Letter from Poetry Magazine

John Kinsella Responds

by John Kinsella

First, I said, “For me . . . ”—but this aside, it seems that Michael Hudson has missed the actual politics inherent in my piece—pacifists don’t wield swords, metaphoric or otherwise. Also, one might bear in mind that poems traveling through time could instigate an action well after they were written. I can attest that reading both Blake and Shelley (definitively political-visionary poets) in my teens literally led me to protesting against Reaganite empire-building when the Seventh Fleet made its visits to Fremantle, Western Australia, during the mid-eighties. For that I was arrested and locked up. I could say much more. It also strikes me that there is a “comfort” in this letter that might lead one to think that a limited view of cultural validity (and its attendant aesthetics) is at work here. How can one ever—even if ironically pointing the finger at the errant political poet in doing so—write “musing on Auschwitz” without being grossly insensitive? Regarding the Holocaust and the status of the oppressors’ language, Hudson might do well to read the work of Paul Celan. The comment about Abolition is equally offensive. For a non-American example of political poetry (of resistance), he might look to the poetry of Lionel Fogarty regarding European invasion and occupation of the indigenous lands of Australia. In terms of feminist and other political stances in the us, Adrienne Rich’s poetry and her essay, “Blood, Bread, and Poetry: The Location of the Poet,” serve as one point of contact. Others? Well, the list is endless. Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Lyn Hejinian, Hayden Carruth, Dante . . . all very different politically, and expressing the political in different ways. Poetry has always been the natural house of political action, in the context of aesthetics, across a wide range of beliefs, attitudes, and ways of seeing.

Originally Published: March 1, 2010

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This prose originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2010


 John  Kinsella


Australian John Kinsella has written over 20 books of poetry, as well as plays and fiction; he also maintains an active literary career as a teacher and editor. Kinsella’s poetry is both experimental and pastoral, featuring the landscape of Western Australia. Paul Kane observed in World Literature Today, “In Kinsella’s poetry these are lands marked by isolation and mundane violence and by a terrible transcendent beauty.” His The . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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