Friday, April 02, 2004

The Politics of Poetry

I've lamented publicly, loudly and at length about the dire situation in the world of contemporary poetry. It's become little more than greeting card sentiments or self indulgent fiddle faddle with the intelectual bite of a toothless old man sucking on the pit of a peach. Few would-be poets these days remember that poems are supposed to excite the reader, drive them mad and make them howl. Essex Hemphill knew this and wrote accordingly:


You are not to touch yourself
in any way or
be familiar with ecstasy.
You are not to touch
anyone of your own sex
or outside of your race
then talk about it,
photograph it, write it down
in explicit details, or paint it
red, orange, blue, or dance
in honor of its power, dance
for its beauty, dance
because it's yours.

You are not to touch other flesh
without a police permit.
You have no privacy-
the State wants to seize your bed
and sleep with you.
The State wants to control
your sexuality, your birth rate,
your passion.
The message is clear:
your penis, your vagina,
your testicles, your womb,
your anus, your orgasm,
these belong to the State.

You are not to touch yourself
or be familiar with ecstasy.
The erogenous zones
are not demilitarized.

~Essex Hemphill, Ceremonies

Go forth, you teenaged e.e. cummings, you underage Nerudas, and do likewise. Break the peach pit open and suck out the juice. Spit in the eye of the poetry teacher who tells you to write about pretty things with no teeth and a pipsqueak voice.

When the government blows up the internet, shuts us all up in cages, ties our hands behind our backs and electrifies our genitals, (for our own safety) our screams of agony and joy will be the only poetry we have left. So hone the scream. The rage. The voice of the needle and the knife. Learn to fuck with your words.

Poetry is political. Itís decadent. Slutty. Anyone who tells you otherwise is jangling keys and throwing shiny, pretty things into jail cells not yet closed and locked.


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