Monday, February 18, 2008

Politics and Poetry

Reading some poetry websites/blogs side by side with coverage of the political primaries, I have to confess that I no longer really understand what poets or other lit people mean when they use the word "politics" in relation to their own work or the work of others.  I may also be ignorant and unable to see the forest for the trees, a common problem of mine.  

To me, the "political" is about maneuvering for personal gain or the gain of a specific ideology.  That is, it's about winning.  If you can compromise in the service of winning, then that, too, is also acceptable.  In service of that goal, it is acceptable to beat up other people symbolically or actually.  Or, as in the case of Kenya, Kosovo, and other regions that shall go nameless, killing people.  Demolishing your opponent.

Which is why I don't understand what poets mean when they talk about their work as political.  What are you trying to win?  What is the ultimate goal?  For whom are you fighting?  Who is your opponent and why?  

Politics is a process--it's something you employ to achieve a goal.  That the awarding of fellowships or grant funds or other awards could be political makes perfect sense to me.  There's something at stake there.  But I think your work can't really be political, unless it's actually about politics--your work is ideological, which is far less interesting a label than political.  Ideological meaning that your work partakes of a certain set of defined ideas--is the ideological derivative, then?

No comments: