I was challenged to consider whether my poetry is political because of the theme of “change” in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change movement, which claims political and social change as its issue and mission. I have very definite ideas of my own politics, but I do not often write directly about them.
I dug through old folders last night and found a few poems that seemed to speak to this notion. I read a collaborative experimental poem, written by myself and Dana Guthrie Martin, titled “this dream runs ahead of me.” I also read “What Came After,” (Sunrise from Blue Thunder, 2011) a poem that was written in response to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami; the ensuing meltdown and continuing disaster at the Fukishima nuclear power plant. Lastly, I read “Poem to the Madonna,” (Unlikely Stories, 2012) which is a lament and critical view of an icon of religion and perhaps my most overt political statement.
As an artist, I am asserting my self and my art into the world for the purpose of engaging and affecting other humans. Art drives and shapes my living. With each stroke of the pen or tap on the keyboard I claim my right to create freely with artistic purpose. Many have died, or have been shamed and shunned, for far less.
I think of myself as a feminist. This is a fairly new awareness. I have always considered myself a strong female, capable and determined, but I am now inclined to claim the label because we are under threat.
Much of the angst that comes through in my poetic voice is resonance of the truth that women continue to be oppressed. When I write erotica, for example, I want to express myself as a sexual being, an entity that claims complex, nuanced sexual impulses and wants. I do not take this for granted. I express sexuality via a poetic statement to engage and enlighten not only the reader but myself. I give myself permission to write what I need to write—if I waited for the world to allow me to do it I would be paralyzed. I break through those misgivings and sense of “decorum” to find the gritty or glorious truth. The intent is art, not puerile entertainment.
If the idea is to trigger social change, then we must look at the individual, we must look to ourselves. At the very heart of humanity’s dilemma is that we are the instigators of our own ills as well as the glories—with the exceptions of our own coming into the world and the fact that we will die. The change we seek will happen when humanity finds its own humanity—but will hate ever cease? That is the question and our enduring jeopardy.
Nothing I am saying here is new, and perhaps not said in a new way. What is and will always be groundbreaking is each solitary individual’s first act, claiming their right to be a whole, creative being: a voice in seven billion singing out.