Poetry and Social Justice
Madison’s Poets Laureate host a reading and conversation featuring three Wisconsin writer-activist-scholars, Rubén Medina, Margaret Rozga, and Thomas R. Smith. In visionary writing that emerges from lives at the front lines of progressive social movements, Medina, Rozga and Smith explore intersections of personal and political, protest and poetry, local and global, migrations and immigrations, silence and speech. They will read from newly published books, followed by hosted conversation. What does poetry have to say in these times? How does poetry answer the political moment? What do poems add to the conversation that other language does not? Explore these and other questions together.
Rubén Medina was born in Mexico City in 1955. He is a poet, translator, academic, editor, and one of the founders of Infrarrealism. He has lived in the US since 1978. In poetry he has published Báilame este viento, Mariana (1980), Amor de lejos…Fools’ Love (1986), the first edition of Nomadic Nation / Nación nómada (2010), and poems in numerous anthologies in the US, Mexico, Latin America and Spain. In the area of research his works include: Autor, autoridad y autorización: escritura y poética de Octavio Paz (1999) and Genealogías del presente y del pasado: Literatura y cine meXicanos (2010). In collaboration with John Burns, he translated a major anthology of beat poetry: Una pandilla de salvajes improvisando a las puertas del infierno(2012). Recently he edited Perros habitados por las voces del desierto. Poesía infrarrealista entre dos siglos (2014). Since 1991 he has taught at UW–Madison.
Peggy Rozga is a civil rights activist, poet, playwright, professor emerita, and the author of Though I Haven't Been to Baghdad and 200 Nights and One Day. She served as managing editor of the chapbook anthology Turn Up the Volume: Poems about the States of Wisconsin. Her essay "Community Inclusive: A Poetics to Move Us Forward" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is included in the Cow Feather Press anthology of prose works from Verse Wisconsin. She has been awarded residencies at the Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology and at the Ragdale Foundation and a fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society. A sought-after poetry workshop facilitator and speaker on social justice issues, Peggy believes both activism and creative writing involve seeing, being aware beyond the obvious, and both involve the dogged determination to get something right.
Thomas R. Smith has had hundreds of poems published on three continents. In the United States, his poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. His poems were included in Editor's Choice II, a selection of the best of the American small press, and in The Best American Poetry 1999. His work has reached wide national audiences on Garrison Keillor's public radio show Writer's Almanac and former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser's syndicated newspaper column, "American Life in Poetry." He is author of seven books of poems, Keeping the Star, Horse of Earth, The Dark Indigo Current, Winter Hours, Waking Before Dawn, The Foot of the Rainbow, and The Glory. A chapbook of nature poems, Kinnickinnic, appeared in 2008 from Parallel Press. He has edited Walking Swiftly: Writings and Images on the Occasion of Robert Bly's 65th Birthday and What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread, a selection of the best of the Canadian poet Alden Nowlan, now in its second edition. His poetry criticism has appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Great River Review, Ruminator Review, and other periodicals. He is a Loft Foreword Program poetry instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. He and his wife, the artist Krista Spieler, live in River Falls, Wisconsin.
Sarah Busse (Sarah Sadie) is the author of Somewhere Piano and Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes, co-editor of Echolocations, Poets Map Madison and Local Ground(s)—Midwest Poetics, and founding co-editor of Cowfeather Press. She teaches at the Loft and the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, is currently enrolled in seminary, working toward a Masters of Divinity (MDiv) degree. One of Madison's two Poets Laureate (2012-2015), she is currently at work on a novel and a new collection of poems. She lives with her husband and two children.
Wendy Vardaman is an editor, writer, web manager, printmaker, and designer. She has published three collections of poems and co-edited several anthologies. Her most recent book of poems, Reliquary of Debt, is available from Lit Fest Press.