Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Signal Through the Flames

Last summer while wandering around San Francisco, I picked up this poem/postcard at City Lights- the iconic book store of the Beat generation. Co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and activist, once described himself as more of a Bohemian than Beat kind of guy, but his writing is not confined to the past. His poem "Pity the Nation" is so relevant to this election season that the words fairly leap off the page. 

The store seemed a lot cleaner than I remembered, but it's still holed up in North Beach and still a refuge for pensive souls during turbulent times both past and present. 

With the presidential election of 2016 bearing down on us this Tuesday, sound bites tend to drown out more articulate voices. Another of Ferlinghetti's poem might make a better meal for thought, and a reminder of how much we need our poets and musicians (thank you, Bob Dylan) as much as or more than politicians to speak out:

Poetry As Insurgent Art (I am signaling you though the flames.)
I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Civilization self-destructs.
Nemesis is knocking at the door.
What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?
The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.
If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.
You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

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