Quotation fun — Is political poetry valid in the USA?

These quotations are from the book, “Giving Their Word — Conversations with Contemporary Poets,” edited by Steven Ratiner. The quotations are taken from the chapter, “Carolyn Forché — The Poetry of Witness,” who Ratiner interviewed in 1994.

This first excerpt is taken from page 148:

Steven Ratiner wrote:
One of my first questions concerned her reputation as a “political poet,” a category generally disparaged in American Letters and viewed as a hybrid of the partisan polemicist and the benighted idealist. Her response enveloped the better part of the day and, in the process, provided powerful insights into the politics of language and the education of a young woman writer in the realpolitik of the literary world.

This second excerpt is taken from pages 156-157:

Carolyn Forché wrote:
“By 1980, it had become apparent to me that many Salvadorans had invested their time and even risked their lives to educate me about the situation in their country. And their hope, finally, was that I would come back to the U.S. and talk about it here. They didn’t realize that . . . discussing the circumstances that gave rise to the Salvadoran war wasn’t something expected of poets in my country and we wouldn’t be considered a viable source of information. I tried to explain, but because Latin Americans esteem poets so highly, they didn’t understand.”


To see the rest of this conversation, click here to enter the Poets.org discussion forum and view the comments.

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