Poetry and activism have long intertwined. This article explores that history and analyzes the techniques of activist poetry.
We’ll start with more recent history. If you’ve been on social media, you’ve seen the surge of activist content around BLM, Pride Month, and other important social issues like climate change and voting. The drive of activism is not only to enact change in unjust systems, but firstly to expose people to injustices they are unaware of. Poetry is an accessible art form, and has been detailing injustice for centuries. Poetry does three things well: Reaches an audience, Expresses emotion, and Draws attention to existing inequalities.
William Shakespeare’s works continue to leave an impact on the literary world after four centuries. Looking at Hollywood alone, you’ll see his plays being retold in film after film — “The Lion King” was inspired by Hamlet, and “10 Things I Hate About You” retells The Taming of the Shrew. When discussing poetry, it would be criminal to not mention Shakespeare’s influence, especially when it comes to the sonnet.
It’s 2am and you’re sitting on your bed, pillow against your back, laptop dimmed and a blank document lies in front of you. Your family is asleep and your life at school floats to the back of your mind. There is a soft aching in your chest, where your heart should be but you no longer feel its presence. You look out the window and it’s pitch dark, with only the grids of office windows alight. They form a pattern in the night, so distortedly assembled yet silently rhythmic. The hurting travels from your heart up to your mind. You are tired of being human.
Maybe that’ll be the first line: i am tired of being human.
Settings are like ocean currents — rough, raw, unhinged — and characters are droplets of water — intricate, refined, polished. Fundamentally speaking, they come from the same thing: the world of fantasy in your mind; however, to put them down on paper, there are no universal formulas. This week, we don’t dive into waters, but instead, we fetch from the ocean and take what we find upon land, where we can study them under the glistering sunlight.
How often do you wash your hands in a day? According to a study conducted in 2008, the average American washed their hands about 8 times a day.
Now, how often do you take the time to feel the soap against your hands as you wash them?
In fairy tales and fantasy, a common theme involves the relationship between “the village” and “the forest”. The village represents societal constraints, and while there may be more rules, those restrictions are designed to keep the villagers safe. In the forest, where rules don’t apply, the fairy tale characters are free to do as they please in whatever chaotic fashion they so desire.
Free verse is the fairy tale forest of poetry. With no rules about meter or regulations regarding rhythm, you can create a poem as long or as short as you please. Form is yours to mold; if you choose to have each word serve as its own stanza, that’s your decision to make. There’s a reason the word “free” is in the name.