The Reporter recently caught up with longtime Hoboken poet Danny Shot, who along with fellow residents Eliot Katz and Vivian Demuth, helped organize 100 Thousand Poets & Musicians for Change on Sept. 29, a global day of activism that brought together local poets, musicians, and artists to raise awareness about world hunger and global poverty.
The group is planning to bring the event back next year.
In an interview, Shot said that while the event was successful in bringing artists together, he hopes that more can be done locally to bring together the artists and writers together on a regular basis for events similar to the one held in September.
Need for poetry
Shot had participated in 100 Thousand Artists for Change event in New York in 2011 and thought, “Hoboken needed this. Hudson County needed it.”
Shot has lived in Hoboken since 1987. He teaches English at Brooklyn Tech High School. He and fellow Hoboken resident Eliot Katz founded “Long Shot,” a Hoboken-based literary and arts journal that ran from 1982 to 2004.
“This is my home, so I thought, here is something for Hudson County poets that would be a good thing,” said Shot.
“Anything that cuts down people’s alienation or isolation can be a catalyst for change.” – Danny Shot
“It was very cool,” said Shot. “It felt really good because it was pretty much all local people.”
During the event, Shot read the poem he wrote for Occupy Wall Street, “Invitation to Walt,” that he already had read at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan during the protests. The poem was written to American poet Walt Whitman.
Catalyst for change
“Poetry can be a catalyst for change,” said Shot. “Writing a poem is not enough. Writing a song is not enough but it can communicate an idea that someone wants change.”
He said that change happens when people hear that they are not alone in thinking the way they do. “Anything that cuts down people’s alienation or isolation can be a catalyst for change,” he said.
Shot quoted Percy Bysshe Shelley, who wrote, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
When asked to give examples of poets who are known to have inspired change, he mentioned Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Walter Whitman, and Adrienne Rich.
“All of them have been successful at being…agents of change,” he said.
Cultivating an artist community
Shot said the 100 Thousand Poets & Musicians for Change event was an artistic success in regard to the performances and in cultivating community.
“Being an artist is often a solitary thing,” said Shot. “The chance to have community is something that is really precious.”
However, he had hoped for a larger turnout. In the end, approximately 50 people attended the event. He attributes the low turnout to the challenges artists face in Hudson County.
“It is difficult in Hudson County to make anything happen consistently artistically,” said Shot. “I’d like to see something happen in Hoboken in particular.”
Shot feels it is up to the younger generations to organize local artist, poets, and musicians on a regular basis.
Shot continues to participate in poetry readings and is also working to publish a graphic novel, “Cafeteria,” that was illustrated by Cliff Tissdel.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpt from “Invitation to Walt”
Poem written by Danny Shot for Occupy Wall Street
We need your sweeping vision Walt,
to offer our children more than low expectations
of life sat in front of screens or held in gadgets
that promise expression, but offer convention.
Let us not see America through rose colored
blinders, but as it is, an unfinished kaleidoscopic
cacophony created by imperfect human hands,
beautiful in complexion, ghastly in reflection.
This new century has been cruel and unusual
the ideology of greed consuming itself in a spasm
of defeat engineered by merchants of fear
and post millennial prophets of doom.
We need to recognize healthcare
and education as basic human rights
we need to restore the dignity of work,
as well as the dignity of leisure from work.