Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Poetry (and political) Friday…

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Inspired by Laini, and by Elaine, and by the RNC, and by comments from other members of the kidlitosphere list serve… I want to vent for a minute about politics, and their place in art, and also the blogosphere.

As a poet, I always try to keep politics away from my work in a direct way.  This is not because I don’t think poetry is a good way to move people to action, but because I think overt messages are bad for the art itself.  I think the best political poetry operates on an aesthetic level first, and if it carries a “message” the message is better served by a vehicle of good art. Propaganda is pretty transparent, and though it serves a purpose in the temporary world, art is, to my way of thinking, about trying to make something that will last.  Journalism can be “about” things.  But literature is always, always, “about” language.  It cannot present a surface that’s too sure of itself.  It must dive. The veneer of propaganda is in direct opposition to depth.

That said, poets and writers tend to be political creatures. Tend to seek truth. Or something like it. Tend to speak out.

I don’t write political books for kids anymore than I write political poems.  I hope that the ideas in my books will help kids become good people, good citizens, honest humans, nice friends. I hope that in some small way, my writing makes the world better. But it isn’t my job to TELL kids what to think about, say, capitol punishment or tax reform.

But as a blogger, I have often ranted about such matters. I don’t view my blog as “art”.  I view it as a way to communicate with people. A way to tell you what  I think about everything from parenting to poetry to politics.

Now I find that my blogging is part and parcel of my self-promotion (within a community I may not agree with all the time), and this makes me feel weird.  When I originally killed JewishyIrishy, it was because I’d spent too much time ranting and cussing, and as a writer for kids I felt I needed a clean slate where I could make virtual sock puppets and share graham crackers.

But I’m still me.  And while I’m now avoiding the “eff bomb” and attempting a more evenhanded approach to blogging, I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep my opinions away from my blog (which means  my self-promotion).  This  is funny, since I never had a hard time keeping my politics out of my poetry.

And today, on Poetry Friday, following the obscenity of Sarah Palin’s nomination, I find that I’m pretty sure I know why–

I kept the poetry and the politics separate for a GOOD reason, to respect and do service to both. I never felt they didn’t belong in the same place, or like I was keeping a secret.  And I never denied my views. I just didn’t make the one ABOUT the other.  The politics was best served by a kind of conviction and absolutism.  The poetry was best served by questioning those beliefs (and others).

But keeping the politics out of my blog feels like I’m doing it for a BAD reason. It feels like a disguise.  It feels like “marketing” nonsense.  I am who I am.  That I happen to believe in socialized medicine and a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body has little to do with the fact that I also write “clean reads”. And if someone is offended by my views, so much so that they cannot appreciate my books, then I wish them well, and I feel a little sad for them. They will miss a LOT in life,  approaching the world that way.

This blog is not “about” children or “about” politics.  It is “about me, and all of these things are part of who I am. Children and politics and vindaloo and reality TV and Baltimore and on and on.  I’m a composite, and my blog is, as an extension of who I am, a composite too. And perhaps the solution is that I need to take a lesson from my poetry-experience, and make it more “about”  language, precision.  I think maybe I need to be who I am, honestly, but use a little more caution with the words I choose.

Be mindful of my readers. Be mindful of the world.  A lesson in poetry and politics. Both.  But I won’t, I can’t, censor my beliefs for the purposes for book sales. And if this blog feels disjointed as a result, that’s because I’m disjointed. A consummate fencesitter, as anyone who knows me can tell you.

All that said, a poem for Poetry Friday, the first political poem I remember being deeply touched by in college, By Czeslaw Milosz:

Song on the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A Fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through fields under their umbrellas
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet,
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world there will be,
No other end of the world there will be.
Warsaw, 1944