“political poem” and “Prison Chant”
Photo: Scott Braley
devorah major, San Francisco's third poet laureate, is also a novelist, essayist, teacher and arts activist. Her volume in the City Lights Poet Laureate Series is where river meets ocean (2003). Previous poetry collections include traveling women, ( with Opal Palmer Adisa, Juke Box Press, 1989), and street smarts (Curbstone Press, 1996). Her novels include An Open Weave (Seal Press, 1995) and Brown Glass Windows (Curbstone, 2002).
devorah major and Opal Palmer Adisa together make up Daughters of Yam, performing together since 1984. In their own words, "they lift poetry off the page yet preserve the integrity of language. They infuse the words and resonance with the values of performance by adding music and drama. They continue in the tradition of the African Griot." Visit the Daughters of Yam web site, where you can learn more, hear more, and get their CD, The Tongue is a Drum.
I also see all art as political, whether by commission or omission. ... The choice of what to focus on is a political act, the choice of what to reveal or conceal is a political act, the choice of what to assert or deny is a political act. The choice of writing for a broad audience, or writing a text that can only be understood with a specialized vocabulary and particular aesthetic training is a political act. The choice of being a formalist and only writing in accepted Euro- specific poetic forms, or writing experimental verse, or writing with a myriad of approaches and styles are all not just artistic choices, but because of their cultural impact, also political acts.
But that does not mean that creating art is, or should be, an act of creating propaganda. It is not about doctrine, or political parties, but about the body politic. By the same token, bringing poetry as performance, as written art, or as writing workshops to people in schools and jails, libraries and half-way houses, homeless shelters and community centers is also a political act. Encouraging people to not only listen and hear, but also to use their own voices to critically examine their selves, their lives, and the world around them, is a political act. (Read more from this interview with PoetryBay).
what makes a poem revolutionary
published in where river meets ocean
Cassandra is on the phone
no the phone has cut me off
Maurice I'm sorry
published in Rescue the Word
poems © the authors
compilation © The Freedom Archives