We find ourselves at an interesting intersection in history. Just yesterday in class (can you believe it?) we spoke prophetically about our first woman president, our Madam President, predicting the epistemic event it would incur, all with a quiet surety hidden with “whens” quickly corrected to “ifs”, the “ifs” serving more as a “knock on wood” rather than an actual question of chance. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t mentally assimilate the other possibility. Last night, chance took the wheel and created a reality that millions of Americans’ minds and mouths hadn’t made room for.
Last night, the working people of America spoke and told us in their own words their fatigue with the establishment, with the status quo, with the harsh realities of an increasingly isolated world. We elected a president who uses racist, xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic rhetoric to reel in the whims of a tired and aching working class, and it worked. This says something about words and what they can do to bring people together. Words can bring people together in the most powerful ways, creating both the most humanistic and most grievous moments in human history, many too painful to recall.
It’s not my place to tell you what to do as a poet, but I think today is a good day to think about what that title means to you. It’s also not my job because I’m struggling to figure that out, especially now. Whether you use your words to highlight corruption and discrimination, or you speak loudly about the human condition, or you remark a moment of human beauty or fragility, or irony, or elation, or abysmal sadness—you’re changing the reality; you’re changing the status quo. Whether or not you consider yourself political, I’m sure you consider yourself a human being. And with your human words, words that drip with more surety and experience and commonalities than we can even begin to comprehend, perhaps we can make room on our tongues for the future.