In the last post on this site, I put up a clearly political poem, “Endorsement”, and stated in emails to some of my correspondents that I had done so in a “What Would Neruda Do”? moment. I did not mean to imply that my work was the equal of Neruda's, nor even to suggest that this poem was meant to emulate any of his -- I simply wished to remind readers and other writers that he was not afraid to take a political stand and to let his poetry reflect that position. Too often, I fear, we are using our pens "just for pretty", as the old
boatbuilders said of adornments to their craft.
No one responding to my emails took an opposing political view to mine, and many thought the poem a pretty good one. From the standpoint of one judging purely on the merits of its poetics, it may not be. A few didn’t care for it’s lack of metaphor and other good and wonderful devices which made Neruda’s work stand out during his time and ours. Perhaps we mortals should be more careful in invoking the name of
. But as a bit of possibly memorable political
communication aimed at 21st century Americans, I think my piece may still have
some merit. San Pablo
I did get a few comments, though, suggesting that as poets we are only able to “preach to the choir”, so it may be pointless for us to even delve into the political and, worse, when we do, we too often engage in mere rants and screeds. Of course, there’s truth in that.
If we, having developed our craft to whatever little level decide not to speak to whatever little audience about injustice as we see it, then I believe we are complicit in that injustice. Yes, we must say our poems in the very best way we can, but we must say them. And they must, occasionally, actually be about something that matters.