US capitol building

5 Formative Ways to Engage Politically Through Poetry

With elections on November 8, chances are you’ve received emails and social media ads asking you to vote or donate, plus seen your fair share of TV commercials. All of this information can seem overwhelming—but while the news cycle is fast-paced, poetry offers an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the political process. From Emma Lazurus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty to the long history of Inauguration Day poets, poetry has long been political. It can open our minds and educate us on the true importance of the political process. Here’s how to channel that connection. 


Read poetry from different worldviews and perspectives.


Ideally, the political process should make the country a better place for all types of people. Reading collections or standalone poems from voices unlike your own can help you appreciate diversity and equality—as well as stand up for it in the voting booth or when you’re filling out your mail-in ballot. Try broadening your perspective with our recommendations for AAPI poetry, Jewish American poetry, queer poetry, and more.


Pick up collections from throughout history. 


It’s often said that developing a stronger understanding of history can help us move forward more effectively in the present, while hopefully avoiding past injustices. It can be surprising and impactful to delve into poetry from the past and discover parallels in our current society—as well as inspiration for how to facilitate change. Check out our roundup of poetry that shaped past social movements, from the Harlem Renaissance to women’s suffrage. 


Use poetry in your own political outreach. 


Poetry is known for its emotional impact. While many come to political advocacy with a focus on data, poetry can illuminate how today’s most pressing issues affect everyday lives. If you’re engaging in political advocacy—like sending postcards to voters, speaking at a march or rally, or even sharing your own reasons to vote on social media—consider including a relevant and hard-hitting line from one of your favorite poems. 


Educate yourself on candidates’ platforms and values. 


Literacy, education, and the arts are all political issues, and if you’re a poet, chances are they matter deeply to you. So when you’re doing your research on a candidate, pay attention to where they stand on topics like funding education and teacher pay, as well as making sure public libraries, museums, and other institutions have the resources that they need. 


Election season can be tense—unplug and step away with poetry. 


It’s important to be involved in the political process, but you can’t engage constantly. Avoid burnout and ever-increasing news anxiety by taking advantage of poetry’s cozy and restorative effect. Try a collection of love poems or pastoral poetry for an extra soothing read, or take a break from reading and grab the remote instead to check out our absorbing TV recs for poets. 


Happy reading—and happy voting! Find your state’s polling place locator and look up where to vote here.