Real Art Ways, New London Library Join 'Writers Resist' Movement

Since the November elections, some artists are taking the lead in a national movement they say is designed to protect civil liberties and defend truth in political discourse. An event being held in 87 locations nationwide and five internationally in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday will bring together writers who will share their concerns for the future and audiences who want to help spread the word.

Locally on Jan. 15, "Writers Resist" will be presented at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., and at the Public Library of New London, 63 Huntington St., from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free to both events. At Real Art Ways, donations will be accepted to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

"Writers Resist" events in 34 other states and Washington, D.C., as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Amsterdam, will be held the same day. Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where the politically oriented Dada art movement was founded 101 years ago, will host an event on Jan. 16.

Erin Belieu, a poet, director of the creative writing program at Florida State University and co-founder of the organization VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, created "Writers Resist" after posting her frustrations on Facebook in the days after the election.

"The campaign season and then the awful outcome of the election had left me feeling despondent. Listening to the media use and discuss phrases like 'post-truth' was and is deeply alarming," Belieu told The Courant. "I feel like the ideals of our democracy have gotten lost in the carnival show this election turned into. And writers have always been at the forefront of helping to create our democracies.

"So we will start with these events to recommit to those ideals, and then take these passionate group of activists and organizers after the events worldwide on the 15th and see what use we can be to keeping these ideals alive."

The Hartford event is being organized by Brent Terry of Willimantic, a writing professor at Eastern Connecticut State University. The New London event was organized by Emerson College senior publisher-in-residence Gian Lombardo, who lives in Niantic.

In an interview, Terry said "Writers Resist" "is about truth-seeking and truth-telling and the notion that free expression and open exchange of ideas is vital and something that needs to be celebrated and preserved.

"Since Nov. 8, I've wondered, what can I do besides get on Facebook or have a beer with my friends and bemoan the fate of the country?" Terry said. "What can I do to make things better?"

He said the MLK birthday timing is symbolic. "Who symbolizes using language to change the world better than Dr. King does?" he said.

Terry said 30 writers will participate in the Hartford event, including the state poet laureate Rennie McQuilkin, Charles Fort, Daniel Donaghy, Christine Beck, John Stanizzi, Benjamin Grossberg and Stanford Forrester. Each will read an original work of their own, in addition to a work by a writer they admire who takes on issues of social justice, politics or environmental concerns.

Terry's original poem is "The End of Wonder?" "It's probably the darkest poem I've ever written," he said. "It's sort of a warning."

He also will read "Ay, ay, ay de la Grifa Negra" by Julia de Burgos ("They tell me that my grandfather was the slave for whom the master paid thirty coins. Ay, ay, ay, that the slave was my grandfather is my sadness, is my sadness. If he had been the master it would be my shame: that in men, as in nations, if being the slave is having no rights, being the master is having no conscience.")

Lombardo said eight poets will read their original works in New London. He is not one of them. "I may read the First Amendment and a few poems by Paul Eluard, who was in the French Resistance during World War II, or a poem by John Olson," he said.

"I tried as much as possible to bring people in who will be more marginalized by what's coming. I've bypassed middle-aged white males like myself," he said. "I focused on people in organizations or groups that for whatever reason will have a hard time finding a voice in the next four years."

Lombardo said the New London lineup includes Joanie DiMartino, Fort, Jose Gonzalez, Frederick Knowles, Mark Lamoureux, Steve Ostrowski, Lisa Taylor and Rhonda Ward.

Lombardo said he will not collect donations at his event, but he will have sign-up sheets for people who want to get involved in activist networks. For details, visit writersresist.org.

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