Which takes as foundational that power precedes everything, including that deep and seemingly irrepressible human urge to create.
Which knows power as dangerous and necessary.
Which acknowledges that power comes in many forms, including those which make our blood circulate and our breathing sustain its rhythm.
Which professes that one of the fundamental connections between power and poetry is that both are needful—in some form—to our bodies.
Which asserts that the use of power easily and often becomes ab–use (ab– = “away from,” but also “of”).
Which understands that another fundamental connection between power and poetry is that both are experienced in the body.
Which posits that it takes power to contain power, to perpetuate power, to resist power, to control power.
Which suggests that it takes poetry to make poetry, to share poetry, to wield poetry, to get poetry where it needs to be.
Which recognizes poetry as a form of power that we (ab–)use in various arenas—and also as a locus within which other forms of power are (ab–)used.
What are you using your power (your poetry) for?
What or who are you taking/keeping your poetry (your power) away from?
* * *
I wrote a group of poets I admire—all young (younger than me), all doing challenging, inspiring, aesthetically restless work as artists—and asked them simply to send me a few words in response to this forum’s title: “Power of|and|in Poetry.” Their responses, collected here, are startling, analytical, eloquent, piercing, unflinching, polished, wistful, opaque. Each takes up the intersection of power and poetry in a different way, and heads off in a different direction. You will find them invoking fractures, language(s), San Diego, a toddler, drones, muscle, retweets, Betty Davis, schools, canto, irony, ears, a wheelbarrow, churches, empire, a gulf, hauntology, Santiago, joy, Law and Order, illness, gunshot, and menus—all this, and much more—because there is nowhere and nothing that power and poetry don’t touch. I couldn’t have predicted the shape this forum would take; I only knew I would be surprised and affirmed, pushed and moved, delighted and taught. I am—and I’m deeply grateful to each person who contributed to this collective work. Thank you all for your brilliance and generosity. And my thanks as well to Joshua Wilkinson (and Afton Wilky), for making The Volta such a wonderful nexus for poetry, poetics, and more for the last several years.
Every day, it seems, I learn again how little power I have, and how much. In the process of bringing this forum into being, I have been confronted, again, with my complicity in structures of power, and I remain enraged by the way ignorance (my own and others’) greases the wheels of those structures. Knowledge is power, and ignorance is a privilege you pay for in units of power. Those of us who have less power can less afford not to know what composes, drives, and circumscribes our worlds. In these pieces, you will find a great deal of different kinds of knowledge radiating in small but potent doses. Get in there, and come out s/w/inging . . . .
Jersey City, NJ
August 30, 2016