More poems from Poets.org have been shared in the past two days than in any other forty-eight-hour period in the past four years.
People are turning to poems seeking language, powerful and precise, to cope with this moment in our country when divisiveness has become so painfully clear.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
It’s in poems where we find language that helps express outrage, confusion, and fear; language that serves as rallying cries; language that lifts language back up, restoring it from its low usage to mock, degrade, exploit, and provoke violence; language that imagines a way out or forward.
As the poet Etel Adnan once said, “Poems are where we imagine freedom.”
Poems also offer opportunities to imagine the experiences of another.
The project of poetry, in a way, is to raise language to such a level that it can convey the precise nature of subjective experience…Poetry’s work is to make people real to us through the agency of the voice. [As the poet Elizabeth Alexander has written,] “And we are of interest to one another. Are we not?” When people are real to you, you can’t fly a plane into the office building where they work, you can’t bulldoze the refugee camp where they live, you can’t cluster-bomb their homes and streets. We only do those things when we understand people as part of a category: infidel, insurgent, enemy. Meanwhile, poetry does what it does, inscribing individual presence, making a system of words and sounds to mark the place where one human being stood, bound in time, reporting on what it is to be one.
A country needs its poets, especially in times of confusion and crisis. Their lines are life lines, keeping us connected to one another, to land, to hope—whether it is a thing with feathers or the assertion, “I, too, am America.”