During the 1960s, when the Civil Rights, Peace and Feminist Movements were all in full swing, protesters often read poetry as part of their protests. The American poets who came of age during that time are much more likely now to continue to write didactic poetry. People like Marge Piercy, Amiri Baraka, and Adrienne Rich, Allen Ginsburg, Denise Levertov and Nikki Giovanni are just a few noted for their poetry that takes on social issues. You might remember Nikki Giovanni’s poem that she recited at the end of the memorial for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. This is poetry in the service of people.
Right now, American is a difficult place, with the haves owning government and the have-nots working three jobs just to barely get by, with school shootings and police violence happening at home and a war we seem to have forgotten still happening on the other side of the world. It is no surprise that Suzanne Collins books turned movies are so popular now. Bread and Circuses, or fast food and reality shows, are failing to distract us from the real problems when they are so obvious and repeated every day.
So where are the protest poems? We need them. We need strong voices giving rhythm to the marching of peaceful warriors and concerned citizens.