The spirited discussion on “literary activism” has prompted me to create this easy quiz to see if you are a real literary activist! Each yes answer earns you a point.
- Do you write poetry that addresses political, cultural, environmental, and social justice issues?
- Do you write poetry that might be described as protest, documentary, decolonial, ecopoetry, subaltern, undocumented, feminist, indigenous, queer, minority, disability, or witness?
- Does your poetry carry an ethical dimension to raise awareness, educate, inspire, empower, dignify, or humanize?
- Do you write and publish articles, essays, reviews or features of other poets?
- Do you conduct interviews with other poets?
- Do you publicize and attend other poets’ literary events?
- Do you buy other poet’s books?
- Do you curate and host events for others?
- Do you edit publications that featuring emerging and established writers?
- Do you work or volunteer at a small press?
- Do you organize or teach local, affordable community writing workshops?
- Do you teach creative writing or language arts at a private or public school?
- Do you assign other poets’ books in your classes?
- Do you present/lecture on other poets’s work at conferences, symposia, or festivals?
- Do you encourage students to attend literary events in the community?
- Do you share publishing, reading, or funding opportunities with others?
- Do you work or volunteer at a for- or non-profit literary organization?
- Do you advocate for the end to racism, sexism, ageism, and ableism in a publishing or literary institution?
- Do you call-out, boycott, or divest from racist writers, organizations, and “plantation publishers”?
- Do you attend marches, protests, or rallies?
- Do you sign petitions and contact your legislatures?
- Do you organize direct political actions?
- Do you sit-in, occupy, blockade, kayak, shut-down, or interrupt?
- Do you make poetic protest signs?
- Do you compose poetic slogans, mottoes, chants, or ditties?
- Do you write poetically-inflected political speeches?
- Do you organize poetry readings at activist events/rallies?
- Do you perform your poetry at activist events/rallies?
- Do you contribute your writing skills to activist pamphlets, press releases, op-eds, hand-outs, etc?
- Do you host activist zine workshops?
- Do you teach writing workshops at activist events or within social justice movements (labor unions, prisons, immigrant communities, etc).
- Do you extend the activist event by writing poetry about the action and publish your poem on social media, in books, or in literary journals?
Don’t worry about adding up your score: the point is not the points! The point is to realize that there are many ways to be a literary activist. Even if you don’t have much time or money to engage with activism, there are still ways to contribute—and any contribution will certainly enrich social movements and your own personal life.
Poets and creative writers are a necessary and vital component of every activist movement. Poets can inspire others to speak out and write their own truth. Poets can change minds, capture hearts, and humanize others. Poets help nurture our imaginations, which we will need for creative non-violent activism. Most importantly, poets can show us that deep down, everyone can be a poet–that we all have valuable stories and meaningful lives.