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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Poetry of Protest - 1

I am remembering the scene in the movie "Dead Poet's Society" where Prof. John Keating was inspiring his student with the beauty of poetry : We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

While most prefer to be didactic and dry in order to make a large statement at the expense of beauty, it is only one side of the coin. There is a passion, emotions, connectivity and power contained in the poems and songs of the people. Poems are sometimes frivolous and pretentious but are written with the Streams of the subconsciousness. The personal turmoil with the experience and observation of grimed reality make poems full of universal appeal. Free versus with the words flowed create a typhoon in the minds of freedom loving people.

Poetry is to create awareness, to create the desire for dreams, social justice, gender equality and to stand up for the downtrodden. To be a poet is dare to give voice to the silent victims witnessing endless suppression, discrimination and violence. To people like Neruda and Faiz, art is for the life and not just for art’s sake. Poems were never meant to be retained but often they end up to recited and remembered without even the efforts of the academia. As they are sing and enjoyed by the people, they created meanings more than if they can do on the paper.

Men are agents of self interest with a will to do good for others. No doubt people always began in good faith against power but insensibly, commitment by commitment, when not aware of dangers of owning power, individuals will become entangled in a web of lies, falsehoods, deceits and perjuries, until they lost their souls to the power. It is necessary to understand the larger ways that discourse supports power and also the larger movements for/against power in the reference of the culture. In the next part of this essay, we will move towards examples of protest and poetry in the real word.


  1. I read, long ago, in 'Baby and Child Care' by Benjamin Spock how playing with sand, water, grass and dirt is good for a child's 'spirit'. Poetry and all art is good for the human spirit I guess.

  2. I am sure not guessing that poetry makes person sensitive and curb violent spirit. And, I don't have much knowledge about babies so no comment can be made on the book of Benjamin Spock.



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