Monday, December 08, 2008

Poetry Polar Bear Club

Green Lake, Seattle, WA

Looking for the 2009 event? Go here.

For those who haven't heard, we made history today. A group of brave souls in POETRY BIKINIS took the plunge for poetry, into Green Lake, in Seattle (The Seattle Times, "For poetry's sake, they jumped in the lake)." This was a first! Yes indeed. On Saturday 13 December 2008, just after noon, we plunged into the cold waters to prove that poetry is still alive. See John Cornicello's fabulous PHOTOS documenting our polar poetry swim. How lucky we were to have John on the scene! He's famous for his work with the Fremont Solstice Parade and I can see why. He knows how to capture an event!

What Does Poetry Have To Do With Cold Water?

This is about living. The point is to find new ways to live. In this case, cold water was the focus and poetry the approach. So you start with an idea, you develop it through memory and language into poetry, then you let it out to play, to act (in and) on the world. What results is an understanding. A being. And, for those who put themselves into it, poetry. Jumping into cold water with poetry on our suits proved to be yet another way to live. The cold water provided a focus that both demanded and offered poetry. And life begins.

The Poetry Polar Bear Club was both invigorating and powerful. It brought poets and dreamers together. It awed and inspired the public. And it jump-started a new tradition. Not only do I feel lucky to know a group of poets and artists crazy enough to jump into the lake with, but I feel honored to be able to initiate change where I live. I'm starting to feel a shift in the poets. And I can see that paralleled in New York City and San Francisco and other cities. Poets are beginning to engage with the public and are starting to see their fellow poets as collaborators instead of competitors. Hooray!

How Cold Was It?

It was the coldest week of the year, we were expecting snow (in fact it did snow later, which was wonderful because it so rarely snows in Seattle), the temps were predicted in the 30s. But there we were, as we said we would be, out reviving poetry. You know, it really didn't feel that cold. I guess was too busy feeling excited, but my knee jerk reaction, after getting into the water, was to hug everyone in sight. So I suppose it was quite cold, for I was starting to feel like a polar bear. Anyway, the event went off perfectly. The weather was cold & dry after a day of freezing rain. The crowd, at about 40, was full of curiosity and cheer. The polar bears, especially the ones in bikinis, but even the ones in tightie whities, were as giddy as can be. It all made for a hilarious and pervasively good time. So, once we were all lined up, we shouted out the poetry written on our suits (and bodies), one at a time, then plunged into the lake all together for a very quick dip, to wake up our artist (brrRRR!) to the moment. Then we got out and got dry and warm and shared cocoa and hugged goodbye. A few of us headed for a hot tub! So who said poetry couldn't be fun?! Not I. Certainly not I.

Where Did the Idea Come From?

I was running for Seattle Poet Populist and the program coordinator, Bob Redmond, asked me to make a pledge.
Q: "If selected as Seattle's Poet Populist, what will you offer?"
A: I gave it some thought, and came up with this. "I'll put 25 poets into Green Lake this winter, in little white bikinis, with poems written on them!"
Well, I didn't make Poet Populist, but that didn't stop me from following through on my promise.

Thank YoU

Thank you, Seattle, for listening.
Thank you Seattle Times and Nancy Guppy for heralding.
Thank you Green Lake for accepting.
Thank you to the 12 furriest poets I know: Mark Pomerville, Vanessa Dewolf, Clinton Bliss, Megan Ady, Tracy Day, Christian Swenson, Dana Martin, Jacob Jans, Patrick Kent, Love Boyd and Larry Neilson (& Mimi makes 12)!
Thank you John Cornicello for attending & capturing this event in pictures. You are amazinG!
Thank you Bob Young for being a nice person and for writing such a nice article (that rhymed)!
Thank you to all of the unnamed polar supporters.
Thank you & a big polar bear hug to Mylinda Sneed, for the wagon full of steaming hot tea!
With your help, we did it.
We put the "O" in pOetry!

What We Did

We came together.
We made a statement for and about poetry.
We got cold.
We got wet.
We laughed &laughed &laughed.
&omygod it snowed 5 hours later.
We gave ourselves a reason to warm up.
And we warmed up.

Why We Did It

We did it for poetry.
We did it for fun.
We did it as an invitation.
A wake up call.
A message to the poets.
Let's come together.
Let's meet the people where the people are.
Let's collaborate.
Let's embrace.

Can I Read A Polar Poem?

Yes you can. Here's one written by a local poet. It was worn by the poet and plunged into Green Lake on December 13th. Now that's cold!

bear of the north

bear of the north
you amble over hard-packed silt
your shoulders jut arrogantly
with every step
your snow-bright fur is tinged
the stain of a thousand dismembered seals.
I sacrificed my meat for you
and stopped driving my car.
I went to jail for you
ten years for PETA.
I screamed at bloody pedestrians
who wore your brothers' arctic skin.
I slouched self-satisfied
in my righteous, perfect path.
I never questioned my rending of
other people's beliefs.
they were assailable and slow.
they were prey.
I never ripped apart a living being with my
bare teeth
or collapsed invulnerable
in Superman repose on
a whirling floe of cruel ice
I never lapped at dark starlit waters
adrift on a splintered blast scape
or lifted my head to puzzle over the
antics of migratory birds.
I never was a natural animal
that slaughtered and sighed in innocence.
I know what I do.
for your part, maybe your time is ending, and maybe
I will not mourn.
you were always a monster.

Patrick Kent

To sum up.. you didn't hear it here first, but you did hear it here.. poetry IS news!



Blogger Megs said...

Hi Mimi!
I hope to be there, clad in bikini and a poem!
Writing and jumping into icy alpine lakes are two of my favourite things, so I am really excited to connect to you and your wonderful adventure ... just gotta find a baby sitter!!!!

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Dana said...

We did it! I just saw us on the news. The newscasters said that poetry didn't keep us warm. How little they know!

7:02 PM  
Anonymous amy - said...


Are you planning another polar poetry swim this year? Let us know!

- amy

4:24 PM  

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