Lisa Ann Markuson is a poet
She's writing a haiku for each US senator
Lisa Ann Markuson is on a 100-day, 17-syllable mission.
Each day for the last 44 days, the poet and social entrepreneur has pulled out her typewriter and written a haiku for a US senator, a project she’s calling “#PoemsForSenators.” She has 66 senators to go.
Day 38’s haiku, for Maine Sen. Angus King, and independent who caucuses with Democrats, reads:
his wisdom lies in
no party, only dreams of
Sometimes accompanied by a corresponding doodle, Markuson posts her five-syllable, seven-syllable, five-syllable poems on Twitter and Instagram, tagging its respective senator and writing context for how the poem came to be in the caption. It’s unclear if her poems have reached Capitol Hill just yet.
“One of only TWO senators unaffiliated with a political party, but he caucuses with the Dems (he used to be one). He’s a lawyer, was governor of Maine for 8 years, and says he’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but an #American. If that’s the case, I guess I’m an American too, because I love this guy. Also he is campaigning for the lobster emoji to be added to #Unicode11.0,” Markuson said in King’s caption.
Markuson is the co-founder, co-owner, and managing director of The Haiku Guys & Gals, a group of traveling performance artists, toting typewriters to events around the world – from weddings to corporate functions to libraries – where they create personalized haikus.
“We’re kind of like poetry DJs. Basically anything that would benefit from entertainment like music could benefit from poetry,” Markuson said, speaking to CNN from Orlando, where she performed at an event for the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration. “We’re proving that poetry can come into spaces you wouldn’t expect.”
Her performances can bring her poem’s subjects into an intimate, vulnerable space, she said, and this 100-day project was a way to connect with lawmakers without the typical one-on-one experience.
“I really want to try to pierce the seemingly impenetrable shells these people have … I started thinking about the idea of trying to replicate the experience of vulnerability and empathy, trying to take that experience and bring it to lawmakers,” she said. “What if that could change them in a real way and it could actually shift their beliefs?”
Markuson spends about two hours a day researching the senator du jour, perusing voting records, news stories from conservative and liberal outlets, and their social media feeds.
“I meditate on it until something emerges as a good entry point,” she said. What’s developed over the last 44 days is a series of portraits of lawmakers, some inspiring, some angering, some poignant, some quirky.
She’s called Luther Strange a “big bunny,” Tammy Duckworth a “phoenix,” Ed Markey a “lorax,” and says Lisa Murkowski “will not be bullied.”
“I wanted to do something that I could share and could help me grow personally and learn more about what was going on in my government,” she said. “It’s so hard, oh my God, I did not predict it to be so time-consuming and painful, but it’s also very surprising and very fun in a way. It’s kind of like an adventure.”
It’s still unclear what will happen to the poems when Markuson completes Day 100, but she is considering a collaboration with another artist.
Markuson, who describes herself as a “mellow social activist” tends to lean left in her poetry.
“It’s been a really clarifying experience for me to call out people I see in a negative light. I only go hard negative when I feel deeply compelled to do so. I look for something positive,” she said.
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy’s poem was one such negative poem, written against the backdrop of last week’s health care debate:
desperate to control the cost —
but we share one breath
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s was another:
money and power
have sucked the life out of you
oh, fearful leader