Poetry has been at the heart of many of the ups and downs of the Occupy protests these past few weeks. In New York, organizers garnered national attention and praise for their literary accomplishments, which include establishing a library in the Northwest corner of Zuccotti Park and hosting a weekly poetry reading. The Huffington Post's Feliz Molina wrote last week about the impressive poetry anthology the group has compiled, which includes poems by Adrienne Rich, Michael McClure and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The anthology -- true to the movement's principles -- is open to all.
But in Oklahoma City last week, poetry was front and center for a far more somber reason. Protesters there mourned the death of a young man whom they knew simply as "The Poet," who died in a tent on Monday (the cause of his death has not been released).
The Oklahoman has identified "The Poet" as 18-year-old Louis Cameron Rodriguez, who left home after a disagreement with his parents, and had since travelled the country performing his poetry. When he arrived at the Occupy OKC event, he was homeless, and the group gave him food, clothing and shelter.
The details of just how tough "The Poet" had it since leaving home are clear in his poetry. Here's a transcript of a poem he performed on at the Occupy OKC rally. You can watch the video of it here.
You can talk about the pain and the struggle
You can discuss hard times or life in a nutshell
Or (a hunger) because Momma took the welfare (and bailed?)
Then you don't know how it is.
They are fighting addiction while providing for four kids
The definition of a true man,
He never let the world get in the way of him being a dad
So tell me where have you been?
I'll tell you right now,
Until you crawl under that bridge and huddle up against the wall
Take off them busted-ass shoes, feet riding the railroad
Then you don't know what I been through or where I've been
Knowing that tomorrow I'll be in the same place again
Dry my tears in the wind
You say you feel my pain
But you don't even know what pain is.
Doom! Magazine's blog has collected a few quotes remembering "The Poet." One man remembered that he "gave me more hugs in the space of a little over a week than many people get in a lifetime." In a statement, Occupy OKC leaders said that he was known for his "joyful exuberance at life, his skillful talent as a street poet, and a wonderful spirit of giving and unselfish love that was an inspiration to everyone he met in our community." In an interview you can watch here, the young man's exuberance and spirit are clear.
The Occupy OKC group has set up an area of flowers and signs remembering "The Poet" in an area of the park they now call "Poet's Park." The group was scheduled to hold a memorial service on Saturday in downtown Oklahoma City.