I came across this quote two weeks ago and can’t get it out of my head: “I’m in the camp that believes all poetry is inherently political…I believe aligning yourself with wonder in a time that actively conspires against it is political.”
The speaker is poet Kaveh Akbar, and the quote appears in his Jan. 4 interview with The Georgia Review. It’s my must-read for the week because DANG.
Akbar goes on to say,
Affirming the sanctuary of the psychic life is political. These aren’t new ideas—think of Nazim Hikmet writing his poems in prison or Phyllis Wheatley studying Milton and Pope while still in chains. I’m literally getting goosebumps just typing their names. Poetry is deeply democratic—it can exist in the mind alone, and it’s therefore infinitely potent as a political haven. Mahmoud Darwish said, ‘Against barbarity, poetry can resist only by confirming its attachment to human fragility.’ I can’t improve upon that.
Additionally, I love what this poet says about mining our lives for poetic material, how it happens automatically, even inadvertently: “Every phrase and interaction acquires the charge of poetic potential,” or what he later terms as “poem lumber.” God yes.
So read this interview, and follow Kaveh Akbar!
Love his work. Tomas Tranströmer had similar ideas about poetry as inherently political, namely because it asserts individual experience. I’ve always been buoyed by that.
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Same, re: that concept. So glad I found Akbar.