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Poetry as Revolution

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” ~Alice Walker

A major challenge in starting and maintaining social movements—political, environmental, humanitarian, or any combination thereof—is engaging people to get involved, as well as staying motivated. Successful social activism rests on the ability to provoke people’s perceptions, thoughts, and actions in positive and innovative ways. By joining with artistic and activist communities, social movements are able to overcome many adversities. The issue is given the ability to create a new visual landscape and language, form new collective identities, and redefine meaningful citizenship.

This collaborative endeavour has a long history and bright future of success in furthering the general awareness of controversial issues. Ranging from fine arts to street arts, poets and musicians, artists are inspired to create something beautiful and moving by social injustice, natural degradation, and the other harsh realities of our contemporary existence. Coupled with the power of the political and scientific voice behind most activist movements, art provides a new way to encourage the public to participate.

Art has been a way for humanity to express individual and community identity, articulating who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. In today’s social environment, this kind of expression has an indisputable place in social activism. Using the many aspects of the arts allows for emotional connection, and also provides a new way to transmit information, ideology, and communication, reduce fear or anxiety, or provide a rallying point of solidarity. It is powerful.

Poetry in particular has long been the voice of revolutionaries, change-makers, and social activists.  

Below are submissions from two Selkirk student poets challenging perceptions of the status quo:

Waterway| Sue Skidmore, 2018 |
I saw you and called you a waterway,
Must be navigable, the definition says.
You look so still, sealed over with shocking lime duckweed,
hiding your small surface.
What navigates you?
The ducks kick through and over you, as your covering of choked plant-life
splits then reforms as they pass.
The beaver from down the way visits you
And splashes through you in the dark while no one sees.
Insects, frogs, snails, animals that I could never know thrive within you.
But you are very very small.  I cannot navigate you.
You are not a waterway.


This poem was part of an assignment for a poetry workshop which Fred Wah gave recently in Nelson, the topic being ‘Waterways’. 

Record Low 1 |Jane Anon|
The troubles intensify,
Inexact and messy
Struggles,
Fought among
Esteemed people
Bottlenecks of
Narrow minds,
Choking debate
Civility voted out
Widening the
Wildly tracked
Differential of
Critical thought.