Poetry News

Does poetry have a role in politics?

By Harriet Staff

Or vice versa? The Guardian wonders:

At times of upheaval and unrest, is poetry's role to fan the flames or cool tempers? Down the centuries it has proved remarkably effective at both. Against a background of civil unrest in 1970s America, Gil Scott-Heron told the world "you will not be able to stay home, brother". In his searing, satirical masterpiece "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" on the album Small Talk at 125th and Lennox. Scott-Heron offers a line in tightly-wrought comic surrealism; "The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary." But it is as much his delivery, his voice impassioned but not quite righteous, that electrifies the poem.

Scott-Heron's influence is evident in a generation of young British spoken word poets and performers who have emerged with a political agenda . . .

Originally Published: December 16th, 2010