Long Island's poets demonstrated the power of written word Saturday, as a crowd of 75 showed up for a benefit reading for Sandy Relief at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.
The event, organized by a group called Bards Initiative, unveiled an anthology of poems called 'Songs of Sandy,' pulled together to raise funds and spirits after the hurricane which devastated the region late last year.
According to James P. Wagner, president of Bards Initiative and co-editor of the anthology, nearly half of the 45 contributors to the poetry anthology read at the event, and $650 was raised.
He called the turnout "wonderful," and described the event as being "about more than just the money, as there are plenty of organizations that donated much more than that--it was about the community coming together, the stories being shared and everyone showing kindness to each other in the wake of hardship."
"We wanted to show those affected by the storm that we care and they can count on our support."
Bards Initiative is a Long Island-based multi-purpose poetry project dedicated to providing avenues for poets to share their work and encourages the use of poetry for social change. Among its activities are a monthly reading at Page One in Glen Cove, an annual poetry anthology, and "Freedom Verse," an ambitious book project dedicated to the belief that America is more than just a land and is not limited to one nation.
Saturday's reading, and the anthology which it celebrated, included Wagner, fellow Bards Initiative officers Nick Hale and Marc Rosen, Associate Editor JR Turek, Steven T Licardi, Ed Stever, Paula Camacho, John Brennan, Karen Jakubowski, Robert J Savino, Sharon Anderson, Maria Iliou, Gene McPartland, Doreen DD Sprungin, Steve Levy, Jillian Roath, Denise Kolanovic, Laura Wysolmierki, Gene McPartland and Pamela M Wagner.
The poetry was poignant, earnest and personal. Jakubowski, who revealed to the audience that repairs on her South Shore house had just begun the previous week, urged fellow victims to find “new life born of flood.”
Jen Seibert talked back to the storm, saying "You know what storm/ You have not defeated me...I am resilient/WE are resilient/and we will get back on our feet.
And in Power No LIPA Can Supply, Steve Levy said this: “People keep asking me/You got power/I tell them no/They feel sorry for me…
But I got power
Power to go on with life
To look on the bright side
We made it out alive
Nothing could be more important.”
The idea for the anthology, and its compilation, came quickly after the storm - two days after the worst of it hit New York and New Jersey, said Wagner. "I had the idea that every poet out there with a pen was probably writing down their reflections, thoughts and feelings about Sandy," he said.
Two weeks after he put out the call the issue was filled, with submissions from over 40 poets.
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All proceeds from the event at the Whitman Birthplace, and all profits from Songs of Sandy, are going to Sandy Relief, noted Wagner. Organizations to which money will go include Island Harvest, Occupy Sandy and Doctors Without Borders.