“Poetry and protest go well together… Poetry is by nature subversive.” A little while ago a friend gave me this incredible book, The Poetry of Protest. I’ve been reading and rereading and there’s some things I need to share.
The idea that poetry and protest go hand in hand is not a new one to me. It is how I have always felt. I have often argued that poetry should be at the forefront of change, forcing the cultural frontier, questioning and busting open cultural norms and complacency.
I wrote a while ago about the natural relationship between poetry and politics. Since Sappho, since Dante, poets have played an important role in challenging political agendas.
The Poetry of Protest, edited by Simon Fuller, has five sections – Women’s Voices, Black Voices, Workers’ Voices, Prisoners’ Voices and Youth Voices. I was incredibly lucky to be given it because it seems like it’s quite hard to get and it’s like $140 on Amazon.
Holy crap. My heart skipped a beat when I read this. I looked at it through the lens of my experience as a woman with a disability and I was overcome.
“…the act of writing is in itself a protest.” Yes, for so many people, it is, because our voices are marginalized. So even just writing about our experiences when people want to silence us is protesting.
“protest is only possible through the limited exploitation of a piece of paper and a pencil.” JeSUS. How often have I felt this? Like I’m just a pathetic keyboard warrior who does nothing “in the real world” because my illness means I have only “limited exploitation” available to me? This validated me in such an incredible way. I was like, yes. Yes, my form of protest is legitimate and needed.
“Poetry is by nature subversive… it is an ideal medium for confronting injustice, inequality, and indifference.” YES. YES. Ahhhhh. I am reduced to shivering hands and wild eyes. It was so amazing to see what I so deeply believe but have never been able to properly articulate there written like this. And this was published in 1992! It only gets more true every day.
In fact, poetry is the medium that I want to use to confront injustice, inequality, and indifference more than anything else. I love writing longform, I love blogging like I do – but where I want to be, what I actually want to do, is that. I don’t know if I can, but I want to try.
I thought it was kind of appropriate that I take a photo of this standing up against my laptop.
Here’s a couple of my favourite pieces.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain why that one caused a massive lump in my throat. I think the photo made it that much more, too. Her beautiful face and her eyes are so knowing. I feel like she’s looking right at me.
And then from the prisoners’ section, this one.
Jesus flipping flip. I feel like this is what I have been talking about recently, when I despair that images of my face get more engagement than anything I write about anything important. When I despair that my pain, everything I pour into these posts and my poems – that none of it might ever make any difference at all.
Whoa. Sorry. This got dark fast. I’m maybe going to leave it there. If you can, get this book. Borrow mine (give it the fuck back), or trawl some secondhand sites, because it’s so, so worth it. It also has an accompanying cassette (!) which unfortunately I do not have.
To finish, here’s the contents: (sorry for the terrible pictures, my phone is being a dick. Just wanted to give the gist).