Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beyond "Politics" in Political Poetry (some notes for a seminar)

Beyond "Politics" in Political Poetry (some notes for a seminar)

Though I've been thinking through the complex interactions of poetry and politics for about twenty years now, it was only with the introduction of Apollonaire's "Zone" and the flaneur essay that I went back to the original root of "political"--relating to the polis, the socius, the city, properly. In light of Sarah Gridley's work, and increasingly as I think through the future of political poetry, I'm struck by how reducing the conversation to "political" as human is just the sort of reduction that effaces our common ecological and planetary future.

Second, I've been thinking again about how, in literary criticism and theory, "the political" as a category has been ascendant (at least as an idea, not so much in practice), while in poetry circles and creative writing institutions "the political" remains a deeply problematic and derided category--through which the writer fails to remain independent, or fails to voice the common life, through special-pleading to niche audiences.

The sort of visionary poetics represented by Apollonaire has always been the kind that avoids the brute position papers (agitprop) of the hard (hard-headed?) avant-garde. Yet as a reader and writer, I'm constantly looking for language at the place of change, and thus I don't want to discount any possibilities where language makes something happen, brings unforeseen subjectivities into place, makes a new history visible.


Manuela said...

"looking for language at the place of change" - that's beautiful!

Philip Metres said...

Thanks, Manuela. Just a few jottings that started to trot.

Lyle Daggett said...

The whole wide topic of how poetry and politics connect has, likewise, been something I've been thinking about and trying to work on for a long time, really I guess for the whole of the time I've been writing. It's pretty much inconceivable to me to try to separate the two, allowing that "politics" is a fairly broad concept, not to mention "poetry."

I don't know offhand if I may have linked to it in comments here previously -- an essay/article/commentary piece of mine, titled "Political Poetry," is posted in the online poetry magazine Pemmican, here, if you care to take a look.

Philip Metres said...

Thanks Lyle: "Similarly, it can be difficult to write a good political poem if you've never marched in an anti-war demonstration, or faced a platoon of police in riot gear preparing to charge, or tried to pay rent or medical bills when you've been unemployed for six months. The best examples of good left-wing political poetry are written out of an organic understanding of the politics, and out of a passionate involvement in the historical movements of the time and place in which the poet lives."