A poem for the great turning

Budd Hall, Canada.  UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education

Poem by Budd Hall based on a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, presented at the 6th International Barcelona Conference on Higher Education 2013



We have seen the images, the flames.
We have seen the anger and the confusion in the faces of our friends.

But, we are told that perhaps...
... perhaps is a special time.

And sometimes we even feel that the turning has begun.
But we are unsure of the nature of the turning,
and we are unsure of what it means for ourselves and even for our work.

And even more we ask how do we make the road together?
What are scholars and civil society leaders and public officials and funding agencies and artists and students for in this age?
What is the use of our power to read the world?

Do we have the skills to support the reenchantment of the earth.
If you would be a person for the turning, make your work capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this means sounding apocalyptic.

You are Gandhi, you are Martin Luther King, you are Mandela, you are Wangari Mathaai, you are Audre Lorde, you are Neruda, you are Pasolini, you are Walter Rodney, you are every voice from every part of the earth, you can conquer the conquerors with your words,
... and with your new knowledge.

If you would be a turner, write living works.
Be a scholar from outer space, sending articles to the journal of the new world rising, to a great new editor, an Indigenous woman, who cries out for contributions to this new reality and she does not tolerate academic bullshit.

If you would be a turner, experiment with all manner of words, all forms of representations of the new day dawning, of theatre and painting, of poetry, erotic broken grammars, ecstatic religions, heathen outpourings speaking in tongues, bombastic public speech, automatic scribbling’s, surrealist sensings, found sounds, rants and raves... to create your own limbic, your own voice.

If you would be a turner, don’t just sit there.
These are not the times of sedentary occupations; this is not a ‘take you seat’ time in history.
Stand up and let them have it.
Have a wide-angle vision, each look a world glance.
Express the vast clarity of the outside world, the sun that sees us all, the moon that strews its shadow upon us, quiet garden ponds, willows where the hidden thrush sings, dusk falling along the river banks, and the great spaces that open out upon the sea… high tide and the heron’s call…

And the people,
the people...
yes the people all around the world...
all around our wild and loving earth,
the people speaking Babel tongues.

Give voice...
give voice to all of them.




  • UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • The Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

Sponsored by

  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry of Business and Employment. Department of Research and Universities
  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry for Foreign Action and Open Government