look at where we are, now, in 2007: the u.s. is in the stick of a 4-year war that has shaky justification and no end in sight. protesters are being abused by the myanmar government. genocide in sudan. putin has threatened to attack western europe with a vacuum bomb in the event that they should build a protective "wall" near eastern europe. aids and cancer continue to take lives. we're killing our own planet. the u.s. government consistently dopes its people with fear and takes away more and more rights, and the people put up little fight.
in light of all this, what do we write? HOW do we write? how can we consciously write about the things we find beautiful and important when we know atrocities to humanity and the planet are occurring behind our shut eyes? how can i write about fish (as i have been lately) when i am fully aware that no fish-poem of mine will ever save a monk in burma, stop a woman from being raped in sudan, or preserve the ice caps? as hannah so bluntly said, "words do nothing."
i'm aware that the following reference will seem undoubtedly hypocritical, but i think that if you look closely, you'll be able to see the heart of why i bring it up.
carolyn forche's anthology, against forgetting, might point us towards an answer to the question i proposed earlier: how can we write in the face of what we know? she opens the collection with a poem by bertolt brecht, motto -
In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
forche immediately confronts the higher purpose of her anthology, stating: "It is, however, not my intention to propose a canon of such works; this is, rather, a poetic memorial to those who suffered and resisted through poetry itself." a "poetic memorial." her anthology serves NOT the academic community, it serves the PEOPLE, the COMMUNITY of those who died, and those who survived - those who belong to the community of witness. and - perhaps most importantly - it offers us a reason to continue writing (and to continue to seek the poetic and the art in everyday life - the non-written); that is, "the poem might be our only evidence that an event has occurred: it exists for us as the sole trace of an occurrence."
perhaps a more solid example of my point can be seen by looking behind us to past horrific events. look at the holocaust (i choose the holocaust because of the quotes i'm about to use, not because i privilege its tragedy over other horrific events). after WWII ended, many artists who survived the nazi death camps wrote that the war killed art, that "to write poetry after auschwitz is barbaric" (adorno). this, if i'm not mistaken, is the very question/argument that many of us have struggled with. but, art did not die. poetry continued to be composed, and - as forche's anthology demonstrates - continued to save lives. in response to adorono's blanket death-sentence, artist jabes responded, "To Adorno . . . I say that we must write. But we cannot write as before."
perhaps, this is where this group, we new prometheans, comes in. "We cannot write as before." definitions of poetry have changed, and we're the weather vane. this group validates the idea that poetry and art are still important and can still make a CHANGE if we ACCEPT ALL FORMS OF ART AS WORTHWHILE. we are the witnesses of all of the horrific events i mentioned, we are the historians of what the leaves in oxford look like blowing in the wind, we are the ones who are writing as has not been written like before because we acknowledge the fact that NOT ALL ART IS WRITING.
we are the ones who are keeping art important and vital.
i hope this helps. don't be discouraged - here we are! we are here and we are active and we are not sitting passively by while art is murdered by the comforts of academia and the apathy it breeds.