Politics has been called the art of the possible. Some say the first act of politics is compromise. Other say you campaign with poetry and govern with prose. Today in America, I ponder the place of poetry in our discourse and I mourn its absence in the news of the day.
As I glance at the television screen and gaze into the well of the Senate, I see men and (a few) women who have been entrusted with the fate of our nation seemingly unable to do what I believe Thomas Merton meant when he said, “True poems seem to live by a life entirely their own.” What would it take, I wonder, for politicians to “live by a life entirely their own”?
I feel the need to search for the wisdom available in lyrical language and am encouraged by the words of Derek Walcott, who wrote many years ago, “The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.” Today, we might say “in love with the Earth,” as well.
During this time of danger and anxiety, perhaps poetry can provide a new way of seeing—as the art form of the mystic and the clarion call of the prophet, and as the voice of the women and men who take to the streets, in the hope that tomorrow may be a time when life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness flourish on Earth.