Poetry as Revolutionary Act

For someone who's trying to convince Americans to rediscover the "power of poetry" he also spends a whole lot of time dismissing it. Forgive me for saying I want to kick this journalist's ass. Now would a sissy wallflower who practices the dainty pastime of poetry say that? Jerk.

From The Christian Science Monitor:

While observance of April's National Poetry Month might prompt a shrug from the throngs of Americans who no longer read poetry, John Adams never seemed to doubt that poetry mattered. And as the nation prepares to elect another president, Adams's views on the subject couldn't be more timely.

In poetry, Adams found the graceful rhythms that would inform his development as a master of rhetoric. And in poetry, Adams found insights into human nature that sharpened his political skill. Clearly, Adams didn't rise to the pantheon of political leadership in spite of his love for poetry, but in some measure because of it.

"Great poetry can alter the way we see ourselves," author Roger Housden writes. "It can alter the way we see the world." At its best, Mr. Housden adds, poetry "dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like the wild geese, from an open sky."

Despite Housden's modern-day musing on poetry reading as a radical, relevant exercise in change, my guess is that many will regard Adams's poetry habit as a quaint period oddity, something as charmingly dated as powder wigs and quill pens.

After all, Americans aren't reading a lot of poetry these days, as evidenced by its relative absence from bookstore shelves. And let's face it: If poetry were popular, then earnest awareness-raising exercises like National Poetry Month wouldn't seem so plaintive.

More here.

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