Poem Spark June 5-12 – the Political Poem

Greetings fellow poets!

Today I began thinking about political poems because of a thread in the Poetry Criticism & Reviews section of the Poets.org online discussion forum On Carolyn Forché’s “The Colonel”. This is one of my favorite poems, probably because I read an interview of her speaking about it before I read the poem. Here is the interview: Carolyn Forché (from an interview with Bill Moyers)

Here is Forché’s poem: The Colonel

Another more recent poem of hers that deals with the political is from her book, The Angel of History. The opening poem states:

Forché wrote:
This is how one pictures the angel of history.
His face is turned toward the past. Where we
perceive a chain of events, he sees one single
catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and
hurls it in front of his feet.

Some more of that poem can be seen here. These poems make me think about poetry’s place in the larger world of human culture. How does poetry affect the common person? How does poetry effect change in the political universe? How do poems speak of the unspeakable? On Poets.org there is an essay titled Poems about War and in it is an excerpt describing a Neruda poem:

The numerous conflicts of the twentieth century produced poets who sometimes chose to concentrate their writing on the horrifying effects of war on civilians. In Pablo Neruda’s famous poem about the Spanish Civil War, “I Explain a Few Things,” he discards metaphor entirely to say: “in the streets the blood of the children / ran simply, like the blood of children.” At the end of the poem he implores the reader to look at the devastating results of war:

Come and see the blood in the streets,
come and see
the blood in the streets,
come and see the blood
in the streets!

Here is Neruda’s poem: I Explain A Few Things

Even now, poets are being imprisoned for what they have written. Damned Freaking Poets! is a conversation about several such poets over at the blog, Bud Bloom Poetry.

Your spark this week is to write a political poem. However, I’m going to make it easy and give you 10 words, chosen at random from Carolyn Forché’s book, The Country Between Us:


Write your poem using all or some of these words in any form, style, or combination. Good luck!

3 thoughts on “Poem Spark June 5-12 – the Political Poem

  1. I don’t know much about Amiri Baraka. Once he said : “There is no such thing as political activism without art.”[As reported in Stanford Daily, October 21, 2002] I can’t write any poem with all the given words. But with the word “country”, I remember this one : “CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY”by Alan Paton. To me the whole novel is poetry.

  2. Hi Christine,Thank you.I was wondering where the clicks were coming from. Here and Poets.org yesterday.On the blog now, I polished up something under the heading of ethnopoetics, which is a way of being political with poetry.On this subject of Merideths first three reasons for poetry, “poet as dissident,” I was going to write an entry on an a link over at People’s Poetry Gathering. You might be interested. It’s this pdf file: The People’s Poetry Language Initiative: A Declaration of Poetic Rights and Values.I might just make the link (period)tomorrow’s entry over at Bud Bloom Poetry.Bud

  3. ufukhati, indeed, “Cry, The Beloved Country” is one of my favorite novels. I can still remember much of it even though I haven’t read it in 16 years. Art is a part of human nature, in my opinion, and as such, it cannot help but be a voice for politics as it is a voice for every other piece of the human experience.Bud, thanks for stopping by. You made a good post and though time prevented me from commenting on it, I was pleased that it inspired me with this week’s spark. Thanks for the link to the People’s Poetry Gathering. I haven’t read all of the Declaration yet, but so far it is very interesting. And I see that you have spoken more of it at Bud Bloom Poetry, as well. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.