Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Congratulations to Philip Levine, Our New United States Poet Laureate!

This year is turning out to be a fine one for poets I value.  For example, I was happy to hear that Eduardo Corral had won the Yale Younger Poets Series Award, and now Philip Levine has been named Poet Laureate of the United States by the Library of Congress.  Congratulations to Phil!

Please visit Letras Latinas Blog at the following URL for more information about Philip Levine's latest honor:


Monday, August 1, 2011

Politics, Poetry, and The Dulled Public Soul

I watch with dismay as mostly Republican/Tea Party politicians refuse to tax the wealthy who, of course, are the main people they care about:  they stand up for them when they don't want to close tax loopholes for jet setters and corporate bigwigs, those moneyed organisms (to call them humans would be too kind at the moment) who have no concept of what it means to worry about having enough money to buy a month's worth of groceries for their families or having difficulty paying an electric bill.  I watch and shake my head at those who believe the working people who paid into Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid should sacrifice because politicians controlled by the wealthy promote the notion that "entitlements" are the main culprits for America's financial woes.  Too bad the "lock box" Al Gore spoke of never came to fruition to prevent politicians from siphoning off those "entitled" funds to pay for wars and corporate welfare.

And I wonder out loud, "What the hell happened in the cosmos that created such dulled souls?"  If I'm a good critical reader of Christian doctrines and teachings, I must assume such politicians and those wealthy organisms they represent would have a difficult time entering anything remotely considered a heaven when they die since they don't use their unique power on earth to help the poor--a damning sin if ever there were such sins.

And what does this have to do with poetry?  It has everything to do with poetry, for poetry above all else that it aspires to be connects our souls to each other; we become kindred spirits who yearn for what all art universally yearns for:  the eternal and the human.

If my training as a poet has taught me one thing, it has taught be me to be fully human, to care about those all around me who struggle each day to be blessed rather than cursed, who walk into the light of day and the dark of night knowing they will leave this world alone, naked, and wishing--no, praying--that they lived their lives on earth dedicated to nurturing souls, their own and others, instead of destroying them.

That is what poetry does for all of us; we commune with a universal soul--each of us readily wades into a pond:  We sense the coolness of the nearby waterlilies, anchored yet seeming adrift; we experience the soft mud oozing between our toes, the sweet sinking with each step; we take in the sun's water-borne glinting, and we shimmer in response.

But no such shimmering takes place when politicians and their corporate sponsors decide that compromise means no taxes for the wealthy, no end to wars across the globe, and no end to the hatred for the ordinary man, woman, and child who don't have lobbyists or political action committees or "conservative" talk show hosts who care about them.

When I hear politicians claim to have religious beliefs and convictions, I understand why mental illness is a commonplace phenomenon, for the ability of people to be self-delusional is always astounding--and always harmful to those in their wake.