Why is poetry important?
I’ve been lucky to hear poet Martín Espada read in person twice. The first time I was in Freeport and he said to a group of us, “Of course poetry matters! The fascists who imprison and kill poets for protesting oppression realize the power of the written word.” And indeed, just recently several Burmese poets were jailed and killed for opposing a military coup in Burma.
Artist persecution happens in the US as well. Buffy Sainte-Marie was blacklisted in the 60s when the LBJ administration forbade American radio stations from playing her music—even though she was doing nothing criminal. She was probably targeted just for being an Indigenous woman with lyrics that promote peace and tell the truth about American Indian experiences. I’m deeply inspired by the courage of such people who use creativity to fight for liberation. I recently watched an Alice Walker talk on her website. She brilliantly noted how our minds are constantly under attack by the colonizer, so we must actively protect our minds; she suggested meditation as one method of protection. Walker reminded me that poetry can be another way to protect our minds—the page can become a place of sovereignty, light, exaltation, sanctuary, and justice.