Portland Slams and Paris Talks

Slam poets read beautiful poems about the urgency of climate change at Portland Center Stage to build momentum and stand in solidarity with the Paris Climate talks.


Portland Poetry Slam  welcomed 350PDX to their twice-monthly event at Portland Center Stage, gifting us with a table in a prominent location and reserving two slots for our “environmental poets” to perform. (This was extremely gracious, as the number of poets who sign up always far exceeds the slam’s available time slots.) The audience rewarded our poets with great warmth and enthusiasm — not surprising, as the slam culture is characterized by exuberance and fantastic good will.

Tay Stone before reading her poem at 350PDX and Portland Poetry Slam's event at Portland Center Stage

Tay Stone before reading a poem at 350PDX and Portland Poetry Slam’s event at Portland Center Stage

Tay Stone and Marc Polonsky delivered poems for the Open Mic alongside amazing poets like Kiki Nicole.  There was a full house, with more than 150 in the audience to listen. The poems ranged from describing date ideas in Forest Park to Borges-esque poetry from Argentina on climate change by Matthew Miller.

The slam is a place where performers blend subjective and objective experience; and where the audience is made to feel the unity of our personal, professional, and spiritual lives. What I got from my slam experience is that activism is fluid. It is expressed in so many ways. Yes, we had a booth with our pamphlets, flyers, and sign-up sheets, but we also had our perceptions shaped by themes we were exposed to and by the privilege of performing, which brought the audience and ourselves closer than I ever expected.

350PDX could not be more proud and grateful than to claim the Portland Poetry Slam as a community partner. Our particular thanks go out to Leyna, the event’s effervescent host, for sharing a little bit of the limelight.

Our Arts & Events team needs a lot of artists and dancers for our actions on climate change coming up in Portland, OR. Please reach out to us if you are interested in helping for our Road Through Paris campaign. Join us on December 12 on the Tillikum Bridge to join thousands of others across the globe standing in support of the Paris Climate Talks.

The poems we performed are below.

Mathematical physics without the math is poetry, at best.
— Hank Roberts, posting on the weblog RealClimate.org

Boiled from the surface of the Sun
headed our way at Einstein’s C.

Slipping through glassy air
and striking home.
Reflected, captured, activating, quickening.
Off again with a different vibe
pinballed up in frosted air.
Hesitant, digressive, recursive path
balancing the ledger, eventually;
but we’re staying in the red.
Hot stuff! How cool is that?


Conservation by Marc Polonsky

You and me
Crawled out of the sea
Millions of years ago
And so much we still don’t know – it’s strange
The human ear can only hear
Sounds within bounds of a frequency range that’s very tight
We can see only a tiny spectrum of light

We’re descendants
Of some primordial ooze
Yet it makes sense
Now we get to choose

Because we’re not just driven by instincts and fears
We can pursue ideas
Like justice and kindness in a world that’s all alive
No need to ration compassion when your heart’s open wide

…. And there’s this deal we can make
But we have to make it together
I don’t know whether it’ll happen
But it’s a chance we have to take
We have to wake up and decide what to give up
Because if we don’t downsize our presumption of grandeur
Minimize our consumption of the land your feet are planted on
And your descendants are dependent on
We’re just forming and inflicting a world bygone
Cuz global warming is a fast ticking time bomb.

So here’s my advice
Start with—what can we sacrifice?
Sweet simplicity
Can we do an hour or two a day with no electricity
I say, better than a massive frack out
Sign me up for that rolling blackout

You know, during WWII, people embraced ascetic conditions
Sent every scrap of metal to be made into munitions
It was seen as vain to even wear hair pins
Even useful items like doorknobs were donated
Because citizens understood it was all related
Nothing had to be confiscated
People knew the world was on fire
And today, it’s even more dire

So what if we don’t turn up the natural gasification every time we’re a little cold?
Doesn’t all this instant gratification get a little old?
Better throw on a sweater or adjust our positioning
And jeez—don’t even get me started on air conditioning!

I mean, I love my electric light
And my machine-generated music
But to know we’re living right
And not completely lose it
If we could just indulge a bit less please of these luxuries that bless us
Might they not become even more precious?

These thoughts are not just vapor so don’t be sarcastic
Every piece of paper, every bit of plastic
Is a treasure bought at dear cost. Consider the sources
And measure what’s lost of our planet’s resources

And I’m not saying it’s all about personal choices
We also need to raise our voices and speak truth to power
But it’s all our karma is what I’m hintin’, you know?
Can’t just leave it to Obama or Clinton to fix the show

We’re all huge material feeders
So let’s not waste time blaming our leaders
Expecting them to pull this rabbit out of the hat
It’s our collective energy habit that
Is driving us to fail, causing a destiny of fools to come down
So we have to prevail on industry to leave the fossil fuels in the ground

Now some say      Hey
The world will go away anyway
And I know climate change has occurred in the past
Though — never this fast
And I’m also aware it’s been foretold
By science that the sun will explode
In a few more million years or so

And why should I
Feel so frisky with strife
When I’m almost sixty and I’ve had a good life

But it makes my heart smile not to live in denial
And even if life is but a dream
There’s meaning in being on the human team
And like never before, our chore is to open our eyes
Together we fall or together we rise
We are called now to do more than just survive
…. What a fucking time to be alive!

A Letter to My Niece by Tay Stone

You haven’t been born yet,
Your name hasn’t been decided
but your mom has some really good ideas.
I’m sure whatever she chooses will be perfect until then,
I’ve been referring to you as Little One.

I’m honestly really nervous to meet you.
I mean as the youngest sibling, I don’t have much experience with babies.
The only comfort I have is that I know babies really like being swaddled.
Which is great, because I also really like being swaddled
And I think it’s helpful for me to know that we already have something in common.

Anyway, ever since I heard you were going to be around it’s had me thinking a lot about what kind of world my sister and I are going to make for you.
We want your happiness first and foremost.
We want to surround you with all of the love in the world so that once you get older, your outer shell will be made of empathy, perspective, and willingness to consider.

Something that this world seems to be lacking so much of right now.
Unfortunately, Little One, you are being born into a world that is hurting.
Many people have lost their way.
We’ve lost the innocence of nibbling on baby toes.
Of dancing in circles,
Instead, we’re all…just hurting.

Don’t get me wrong, the world is beautiful.
It’s plentiful and full of awe that can only be truly experienced rather than talked about.
And I’ll show you when you get here
but, as people, we have made decisions that take for granted a lot of the beauty that the earth is bestowed.

We do things like create a lot of waste. Things we use up, don’t use, throw away, and disregard.
All of this stuff is piling up in people’s backyards whom are already struggling to survive.
Kids like you are growing up with asthmatic lullabies being sown silently into every goodnight because we’ve dirtied the earth’s deep breaths.
You’re going to need to breathe life into her again, Little One.

We also tend to treat the earth pretty badly in other ways too.
We drill into her, remind her of her past failings, and use that to fuel our cars, our homes, and unfortunately our hearts sometimes.

The earth isn’t the only one suffering because of this, Little One.
We’re seeing wars break out over who has the most right to offend our planet.\
Kids like you, are getting sick because their water is dirty because the earth is bleeding.
And other people, who are responsible for the earth bleeding don’t seem to care that much.
You’re going to have to change their hearts and show them so much love, Little One.

So much love.

I’ve thought a lot about what your world will look like, Little One.
I really wanted to tackle this before you got here,
And I know a lot of other people who want to as well.
But I’ve realized there’s not much time to shape it before you get here,
so we’re going to have to work together.

We’re going to have to defend the defenseless.
Love when it’s the most difficult to love.
Be conscious and aware how heavily we tread in this life.
Constantly question our own integrity and validity in this life to strengthen and improve others’.

We need to do these things little one, so when you have a neice,
And you find yourself nervous.
You will have the confidence of a renewed place to call home
That is full of beautiful and powerful people
Who’s outer shells will be made of empathy, perspective, and willingness to consider.

Just like yours.