Politics and poetry


This  morning on CBC radio on Sunday Edition, Michael Enright hosted a panel of Stephen Lewis, Laura Crozier and Joseph Heath.  Laura Crozier is an eminent Canadian poet, Heath is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto,and Steven Lewis is a beloved ( by those of us on the left of spectrum) former politician and Canada’s representative to the UN from 1984 to 1988.  The topic was the lack of poetry in the current Canadian election campaign.  We heard clips of speeches by John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Pierre E. Trudeau and Tommy Douglas.  These men could carry us away, inspire and connect the citizen to the political process.  These men weren’t just trying to get elected.  They were building a country, building a society, building a broken world.  One of the reasons cited for the eminently uninspiring speeches we hear this time around  is the fear or getting caught out by reporters and broadcasters.  Must everything be reduced a ten second sound bite?  Is it so important to stand on “safe ground? “.   As I listened to the debate it occurred to me that is one of the reasons people can’t seem to make up their minds about who to vote for.  I admit to being in the same quandary.  Tom or Justin, flip a coin.  Come on, guys, set your hair on fire!  Get up there on the podium and give it all you’ve got!  To give him his due, Stephen Harper has been incredibly successful with his closed shutters approach.  I challenge you to identify an idea in his speeches.  Ideas are dangerous but I am sure that governing without ideas is more dangerous.  Poetry is a powerful way of touching people and it demands clariy.  Make no mistake, it is harder than fiction. harder than  reports, harder than interviews.  It requires precision, brevity, truth and inspiration.  Maybe our politicians should hire a few poets to write their speeches.

2 thoughts on “Politics and poetry

  1. Did not listen to this broadcast. An interesting debate. Why don’t we have a Martin Luther King, Jesus, Churchill or Mandela anymore that uplifted the masses from common human suffering with poetic symbolism? The masses changed, the issues may have changed, the means have changed. Let’s hope poetry will perdure if only as a means for self-energizing and connecting to our fellow citizens. Seems to me that politicians are visionaries and leaders only at times of crisis otherwise they are called to be short-term managers and power holders. Not very inspiring, is it?


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