Politics and Poetry

Lt. Shrapnel. <a title="Catalog Reference" href="http://libweb.hofstra.edu/record=b2560822~S1" target="_blank">Catalog Record</a>

The name of the author of "Lieutenant Shrapnel" appears on military dogtags.

"Even the Birds were on Fire" (Hofstra Special Collections <a title="Catalog Entry" href="http://libweb.hofstra.edu/record=b1601512~S1" target="_blank">Catalog Record</a>)

Sara Parkel's "Even the Birds were on Fire" 

Poetry, we have learned, is never separate from politics; its language is always bound up in the political even if readers aren't able to trace all of the cultural forces that contribute to a given poem. In Hofstra Special Collections, we were able to see explicit examples of the social engagements of poetry in books that were literally composed of the materials of war (such as "Lt. Shrapnel," pictured above and mentioned in other parts of this exhibit) and books whose material fragility imbues poetic content with a sense of the impermanence of all things.  



Sara Parkel's poem, "Even the birds were on fire" is, as its catalog entry notes, "ound in paper with diaphanous fabric and mesh overlay," and it uses different typesets and fonts to display a poem and a timeline of events that took place on and around September 11, 2001. Its content is descriptive but inescapably political by virtue of the day it commemorates. It is dedicated to "the victims of violence" and we felt compelled to handle it very carefully. 

<em>Evergreen Review</em>, Winter 1968 Cover

The Cover for Evergreen Review, Winter 1968 Issue. Don't be fooled by the whimsical reindeer; this issue is serious. 

We found additional evidence of poetry's political engagements in the many literary magazines that are part of the Weingrow Avant-Garde Collection in Hofstra Special Collections. As the finding aid notes "the Weingrow Avant-Garde Collection, contains books, journals, manuscripts, and related ephemera, which represent a variety of literary efforts to break with traditional forms and mores" (Finding Aid PDF). Among these holdings, we saw the Winter 1967 issue of (the soon to return!) Evergreen Review, a magazine founded in 1957 with the aim of providing a forum for "stories that aren’t being told or aren’t being heard." You can learn more about the history of Evergreen Review here.

The December Issue of Evergreen Review in 1967 was published at the end of a momentous year marked by social progress and unrest. The issue included long-standing features of the literary world in the poet and playwright Tennessee Wiliams, whose attempt to launch "new style" of theater after acheiving success in in the 1940s and 50s was met with mixed reviews.

Hofstra Special Collections
Politics and Poetry