Great opening lines of history
National Poetry Month just ended with the war unresolved in Iraq.Weird piece, too; it sort of veers in and out of sanity:
In 2003, when anti-war poets spoke out and many declined First Lady Laura Bush's invitation to a symposium in quiet protest, I had the same complaint of nausea as Poets Against War founder Sam Hamill, but for profoundly different reasons.Quite.
Andrew Motion, England's poet laureate, had weighed in with his 30-word poem, "Causa Belli," and celebrities like the Dixie Chicks had begun to corrode the cultural and political conversation. Poetry had become a diatribe.
America's essentially democratic purposes are laid out in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman. The role of a poet in society is to chronicle not the state of the nation but its spirit. There are ideas in American poetry, policy and patriotism that bring us into conflict within and without.The classic "three p's" of conflict. I remember those from school. Now Anushka goes screwy:
National Poetry Month should remind us to re-examine the ideas in and power of American poetry. We must encourage young Americans to think afresh and critically about war, violence, guns, sex, women, the environment, poetry and culture without handing down clichés, partisan politics and prejudice.
Note the cliches, partisan politics and prejudice in that paragraph. Why must we teach "young Americans" to think "afresh," let alone "critically," about any of that crap? What if a young American (say, me) wants to think critically about something else? Hmmm?
The Bush-bashing poetry that proliferated after the White House symposium was canceled will neither outlive the poets who hastily penned these works nor inspire change. Poets, like prophets, have the opportunity to become repairers of broken walls, to walk through what the psalmist calls the valley of the shadow of death and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke described as "one long terrifying damnation."I call it "Jersey City." But she's making sense again!
America today is to be distinguished from America yesterday. Tomorrow rests on the curve of the larger question: Who are we as Americans?She's stopped making sense again!
In his "Letters To A Young Poet," Rilke advises the young poet to love the questions themselves, "as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language." Live the questions now, he admonished. In her recent poem "We Are Virginia Tech," ["Distinguished Professor"] Nikki Giovanni asserts that the students and professors there will not be moving on. They will be embracing their grief and walking through it. They will not be consumed by it.Yeah, I guess.
In the very depths of the American soul resides the poet. American poetry is not esoteric. The American poet is one who believes in the power of the individual to rise up. In the face of tragedy, the American poet births the strategy for rebirth.
The American spirit is unashamed, unapologetic, informed and definitive [ in short, sassy!--ed.] This spirit also cries out with Emily Dickinson: "I am finite, I can't see." Dickinson measured every grief she met with analytic eyes. She likened loss of faith to the loss of an estate and acknowledged the beggary of our being. In so doing, Dickinson - like Whitman and Hughes - gave us not just great poetry but what Hughes describes in "Freedom's Plow" as the community dream that belongs not to you and me alone but to all hands that build the world.How damaging, that old playing field taunt: "you write like a girl!"
Let National Poetry Month inspire us, like Whitman, to boldly celebrate these United States as the greatest poem. Let our spoken words and our poems infuse the world with the American spirit, saying with Langston Hughes, "yes" to poetry and "no" to the enemies of freedom, brotherhood and democracy. Let American poetry be an envoy beyond her shores, and let poets everywhere, like Hughes, declare:
Out of war it came,
bloody and terrible
but it came!
Anushka Anastasia Solomon ( www.atthewindow.us) . . . was a Colorado Voices writer in 2002. Her chapbook, "Please, God, Don't Let Me Write Like A Woman," is scheduled for publication by Finishing Line Press.
Update: Anushka Anastasia Solomon is probably a traditional Malaysian name.
Update II: Anushka begins with this epigraph:
The people do not always say things out loud,
Nor write them down on paper.
- Langston Hughes
Sometimes they think them quietly to themselves, Langston. Hint, hint.
Update III: Yup.