By Michael Dowdy
Dowdy uncovers and analyzes the first rhetorical options, really figures of voice, in American political poetry from the Vietnam conflict period to the current.
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Extra info for American Political Poetry into the 21st Century (American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century)
One need only substitute “poetry” for “the law” to make de Soto’s claim about on-the-ground experience a perfect gateway into the poetry of this chapter. The poems I discuss demand that we see that experience “gives life” to poetry. ” Most dramatically, poetry “stays alive” by “keeping in touch” with the dynamic, confusing, and sometimes horrifying ways that “real people on the ground” experience the world. Poetry, for the poets of this chapter, is not only about imagination and creativity, nor is it a calculated retreat from the empirical world.
He has said that poems are most effective when they are “formed from a composite of meaningful images” and that he remembers the war mostly as “internalized” imagery (Baer 6–7). Like “The Colonel,” his poem moves through a series of images that retell an experience with past tense verbs—a Viet Cong soldier “danced” in the “tall grass” after being shot, gun barrels “glowed white-hot,” and a “blue halo of flies” “claimed” the body. The middle of the short poem heralds the change in voice. After finding a photograph in the dead soldier’s fingers, the speaker says, “There’s no other way / to say this : I fell in love” (26; my emphasis).
Hip-hop, unlike much political poetry, often does not merely “preach to the choir,” a problem that engaged artists often bemoan about their work 16 AMERICAN POLITICAL POETRY and its audiences. Hip-hop can literally bring its listeners to new knowledge and ideas and to ignored historical figures. Of course, some hip-hop can potentially have a negative impact on impressionable youth too. In junior high and in high school everything I learned about African American history, the Civil Rights Movement, and radical movements of the 1960s came from listening to hip-hop.
American Political Poetry into the 21st Century (American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century) by Michael Dowdy