Poetry Friday: Politics and Poetry
by Chris Bowers, Fri Sep 15, 2006 at 10:47:16 AM EDT
I will refrain from posting another one of my poems this week, but don't get up your hopes that you have escaped them forever. Instead, because we have entered campaign season, I thought it would be better to theme this week's edition of Poetry Friday with politics. I always struggled to infuse my work in academia with an activist element that would result in real world praxis, but in the end I failed and left academia to became involved in political activism full-time. I am not certain of the exact cause of my failure, but at the very least it has left me with a significant amount of thought on the subject. In recent times, one of the most interesting debates on the intersection of these two areas of human endeavor took place between Barrett Watten and Amiri Baraka a few years back. Kristin Prevallet, who I believe used to operate the Kelly Writers House at Penn only seven block from where I live, has an article on their famous disagreement on the function of politics within poetry. I could go on forever about this stuff, but here are some quick references that should play well even to people who do not read much poetry. Check out Allen Ginsberg's Wichita Vortex Surta (large PDF), Charles Reznikoff's Testimony (link goes to resources given the length of that work) and, because of its short length, Percy Shelley's England in 1819:
England in 1819
An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,--
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn,--mud from a muddy spring,--
Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
But leech-like to their fainting country cling,
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,--
A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,--
An army, which liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield,--
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless--a book sealed;
A Senate,--Time's worst statute unrepealed,--
Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestous day. Kind of on the nose, don't you think? (Bonus trivia: Shelley's grandfather was actually born in New Jersey).
Here is how Poetry Friday works. If you have a poem that you would like to share, please do so in the comments. It does not have to be your poem, but if the poem is long, please post a link to it (if possible) rather than reproducing the entire work in the comments. Also, the poem does not have to fit this week's theme, but it would be cool if it did. If you don't have a poem, but would like to post a comment relevant to the topic, please do so. If you have no poems and no comments, but you have useful links to online poetry resources, please do that too.
Last time, I directed readers to ubuweb, and this week I strongly encourage them to check out The Electronic Poetry Center at the University of Buffalo. Both are excellent resources. Also, I have to mention that I love how both Buffalo and Philly have such good avant-garde connections. You don't have to live in San Francisco or New York City to be living in an important center of poetry in this country.
Now it is your turn. Let the verse flow.