Interviewed by Lisa Vihos, November 24, 2015
I work at Art Works for Milwaukee, a job training program in the arts. I grew up on the South side of Milwaukee, went to North Carolina for college, worked in a writing center there, as well as on service learning projects, then returned to Milwaukee in 2012. Poetry and activism was always a fact for me. The poets I first loved were the ones talking about society and the way it was.
For prisoners, poetry really is life-sustaining, there is so little else there. People really are writing to save their lives. There are studies that show that creative writing and art projects do decrease recidivism.
I feel like all poets need to look at the Black Lives Matter movement. Every time there is a social movement of this size, poets are writing about it. As Adrienne Rich put it, “Poetry is not revolution, but a way of learning why it must come.” I feel like I see a lot of white poets not paying attention. They are missing out on an important moment in poetics in America.
The nature of this movement is dispersed. WFOP [Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets] is the only statewide poetry organization. It is a great thing, but I would love for Wisconsin to offer a Split This Rock type festival/conference. Poets! We have our call to action. Let’s do it!
Milwaukee poet Freesia McKee is a social justice and creative writing educator. The photo, courtesy of McKee, is of the Poetry Factory at Riverwest 24, August, 2016. Milwaukee bicyclists wrote 322 poems at the event.
“Wisconsin Poetry Activists” is a flash interview series by Lisa Vihos, which grew out of research that she conducted for an article in Wisconsin People & Ideas, Turning on the Lights, Spring 2016.