A pacifist, which is what I am, can be the strongest resister, and pacifism the most defiant form of resistance. Same with language usage: I mix the old and the new to engage with a debate about protection, preservation, conservation, and respect of the “natural” world. I am aware of the problems these words carry in terms of implying complicity, because I am a poet rather than a speech writer. For me, because of this, poems can stop bulldozers. Not because they just say “stop bulldozer,” but because the intricacies of language challenge, distract, and entangle the bulldozer. I am using a semantics not of analogy, but of opposition. My words are intended to halt the damage—to see what shouldn’t be seen, to declare and challenge it.
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I have not yet written the poems that go hand in hand with these actions, though I have seen them in my mind’s eye, because they happen as I interact and respond physically and emotionally to the world around me, and also they appear between the lines in my notebook, attaching themselves to broader ideas and counterpointing received systems of thought. Really, though, the activist moment that becomes a poem is often away from the incident or the moment of witnessing. It becomes a moment where the figurative merges with a politics of response, forming what we might term the “para-figurative”—not didactic, but still informed by a genuine political-ethical idea / l. Last night, for example.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
"Poems Can Stop Bulldozers." Thus Saith John Kinsella
Poet and environmentalist John Kinsella, in his "Vermin: A Notebook" (Poetry Magazine, December 2009), asserts the power of poetry as a mode of resistance in a direct way, as a direct way. Here's a bit of the essay (the link to the full article here). Let awake people be awake, as William Stafford once wrote.