Friday, March 16, 2012

Kevin Simmonds on Split This Rock and the transformative power of poetry:

"Split This Rock is unapologetically committed to the idea that much of the most important and lasting poetry comes out of a struggle against power structures that have oppressed women, minorities and LGBTIQ people. "Political" poetry isn't this short-sighted hackneyed genre bereft of style and craft. STR lifts the work of those who've gone on like June Jordan and Langston Hughes alongside contemporaries like Naomi Shihab Nye and Homero Aridjis. Poets like these consider messy subjects that, when amplified by poetry, can have a civilizing effect on us. I'm also thinking of luminaries like Nazim Hikmet. These are poets whose work has been translated, spoken through microphone and bullhorns at rallies, banned from classrooms and constantly stolen from bookstores.

As I see it, good poetry concerns itself with magnanimity, laying aside purposely divisive bullshit and looking again at a thing, a situation, an idea. Looking at what in it is worth knowing, worth cherishing and aiming for. That's a generosity I find unique to poetry. LGBTIQ people are drawn to that and have clung to poetry to "rewrite, reinvent and reify" their lives, as critic and poet David Eye wrote about Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality, the anthology I recently edited for Sibling Rivalry Press. Consider this: the LGBTIQ community can boast about a poetic ancestry that includes Sappho, Virgil, Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Federico Garcia Lorca, Audre Lorde, Essex Hemphill, Mutsuo Takahashi, Adrienne Rich, Joy Harjo and so on. I know poetry has saved me and saves me to this day."

Thank you, Kevin! Check out the Collective Brightness reading at Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2012, Thursday March 22nd - 4:00pm, True Reformer Building Auditorium (1200 U St. NW)

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