Wednesday, May 02, 2007

and again . . .

Yesterday at an elementary school came this question from a fifth grader, "have you ever written a poem about the idiot president?"

Excuse me?

He smiled impishly. A few around him proclaimed the Bush to be the greatest president of all time (all time to a nine-year-old is a somewhat limited perspective.) Others laughed madly.

The fact that these elementary school kids even make a connection between poetry and politics is AMAZING given the degree to which all the poetry offered to them is homogenized almost past the point where one can recognize the writing genre. In elementary schools the poetry books are shelved with the joke books.

Today at another elementary when I was grilling the kids to name poets they know, one boy offered up the name Phyllis Wheatley. Accustomed to a constant stream of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky responses, that one stopped me dead.

Who did you say?

"Phyllis Wheatley. She was a slave . . ."

Sweetheart, I know who she is -- I just can't believe YOU do. Kudos to your teacher!

There are some significant poetry connections being made in Birmingham, MI. Very cool.


Anonymous said...

Poetry and politics - of course they belong together, and always have!! Remember all the song lyrics of the sixties, and on, that was part of establishing our (at least my) identity and values: somgs like 'A hard rain's agonna fall' (Dylan), 'Eve of Destruction' (Barry McGuire), 'Universal Soldier' (Donovan) and all the others! Not to mention all the good Swedish musical groups, some still active, that were part of the political scene here, and popular also much because of their lyrics that pinpointed and commented the problems of those times with fresh eyes.

I would very much want to see a comeback of that kind of political poetry, that questions authority and would reach the youth just like it reached us. Poetry that comforts in despair by giving hope against opression, that shows solidarity (a word too obsolete these days) in various ways. Poetry that ridicules power misused, that is an intelligent alternative to the established 'truths', that by illuminating the stage from a different angle brings new or forgotten facts to life, thus creating new images and shades that is making other connections and contexts visible.

Then again - conservative, religious and/or 'family value' lyrics are normally not seen as political, but in my eyes they are very much so - just from another angle.


sara holbrook said...


Thanks for writing. You are right, what is politics reflects society and we are all a part of society. It is how we get along (or don't) and as you say, what we value (and don't).

Hope you are well! Just starting to warm here. Hope you are in bloom in Sweden. sara.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this account makes my day. Good for those kids and their teachers.