Listening to our poets

This weekend about 250 poets came to Washington, D.C. to protest the war in Iraq on its fifth anniversary.

In an article with a great headline (Averse to War), David Montgomery wrote in the Washington Post, about their daring to throw mere words against the might of the U.S. government.

I mean, poets? What could they really hope to accomplish? Martin Epada, an English professor, took a stab at that question.

People in this society are starved for meaning,” he told the Post. “In a time of war, the government divorces language from meaning. . . . They drain the blood from words. Poets can put the blood back into words.”

Or, as he puts it later at Bell Multicultural High School, “No change for the good ever happens without being imagined first. . . . That’s where poets come in.”

Epada views the writing of poetry as an act of faith. “Remember the words of the veteran of the Spanish Civil War, that noble, if doomed, cause. ‘You don’t fight the good fight just because you think you’re going to win,’ Espada said. ‘You fight the good fight because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of the outcome, which you can’t predict anyhow. That’s how I feel about the work that I do.’”

The poet’s gathering was called the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.  It’s from a reference in a poem by Langston Hughes:
Don’t you hear this hammer ring?
I’m gonna split this rock
And split it wide!
When I split this rock,
Stand by my side.

I find myself wondering what would happen if the church listened to its poets? Could we make room among our Moseses and Aarons – prophets and priests – for a few poet Miriams? Is there space in our vision and our administrative council meetings for the singing of psalms?

And what would they say? How would poets speak to the church?

Could they do a better, or substantially different, job of bringing God to life in a world hungry for God’s peace? I have a hunch they could.


One response to “Listening to our poets

  1. I think the age of hip hop music proves that poets have a voice and influence in this world, as it relates to the concerns of our time. The younger generation – those who are among the most ardent opposers to the war – often voice their opinions in ways that are more more innovative and creative. Poets may not appeal to all groups, but it is an art form that can’t be ignored when voicing views that are pertinent to our time, as the hip hop generation has shown us.

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