Saturday, December 5, 2015

Here's a question and answer from a interview-in-progress, on the theme of poetry and community

Interviewer: Can you relate the relevance and importance of activating words in the community to our world today and horrifying news about war, refugees, terrorist acts, mass shootings, racial injustice, etc.?

Me: For a long time I struggled with the thought that, as a writer, I couldn’t do anything or change anything. It’s taken me a lifetime to understand that some of us are put on this earth to be witnesses and to speak about what we see. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten both more comfortable with this role and more willing to use it publicly. Poets are artists of observation and ambiguity. We seen black and white, right and wrong, but we are surrounded by politicians and demagogues who are constantly feeding us their narrow notions as truth. We are surrounded by neighbors who accept these notions, for reasons of fear, mostly. So poets must stay alert to the world, and vulnerable to it. And we must keep speaking about what we see.

This barely says what I am trying to say, and I fear it sounds smarmy and pat. But what else can I do but keep watching and talking? Telephoning my senators and demonstrating in the streets are equally useless responses. Working as a doctor might be more helpful, but few of us know how to be doctors. Giving lots of money is also helpful if one has a lot of money to give. But neither health care nor donations solve the basic problem of endemic cruelty and fear.


Ruth said...

I believe pointing out the cruelty and the fear is what we all can do! If we do not do this, fear and cruelty become so day to day that it is the norm.

Maureen said...

I think there is a reason some of us are given the gift to be poets and writers, and I say that as a person who has been changed by a poem and who often writes poems that address the kinds of subjects you mention. I applauded your post the other day because I think it's going to take all of us writing and urging and writing some more to push this country even a little bit toward a better place.

Something I've discovered since I began blogging is that I never know who might be reading my posts. I've sometimes been surprised to receive lovely e-mails or comments from those I've written about. But even if I'd only ever received a single note that something I wrote changed a perspective or helped to heal, I would be delighted.

We've all become so inured to the visual, which frequently fails to tell the truth. Writing and reading are even more important now.

Dawn Potter said...

Maureen, I agree with everything you say. We never know who might read what we write--who might need to read what we write, what we might need to learn from that reader's response.