via Harriet: The Blog by Poetry News on 11/2/10
The highly-anticipated 2010 midterm elections are finally here, so let's restore a few shreds of sanity with some poems about voting and the political process. Harriet is exhausted by stale rhetoric, political yakety yak and partisanship, so these poems are organized by interest or affiliation rather than political party.
If you're an optimist tired of hearing that Washington is broken, then listen to Whitman trilling a love song to our deteriorating empire. "For You O Democracy" is an ode to America, and you can listen to a related Whitman podcast here.
If you're a cynic who would rather contract swine flu than reach across the aisle, then read Jerome Rothenberg's "A Poem for the Cruel Majority." It perfectly captures the vitriol and hopelessness that distinguishes this election cycle. "Today the cruel majority vote to enlarge the darkness," he writes. Uplifting!
For idealists, Marxists, and vegan hipster farmers, there's Vachel Lindsay's "Why I Voted the Socialist Ticket."
Political dilettante might enjoy Hemingway's ruminations on democracy, dictators and farts in "The Soul of Spain With McAlmon and Bird the Publishers." He even wrote the line "Democracy is the shit" in a time when that didn't make democracy a good thing.
For everyone there's "Poem on the Occasion of the Midterm Election" by Matthew Rohrer, to be published by Wave books in his forthcoming collection, Destroyer and Preserver.
If these poems are too breezy for you, then why not revisit some contentious prose? Check out an old blog post about why it's problematic to automatically align poets with the bleeding, sensitive hearts on the left, or this article about Hillary Clinton branding the Obama campaign with the scarlet letter of poetry when she criticized the president's lofty language.
Will these poems restore faith in the democratic process? Probably not, but suffrage is a cherished and hard-earned freedom, so wear that "I Voted Today" sticker with pride.