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Friday, October 23, 2015

Yet Another Screed about Political poetry


Even a year and more before the election, it's getting pretty hard to get away from politics.

I was reading Nin Andrews' blog post about political poetry, "Of Course Men Suffer From Vagina Envy--a few thoughts on political poetry"-- and, once again, thinking about political poetry.

I hate political poetry too*, but on the whole, I rather agree with Nin.

What it is that I really dislike is bad political poetry, by which I mean superficial political poetry, but "bad political poetry" is what far too much of it is.
  • If your poem says nothing but how outraged you are about things happening to people you've never actually met and don't know anything about except what you read in the same paper I read
  • if you are shouting at me opinions I could have read in the editorial page of the Plain Dealer--or for that matter the Wall Street Journal  
  • If your poem is nothing but a long scream of rage about unjust society
  • If you think your poem is funny because it lampoons cartoon stereotypes about people who disagree with you*
  • If you've never actually listened when people who disagree with you are talking, but are nevertheless burning to explain to me why opinions that you've never listened to are wrong...
--I don't want to hear it.

On the other hand, if your political poem has vividly-observed details about real living breathing people--people you actually know, or at least have seen in real life, and not cardboard imitations--  people with stories of their own-- people who don't fit any stereotypes and have quirky and even contradictory viewpoints... if you have insights that are more than soundbites that fit on an index card... if you see society as a complicated interactions among humans no two alike, all with differing goals, without easy solutions... in short, if you see the world in swirls of vivid color, not black and white certainties...  yeah, maybe that one's for me.  Bring it on!


*although sometimes I write it anyway.

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau