I’d like to think poetry changes the world. I really would. In fact I think I’d like to live in a world where it does. But maybe the question we need to ask isn’t whether the written word/art/music change things as how much they do? For sure an idea can change our experience of reality, look at Christianity, look at Communism. But the ideas are already in people’s heads, or at least the seeds of them are. Poetry is just an expression of some of what’s in mine (you don’t want to know everything trust me on this). But below all the usual chatter that flows through our stream of consciousness there are ideas worth expressing, thoughts, and feelings too. You know those moments you have on the bus? On the train? On a long drive home? Some of them deserve to be given life.
We have short attention spans for much that doesn’t immediately excite us, and they’re getting shorter if we believe the hype. That’s where poetry comes in. It fills the gap. It’s short; it’s sweet. It (hopefully) gets to the point. We can read poetry quickly and easily and get the gist of what the poet is trying to say, or at least help formulate things in our own heads. In those terms poetry can change politics. It can influence the opinions of the people trying to alter the way we are ruled. Maybe its easier to express what I’m trying to say by providing an example – what would you prefer to do, read a poem, or read a speech by a politician? I’m not saying its perfect. Poetry isn’t going to tell you everything, but if nothing else people are more prepared to read it than a twenty page annoted rant about the ills of the world. We’ve heard it all before, we’re tired, we’ve got bills to pay, mouths to feed, work to get on with, no matter how interesting the writing. We want to be gripped and poetry can do that. But it can’t take us all the way, and it can’t argue with a coppers baton can it?
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