On January 15, just five days before the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, literary arts center Gemini Ink will join local publisher Wings Press, the citywide summit DreamWeek and a host of San Antonio writers and activists to present Writers Resist: SATX, a daylong poetry reading and forum for free expression.
The event, which is affiliated with a coordinated, national (and international) effort spearheaded by the nonprofit PEN America, is something of a protest to be sure, but, more importantly, it aims to “provide a creative, inclusive space in which we may come together as an artistic community to celebrate the values we most treasure.” While there is a long list of scheduled performers — including Texas Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero, Dr. Carmen Tafolla, poet and Wings Press publisher Bryce Milligan, Dr. Octavio Quintanilla, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson and Anel Flores — the event is open for all to attend and participate in as they see fit.
The Current spoke with celebrated poet and UTSA professor Wendy Barker and San Antonio Poet Laureate Jenny Browne, both of whom played vital roles in conceiving and planning the event, to find out more about the spirit of Writers Resist: SATX, which is being billed as a “re-inauguration of our shared commitment to the spirit of compassion, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy.”
Barker explained that the seeds for Writers Resist: SATX began to germinate, even before joining up with the larger movement, when, after the election, she found herself, like so many others, “devastated, deeply depressed, and frightened.” At some point, Barker’s devastation gave way to “a sudden burst of anger and energy” and, as she assured her graduate students that “[their] voices are more important now than ever before,” she realized that many artists and writers were wrestling with the feeling that “we’ve got to do something.”
For Barker, who sees the role of the writer/artist as “helping society look at itself without the blinders on,” this event represents a proud proclamation that “all of our voices and contributions matter.” She hopes that Writers Resist: SATX can function as a “reaffirmation of who we want to be as a nation.”
Browne, for her part, was pleased with how “parallel conversations” and concerns led this event to coalesce organically, a loose and resounding response to “feeling our values threatened.” Writers, in particular, are important right now, Browne explained, because writers are the ones most attuned to the fact that “language and how we speak about one another matters.” She sees this as a crucial time to “resist the normalization of hate speech and other damaging uses of language.” Believing that writing and art are “inherently life-giving activities” that help people see from the perspective of others, Browne hopes that events like Writers Resist: SATX can represent a kind of antidote to our “empathy-deprived time.”
Free, 1-8pm Sun, Jan. 15, Alamo Beer Brewery, 415 Burnet St., writersresist.org