Friends, 2017 is here. Is it ever. And each day brings some new offense against democracy, good sense, and human kindness. The kleptocrats insist they will make everyone rich; the body police say they will free us from government intrusion; the grandchildren of immigrants are deporting other immigrants; and the biggest fake of all keeps calling real journalism “fake news.” And as if that weren’t enough, there is growing evidence that our executive branch has been compromised by a foreign dictatorship. We’re living in The Upside Down, complete with Cold War flashbacks. Maybe a few of us will find out we are super-powered like Eleven, but in the meantime, we have to get on our bikes and fight the monsters with little more than unearned confidence, friendship, and breakfast foods.
I will admit that I got to the point of exhaustion way too quickly. Having a day job and a job-for-love is already a juggling act; now I’m also integrating my responsibilities as a citizen. One way is to put my money where my mouth is, by supporting institutions like The Washington Post and the ACLU. Another way is to raise my voice. Although I’m sure my regular letters to my weaselly Republican senator go ignored, it does help me to be a high-information voter, aware of legislation as it unfolds. It also feels urgent to put this historical moment into words, and I’m honored that my work has found a home in Thank You For Swallowing and Cleaver’s Life As Activism series.
My recent writing has become much more “political.” But something I think we often forget is that every poem – every piece of artmaking – is a political act. We live in a culture that does not value art except as a commercial endeavor, but creativity has a profound value outside the marketplace, in the lived experience of Americans. Poetry says “what I do matters” and “how I feel matters” and it says “I am paying attention to the world.” Through poetry we have the power to see each other, to practice empathy, to recognize injustice and call it out. The poet and the reader of poetry is not a consumer; she is a citizen; this is our honored role going back to Whitman and Dickinson both.
Many days, I wake up saturated with a feeling of vague horror. But what I try to ask myself is: “how do you want the next four years to look for you?” As writers, we are called to record this moment in time; if all you are doing is writing it down in a journal, you are part of the resistance. Among my writing goals for 2017: be a witness; read more poetry, even just one poem a day; continue with monthly poetry accountability exercise; and collect 100 rejections in 2017.