Political context as a driving force?

As I drove the monotonous three-hour stretch of I-90 between Albany and Rochester on my way back to school this past Monday, my mind was swirling. I’d just had a whirlwind of a break at home during which I’d spent only a single night in my own bed, among visits to a friend’s college and another friend’s lake house. I’d departed home in the immediate aftermath of a long dialogue with my parents on our country’s current state of affairs, during which MSNBC  had served as our living room ambiance.

I think it’s nagging at everyone’s mind, at least to some extent. But I have to wonder, judging by the apparently widespread hesitance to discuss the current political climate, if we find ourselves in a period of abnormal divisiveness and uncertainty. Although my experience as an ‘informed’ adult on this earth is surely limited, I’m inclined to think we are. Anecdotally, competitive “us vs. them” are wildly prevalent, with opposing sides clashing on numerous battlegrounds– from twitter replies to city streets. On the grandest of political scales I see two sides who are each of the opinion that the other is long gone; beyond logic, grasping for straws, living in personally-constructed, ego-preserving alternative realities. Neither side can meet eye to eye, a fact which I believe directly contributes to the aforementioned hesitance to debate. Everyone has their ideas about the current climate, but it isn’t often I see people making them known. Almost always, some amount prying is required. (Note: with these points I am not referring to internet dialogues, which, due to their oft-anonymous nature, are now rampant with political diatribe.) We’ve worked our way here with no small amount of help from social and mainstream media, and in a time with stagnant wages, the smallest and meekest working class in decades, as well as a widespread disillusionment with the so-called elites. In the face of such adversities, why have we turned, across multiple fronts, to infighting, rather than unification?

I guess I don’t exactly know, but at least I’ve arrived at the poetry part. Should these thoughts command the poetry I write? Certainly, many pop music (read: rap) artists have grown increasingly political in their work since the 2016 election, no doubt as a reaction to the same anxiety which plagues me. However, I generally tend to avoid making my writing political in nature, partially for fear of alienating potential readers, partially because I disdain restating points which have already been made. Nowadays, part of me believes writers should have some sort of professional duty to address such societal issues. But then I doubt myself–haven’t most all points already been made? At what point does reiteration become a worthy cause? Who would read my (probably) recycled musings anyways? If they did, would it even change their minds?

I think I could write poems about the way my mother screams at our television set in despair, the way people leap at one another’s throats in online dialogues, the way my friends openly admit they think only for themselves and don’t trust the government. I think I could write about how I don’t blame them for it. I’d probably speak to how we’ve been raised in this world, how even rational minds can settle on the wrong solutions given the right circumstances. I could try to use my poetry to urge my fellow countrymen to step back and look at the bigger picture, but I’m not sure it would make a difference.

Maybe it’s more of a CNF thought.

One Reply to “Political context as a driving force?”

  1. I think some of poetry’s strongest writers have emerged in the wake of political crises, or at the least, as a response to socio-political climates. In studying the poetry of Yeats this last summer, I not only learned a lot about his writing, but the political climate of Ireland that rendered his writing essential to revitalizing and revisioning Ireland as a place of beauty and history. Of course he had overtly political pieces that directly referenced army generals and political powers, but his other poems wrote of the beauty of Ireland and how a place can nurture someone.
    I’d say that you don’t need to make a direct political response. Write about what you feel, first and foremost. Connect with an issue that hits you and see where it can take you without worrying about whether or not it will be a rallying cry for the youth of the nation. Just write 🙂

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