More than ever, particularly during this time of economic turmoil and militarism, our hearts must remain open to the poets. Some whisper, others yell and scream; many are challenging us to re-examine normality and look deeply at the world around us.
|Public domain photograph of Walt Whitman|
Like Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks drew inspiration from sidewalks and city streets. Brooks once said, “If you wanted a poem, you had only look out of a window. There was material always walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing.” Within “Kitchenette Building” from her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, she wrote:
“We are the things of dry hours and the involuntary plan, Grayed in, and gray. ‘
During an address at Mt. Holyoke College in 1978, Audre Lorde, brilliant poet, essayist, activist said: “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” When I become despondent or reflective, poetry becomes my solace, and reminds me to awaken. Yet it exists not only in words, but through mundane motion, rhythmic speech, the innocuous laugh of a child, or the subtle patter of rain drops against a window. Poetry is powerful because it is tangible, palpable and relevant.
|Photo by Heather Conley|
The poet Ai introduced us to countless characters – wounded, conflicted and complex. Like all moving poetry, her work forces audiences to confront what is easier to ignore, such as “Riot Act, April 29, 1992” (partially included below):
I’m going out and get something.
Lucille Clifton, another prolific voice, listened and watched intently, too. Her poem “The Killing of the Trees” questions why we do not value living beings – particularly those who do not look like us. Its message lingers long after the words end.
Poets also draw on the evolving nature of human perception. Rabindranath Tagore, playwright, poet, novelist, musician, and painter, left us with three sentences whose truth is arresting: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”