August 1, 2009

Poems About Politics

I actually have avoided writing and reading poems about politics. They usually don't work for me. But, the past few years, I have become more of a news junkie and politics (and economics) have started to get under my skin more and more.

Here are two poems by Naomi Shihab Nye that do work for me. The first is "Letters My Prez Is Not Sending" (the Prez being Bush 2 then) which just hits you in the face. Let me amend that - it throws punches at you, but just stops before it makes contact. But you will flinch and wince anyway.

The second poem is "Ted Kooser Is My President" and it is lighter and easier to take but closer to my own apolitical approach to political poetry.

On the Dodge blog, Martin Farawell writes of Nye:

A poet could avoid the dilemma by taking the position that poetry shouldn’t be “political.” But Nye’s poems are attempts to stay connected to the world and to others. She refuses to abandon the attempt despite the violence and injustice she must therefore bear witness to. It is almost as if she discovers how we are connected through the act of bearing witness. Perhaps for Nye poetry itself is our humanity’s survival mechanism.

Nye has also said the courage she most admires is that of people who keep giving attention to the simple acts of everyday life—talking over coffee, getting kids ready for school, sweeping the front porch stoop—while there is chaos and danger all around them.

You can find “Letters My Prez Is Not Sending” and “Ted Kooser Is My President” in her newsest collection, Honeybee.

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