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?
Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. As a poet, he is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of the country, citing in a recent interview his “spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music.” His book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius (2007)...