, the old man singing
‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ with wit and irony,
the veterans who know only too well of betrayal, the young girl
with bright fiery hair whose strong voice chants, “We got sold out,
banks got bailed out!” the unshaven college boy who has slept
in the park for two weeks seizing the future with determined hands,
the middle aged lady, vibrant and experienced, rallying us
to raise our voices, the mother and daughter holding a sign
that reads — America, Can you hear us now! All ages, all races,
all voices, songs and chants overlapping, strangers becoming comrades.

[...]

I knew that we had come to the Brooklyn Bridge and given it the
meaning
poets had sought to give it in their words, we had brought
the rough, sacred spirit of democracy to the Brooklyn Bridge,
we had restored Whitman’s song to it’s very birthplace,
for he had called to us, the future, in his song, he sings to us now,
he knew that we would be here, he stands with us, chants with us,
and here I am on the Brooklyn Bridge on a day as important
as any day that has ever passed, watching Walt Whitman
above the bridge towers, sounding his barbaric yawp
above us, calling down the sign of democracy,
calling us to remember, not just one amazing day,
but the task to come – Sing on – Sing on – Sing on!

More — much more — here.

(Image by mollycrabapple)

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Voices from the 99%: the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology

  1. Michelle

    Do you post art? I am doing an oil painting from my point of view as a 99%er.

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