A Call To Vote from Read Poetry
The 2020 election is expected to have the highest voter turnout in the last 100 years, according to The Guardian. Over 50 million ballots have been cast, shattering 2016’s early vote count. In such an intensely divisive election year, the message is louder than ever: your vote counts.
“I think one of the civic responsibilities of poets in America today is to continue to encourage a sense of civility among us and a sense of curiosity about one another’s lives,” said Naomi Shihab Nye in this 2015 video from Poetry.org. The recording remains evergreen, as Nye, Jane Hirshfield, and Juan Felipe Herrera discuss the civic responsibility of poets in America today. “I love the deep attribute of poetry to pause, to look, to listen, to respect, to pay attention to variety and learn something new,” said Nye.
“Poetry’s summoning is to transcend easy language, platitudinous language, slogans that make people stupid and that separate people from one another,” said Hirshfield. “So part of the role of poetry and poets is, I think, to force ourselves past the common way of looking at things by being more responsive and by finding the uncommon, original, sidelong, nuanced, subtle, and not strive for the certainty which seems such a bane of our current discourse.”
It’s easy to forget the huge role poets play in shaping public discourse. It’s a powerful tool for activism, and often a strong reminder of our civic duties. So, we’ve selected five poignant poems to remind you just how much your vote matters. Get out there and cast your ballot!
“A House Divided” by Kyle Dargan
This 2013 poem invokes dreamlike Americana images. Dargan aptly describes the stark differences between Americans’ points-of-view, and how hard it can be to bridge the gap between two such different worlds.
“America, I Sing Back” by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Texas-born poet Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s upbringing in North Carolina, Canada, and on the Great Plains shines through in her work. Her 2014 poem “America, I Sing Back” likens her relationship to the nation as one between mother and child—intimate and ever-changing.
“A Nation’s Strength” by William Ralph Emerson
Architect and cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ralph Emerson published “A Nation’s Strength” in 1891. The brief poem claims that it is not material wealth that makes a nation great, not pride or violence, but the dedication of its citizens.
“Calling on All Silent Minorities” by June Jordan
From the 2005 collection Directed by Desire: The Complete Poems of June Jordan, the poem “Calling on All Silent Minorities” gets straight to the point—in all caps. “WHEREVER YOU ARE / WE NEED TO HAVE THIS MEETING,” she writes.
“Ghazal: America the Beautiful” by Alicia Ostriker
The provocative and imaginative Alicia Ostriker takes us on a complex journey from childhood to adulthood in her 2013 poem “Ghazal: America the Beautiful.” As the speaker ages, her relationship to America changes from one of admiration to one of contradiction. Her childhood allegiance is complicated by her deeper understanding of inequality in America.
For more information on how Read Poetry is supporting votership this election, visit us on Instagram.