Sunday, September 21, 2008

David Orr on political poetry

There's a really good essay by David Orr on political poetry in the July/August issue of Poetry. I just read it last night as I am a little behind in my reading, so when this column was written Obama had not yet won the nomination. But that's not the important part.

I've thought about this issue myself, poetry and politics and where they intersect and how well or poorly they manage to work and play together. It doesn't seem like a lot of contemporary poets are writing "political" poetry. For one thing, it's hard to pull off. It is easy to write a "bad" political poem. Just rant about George W. Bush and make sure you use words like "rape" and "cowboy" but in a totally metaphorical way. It's not enough to just be pissed off about something. You have to know what you're talking about, too. I've written a few political poems in my time. In fact, the very first poem I ever got published was about the Iraq war in 2003. Publication aside, I don't know that I would call it a "good" political poem.

Orr assures us that, "The path to richer political poetry is still open." And he gives some compelling reasons as to why we should care.

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