Thursday, September 1, 2011

Avant

To say that art is always political, even when it is not obviously politically engaged, is a truism often used by artists who don’t want to do the difficult work of figuring out, or owning up to, the (usually conservative, in the sense of contributing to the status quo) politics of their art. I hear this truism most commonly from poets who can think of no better response to the question of whether poetry should be politically engaged, and I often think the response is rooted in their own guilt that they do not take on in their work the significant issues of the day. (Of course, there are also poets, not to mention academics, publishers, politicians and others, who are conservative, plain and simple, who refuse to acknowledge that the impulse to poetry often emerges directly from politics, such as those who would lionize a poet like Langston Hughes, but only as long as his work is presented in its most deracinated form.

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