Interviewed by Lisa Vihos, November 19, 2015
Language is powerful. We are moved by words all the time. Poets are word artists. They practice their craft, employing the many resources of language to achieve an effect, and the effect can be a change in perception, in understanding an issue or situation. That is the groundwork of change. Poetry works in a different register from prose, and so it offers the possibility of reaching people in a different way, a way I think that is more compelling.
This is not to say that any one poem is going to bring about change all by itself. I’ve been actively working for social justice since I volunteered to work on a southern voter registration campaign in 1965, long enough to know that multiple components are needed to effect change. Poetry and other arts have an important role to play in helping to set the tone, creating the climate and understanding that is part of how change happens.
Poet and civil rights activist Margaret (Peggy) Rozga has written several books, including the award-winning volume about Milwaukee’s fair housing marches, Two Hundred Nights and One Day, in which she participated. She co-edited two anthologies, Cries for Justice: Poems for Dontre Hamilton and Turn Up the Volume: Poems about the States of Wisconsin. The photo above was taken by Joe Brusky at the launch reading for Turn Up the Volume at Woodland Pattern.
“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.