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More “Political Poetry”
In an earlier post of a few days ago (“Political Poetry”), I spoke of political poetry and I asked folks to share some of the political poems that they admire here in the US. The list began, and I hoped it would continue. But it has not continued.
I am curious about how “poltical” is defined. Would Robert Pinsky be safely called a political poet? I suspect that one could posit that poets who shatter how we engage the world through the rupture of language, for instance, are engaged in a political act. And those children that Patricia talks about who write about their abuse–surely their capacity to break silence is a political act and their poems, though confessional in nature and probably not calling for action, are political, are they not?
But it cannot be as simple as that. I suspect that when I speak of the political poem I am speaking of the poem that seems engaged in using language to effect some kind of political change or transformation. I also suspect that when I speak of the political, I mean that somehow, the poems are rooted in speaking to present realities and offering a political view point on them.
But all of this sounds like the fodder for really bad poetry–for propaganda. Still, this anxiety is based on a lie. There are great poems that manage to achieve all of these things I have listed and still be remarkable as works of art. Kenneth Goldsmith says that utilitarian poetry fails as art. I can’t accept that when I think of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poems, “Five Nights of Bleeding” and “Sonny’s Letter”.
But I am still searching for the language to talk about political poetry. The examples of political poets working today will help us to do that. I encourage folks to add to the list.
For those who are anxious about this seeming downer of topic, I will soon be asking about whether it is possible to write an erotica poem that is artful. Kenneth, what about the erotic?