Poets Lead the Resistance
It comes as no shock that when there is unrest in the world, the art community explodes. Painters, sculptures, writers, street artists, musicians, dancers, and the guy who dumpster dives for inspiration create with the intention of saying something. And poets, always poets, have the most to say.
Mario Cuomo said it best, “You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose.”
Poets have an uncanny way of stirring the sh*t, so to speak. Through truths, satire, and flat out lies, poets are able to expose the ugliest and most beautiful aspects of life. Even Plato saw the power they wield in words; he wanted to banish poets from his Republic because they can make lies seem like truth.
Remember in Bruce Almighty when Jim Carrey’s character obtains the power of God? He opens a file drawer of prayers and is flung to the other side of the warehouse. Imagine, instead of prayers, the file drawer is full of poems. After reading them all, one would have insight into every bit of humanity. Collectively, poets say it all.
Following the 2016 election, it’s no surprise that poets hit the ground running, or rather, the paper scribbling. And in a time where words have lost meaning and alternative facts rule the nation, who better to expose absurdity than the wordsmiths themselves?
Here are a handful of poets devoting their pens to throwing massive shade at Trump and his administration.
In mockery, cynicism, anger, and mourning, and though written under and to the Obama administration, Parker penned the poem, “The President Has Never Said the Word Black.” It hits just as hard today.
To the extent that one begins
to wonder if he is broken.
The president be like
we lost a young boy today.
In “Differences of Opinion,” Cope writes,
He tells her that the earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
Which digs at mansplaining and Trump’s “alternative facts.”
“Now,” published this past March begins like this,
And you could say we’ve been living in clover
From Walt Whitman to Barak Obama.
Now a dictatorship of vicious spineless slimes
We the people voted in has taken over.
Ashgar has many pieces that address being a woman of color in Trump’s America. In her poem, “america,” she writes,
am I not your baby?
brown & not allowed
my own language?
my teeth pulled
from mouth, tongue
bloated with corn syrup?
america, didn’t you raise me?
In two poems published in the Boston Review, “Maybe the Cubicle//Is Another Incarceration” and “[YSL] Haute Culture,” Soto address gender politics and classism in America. In the latter poem, he writes,
//if you want to know whose side I’m on I’m on the side of the poor.
Hirshfield’s poem, “On the Fifth Day” addresses Trump and his administration’s dismantling of environmental regulations.
On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.
November 9th, 2016, Danez Smith published his poem, “You’re Dead, America.” Fueled with mockery, Smith writes,
the man from TV
is gonna be president
he has no words & hair
Finding Refuge in Poetry
During political, moral, and environmental turmoil, poetry rages on. Since November 8th, 2016, Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise” has been viewed close to 470,000 times, nearly double from the year before.
Likewise, Langston Hughes’s poem, “Let America Be America Again,” has been viewed nearly 280,000 times. And this is strictly statistics from online access. It appears, in times of crisis, we turn to poems for comfort, hope, and fuel to fight the fires.
New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof called for a Donald Trump Poetry Contest.
Here’s a sneak peek at the massive shade thrown by some of these poets. One of the winners, Stephen Benko writes,
If God has made man in his image
Please explain our new president’s visage
That pucker and scowl
Look like a murder most foul
What in heaven, Lord, earned us this priv’lege?
And finally, to dig the pen in a little deeper, Susan McLean, prof. of English at Southwest Minnesota State University writes,
Trump seethes at what the writers say.
He’ll pull the plug on the N.E.A.
The jokes on him. Art doesn’t pay.
We write our satires anyway.