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Dead air, or poetry in North America

April 17, 2010

‘The Miami airport, summer 1983: a North American woman says to me, “You’ll love Nicaragua: everyone there is a poet.” I’ve thought many times of that remark, both while there and since returning home. Coming from a culture (North American, white- and male-dominated) which encourages poets to think of ourselves as alienated from the sensibility of the general population, which casually and devastatingly marginalizes us (so far, no slave labor or torture for a political poem—just dead air, the white noise of the media jamming the poet’s words—coming from this North American dominant culture which so confuses us, telling us poetry is neither economically profitable nor politically effective and that political dissidence is destructive to art, coming from this culture that tells me I am destined to be a luxury, a decorative garnish on the buffet table of the university curriculum, the ceremonial occasion, the national celebration—what am I to make, I thought, of that remark? You’ll love Nicaragua: everyone there is a poet.’

—Adrienne Rich, ‘Blood, Bread and Poetry: The Location of the Poet’ (1984)

(Art by theANTI, Boston, MA.)

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