Thursday, January 21, 2010

Necessary Poetry

I've just spoken via FB Chat to Elysee Thomas, who is back home! Fellow poetic associates in the NJ/NYC area are posting like mad, pictures and comments, about this. For those of you who don't know, Elysee Thomas is an incredible young poet, a friend of mine whom i met during my time as MC/host of the People's Open Mic, "back in the day." Although i don't know all the details of his arrest and imprisonment, a great many people that i personally know and respect vouched for his innocence, and a massive campaign of the spoken word was undertaken by the poetic family to demand his release. I extracted a promise from him to "tell us all about it," which he will no doubt be doing in his poetry.

Right now, my life is pretty much on "hold," but even in times like these, i can rejoice for my brother, and can practically feel the waves of relief and happiness, as if it was a channel that the radio in my skull was tuned to. It reaffirms my commitment to poetry . . . because if Thomas can weather these troubles and come out stronger, then my meager problems are certainly no threat. I keep remembering what Paul said, in Romans, "The One who died for us is standing at the right hand of God, sticking up for us!" and "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Paul, by the way, was in PRISON when he wrote that. God was certainly with Thomas during this time, and He is the author of perfect and true Justice . . . God hears the prayers of the oppressed, and is responsive to their needs.

But this is no time for idleness, no time to rest on our laurels. I'm speaking both to my Christian family and my poetic family. We are weathering great storms here in our own nation, and at the same time reaching forth to those in Haiti who are in such pain . . . and it is my firm belief that if God is going to bless this nation, it is our actions and attitude towards those in Haiti, to ALL who are oppressed or burdened, that is going to create the necessary channel for those blessings. Even in an economic catastrophe, we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, one that has been so gifted with freedoms, and it is an abomination that we've become complacent, haughty, and selfish. So many in America seem to assume that we are somehow "morally superior" to those who are oppressed, that "it's their own fault" for not embracing the WASP middle-class (a rapidly dwindling middle class at that) "virtues" that are--at their root--Mammon worship. And the freedoms we claim to love? Their being etched away, by an acid compounded of ignorance, greed, bigotry, and political sleight-of-hand.

And why is poetry so important? I've expounded on this plenty of times, but at the risk of being redundant, here it is: poetry, in particular the spoken word, is the native tongue of the human soul. It is the freest of free speech, often the only way the poor, oppressed, outcasts, and outsiders have of expressing their emotions that are probably more real, raw, and honest than anything any of us have come up against. But just because you're "safe" right now, don't think that you're invulnerable to the horrific types of misery and injustice that thousands, millions of individuals you regard as "those OTHER people." The oldest example of the written word we have is a Babylonian epic poem about the hero Gilgamesh. That alone should stand to represent the importance of poetry in history . . . and even if it didn't, pick up your Bible and check out the Old Testament prophets, as well as Psalms and Song of Solomon . . . poetry. Every epoch in history has had plenty of poetic voices to speak for it, and the great shame is that the contemporaries of those voices didn't listen very well (and didn't like what they heard). Poetry IS the voice of the oppressed, the cry of the outsiders, the howl of the prophets, and the echo of the Universe. It's not a plaything . . . it's a weapon of war, a way of cutting our way clear through the wilderness of the banal, the boring, and the mass of red-tape and doublespeak that pervert our language, as well as the supidity of most television and movies and radio talk-show hosts who dumb it down. Speech, and the ability to use it, holds us accountable for the ways in which we do--or don't--use it. Freedom of Speech, like a muscle, must be exercised regularly, and in the right way, in order to remain strong.

And that is another reason for my gladness at Thomas' release: we need all the good, strong voices we can get.

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