My poems sometimes take a political turn. My prose seldom does, and if so, it tends to be less blunt, more circumspect. Confined in real-world time and place, the plot of a story or novel will address what concerns me, particularly the plight of women, but always as part of the larger picture made necessary by the edicts of good fiction. Another way of saying this is that the people I write about are more important than their challenges. Their complexity, the extent to which they live on the page and are recognizable as human beings matters more than a particularly worry or challenge. Otherwise, the work can become heavy-handed and didactic.
In poetry, as in fiction, the goal is to keep the reader close enough to influence their understanding. But there are very few limitations on how this can be done. The freedom to play with language, ideas, images, everything really, is liberating. I have license to tell it like it is, in other words.
My second poetry collection, If The Sky Won’t Have Me, is a blend of nature writing, meditations on getting older, marriage, and humanity in general. That last is a wide topic, but I’ll tell you exactly what I mean. Take a look a the poem “It Never Did.”
A man, no,
A woman, no,
In this case it doesn’t matter
Just a humanoid
Bipedal, knows how to
Use a tool
Start a fire
Share a language
Not a Neanderthal, it’s thought they couldn’t
Grasp symbols or sing their children to sleep
Only Homo sapiens did all that
So, anyway, this human, this person with an erect spine
Lives in a cave, litters the floor with bones, old
Tools, pelts, bits of jewelry they get sick of
Or which make them think of someone gone, dead
Then tires of the dark, soot, damp or dust
Confined like that, only leaving to hunt,
Or haul water, tiresome routines
Variety is the spice of life, even then
So, he/she/they venture miles afield,
Into the light of a burning sun,
To find a screaming mob in pursuit of
A fleeing victim & standing unobserved roots
For the punishment the crowd will give,
Then roots for the victim to escape
& back they/she/he goes into the cave
To wait for people to claim reason over rage
Friendship over hate &
Madness to pass but it never did, did it?
This is my take on early humans arranged in competing tribes. The imminent violence one person witnesses causes a mixed reaction. One moment they want the larger group to succeed, the next, their heart goes out to the victim.
The poem is about a mob and what mobs do, how they persecute and punish. Our history is full of such moments. It’s also full of people standing by and doing nothing, observing, waiting for the outcome.
The last line makes clear my position that we’ve not come so far from where we began, because the madness of hate is very much alive.
Today’s climate of woke culture is another point of concern. Wokism is about language and who gets to say what about whom. All liberal agendas aside, it’s censorship. For a writer, censorship is intellectual death, and I found myself wondering what it would be like to live in a truly censored country, that is, where violating the rules resulted in being jailed or killed. Freedom of expression is a relatively new concept in the history of the human race, and many writers and artists had to find a way to thrive without putting some ruler’s nose out of joint. What if fairy tales and myths were a way of doing this? How better to hide what’s important than to have stories about things that seem to carry no real weight?
“Trick The Prying Eye”
To censor is to transubstantiate
Freedom into slavery
War into peace
Orwell said so
Blood is the raven’s wing
What’s shed, the fallen feather
The birth of symbolism, the rise
Of subtext in centuries of words
Was to trick the prying eye to close
Or at least to look away
Consider fables & fairy tales
Legends & myths in that light
The wolf in the wood is the
Brutal king, the girl with the basket,
See how firmly we’re held
By hidden truth
Story by story
But the question remains: Who gets to say who can write what, and about whom? I think that’s best left to the artist, not someone wanting to push a political agenda that claims to be fair and isn’t.
My poems reflect my politics and I’m proud of both.