I never knew that February would feel like a relief, but January was just too much, a relentless stream of news that kept going from bad to worse. Now that the shock of the POTUS transition has diminished (maybe? at least for a moment?), it's time to take a deep breath. Stop screaming. February is the perfect time to take stock of the year's first month and refocus on your politics. Because, despite the signs and policies and appointments that can suggest otherwise, our political engagement really does make a difference. If you're looking for a way to fire up your own politics before the next march or protest, look no further than poetry — particularly these poems that will fuel your politics.
It's probably not news to you, but poetry has a long and not so #dramafree relationship with politics. Poems went viral — and hard — in the immediate aftermath of the election, and The Atlantic's Megan Garber interviewed Don Share, editor-in-chief of Poetry magazine to talk about the phenomenon. Share said:
People who are poets are often very political; they’re often activists. We talk about political poetry as if it’s a kind of effusion about something going on, but the truth is, the heritage of poetry includes politicians. I mean, Yeats was a politician. Our greatest poets, really, have been active in what goes on in the world. And great or unknown, poets are participating in what makes a difference in the world. If you perceive that politics is a way of making a difference, and you engage in it, then you can get something done. And the same can be said of poetry.
Ready to read — or write — your way into making a difference? Check out these seven poems, which will fuel your politics and your poetry.
1"Center of the World" by Safiya Sinclair
I have milked
the stout beast of what you call America;
and wear your men across my chest
2"White Petals" by Tim Dlugos
drop into the dark river.
Heedless of political significance,
they ride out to the sea like stars.
3"On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial" by Linda Pastan
We invent our gods
the way the Greeks did,
in our own image — but magnified.
4"On Hunger" by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
a king is only named such after the blood of anyone who is not them
pools at their feet and grows to be a child’s height before running down
a hill, flecking the grass of a village crowded with quivering mothers
and their boys, huddled underneath a new and undone black sky.
There is not a way to rule without the knowing of where your family
will get its next meal — rather, who it will be taken from, or who will
5"What Kind of Times Are These" by Adrienne Rich
And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.
6"Stupid Meditation on Peace" by Robert Pinsky
We choose one of two tributaries: the River
Of Peace, or the River of Productivity.
7"Urban Affection" by Emanuel Xavier
We still live in an America where Christ and Dracula provide both excitement and fear for
restless lives longing for a simple touch
We still live in an America where the impact of urbanization reaches out to the common
person more than the obscene nature of poetry