Poetry and Politics: The Struggle to Be Heard

I came across a CNN interview with one of my favorite poets, Terrance Hayes,  a National Book Award winner for his latest collection, Lighthead.

Though some of the questions asked may have been a little soft, I do find the interview interesting and unique in the sense that Hayes draws some connections between poetry and politics, meaning that poets, like politicians, deal with the issue of being heard, of shaping a message, even if the message is not necessarily about the war in Iraq or Hurricane Katrina.  Both groups focus on manipulating language to be heard, to reach an audience.

Hayes was also asked if there are any contemporary politicians whose speeches were poetic, and the answer he gave was Abe Lincoln. He was pressed further and asked if any of Obama’s speeches could be considered poetic. Hayes answered by saying there was a greater shapliness to the language and speeches Obama gave leading up to the presidency, and less so now. But now that Obama is gearing up for re-election, do you think he will recapture some of that magic, some of the “shapliness to the language” and control his message better? He’ll have to if he wants to reside in the White House for another four years, especially as he deals with the situation in Libya, the economic recovery, and further looming budget battles with the GOP. He’s going to have to craft language that leads to action, that makes voters trust him to run the country for four more years.

Anyways, Hayes makes a lot of other great points in this short interview, and reads a poem from Lighthead regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Check out the full interview below.

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