‘100 Thousand Poets for Change’ Events Across the Region

Last year, the first “100 Thousand Poets for Change” event took place on September 24. In 2011, there were 650 events in 550 cities — including multiple events in Cairo, Sharjah, Alexandria, and Fes.

This year, at least eight Arab countries are sponsoring “100 Thousand Poets for Change” readings, with Egypt perhaps the most active partner. The readings (and musical performances, and mime shows) are set for September 29. Events thus far have been scheduled in Algeria , Lebanon , Morocco  (Fes, Agadir, and Rabat), Oman , Sudan , Tunisia  (Moulares and Ariana), the UAE  (two events in Sharjah), Yemen, and Egypt (Cairo, Assiut, Gharbia, and Port Said).

What sort of “change” is 100TPC talking about? That’s up to local organizers. Founders Michael Rothernberg and Terri Carrion write on the 100TPC website that they just want local events to envision change “within the guidelines of peace and sustainability.”

Rothenberg, who was at last year’s Sharjah International Book Fair, spoke passionately about the poet’s role in society. At the time, Rothenberg was hoping that, just as political uprisings in North Africa, the Gulf, and the Levant had (perhaps briefly) inspired a new political genre in the U.S., they might also inspire new poetic movements.

Rothenberg said that, after the ‘60s and ‘70s, Anglo poetry was divested of its central role in cultural dialogue and debate. But now, he believed, self esteem is returning to these other poetries, and “the sense of the poet’s role in society.”

Of course, recent events have also caused poets to reflect on what it means to be “political,” and how “political poetry” can in some ways shackle poets to a particular aesthetic and a particular line of thought. In any event, it will be an interesting night to be out among the poets.