I was thinking about how we were talking about politics and poetry the other day, how we sometimes get carried away in the social justice issues that rise out of poems in workshop. I’ve realized that this is what keeps poetry alive, if a poem doesn’t raise any issues that readers are passionate about or that are pertinent to their lives, they wouldn’t continue to be read. Every poem is political.
In my Leslie Marmon Silko class, we often chuckle about Silko’s intentions when writing a book. After finishing her nearly 800 page epic in 1999 that took her 10 years to write, Silko said she wanted to write a leisurely story about a girl and gardens, no politics involved. This however, turned into a nearly 500 page book centered around the hybridization and commodification of flowers. Silko realized that gardens were very political. One can just look around this campus and see how everything is planted for a (capitalist) purpose. The paths on this campus aren’t the quickest, straightest shot ways to get places, and you can often see footpaths students make over grass, mulch, and even flowers.
Anyhow, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the personal is always going to be political. And if the writer can’t find the politics in it, some reader out there is going to. Poetry does not exist in a vessel, we’re always going to treat poetry as both social commentary and a historical piece of the time it was written. Putting poetry into context, especially when so many poems have a myriad of interpretations, is going to end up with readers seeing the politics in them, regardless of if that was intended by the writer or not.