The Duty of the Writer

I know that this idea has been discussed so many times, both on here and in class, but it’s still on my mind, so I figured it’s something worth bringing up again:

As a poet/writer, do we have a duty to write about current events, especially events happening now (e.g. Dakota Pipeline, Trump, possibilities of a Muslim registry, the state of the economy from the generational group most heavily effected, the attack on Roe v. Wade across the country… this is the short list…)? The obvious answer would be, “if we have a passion to do so,” as writing without passion results in empty words strung together. But are we more expected to muster up the passion?

I guess I’m mostly asking out of my feelings of selfishness. I’ve spent the semester writing about personal problems which, although arguably important for my mental health and overall well-being, feeling painfully insignificant in the bigger picture. I want to say, “who cares about x, y, and z. A madman has just been handed the fucking nukes of the United States!” But then I think about everything happening, and I feel overwhelmed. But I guess that’s why we have the need to focus on what’s happening in our own lives. We can’t have both the empathy to carry everything and our sanity.

And I suppose it’s also arguable that the smaller things speak to larger problems within society. My writing so heavily of rape and childhood abuse and mental illness are by no means “insignificant problems” when they affect a greater proportion of the country than those willing to talk about it. Nonetheless, my ability to make a difference feels too narrow as a result.

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