Blue Poets in a Red State began as a reaction to the success of George W. Bush in his second term election; my personal fear that the Supreme Court would outlaw abortion, the management of health, education and welfare would further become a monopoly of free enterprise, that the Endangered Species act would be dismantled, that we would lose more freedom of the press and have less privacy from the intrusion of the government, and that we would end up fighting wars for another 4 years, etc.
I realize the "red state" concept is a convention and has nothing to do with popular vote and serves to further divide our country into a manageable populace for government control, but, still I was desperate for language and insight to clarify the direction of the USA so I turned to the Red State community of poets for council.
Blue Poets in a Red State is a project in which I asked several "Blue" Poets in every Red State to write ten lines each and link their words together in to one long verse.
The problems, or should I say "issues" that arose in my attempt to create this "link" first revolved around how to locate Blue Poets in Red States. This was incredibly difficult for me to do. It seems that most of the poets I know live in Blue states. They are the ones most in contact with me at Big Bridge or subscribe to various listserves, such as the Buffalo list, Wryting, and Company of Poets. I sent out calls through my mailing lists and these listserves asking for participants and hardly got a reply. I tried searching the PEN list by state and mostly found famous dead poets. Once I contacted a couple of poets in the Iowa writing program, teachers and students, I was able to reach most of the Red State poets. But it took quite a while noodling around the Iowa network before I could get headway.
When I did finally get names and introductions I came upon another set of obstacles. Some poets in red states objected to this project because they thought it reinforced a Madison Avenue Network Television paradigm, or thought I expected a political rant which some writers were not comfortable with. I explained that the poet/contributor could say anything, to just speak with their own original voice about whatever was on their mind at the time and let the collaboration speak for itself. If they wanted to sing the praise of Mississippi and its woodlands and swamps I was all for that. After all, I was asking them to add their voice and soul, their own language. If I wanted to hear myself speak I could write this myself, using an array of pseudonyms.
I wonder how many of us poets who live in Red States interact with Blue State poets and vice versa. This is my biggest concern and question now that the project is complete. Is there a divide? If so, then why? Is it because of supposed differences in literary politics and aesthetics?
I met a lot of great new poets in Red States and made many new friends. Iím sure there are tons of other red state poets I never got to meet and hope to hear from soon. I suggest we get to know each other, and that we communicate. That the poets in Kansas meet the poets in Hawaii, and the poets in Hawaii meet the poets in Georgia, and so on and so on and so on, so that eventually we are all part of one, big, collaborative (purple?) song.
P.S. Click on a state bird to find the contributor list from that state.