It may be the cruelest month, but it’s alsoÂ National Poetry Month.
Readings echo across the continentÂ (make sure you go to that link above to find out where they are in Canada) and people who live and breathe the written word blog aboutÂ the importance of poetry and why it matters.
To American poet Robert Peake,Â poetry is one of thoseÂ noble causes that get a monthÂ dedicated to them lest they be buried beneath the everydayÂ drone ofÂ bad news, bitchy comments on who wears what and all sorts of noisy video games.Â
Poetry, he says,Â is a bit like taking our vitamins. We don’t enjoy it. We do it because we should. Or, rather, all too often, we think about doing it and thenÂ forget.
Once upon a time, poetry, with itsÂ sharply focused lens pointed squarely atÂ human ills and societal chasms,Â was a necessity, a common discourse. These days, however, it’s simply not.Â Ignored and unappreciated, the poetic form is “an awful lot harder to sell than medicine or candy,” says Peake.Â Having published a collection of poetry, I can attest to that last part.Â UntilÂ some film studio buys the rights, I’ll just have to survive onÂ celery andÂ thin cuts of tofu. That’s what keeps me going anyway.
But in what has become regular work for me for Take Note,Â the front-of-the-book section of The Writer, I recently came across an interesting development in the world of poetry that will, I hope, do what vitamins are intended to do: instil some healthÂ in an otherwiseÂ ailing people.Â
These people beingÂ the ones whoÂ defineÂ Muslims and ArabsÂ using only one word: terrorist. Â Â
To be released in August 2007, the book Poems from Guantanamo:Â the Detainees SpeakÂ is beingÂ edited by attorney Marc Falkoff. Some two dozen poems are in the book, all byÂ former inmates and current residentsÂ of the famous American detention centre in Cuba.
The poemsÂ give a unique view of who these men are – full of disillusionment with America as a beacon of human rights and hope that God will help them, says Falkoff. “What you don’t see much of is rage or hatred,” he says.
In one poem Ibrahim al Rubaish talks to the sea surrounding his prison, ending with “boats of poetry on the sea; a buried flame in a burning heart”.
For him, poetry is much more than vitamin. It is a transferential force, a way toward freedom.
Hopefully many, many people will read this book and find the same thing:Â a way out of the prison of today’s assumption that the otherÂ with the dark face can only be evil. Â Â
This is why poetry matters.Â Â Â Â Â