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spacer.gif   Was It Performance Art? Or Disturbing The Peace?
Posted by : cj on Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 02:45 PM
Poetry Gossip: Click On Headlines .
On Tuesday, September 27, during a question and answer session following a reading by Chilean poet Raúl Zurita sponsored by the Poetry Foundation at their multi-million dollar River North home, a small group of poets called the Croaton Poetic Cell went into the poetry library and dropped two banners. One of the banners read “What Would Have Happened if Emily Dickinson Had Been Prescribed Prozac?” (referring to the money the Foundation inherited from the Lilly Corporation), and the other banner said “VIVA CADA” (referring to the Chilean Colectivo de Acción de Arte of which Zurita was a founder and leader during the 70s). Click Here for video.

The Poetry Foundation security (which some witnesses describe as wearing CIA outfits), promptly ripped the banners down. The poetry activists then entered the reading room and passed out leaflets explaining that their banners were an attempt to honor "Raúl Zurita and the heroic spirit of CADA". The leaflets protested the arrest of activist Stephanie Dunn, who was charged with "disturbing the peace" for what the Croaton describes as a peaceful protest action during the "Collections and Cocktails" library opening at the Foundation a few weeks before. "To our knowledge, this is the first time that a supposed institution of poetics has pressed charges against a poet for what is essentially a poetic act," the fliers said. The flier continued: "To us, it makes perfect sense that an institution funded by a 100 million dollar grant from Lilly Pharmaceuticals, manufacturers of Prozac, would find any behavior beyond polite docility objectionable enough to call the cops." The leaflet then demanded "the Poetry Foundation spend the remainder of its drug money on the creation of two new poetry centers in existent disused buildings: one on the south side and another on the west side, whose mission it would be to support poetry in impoverished communities by any means necessary." If this demand is not met, the leaflet threatened: "These disruptions will continue . . ." The Poetry Foundation secret service men "chased and cornered" the poets in an attempt to physically apprehend them to be arrested for "trespassing" by police who were on their way, but the poets managed to "make a break for it". Click Here for video.

Poet and former State of Illinois Teacher of the Year, Kent Johnson wrote on the site " . . . this multi-million dollar Poetry institution called the cops on the activists for doing nothing but hanging some banners and peacefully passing out the statement [about] the astonishing, outrageous issue . . . that a young poet and performance artist from Chicago, Stephanie Dunn, who carried out a guerilla-poet’s-theater type act . . . is now apparently subject to charges pressed by the Poetry Foundation." Johnson went on to call the Poetry Foundation a "Happy Big-Tent House" that calls "the cops on brash young poets who step beyond the bounds of High Society protocol . . ." "What does it say when this institution attempts to suppress such radical (and in the history of poetry, venerably practiced) spirit by calling on the POLICE to arrest poets and have charges brought against them . . . the Poetry Foundation has put the Po back into Poetry . . ." Johnson continued, "I suspect there will be more actions coming . . ."

However, a well known Irish singing poet who was at the event and witnessed her get arrested claims Dunn was "not arrested for an essentially poetic act but because she was drunk and started provoking the guards by taking off her clothes." Other witnesses reportedly describe her action as disrobing and groping "an unwilling person in a public space." So far my invitation to the Croaton to describe Dunn's actions and explain what they have to do with poetry have not been accepted. Instead, I've been told that I "can read a detailed description of the events leading up to her arrest in the forthcoming issue of Sous Les Pa" (whatever that is).

--CJ Laity
This is a breaking story and is being updated as more information comes to the surface. Check back for updates.

UPDATE 10/03/11: Rebecca Roberts writes at "I was at the event where Stephanie Dunn was arrested, and this is what I saw: After the readings were finished, she and another person were partially undressed and making sexual gestures. This went on for a few minutes, then the security guards asked them both to leave. As they were being escorted out the door, I saw Stephanie swing at the security guards. My understanding is that this violent gesture prompted the call to police."

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