Poetry and activism 

My definition of good poetry is when activism and the beauty of language come together, an amalgamation of re-emerging movements like the pro-diversity and pro-feminism movements strung together by the use of metaphors, anaphora and transferred epithets.
Poetry and I didn’t mesh well. I’ve never really been interested in William Shakespeare’s attempts to immortalise his love interests in his poetry. Or why enjambment and free verse was used throughout the poem to create a natural speech flow. In short, I didn’t believe there was much space left for poetry in today’s society because I had always ignored poetry’s role in social change and development and distanced it from activism. I couldn’t fathom how the great romantic poets could ever write about relevant things like feminism, racial equality, eradicating poverty and the refugee crisis. 

I was wrong instead upon further analysis and research into the world of poetry I found I was profoundly enchanted by the flowing complexity of poetry and I actually managed to find poets who’s writing really resonates with me and so accurately describes the society in which I exist. Poets like Rupi Kaur and Adrienne Rich whom I had an instant connection with because of their subject matter, it was a sisterhood even if they didn’t know it. Suddenly I too was diving into the wreck with Rich to retrieve the book of myths submerged by the patriarchy.


Waren Shire who spoke about the refugee crisis made me understand that poetry isn’t limited to 14 lines, a rhyming couplet and “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”. Poetry is fluid and shapeshifts into various forms, some might even say that Tupac was a poet in his own right. My favourite poetry is this type of poetry, where artistic expression and radical thinking are connected in the lines and housed in the stanzas in the very heart of the poem.

Before really reading any poetry I would have never thought that poetry has the power to touch so many people. I have now become attracted to the idea that poetry transcends entertainment and poetry and activism are actually synonymous. I’ve learnt that the personal is the political and my favourite poets are my favourites because they’re so skilled in their ability to refashion their personal experiences and opinions and turn it into art.

I wish students of literature were exposed to more poetry that resonated with us and our life experiences, not to trample on the creative genius that is Khubla Khan by Samuel Taylor but I believe it would be more beneficial for all students to analyse poems by Jeremy Cronin, Adrienne Rich, Maya Angelus and Ilya Kaminsky and hopefully through poetry that represents who we are as a society we can see that there is always space for poetry and that maybe it is the soft revolution that we’ve all been waiting for.

(Photos by Sam Vox) 


2 thoughts on “Poetry and activism 

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