There’s Poetry and There’s Polemical Essays

Interviewer:  Later this month you’ll be reading at the poetry festival, Split This Rock. Do you have an expectation for what you want the audience to take away from your reading?

Alice Walker:  A clearer awareness of how useful poetry is in giving us direction. Part of what confuses people in times of upheaval is that you’re getting so many different points of view and directions and so and so, how to do this and do that. And a lot of it is written in a language that honestly most people cannot understand.

Interviewer: That’s true.

Alice Walker:  It’s very cut and dry and doctrinaire … about various systems of political thought. Poetry has a way of being all of that in a way but with subtlety and grace, if it’s any good. And you can find your way with poetry that you can’t find with political tracts.

For instance … I think all college students, maybe before college even, but certainly by college, should read Letters to a Young Poet. It cuts through to the heart of what’s of value in life. To really be true to your own spirit. To be awake and develop patience so that you truly understand what it is you’re trying to do, desire, and who in fact you really are. That is not what you’d get from a polemical essay. Somebody trying to sway you on how many ears of corn you can grow if you collectivize. It’s a wonderful gift to the planet.

from The Atlantic








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