Poetry as Action

Burma Poetry Protest
Burma Poetry Protest (Photo credit: englishpen)

Over the past month, I have been writing poems to prompts on Poetic Asides.  I realized half way through the month, that some of the poems were speaking of things that I have been holding deep inside.  I guess you could say they are my protest poems.

Funny, it wasn't until I read them back that I realized I had several that really hit on issues in education that have been bothering me for a long time.  This, of course, is the beauty of poetry! 

Poetry is a means to teach, to heal, to romance, to instruct, to relate and to protest.  In fact, some of the greatest poems are poems of protest - some made into songs or some immortalized in great documents.

For example: 

Declaration of Independence 
by Thomas Jefferson [1743-1826] 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: 
that all men are created equal, 
that they are endowed by their Creator 
with certain inalienable rights; 
that among these are life, liberty 
and the pursuit of happiness. 

We Shall Overcome
by Charles Tindley

Oh deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome
some day

The other thing I learned from this experience is that there is actually a genre called Protest Poetry!  Protest Poetry began in the 1970's in Soweto during Apartheid.  This form of poetry gave the oppressed of South Africa a voice.

Two of the most recent poets who have shared their thoughts with the world in protest are Dr. Maya Angelou and Manal Al Sheikh. Their words have inspired nations!

And so, I humbly add my voice to chorus of poets, who use poetry to awaken those who listen without hearing and look without seeing.  

Budget Cuts 
         © LMRN 2012

Opening the email, you hardly expect 
that the world as you knew it would suddenly 
crash down around you in a series of slashes 
cut deep into the heart of that which breathes life 
into a small corner of the community - 
a community rich in color, custom and consequence. 
But, there it is, straight from the mouth of the monster - 
"effective immediately blah blah blah - 
no longer needed blah blah blah - 
thank you for your understanding blah blah blah." 
You stare at the screen as if some alien craft 
had landed on your desk, trying desperately to comprehend 
the meaning of such callously placed terms, 
which essentially mean that your students 
don't matter to those in the front office who 
play dominoes with the lives that enter the classrooms. 

What Will We Tell the Children 
           © LMRN 2012

What will we tell the children
as the doors close on yet another opportunity? 
How do we explain to them 
as they sit waiting for us to lead 
that they are not worth our time and money 
simply because they did not 
have the privilege of being born among us? 
How do we sleep at night and 
what will we tell the children? 


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Kath Fearing said…
Keep writing protest words. I've written a whole bunch of poems about children in war and what it does to them, it somehow helps me to get through a day knowing that I did "something". I hope to publish the book. I'll send you a copy when I do. In the meantime, I pray for you and the children.
Thanks, dear Kath!

Yes, pray for the children, the elders, those who cannot read, write or speak English, and all those who are marginalized by the privileged class.

Love, dear friend!

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