We live in a time of damaging myths. Mostly, we are disconnected from them. They have no roots. They are myths that would have us believe we are victims. Myths that would have us believe we are weak, up against monsters that are impossible to slay, and consistently on the verge of a crisis that we can only mitigate, not overcome. The Poetry Pilgrim Project is devoted to finding poets, writers, artists, and performers that are willing to take radical action, step out of their comfort zone, give up the ego-driven, well-drawn borders of commercial “success” in the art world/academia and begin re-mythologizing our social circles, communities, and countries. I hope to inspire, gather, and promote the work of these artists and writers who are using their skills to manifest new and truer myths, stories, and symbols than that which the mass media and institutions impose upon us. As explained in the manifesto below, I believe this requires community intimacy, the release of notions of “success,” and radical acts of creation.
On March 24th I will inaugurate this project by setting out on a five and a half month pilgrimage on foot from Southwestern Pennsylvania towards the Great Pacific Northwest (beginning on the Great American Discovery Trail through West Virginia and Ohio then veering north after the weather breaks on rural routes and rails-to-trails). This pilgrimage will be dedicated to discovering, writing, performing, and assisting others with producing new myths for regions that I pass through and the people that I meet. I will be writing poems for people that I meet through a fifteen minute interview process that is partly inspired by psychotherapy sessions and narrative therapy techniques. After each interview, I will draft a poem which is intended to reflect that individual’s “hero’s journey”, type it (with an Olivetti 32 typewriter) onto slips of card stock, string it with ribbon, and gift it to them. I have been refining this process of participatory composition with my group The TypewriterGirls (www.typewritergirls.net) for the past three years and individually while teaching creative writing at the American University of Beirut and at the Burning Man Arts and Music Festival (for more information please see http://poetrypilgrimproject.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/on-burning-man-gift-poems-and-why-this-project-began/). I will also be composing creative non-fiction essays about my experiences while walking and the process of collecting these individual’s stories, as well as posting writing prompts, photos, videos, and transcripts of interviews on my website: www.poetrypilgrim.com.
The Poetry Pilgrim Project Manifesto:
The Poetry Pilgrim Project is devoted to spurring artists, writers, and performers towards radical re-mythologization efforts in our communities and around the world. Poets, artists, writers, and performers should be responsible for shaping the stories within which our society lives, but they have abdicated that position for participation in the plot-lines that academia, the mass media, and major corporations have set forth. These are plot-lines which lead individuals and communities towards falling into the role of victim and victimizer, oppressor and oppressed, competitor, perpetually exhausted, and always in need. These stories have us believe that if we are not working, we have no value; that if we are not buying, we must be lacking something; that in order to be loved we must not be ourselves; and that simple gratitude and appreciation of beauty and otherness is not a goal in and of itself, but a side effect of something somehow more important.
Our gods keep moving further away, becoming less and less like us, made of dark matter, up-spinning, leaping whole millennia, but driving straight into our chests, shaking our smallest muscles when we notice them, as if to say why are you taking so long? Catch up! And the longer we wait, the more it will hurt when we step up to face the rift. We’ll say my god, my god as we stare into the eyes of someone we’ve spent our whole lives ignoring. And that story will hurt like hell. And it will be hell. And we’ll pass through it. And you’ll both get to write the twists and turns, the battles, the escape–and you’ll both get to decide what cups, keys, armory, weapons, and talismans you bring back with you to help the next one through. And these will be our real myths. We will tear apart and piece together our own borders, values, ranges of possibility, relationships, symbols, and endings that speak to who we are and the places we stand, swim, and fly.
These new myths will only emerge through radical acts of bravery and engagement on an intimate level, unencumbered by thoughts of will this poem get published in a great literary journal, will this sculpture sell, is this performance edgy enough, or will this hurt? Instead, artists will think, is this piece true? Does this piece reflect contradiction and glorify it? Was there pain in its making? And if the answer is yes, it will explain our times, define ourselves, and serve as a guidepost for coming generations.
The walk itself will last approximately six months. I will be sleeping primarily outdoors, but will seek out homes every once in a while for a shower, etc. I will be attempting to plan readings and writing sessions at public libraries in towns that I pass through, but as I am leaving the path open to change, this will have to be rather last minute. I am open to other poets and writers joining me for stretches and would love to seek these potentials partners out through this blog series. Otherwise, I will be walking alone with a modified jogging stroller as a cart, a two-man hiking tent, sleeping bag, two changes of clothing, my macbook air, and a typewriter.
The money raised from this Kickstarter Campaign is not only intended to help fund the completion of this pilgrimage-produced collection of essays and poems, but also to expand the reach and effectiveness of the over-all project, which hopes to spur/ignite new fervor amongst artists and writers to break out of their comfort zones and begin contributing their skills directly to their communities.
Specifically, in addition to the production of the book/successful completion of the cross-country walk, I need funds to make the website more interactive and to extend the reach of the project in order to get more artists on board and locate and promote artists that are already living up to the goals of the Poetry Pilgrim Project.