Activist-Poet Michael Castro

Poet-Activis Michael Castro performing his poetry. Photo by Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Poet-Activist Michael Castro
performing his poetry.
Photo: Robert Cohen
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Shelley wrote “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” identifying the poem as an effective instrument of change. This truth has endured from before his time to ours as poets around the world have spread the seeds and rallying cries of change by supporting social movements.

I was shaped as a poet in the sixties and early seventies, during which time I was actively engaged in the anti-war movement. I was reading poems in public rallies before I had published any. The poem seemed a natural way of expressing what was foremost in my/my generation’s consciousness, and also a means of encouraging, energizing, informing, affirming and providing hope to people engaged in a struggle. I wrote for an underground newspaper in which I published my own & others poetry. Over the years I’ve started a magazine, a reading series (now in their fortieth years), three radio programs, and a poetry festival. I’ve published a collection, The Bush Years, poems dealing with the fiascos of those times.

Promoting poetry consciousness
can be a revolutionary act.

In recent times The Occupy movement provided opportunities for the poet to lend his or her voice, myself among them, as did 100 Thousand Poets for Change, the post Ferguson demonstrations and Black Lives Matter movement. And since becoming St. Louis Poet Laureate in 2015, I’ve had many more opportunities to speak poetically on behalf of causes including Gay Pride, Interfaith Dialogue, Suicide Prevention, youth poetry, Black Art Matters, and Black Lives Matter. I’ve read at the inauguration ceremony for the St. Louis Board of Alderman and before the Ferguson Commission.

L to R: Malaysian Performance Poet Ilay Sumanto, Michael Castro, & Adelia Parker-Castro Salerno, Italy
L to R: Malaysian Performance Poet Ilya Sumanto, Michael Castro, & Adelia Parker-Castro
Salerno, Italy

But from the 1970’s to today, my main and most consistent and persistent form of activism has been as an arts activist. Promoting poetry consciousness can be a revolutionary act. For decades I’ve been developing community based readings that are multi-cultural and multi-racial in nature, bringing diverse audiences together to share the honest talk, playful talk, spirit talk of the poem. These events are designed to embody, shape, project, and promote what I now call a “Unity Community,” the theme of my laureateship, as we bring art to contribute to the healing our region sorely needs.

Michael Castro 4/4/16

Among many others of his credentials, Dr. Michael Castro is the St. Louis, Missouri, Poet Laureate.

Poet-Activist Michael Castro reading a poem. Photo: Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio
Michael Castro reading a poem.
Photo: Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Read three of Michael Castro’s poems in this issue of The BeZine. Other of his poems will also appear on The Woven Tale Press website as part of a feature on Activist-Poets going live Monday, April 25, 2016.

View guest contributor Michael Castro’s bio HERE

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