On Political Poetry

In America right now, people typically think of political poetry as poetry of resistance. Robert Archambeau has some interesting thoughts as to why contemporary poets often seem to align themselves with the leftBut let’s not forget that patriotic poems, inaugural poems, poems on the American Dream– all of these are political poems. For examples of some powerful political poems, check out Emma Lazarus, Alicia Ostriker, and Leonard Cohen. Consider these quotes about political poetry as well:

Edward Hirsch:

“There is an ephemeral quality to a lot of political poetry—most of it dies with the events it responds to—but a political poem need not be a didactic poem. It can be a poem of testimony and memory.”

Adrienne Rich:

“No true political poetry can be written with propaganda as an aim, to persuade others “out there” of some atrocity or injustice (hence the failure, as poetry, of so much anti-Vietnam poetry of the sixties). As poetry, it can come only from the poet’s need to identify her relationship to atrocities and injustice, the sources of her pain, fear, and anger, the meaning of her resistance.”

So, I encourage you to write a political poem, based on some recent event that has affected you. It could be based on something in the news, or perhaps you are more upset about how others are reacting to the news. Examine your emotions about this event and try to use those when writing. Is there something you have witnessed that you want to share? Also, are there any techniques you can use to make the poem less ephemeral, and more universal? I want you to delve deep this week.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

  1. Sarah,

    Hope you are well. Political poetry is a thing of love. I participated in the Dallas March for Women last Saturday.

    In my poetry news:

    Edward Hirsch was a Grinnell College classmate. Though I didn’t know him well, I saw him read in Dallas some years ago.

    Tim Seibles and I reconnected at Sunny De Lamante’s memorial – 1/15/2017. (She was my poetry professor and died of brain cancer over a two year struggle. Our small class of 3 were with her when she found out. Now there are two of us because one moved and may have cancer too. Waiting on word.) Tim gave one of the 3 eulogies’ on her. It was a service of beauty. They were poet colleagues and she was his first love. He read On Death by Kahil Gibran. Despite the sad occasion it was a reunion of sorts catching up with the Dallas poetry, arts and teaching community.

    I’ve been trying to submit my poems more following your example (and not just write). I am excited to say Saint will be published on line in Visceral Uterine blogspot. I’m in the cue and will email you the link when it happens. She calls Saint poem “fucking beautiful” and “just has to publish it though it doesn’t quite fit the zine’s style”. I have such trouble finding places that do fit my style so I have expanded my submissionsJ

    Keep the prompts and news coming.



    Sydney McQuoid


Leave a Reply