A Role for Poets

Updated: Jul 27


What is a useful role for a poet writing in times like these, amid the realities of what feels like permanent war, a soft never-quite recovering economy, tainted social and political and governmental structures, and widespread public and personal disaffection? 

These are things we note implicitly or explicitly in our art as we engage the world. They don’t make our art, of course, but they are part of the environment in which we work. We include or exclude them, but one way or the other we engage them or are engaged by them. We have no choice.  They are inescapable, the air we breathe, the life we live.

I should add that when I say “useful,” I mean the word in its broadest humanist sense, a meaning to be applied in public as well as private spheres.  We know that art can accurately and importantly describe or challenge the world, or act as a parallel creation, that it can always remind us of our vast human possibilities and our definite responsibilities, can always call us to be more human.  That is part of its virtue.  Every time we create, all the possibilities are in front of us as we write, even as we erase—all the good, all the evil, all the choices between.  It’s one reason why creating makes us better people.  We see in those times life in its possibilities and promises and incredible beauty.