Now this speech won't be delivered until Oct. 8 at the opening ceremonies.
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Opening Remarks 2014 iWPS
Poets, bless you. Thank you for coming to save us. My name is Mikel Weisser and it is one of the great honors in my lifetime to be on hand to welcome the world’s finest poets to AZ, to PHX in fact, for this year’s Individual World Poetry Slam championship!
As a poet who has somehow managed to become the democratic candidate for US House of Representatives in Arizona’s Fourth Congressional District, I live my life in the shadow of the famous quote by Shelley about poets being the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
While I do not know if that phrase characterizes the soul of every wordsmith who ever mangled sentence structure so “moon” and “June” could spoon, I do believe that the assembled talent here this weekend, take their mandate quite seriously: if you are going to open your mouth to fill our minds, it better be about something. I am, to say again, humbled to merely be this close to so many legends, so many great entertainers, so many passionate activists. This weekend, Phoenix will hear if we hear the pulse of the universe in the tones our poets bring out. Phoenix let me warn you: it may not be pretty.
Poets, more than many other public bloviators, tend to remember we have an obligation to enlighten and entertain and, in the process, it’s the ugly we exactly need to hear. People don’t always want to allow the ugly to be seen. Sometimes we want to think that poetry is nothing more than window dressing: comparing your lovely to a summer’s day, instead of simply saying she’s hot. And, yes, there’s times when it’s true that’s all poetry needs to be. But these are the worst of times and the best of times and we have seen the best minds of multiple generations dragged through the disasters of human folly and the whole thing made worse, because no one would address the ugly. We can’t change the ugly truths of life by ignoring them, by disguising ourselves and our emotions. We aren’t chameleons, we’re just humans and luckily us all it is the poets that remember this.
Just to be sure we all understand, I’m not just rattling my jaw because I fell off the donkey truck near a place where there’s free food (there’s food right?) I have a Masters in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield and an M Ed in Secondary Ed from NAU and been performing, publishing, and promoting poetry for about 20yrs after writing in my closet for 20yrs before that and I can tell you, based on that considerable experience, there is a whole lot of ugly the world needs to hear about.
There is a tremendous sense of urgency, corruption does not have a curfew. The poor don’t stop starving just because no one hears about it and our childhoods are always being reborn or destroyed anew w every new moment, at least sometimes there’s a poet there to catch us. Poets are willing to reach down deep in their hearts and write w their blood on the page, maybe to satisfy us, mostly to be lost in the din between the stage and where we stand, mere players. But sometimes, pretty or no, the moons align, the thunder cracks and the words of the poet bring light to the darkness of insanity. And whether we think it’s pretty or whether we think it ugly, it’s the poets’ truth that sets us free.
Let us go then, past the question of “Do I dare?”And let these games begin. Ladies and gentlemen of PHX, it is my honor and privilege to be here today, to be in earshot as the greatest poets of the world speak. Thank you for welcoming them, and thank you poets for coming, with your husky brawling voices and your big shoulders to carry the weight of the world. Thank you Aaron Johnson for bringing us all here today. Thank you for bringing pretty and ugly and everything beautiful. Thank you for letting me listen.