Our show this weekend, Poetry in a Troubled Time, is a repeat. I produced it right at the beginning of the pandemic. Like you, I had no idea that this many months later COVID-19 would still be with us – infecting us, hospitalizing us, killing us. To say we are living in tough times is the understatement of the century. I’m scared for winter. I know you are too.
So why poetry?
Back in a previous life I studied to be a minister. And my favorite prophet was Jeremiah. Like most prophets he was urgent. But unlike some he seemed like a romantic to me. There’s a story where God warns the Hebrews what he would do if they didn’t obey him. When Jeremiah heard this he lamented in an elegiac fashion, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”
His question was not only a plea for healing. But a cry, a searching, for hope.
The poets in this hour do just that – they are crying out to heal you.
I believe poetry has that power. Read it to yourself. Whisper it to a lover. Shout it from the rooftops. Amen.
Ken Nordine is the epitome of jazz poetry, nicknamed "the Voice." Best known for his "Word Jazz" series, this poem is one he did for a paint company. The paint company is long forgotten, but the poem lives on.
Jimmy Santiago Baca was in a maximum security prison. He taught himself to read and fell in love with words. Today he’s a champion of the International Poetry Slam, and the author of multiple books of verse.