August 21, 2004

On Political Poetry

With apologies to L and J from a letter to whom I "stole" these comments.

I hope the poem below is self-explanatory but a few words about one reference: endosulfan is a pesticide, heavily regulated in the US, which is sprayed on India's Kerala province where most of the world's cashews are grown. They literally fatten on the stuff being thereby free of so-called pests, though these may in fact be beneficial. In any event, endosulfan is known to cause birth defects as well as numerous health problems, one of which is "issueless women" in an area of the world where a woman without children is considered close to useless. I dunno where I read about this -- some reasonably left-wing publication, I assume -- maybe the Atlantic, or the Nation or the New Yorker or Harpers or, YIKES, I can't remember!

I, too, dislike them...

political poems
with agendas for this or that,
laudable, yes, but needing no poem.
No poem can plead the matter of the moment
because every moment matters.
A poem in its being
a poem must stand against
lazy syllogisms of wealth and deprivation,
war�s noisy scramble
and the silence of peace.
The political poem preaches and fails
to surprise with the unfamiliar,
ordinary imagination transforming
the soul�s struggle to survive
into silk, into silver, a tapestry
to tell the story of the world to the living walls.
Yet, for polemic, poems� best and worst
bear hard witness to Kerala�s cashews
engorged on endosulfan,
issueless women, children with palsy,
arsenic in African wells,
warnings of solar dimming,
the dying of the coral, each cause
worth all I do not have, asking nothing
but protest. I stand up.
I write this poem.

Posted by pamwagg at August 21, 2004 08:17 PM | TrackBack


read margaret atwood's notes toward a poem that can never be written.

Posted by: vendela at September 25, 2004 03:42 PM

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