The poet June Jordan once said, “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.” In saying this, Jordan is doing more than making a comment on poetry. She is rendering a critique of the world in which we all live. Truth-telling is political because we live in a world ruled by deception. To tell the truth is to come for those who talk up democracy, freedom, justice, and peace while they materially invest in and benefit from oligarchy, economic disparity, oppression, and war. It is to expose those who proclaim “freedom of speech,” yet imprison, exile and assassinate those who speak a truth that questions their power. This has been the fate of far too many poets throughout history.
To do poetry in this repressive reality is to be at constant odds with the world as it is. A poet invested in telling a truth that exposes the duplicity of those in power is a poet ever at risk. Yet, even in the grim face of such risks, poets the world over are actively engaged in rewriting this reality anew. One may ask, “Why take such risks when the material rewards are so minuscule in comparison?” Because poetry at its essence is a revelation of what is most essential to being human – the will to be free. It is this revolutionary will that fires the heart of the poet who puts their words to work for justice. This is the reason and rationale for The Poetariat.
For years, many believed that the internet was our last vestige of true democracy, a space where ideas could be freely exchanged and debated. We now know what folly such belief is in the wake of Elon Musk’s hostile takeover of Twitter. This is the barbarity of capitalism made plain as respectable business practice. The truth is that there is no space either real or virtual where speech is truly free or equitably expressed. Rich white men still own the means of production, especially in the realms of information and cultural expression. They determine what ideas get disseminated and whose views reach our news feeds. They set their algorithms to filter out those who question their authority and challenge their power. Their economic dominance depends on their ability to control knowledge and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Is it any wonder why the richest men in the world own most of the networks and social media platforms? They understand that all change begins in the imagination. All acts of resistance begin with an outcry. Their wealth accumulation requires our silence. Their power requires us to accept a wealth gap that is now at an all-time obscene level. Our reality has become stranger than fiction. The dystopian tales written over the years have now become realized in the almost daily accounts of brutal deaths we witness on our social media feeds that have desensitized us as we keep scrolling. We are living at a time when the richest are literally flying into space on personal self-actualization adventures bankrolled by a global populist that every day is made more dependent on them for their livelihoods, even as they must fight to meet basic human needs like clean water and health care. This is the absurdity we live under.
The totalitarian future of two disparate societies, one feeding on the other, has now been made normal by the forces of production. We cannot rely on the news to tell us the truth. We cannot expect the schools to teach us the truth. We cannot depend on politicians to own up to the truth. All of these are either owned or bankrolled by a multi-billionaire class whose sole motive is to maintain their comfortable position atop a world social hierarchy that has all life screaming for survival under the crushing weight of industry that has poisoned the very air we breathe and has led us to the point of extinction.
The choice is now between a world ruled by a capitalism unencumbered by the camouflage of democracy or a world ruled by the people, of the people, for the people. If ever there was a time for poets and artists of conscience to come forward and lead the way in alliance with workers and the oppressed and marginalized the world over, that time is now. The creation of a just and equitable world cannot occur without first envisioning what that world needs to look and feel like. This is the work of the artist. And it is the poet, as the primal crier of our innermost feelings, who provides that initial articulation of what that world must be. In that way, the poet is like the rising sun of a new dawn – our words are the rays of the sun touching new horizons only realized once the light touches them in glorious revelation.
This is The Poetariat’s call. This is The Poetariat’s commitment. This is our duty and bond. For the world we want is the world we need.