Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
“Eye for an eye? More like tooth for whole skull.”
The stereotype about spoken word is that it’s all “big,” capital-P Political Poems, and there is some truth in that. When the stage is one of the only public forums we have to discuss the things that we care about, it’s only natural that it becomes a platform for work that engages with the world. That stereotype, however, often seems to be framed negatively, as though “political poems” were inherently hollow, just “ranting and raving” without any craft or heart.
This poem is a great counterpoint to that, showing how a poem can be both explicitly political and very much grounded, concrete, and human. From “the hands of your loved ones,” to a mother’s voice, to a clear-eyed view of Obama’s legacy, this isn’t a poem about “those people over there,” a stumble that some attempts at political poetry make; the poem finds a way to comment on world events through the lens of personal experience.
In “Why Authoritarians Attack the Arts,” scholar and poet Eve Ewing writes: “Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value.” I’m hearing this poem in that context; the work that this poem is doing is important, and is work that we (especially those of us who are poets) can and should contribute to as well.