Some people think poetry should be political.
Others argue that all poetry is inherently political because the very act of inscribing our agency, especially when we identify as marginalized or intersectional, is a political act.
Others were schooled in an era when anti-political poetry was the highest form of the craft.
As a third wave/riot grrrl feminist whose politics were shaped almost entirely by second wave intellectuals and poets, I fall into the middle camp. Even when I read Mary Oliver, I can’t help but think about her applicability in spaces as varied (and political/politicized) as hospitals and prisons. She gives us access to the natural world when society and/or our bodies deny it.
I think poetry is political because of its accessibility, and the ways in which it speaks to us—to all of us, no matter our genetics, ethnicity, criminal record, medical history—and the way it equates suffering to living, and how it steers us toward hope and healing.
But you don’t have to agree with this definition of poetry, or the value of its politicization (or lack thereof). The point is simply to read it.
Because reading poetry is a radical act.
~RD, founding editor of TRR
Original drawing of Joy Harjo by Gary Bowers.