According to Lorenzo Thomas, “Every poet must confront a serious problem; how to reconcile one’s private preoccupation with the need to make poetry that is both accessible and useful to others.” Poetry can’t cure cancer, end racism, or stop domestic violence, but it often is the most direct road out of the dark places those tragedies take us. William Carlos Williams said, “ … men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there (in poetry),” yet, there are days when I doubt there are sufficient words enough to deal with multiple maladies of government gridlock, real-world consequences of a shutdown, self-immolation, or another mass shooting. I believe fervently that words have power, but if I haven’t learned anything from a recent twenty-one hour speech by a congressman, words can also just be rhetoric.
There seem to be enough season premieres, final episodes, reality TV, and ESPN channels to allow us to bury our heads in the sand, which means television itself is also part of the problem. If the billion dollar opening weekend for the Grand Theft Auto video game speaks volumes about how comfortable we have become with misogyny and violence as a culture, the fact that in some states it is more difficult to vote than to purchase a gun speaks even louder.
Critics of the current POTUS like to compare President Obama to Hitler, and their wholesale rejection of the Affordable Care Act suggests that they haven’t read the two thousand-plus pages or the table of contents.
We have lost our way. It seems our private preoccupation as a country is dysfunction. Many of our leaders in Washington seem perfectly willing to let the car go over the cliff as long as they aren’t the ones riding in it, while a lot of other people are struggling to identify the poetry in their lives. So now what? Do we stop writing? Do we surrender? Do we grab the remote in one hand and the controller in the other and self medicate? I say hell no! We can’t afford to stop challenging the madness or the ignorance.
Sometimes, the pop dysfunction is so indefensible that only art is fit to respond to it. Before K—-’s recent egomaniacal notion that the confederate flag worn on his back and chest and merchandise could be reclaimed and its vitriolic and tainted iconography be erased my mere association, Lil’ Wayne’s ill advised Emmett Till reference illustrated the need to educate those who are influencing our children’s generation. The only silver lining I have found about the Trayvon Martin case is that it allows those ignorant about what happened in Money, Mississippi to better understand the Emmett Till story, confirming the notion that when we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. Ultimately I want to believe that truly understanding the full backdrop of the Till story allows more than a surface knowledge of Medgar Evers before his assassination in 1963. If today’s generation can follow a straight line backwards for fifty years and then another shorter line back to 1955 they will see the links between J.W.Milam, Roy Bryant, Byron De La Beckwith and George Zimmerman.
This special issue tries to give voice to all our thoughts and emotions when it comes to institutional and individual injustices. It celebrates the healing power of words. And most of all, this issue demands that we not forget. We at pluck! hope that you will find solace within these pages. We hope you will recognize that if these contributing authors were running the country we’d be a whole lot better off. And that would be a perfect tenth anniversary issue present for the staff. You shouldn’t be able to hold public office unless you can write a crown of sonnets. Patricia Smith for Congress! And Bianca Spriggs for President! You heard it here first.
—Frank X Walker, Founding Editor