Poet Jane Hirshfield read this poem from the stage at the March for Science in Washington last April. The march featured pop-up poetry writing workshops, and more than 20 banners with science poems by well-known poets: Gary Snyder, W .S. Merwin, Tracy K. Smith and others.
“Poems are visible right now, which is terribly ironic, because you rather wish it weren’t so necessary,” Hirshfield said. “When poetry is a backwater it means times are OK. When times are dire, that’s exactly when poetry is needed.”
In previous years, when poems on political issues were being written by poets in other countries, American poetry was sometimes labeled “introspective and narrow in focus.” Not so now. There is a recent avalanche of poems by Americans on issues like immigration, global warming, the Syrian refugee crisis, racism, equal rights for LGTBQ people, Islamophobia, and health care.