From pain to poetry

The global 100 Thousand Poets for Change event returns to Sandpoint

By Soncirey Mitchell
Reader Staff

Poets are students of humanity. It’s the poet’s job to witness the horrifying, gorgeous, nonsensical world and condense it, wrap it in metaphor and deliver it to those willing to listen. Though a single voice may go unheard, picture 100,000 of them speaking as one.

100 Thousand Poets for Change is a global nonprofit that, once a year, unites people around the world under a common cause: to fight for social, political and environmental change. 

For the past decade, the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force and Lost Horse Press have hosted an annual 100TPC reading in Sandpoint. Participating communities choose to focus on a specific global issue — be it human rights, war, racism or gender inequality — and then hold their events simultaneously. 

The 2023 event in Sandpoint will take place Saturday, Sept. 30 from 1-3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church Garden (417 N. Fourth Ave.), when local poets and passersby will present original or found poems, songs or other artistic media inspired by a snippet from the Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan’s collection A New Orthography: “Let’s be brave this summer. Let’s be patient, let’s be generous.”

The community is invited to attend the free event, whether to speak or to listen.

With the Greatest Generation gone, full-scale military conflict in Europe seemed consigned to the history books until the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The Russo-Ukrainian war feels to many like a regression to the hatred and violence of the past.

“When we stand in solidarity with Ukraine, I feel we are all standing up to say a hard no to authoritarianism, tyranny, injustice, and brutality all over the world,” said publisher and founder of Lost Horse Press, Christine Holbert.

A New Orthography is one of many collections in the Lost Horse Press Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Series, founded in 2017 in honor of Holbert’s Ukrainian heritage.

“I wanted to do something to help Ukrainians, and I felt guilty living in a relatively safe country, not being bombed or shot at or raped while my Ukrainian family suffered through no fault of their own other than being unfortunate to share a long border with russia,” said Holbert. 

She further explained that Ukrainians do not capitalize “russia” as a way to signify their continued fight against the country’s violence and oppression.

Poets will stand up to champion the future of peace and kindness that they one day hope to achieve. Whether inspired directly by the violence in Ukraine or pain closer to home, performers and listeners will unite to comfort, inspire and spread kindness in a divided world.

“Poetry tends to come directly from the heart and is felt on a very deep level with very few words,” said BCHRTF Board Member Sharon McCahon, who spearheads the event. “I feel that it cuts through the noise and highlights how our basic concerns are shared by all of us. Therefore, poetry encourages connection rather than division.”

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