Hey! My name is Andrew Kozma, and if you are reading this blog post, you probably know who I am, or who I have been, or who I wish to be. Namely, a writer, a poet, a novelist.
Apologies for the forced cheer. Sometimes forced cheer is all you can manage, and forced cheer is better than no cheer. (It is not. -Ed.)
I’m writing this because I’m starting on a scary and exciting new project called The Samizdat, and I want you to come along with me on this journey. The project: A blog/journal/thing of political poems by me and other guest poets, where the money raised (through Patreon) will be split between the poet and charity.
In some ways, I don’t want to be writing this. The horrors that have happened in the country over the past months/year–well, I just want them to go away. I want the Drumpf to stop being Drumpf-like. I want people to be safe, for them to be able to enter and leave the country as they wish, for mothers not to be deported away from their daughters and lovers, for treaties with Native Americans and foreign powers to be honored. I want the country I love to stop descending into madness.
And yet, what I’ve realized is that there are people who have been living in this state of mind for their entire lives. The Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American nations standing with NoDAPL, this struggle is nothing new to them. All of those who started Black Lives Matter did so because of the prejudice and hate they’ve been dealing with for decades. Even if Drumpf and his crew were gone tomorrow, so many struggles would remain and would need to be fought against.
That’s what I want The Samizdat to be: a method of using that art (and the joy/hope/awareness it engenders) to make the world a better place. Below is all the information you’ll find on the Patreon page. There is no poem up yet; since the goal is to use poetry to raise money for both artists and charity, it doesn’t seem to make sense to publish any poem until there’s money to be distributed. So I’m putting out this call and will be publishing the first poem to The Samizdat next Friday. If you want to support artists and political art and various charitable causes (needed even more now that the federal and state governments are cutting funding for arts and social welfare programs), then join me here: The Samizdat.
All art is political.
In some cultures and in some circumstances, this is more apparent. Writers in China and Saudi Arabia have been imprisoned for their words and, in many cases, for the very act of writing something not approved by the government. In the United States, for example, the McCarthy era destroyed careers for artists who spoke out against the Communist witch hunt of the time.
And it’s possible that we are heading towards such a crisis again.
In the USSR, during the long totalitarian rule of that country, people were born into oppression and died in repression. Anything a citizen said could be and would be used against them. Typewriters were registered and marked each with an individual fingerprint so that the authorities could discover who had written any seditious material. In this climate, writing anything was a risk, and a political act.
Russian writers and philosophers and critics who wanted to flout government censorship wrote their pieces in secret and passed what they’d written to others in secret. Those others took on the obligation of retyping what they’d received or copying it out by hand and sending their new copies onward to other readers. Reading these secretly-shared, non-government-approved, and therefore subversive texts was dangerous. Being in possession of them was a crime.
This is the spirit I’m trying to recreate with The Samizdat, writing and publishing and distributing political poetry that talks to and around and within what is going on in the world today. Poetry is not just food for the soul, it is fuel for revolution. It is a lens that changes the way you perceive the world and your place in it.
THE ACTION PLAN
The Samizdat promises to deliver political poems directly to you, up to four times a month. The first poem of every month will be mine–the other three will be guest poets. The line up so far includes Sasha West and Joshua Gottlieb-Miller.
Because politics is not just about words but also about actions, half of your pledge will go towards a charity of the contributing poet’s choice (the pledge being the total minus Patreon’s fees), the possible charities listed in that poet’s bio. Afterwards, I will post how much money was raised and where it went. My goal here is to be as transparent as possible in supporting poetry and those causes we, as a community, believe in.
The Samizdat has two baselines of support. The first is a one-dollar pledge that gets you the poem and access to any extras posted through the Patreon. The second is a twenty-dollar pledge which will get you a poem directly mailed to you. Because of the way Patreon works, you can change your pledge level at any time so that if you want mailed copies of only those poets you prefer, that will be easy to arrange.
We are entering a world where art and dissent are under attack. Here is your chance to support both.