The poet must be a radical. Shelley knew it. Our poets must remember it today.
Radical poetry is protest poetry. The aim of protest poetry is to express outrage and instill hope. The poetry part of it is to create beauty through aesthetics, and to generate and circulate power by way of intellectual exertion.
There’s probably no question that we have a long fight ahead of us. Poetry can thus serve as a way of generating morale.
What are we fighting for? If you have to ask then you must not know.
Let the people educate you.
The Thought and the Bullet
There is an abstraction in the air
Which lends its form to naked brute reality.
It is the same abstraction that flags are made of,
As well as money.
What can I do but wish the opposition
movement in Myanmar fighting the military dictatorship
would be armed with the weapons they need
to win their struggle for democracy?
What can I do but train myself
not to be afraid of fear, and to remember
how I read the biography of Che Guevara
while I was there. Insofar as to know
there is such thing as a righteous fight,
But that our Western powers of the world
are so often to that the tyrannical bad guy.
You great powers don’t care for the disobedience of your subjects
Only the disobedience that makes your rivals look bad.
You Chinese Communists don’t care for international solidarity
But for the power to rule the Middle Kingdom
That goes back for thousands of years.
You liberal internationalists don’t care for liberty and equality
But for the dream of managing the entire world
Like a military junta.
You Republicans who care about life in name only,
Shift the blame on a geopolitical rival as you are wont to do
While being an extremist party yourself;
Which revels in an anti-democratic dress rehearsal
Of leading your own country down a path to military junta.
For what your fascist protesters erected as a joke
Was really used to brutally rob four Myanmar people of their life.
Your rhetoric will ring hollow throughout the ages
Of human rights and the rule of law,
For there can be no justice and protections if they remain exclusive
To those with privilege, and the technology to execute—
Our words are always hollow if they aren’t backed up with deeds,
But what can the powerless do,
What can we do when your laws and rights
Are words backed up by the violence of a State
Which has been gutted and rearranged
To serve only the elite interests
Of the abstract notion that rules us all?
How an idea can rule you
Is a question only the bullet can answer.
You bullet are no sophisticated point
Though your trajectory is irrefutably compelling.
The fear you inspire generates discourse,
A freedom from fear in the form of social status
And the peace of mind that comes out of
A comfortable salary.
For the ones I hear tend to focus all the blame on foreign boogeymen,
On anything other than a material analysis.
That you only arm the struggles which serve your best interests,
Those of capitalism and geopolitical dominance.
You could unfreeze the US$1 billion in the Federal Reserve
And give it to the Myanmar National Unity Government!
Give it to the People’s Defense Forces!
Or will you continue to act in ways that only serve to reproduce the brute force of rule
Bringing together mutually autocratic sovereignties.
And capitalism—you—are the most autocratic sovereignty of them all;
You—complex mixture of the bullet and the thought.