Guide Urban Poetry for our Times

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Steven Roberts.

Political Poetry for Our Times

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No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry – Ethos Books

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Rosie Pearl Smith. It is political poetry. It is about the hard stuff of life: money, crime, gender, corporate excess, racial injustice. It gives expression not just to our rites but also to our problems and even our values; these poems are not about rustic vacations. Civic poetry is ascending. It has asserted itself in recent years in the form of poetry slams and, of course, political rap, but now it is rising again on the page, in the work of poets like Claudia Rankine. In she won every national prize in sight for her book Citizen.

Civic poetry offers us a way to think and talk about issues that so much of public speech ignores, to make them new by dissecting and repurposing public speech, prying its falsehoods from its half-truths. It is fighting for its right to critique our would-be democracy. It stands in contrast to some popular poetry that is individualistic and even egocentric. Frederick Seidel, for instance, is a much-lauded poet with von Bulowian stylings, who writes about the horror of the bodies of women his own age and playfully imagines erotically asphyxiating an age-inappropriate girl with a Swatch.

One poem is composed of a list that reflects her work as a union organizer,. The list poem ends with hundreds of registered nurses and thousands of retail workers. This is not a labor pool assembled at random out of poetic fancy. The sample the foundation used was Gen. Dwight D. If we look back in time to earlier civic poetry, we might find refuge in poets like George Oppen , Adrienne Rich , maybe Auden , and — much further back — Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

She writes of the children laboring in factories :. For, all day, we drag our burden tiring, Through the coal-dark, underground — Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron In the factories, round and round.