Poetry News

Monica Youn, Writers, Protest Trump Administration

By Harriet Staff


Jeffrey Brown of PBS NewsHour shares his conversation with poet Monica Youn on the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration this week. Youn, who is "not used to responding to particular current events — especially one so new, so raw, and so huge" received a commission from Boston Review to write a poem about political disaster for a forthcoming anthology in response to the election. We'll pick up there:

But I felt that I’ve allowed myself to get a little too fastidious — too comfortable in my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong — even the most navel-gazing, most abstruse artistic work has inherent political value. If we allow political exigency to supercede the difficult, the nuanced, the individualistic, then the enemies of truth have already won. But I think that poets practice certain skills that we bring to the fray — skills involving the analysis and strategic deployment of language. For me, adopting a more public voice is something concrete that I can contribute to the pushback against the incoming administration, along with phone calls, donations, protests and other more direct forms of political activism. I’ll be interested to see how my more public voice changes and educates my more personal, lyric modes of writing.

JEFFREY BROWN: Was the process of writing a commission different from your usual approach to writing poetry?

MONICA YOUN: Mostly it was different because it didn’t allow me to turn away from a subject that terrified, confused, enraged and exhausted me. As with many of my friends, my reaction to the election has gone through various phases — numb despair, frantic activism, desperate avoidance. Every morning I would wake up in a panic over a different priority — refugees, immigration, global conflict, race relations, climate change, economic justice, reproductive rights, queer identity, constitutional safeguards. But the poetry commission forced me to look for a handle, an angle or perspective on what seemed all-encompassing.

Continue at PBS NewsHour.

Originally Published: January 17th, 2017