Peter Rugh is a veteran of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. He has written for Trughout, Alternet, The Indypendent, Z Magazine, Counter Punch and other outlets. He covers social movements for WagingNonviolence.org and is a graduate of Naropa Universityʼs Jack Karouac School of Disembodied Poetics.
- What do you hope an audience takes away from your work?
I suppose, I’m a naturalist. I believe poetry should be as radical as reality itself, that poetry should embody struggle, alienation and generosity to name a few of the many fold and often contradictory phenomena inherent in our day to day lives. Great myths enact themselves in the street everyday if our eyes are open and, as we enter the Anthropocene Epoch, our ecology is writing the Book of Revelations in front of us. If I can only achieve one thing it is to chip away at the frozen iceberg of fixed perception and reveal that our reality is much more fluid than routines program us to image. Poetry provides a vessel on a sea of possibility. That doesn’t mean becoming so embroiled in language that signifiers become meaningless. It’s hard enough making sense of the nightly news, if our poems become linguistic tax forms, as so many have in this know-it-all age, we loose something really special; a force for meaning and communion that humans have always relied on in one manifestation or another since the fire in the cave.
- How do you think having a Poet and/or Artist as a teacher can affect what/how someone learns?
Poets probably have had the most impact on my life, first and foremost, as what Allen Ginsberg would call, “courage teachers.”
In high school, I used to skip math class and tuck myself away under a desk in the library. I would read Walt Whitman out loud in a low voice to myself. Whitman showed me this light, expansive way of living. He teaches that if you approach people and nature with an open heart you might not be spared pain and defeat but you’ll be in touch with something larger than yourself, that runs through all life. He does this by speaking to you and beyond you, to everybody and himself in a really innocent and ancient sort of way. It’s not something just anyone can do, that’s why Walt is Walt, but he invites us to try and embody the spirit that his writing exemplifies. We begin to see what Megan’s Walt or Peter’s Walt looks like once we try on his ephemeral beard for ourselves, in our own writing. He gives us permission to do that.
If poets are teachers worth their salt – dead or in the flesh – it is through giving such permission slips. Encouraging their students to try on new beards or hats or neon spandex.
- What’s the importance of a creative/performative culture important to (NY, America, Globally, Locally…)?
I would be honored to be banned from Plato’s Republic. But instead, I think we should send our disinterested rulers into exile, those who for all their baby kissing don’t give a damn about the lives of everyday people.
In many parts of the world Plato’s notion of the Philosopher King is being taken to the ninth degree. In the US for instance, so called “emergency managers,” recently empowered to usurp elected town governments in Michigan are overseeing austerity regimes, since they can impose brutal budget cuts with supposed objective force. These punks should be banned.
Whitman really honored the people, places and things he wrote about. They were more than just nouns to him, they were parts of his soul. Though were he alive he might be decried as a Marxist on Fox News, he shows that poets can be a force for democracy and empowerment.
Think poets should disdain politics? Consider that the National Endowment for the Arts receives just one and half cents for every one hundred dollars the US government spends. That’s politics.
When I perform, my mission is to make the world safe for poetry, and vicariously, for humans. Performing a poem, even the most quiet haiku, is an act of defiance, of saying, “Poetry lives. Your Philosopher Kings haven’t crushed me yet, you bastards.”