Why Poetry Matters: Political Poetry —– November/December 2010.
I recently joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters.
Just a short one this month!
Politics rages on at the moment. Here in the US, Democrats and Republicans are arguing about how best to kick-start the economy, while back in my home country, the UK, thousands of young people have been protesting on the streets against cuts by the Liberal-Conservative Coalition. Poetry can be a wonderful medium for unraveling political conundrums, but, by this, I don’t mean jingoism – the kind of writing that merely delivers a moralizing message.More complex is poetry by Nirmalendu Goon (born 1945) from Bangladesh. When the Banglasdeshi President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated by army officers in 1975, Goon was one of the few who protested, even in a dangerous climate of violence. In `Firearm’, Goon describes the police stripping the local people of their weapons. They are now seemingly defenseless, yet Goon suggests otherwise in the final lines:
Only I, disobeying the military order,
am openly returning home a rebel,
still carrying with me
the most lethal firearm of all—my heart.
Poem translated Sajed Kamul. You can find this and other wonderful poems in the anthology Language for a New Century, ed. Tina Chang, Nathalie Handel and Ravi Shankar: http://www.wwnorton.co.uk/book.html?id=1184