Stephen Collis reads from his poem

Stephen Collis reads from his poem

Writers and activists to speak on social change

Vertigo Voices hosts reading and discussion with poet/author Occupy protestor Stephen Collis and Greenpeace co-founder founder Bill Darnell.

Vertigo Voices welcomes two speakers on social movements and activism on both the local and the international stage, Sunday at Gallery Vertigo.

Writer and professor of contemporary literature at Simon Fraser University, Stephen Collis will read from his recent work, including Dispatches from the Occupation, To the Barricades and DECOMP, while Greenpeace co-founder Bill Darnell will present on the goals and successes of Vernon in Transition.

Collis is the author of several books of poetry, including On the Material, which was awarded the B.C. Book Prize for poetry, and DECOMP, a collaborative photo-essay and long poem written with Jordan Scott, as well as two books of criticism and a novel.

His collection of essays, Dispatches from the Occupation: A History of Change, is a meditation on activist tactics, social movements, and change. It is comprised of short essays as well as critical reflections of change as a larger concept.

Part of the Occupy movement, Collis says he is interested on building on the momentum the Occupy movement stirred.

“I think what Occupy did to people was represent that it’s all part of one big puzzle. The whole system is built on inequality,” he said. “The movement introduced a bunch of people to activism and social movement that weren’t involved before.”

Although Collis says he admires that the movement had no leader, he believes that organized protest is the way to go.

“At the end of the day, you need to get organized, build structures that help you stay organized, but don’t create hierarchical problems,” he said. “I’d like to see a movement raising consciousness about the common, the importance of the shared, and that protects the common. To me, it’s a simple idea.”

Collis’ most recent book of poetry, To the Barricades, moves back and forth between historical and contemporary scenes of revolt. These “social lyrics” travel the active line between poetry and revolution.

Vernon resident Darnell was part of a small group of activists, historically known as the Don’t Make A Wave Committee. It was Darnell who spontaneously came up with a new moniker during a meeting of the group in 1971.

When one member flashed his custom “V” sign with his fingers and said “peace,” Darnell responded with, “make it a green peace.” The name stuck, and more than 40 years later the group has grown to become the world’s largest, independent environmental organization.

“We really touched a chord with people,” said Darnell. “What we were doing gave permission and encouragement for people to do what they need to in their community We kind of inspired them, maybe unleashed them.”

Darnell moved to Vernon in 1997 and is now involved in several local groups, including Vernon in Transition, which is aimed at connecting different movements (from the Ribbons of Green Trail Society to the Food Action Society) and affecting positive change.

One of the major areas where Darnell sees a need for a global shift is in regards to climate change.

“It’s a more difficult thing to wrestle with. It’s not them and us, it’s us. We can’t point fingers. We have to change.”

Both men’s presentations will be followed by a discussion on activism and social movements, both locally and internationally, as well as idea sharing for positive change.  All are welcome to attend and take part.

Doors to Vertigo Voices open at 7 p.m. and readings begin at 7:30 p.m. at Gallery Vertigo, 3001 31 St. #1 upstairs. For more information, call (250) 503-2297.