Tuesday, May 22, 2007

 

The Republic of Poetry: Martín Espada's Hampshire College Commencement Address

Martín Espada gave me permission to post here the commencement address he gave Saturday at Hampshire College. Lucky, lucky grads - they've received a manifesto for living, for creating the new world.


THE REPUBLIC OF POETRY: HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

Martín Espada
May 19, 2007

To the graduates, their families, the faculty and staff of Hampshire College: Congratulations. I would particularly like to salute the Baldwin Scholars graduating today. James Baldwin delivered the commencement address here at Hampshire twenty-one years ago. That day, he said: “The reality in which we live is a reality we have made, and it’s time, my children, to begin the act of creation all over again.”

In that spirit, I welcome you to the Republic of Poetry. The Republic of Poetry is a state of mind. It is a place where creativity meets community, where the imagination serves humanity. The Republic of Poetry is a republic of justice, because the practice of justice is the highest form of human expression. This goes beyond the tired idea of “poetic justice,” because all justice is poetic.

In the words of Walter Lowenfels, “everyone is a poet, a creator, somewhere, somehow…It’s in the sense of helping to create a new society that we are poets in whatever we do. And it is our gesture against death. We know we are immortal because we know the society we are helping to build is our singing tomorrow.”

You, the graduates of Hampshire, are the poets of this republic. I do not mean that you must act like a stereotypical poet. You do not have to borrow money from your friends and pretend to be in a coma the next time you see them. You do not have to wear a coat three sizes too large so you can shoplift books. You do not have to drink until you lose control of your bladder. You do not have burst into tears at the sight of a mayonnaise jar because you love the letter M. You do not have to lock yourself in the bathroom and refuse to come out because your haiku is too short. You do not have to speak in riddles like Woody Allen’s fictional poet, Sean O’Shawn, considered “the most incomprehensible and hence the finest poet of his time.”

I know you can build your own Republic of Poetry, because I have seen it. I saw it in Chile, where the citizens overcame seventeen years of military dictatorship to rebuild their democracy, ultimately electing a socialist woman president. (If the people of Chile can survive nearly two decades of General Augusto Pinochet and take their democracy back, then we can take our democracy back too.)

Chile is a nation of poets, and in Chile poetry is inseparable from the struggle for democracy. When I visited Isla Negra and the home of the great poet Pablo Neruda, I remembered an incident that took place there after the military coup of September 11, 1973 (the first 9/11). I wrote a poem about it called, “The Soldiers in the Garden.”

After the coup,
the soldiers appeared
in Neruda's garden one night,
raising lanterns to interrogate the trees,
cursing at the rocks that tripped them.
From the bedroom window
they could have been
the conquistadores of drowned galleons,
back from the sea to finish
plundering the coast.

The poet was dying;
cancer flashed through his body
and left him rolling in the bed to kill the flames.
Still, when the lieutenant stormed upstairs,
Neruda faced him and said:
There is only one danger for you here: poetry.
The lieutenant brought his helmet to his chest,
apologized to señor Neruda
and squeezed himself back down the stairs.
The lanterns dissolved one by one from the trees.

For thirty years
we have been searching
for another incantation
to make the soldiers
vanish from the garden.

In the Republic of Poetry there is no war, because phrases like “weapons of mass destruction,” “shock and awe,” “collateral damage” and “surge” are nothing but clichés, bad poetry by bad poets, and no one believes them. They bleed language of its meaning, drain the blood from words. You, the next generation, must reconcile language with meaning, restore the blood to words, and end this war.

At the beginning of the last century, governments used other words to justify and celebrate war. There was the Latin phrase: Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori (how sweet and decorous it is to die for one’s country). The poet Wilfred Owen, who died at age twenty-four in the First World War, knew better. Here he describes the effects of poison gas at the front:

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

You must always call “the old Lie” by its name. If you do, then you will build this republic on the highest ground. Remember: Your language is powerful precisely because it is not the language of power.

The Republic of Poetry has no borders. In this republic no human being is illegal. In this republic no one is thrown on the other side of the fence after building the fence. Every time the fence goes up, you must tear it down.

In this republic, there is no official language, because all languages are poetic. En la República de la Poesía se habla español. Listen to the voice of Jorge the church janitor, an immigrant from Honduras, in this poem I wrote for him:

No one asks
where I am from,
I must be
from the country of janitors,
I have always mopped this floor.
Honduras, you are a squatter's camp
outside the city
of their understanding.

No one can speak
my name,
I host the fiesta
of the bathroom,
stirring the toilet
like a punchbowl.
The Spanish music of my name
is lost
when the guests complain
about toilet paper.

What they say
must be true:
I am smart,
but I have a bad attitude.

No one knows
that I quit tonight,
maybe the mop
will push on without me,
sniffing along the floor
like a crazy squid
with stringy gray tentacles.
They will call it Jorge.

This little drama did not take place at a church in Alabama. This took place at a church in that bastion of liberalism, Harvard Square. We must keep our own churches, and houses, clean. Speaking of which, let us thank the janitors of Hampshire College.

In the Republic of Poetry, everyone has shoes. Here we have Jack Agüeros and his “Psalm for Distribution:”

Lord,
on 8th Street
between 6th Avenue and Broadway
there are enough shoe stores
with enough shoes
to make me wonder
why there are shoeless people
on the earth.

Lord,
You have to fire the Angel
in charge of distribution.

You, the next generation, have to fire the Angel in charge of distribution. To accomplish this, you may have to fire the president, or a senator, or a governor; you have that right in a democracy. However, they are also representatives of a larger economic system. You must radically transform that system so that everyone has shoes, so that everyone has the opportunity to realize his or her full human—that is to say, poetic— potential. Walter Lowenfels sums it up: “When the tragedy of the world market no longer dominates our existence, new gradations of being in love with being here will emerge.”

Any republic should be measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable people. Make sure that compassion is the guiding principle of your republic, the pulse of your poetry. Walt Whitman, the bard of prisoners, prostitutes, and slaves, insists that, “whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to/ his own funeral dressed in his shroud.”

To dwell in the Republic of Poetry you must continue to read and ask questions. You graduate today, but in fact, you should never stop being a student, never stop asking, doubting, dissenting, or the republic dies. This was never more true than today, in the age of the Illiterate Presidency.

In the Republic of Poetry your vote counts, because the voting machines actually work. In this republic your dollars pay for schools and hospitals instead of bullets and bombs, because every poem by our greatest poets is scientific proof that living is better than dying.

Now, for those graduates who think there are no more assignments, I have news: The Republic of Poetry is hard work. Poets re-write what they have already re-written, and stay up all night to do it. We are insomniac zombies. In fact, I am presently working on a screenplay called, “Night of the Living Dead Poets’ Society.”

Such will be the case for you, too, if you want to live in a more democratic—and thus, poetic—world. Marge Piercy captures the joy of sitting through one more meeting with yet another committee:

This is true virtue: to sit here and stay awake,
to listen, to argue, to wade on through the muck
wrestling to some momentary small agreement
like a pinhead pearl prized from a dragon-head oyster.
I believe in this democracy as I believe
there is blood in my veins, but oh, oh, in me

lurks a tyrant with a double-bladed ax who longs
to swing it wide and shining, who longs to stand
and shriek, You Shall Do as I Say, pig-bastards.
No more committees but only picnics and orgies
and dances. I have spoken. So be it forevermore.

In the Republic of Poetry, the poet is the true self, whoever that may be. The poet within us rebels against conformity, decorum and obedience, saying the unsayable before the moment passes. I give you Julia de Burgos, who confronts herself—the false self—in this poem:

Who rises in my verses is not your voice. It is my voice,
because you are the dressing and the essence is me;
and the most profound abyss is spread between us.

You, honey of courtesan hypocrisies; not me;
in all my poems I undress my heart.

You are like your world, selfish; not me,
who gambles everything betting on what I am.

(…)

You curl your hair and paint yourself; not me;
the wind curls my hair; the sun paints me.

(…)

You in yourself have no say; everyone governs you;
your husband, your parents, your family,
the priest, the dressmaker, the theatre, the dance hall,
the auto, the fine furnishings, the feast, champagne,
heaven and hell, and the social “what will they say.”

Not in me, in me only my heart governs,
only my thought; who governs in me is me.

The Republic of Poetry is a place where, as Walt Whitman says, “your very flesh shall be a great poem.” It is a place where you are your own greatest creation, your own most inspired invention. It is a place where you make of your life an epic poem. You may discover that medicine is your poetry, or law is your poetry, or education is your poetry, or journalism is your poetry, or music is your poetry, or poetry is your poetry.

The Republic of Poetry is a place of miracles. You carry the engine of miracles with you everywhere, in your head, and don’t even realize it. Pablo Neruda fell down, hit his head, and had an epiphany:

How often in my mature years,
in travels, in love affairs,
I examined every hair,
every wrinkle on my brow,
without noticing the grandness
of my head,
boned
tower of thought,
tough coconut,
calcium dome
protecting
the clockworks,
thick wall
guarding
treasures infinitesimal,
arteries, incredible
circulations,
pulses of reason, veins of sleep,
gelatin of the soul,
all
the miniature ocean
you are,
proud crest
of the mind,
the wrinkled convolutions
of undersea mountains
and in them
will, the fish of movement,
the electric corolla
of stimulus,
the seaweed of memory.

You who believe in this republic will be accused of daydreaming and utopianism. To these crimes you must plead guilty as charged. Tell them: Yes! I did it! I was daydreaming of a more just world instead of something more age-appropriate and consumer-oriented, like a $200 pair of Nikes.

This is Eduardo Galeano on the subject of utopia: “She’s on the horizon…I go two steps closer, she moves two steps away. I walk ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps ahead. No matter how much I walk, I’ll never reach her. What good is utopia? That’s what: it’s good for walking.”

A century ago, when your father’s grandfather was a child, the eight-hour workday was utopian; the eradication of polio was utopian; the end of lynching and segregation in the South was utopian. The next generation writes the poetry of the impossible.

You will make the impossible possible. Yet, no change for the good ever happens without being imagined first. The last poem today is about the bread of the table, the bread of poetry, the bread of justice, the bread of this republic. It’s called, “Imagine the Angels of Bread:”

This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
gazing like admirals from the rail
of the roofdeck
or levitating hands in praise
of steam in the shower;
this is the year
that shawled refugees deport judges
who stare at the floor
and their swollen feet
as files are stamped
with their destination;
this is the year that police revolvers,
stove-hot, blister the fingers
of raging cops,
and nightsticks splinter
in their palms;
this is the year
that darkskinned men
lynched a century ago
return to sip coffee quietly
with the apologizing descendants
of their executioners.

This is the year that those
who swim the border's undertow
and shiver in boxcars
are greeted with trumpets and drums
at the first railroad crossing
on the other side;
this is the year that the hands
pulling tomatoes from the vine
uproot the deed to the earth that sprouts the vine,
the hands canning tomatoes
are named in the will
that owns the bedlam of the cannery;
this is the year that the eyes
stinging from the poison that purifies toilets
awaken at last to the sight
of a rooster-loud hillside,
pilgrimage of immigrant birth;
this is the year that cockroaches
become extinct, that no doctor
finds a roach embedded
in the ear of an infant;
this is the year that the food stamps
of adolescent mothers
are auctioned like gold doubloons,
and no coin is given to buy machetes
for the next bouquet of severed heads
in coffee plantation country.

If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles,
then this is the year;
if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year;
if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback
are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plunged in the river,
then this is the year.

So may every humiliated mouth,
teeth like desecrated headstones,
fill with the angels of bread.


Comments:
This is excellent, Sarah! How fortunate the Hampshire grads are to have experienced this. Thanks for posting.
 
Sarah! Thanks so much for posting this. I made a link and post off the VRZHU blog to this. Fantastic stuff!! Go Martín!
 
Thank you both for your comments -- it's great to feel part of such a revved up, kick ass community!
 
Brilliant.

Thank you for posting this.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
64Dzy2 Thanks to author.
 
Nice Article.
 
Wonderful blog.
 
Nice Article.
 
Thanks to author.
 
Alex Rodriguez,the playerwow goldwho would restore integrity to baseball's homewow goldrunre cord,admittedwow goldMonday towow goldusing performance-enhancingwow goldwow golddrugs himself.
 
The All-Star thirddofus kamasdofus kamasbaseman said in an interviewkamas dofusacheter dofuswith ESPN that he used steroids with the Texas Rangers for three years,from 2001-03,in an attemptbuy kamasacheter kamasto justify his status as the game's highest-paid player after signing a 10-year.
 
Back then it wasworld of warcraft golda different culture,Rodriguezcheap wow goldsaid.It waswow orvery loose.I was young.I waswow power levelingstupid.
 
He said he quitbuy wow goldcheap wow goldafter 2003,hiswow power levelingdofus kamasfirst of three AL MVP seasons,because I've provedbuy ffxi gilLord of the Rings Online goldto myself and to everyone that I don't need any of that.
 
When I arrivedwow goldin Texas in 2001,Iwow goldfelt an enormous amount of pressure.I feltwow goldwow goldlike I had all the weightwow goldof the world on top of me and I needed to perform.
 
When the Wow Gold wolf finally found the wow gold cheap hole in the chimney he crawled cheap wow gold down and KERSPLASH right into that kettle of water and that was cheapest wow gold the end of his troubles with the big bad wolf.
game4power.
The next day the Buy Wow Goldlittle pig invited hisbuy gold wow mother over . She said "You see it is just as mttgamingI told you. The way to get along in the world is to do world of warcraft gold things as well as you can." Fortunately for that little pig, he buy cheap wow gold learned that lesson. And he just agamegold lived happily ever after!.
 
buy wow gold from top 10 best website.

wow gold discount store,

cheap wow gold  bargain shop;

ffxi gil for you to experience the power.

world of warcraft gold last minute fire sale.

buy ffxi gil with 5% coupon for your character.

everquest platinum market and play to win your game.

warhammer gold at inexpensive price.

cheap ffxi gil to have, why farm the gil yourself.

cheap wow power leveling for your new toons.

cheapest wow gold available with us.

wow gold for sale to celebra
 
When the Wow Gold wolf finally found the wow gold cheap hole in the chimney he crawled cheap wow gold down and KERSPLASH right into that kettle of water and that was cheapest wow gold the end of his troubles with the big bad wolf.

game4power.
The next day the Buy Wow Goldlittle pig invited hisbuy gold wow mother over . She said "You see it is just as Cheapest wow goldI told you. The way to get along in the world is to do world of warcraft gold things as well as you can." Fortunately for that little pig, he buy cheap wow gold learned that lesson. And he just wow gold lived happily ever after!.
 
In order to play the Cabal, I already forget I spend how much money to buy the cabal alz, in my memory, every time to buy cabal alz, I always want to search sell the cheap cabal alz website, but every time I always failed, so if has someone know the cheapest cabal gold, I hope can told me.

Introduce a website to all like to play online game people, in this website can buy the tibia gold, if you want tobuy tibia gold, you can come here, do you know this website had how many customers, in here you only need spend a little money then can buy much cheap tibia gold, do not doubt, quickly to come here then to buy the tibia gp.
 
A slim, wide-eyed mygamegoldwoman almost human in virbanksfeatures eyed agamegold the pair. Her nose was sharp, but very elegant. She had tbcgold a pale, trade4gamebeautiful face the color of ivory, and veryge for hair she wore a wondrous mane of downy feathers. Her gown fluttered as she walked—on two delicate worldofgolds but still sharply-taloned feet. “Awake, awake you are,” she said with a pvp365 slight frown. “You should rest, rest.” Krasus bowed to her. “I am ezmmorpg grateful for your ighey hospitality, mistress, but I am well enough to continue on9a9z now.” She cocked her head as a bird might, giving the mageltk365 a reproving look. “No, no…too soon, toogold4guild soon. Please, sit.” The duo looked around u4game and discovered that two chairs, made in the same ready4game fashion as the nest, waited behind happygolds them. Malfurion waited for Krasus, who finally nodded and sat.
 
wholesale jewelry , supply vast kinds of styles handmade jewelry,mainly engage in handmade jewelry wholesale handmade jewelry,such as wholesale pearl wholesale crystalwholesale gemstone,wholesale costume jewelry,also wholesale fashion jewelry like wholesale swarovski crystal,wholesale beads,wholesaleturquoise,wholesale coral,wholesale costume jewelry ,shell jewelrycostume jewelry and discount jewelry, jewelry wholesale, just on AYpearl jewelry store.
 
By the way, I recommend you buy the cheapest Atlantica online Gold and Atlantica power leveling from us where the prices here are low. So if you have the Atlantica Gold is useful to your level spear and then you should buy Atlantica online Gold. In addition if you need to buy goods for your characters, the game provides you the cheap Atlantica online Gold. And the last, you can make the fun of the Atlantica online money in the Atlantica online world.
Follow the guide below, you will have a better experience in dofus kamas. Because of Bambooto attack with both earth and wind damage, with also heals kamas. There are some cheap kamas in the Dofus and that is very useful. The best part is that bulbiflor can drop bulbiflor magic bark, which sells for 50000 dofus gold. They sell well kamas anytime too, so you can buy dofus kamas at anytime.
 
You know ,I have some 9Dragons gold, and my friend also has some
9 Dragons gold,do you kouw they have the same meaning,Both of them can be called
9Dragons money,I just want to
buy 9 Dragons gold, because there are many
cheap 9Dragons gold.
You know ,I have some Anarchy credits, and my friend also has some Anarchy Online credits, do you kouw they have the same meaning,Both of them can be called
Anarchy gold,I just want to
buy AO credits, because there are many cheap
Anarchy online gold.
 
I can getmaple mesoscheaply,
Yesterday i boughtmesos for my brother.
i hope him like it. i will give maplestory mesos to him
as birthday present. i like the cheap mesos very much.
I usually buymaple story mesos and keep it in my store.
i can get Metin2 gold cheaply,
Yesterday i bought Metin2 yang for my brother.
i hope him like it. i willBuy metin2 gold to him
as birthday present. i like the Cheap metin2 yang very much.
I usually buy the Cheap metin2 gold and keep it in my store.
 
seal cegel and the swordsman in the seal online. Is it solo able in the sealonline cegel? It is not too bad, you should survive pretty well with seal online cegel if you equipment is up to date. Someone would like me who just reached IVI90 be able to survive more than one hit because cheap seal cegel. The work of the reward system works without buy seal online cegel.
silkroad gold in the silkroad you may or may not notice. I know vitality is very tempting in sro gold. You may be feeling intelligence in silk road gold. You are going to be getting crab pincers which like silkroad online gold, depending on which server you are on. cheap silkroad gold can help you get a high level in short time.
 
rohan crone has many ways for us to use. When you start the Rohan Online game, your character will be level 1. I remembered that when I started playing this Rohan game with some little cheap rohan money. My friends all told me that the best way to spend rohan online gold is a good way. But I could not like spending my own rohan online crone. If you do not like upgrading level step by step, you can cost rohan gold to help your character to reach level high.
rf gold which in RF Online Game is very popular for many players. Play this online game the premise that we have more enough rf online gold first. They are able to combine creative tools and weapons with some rf money and the Light form of universal magic. Under such sustained attacks they fell from power, yet they have bided their rf cp and time. Due to make cheap rf gold the intense gravity on their home planet, the Bellato are the smallest people.
 
As a new player , you may need some game guides or information to enhance yourself.
knight gold is one of the hardest theme for every class at the beginning . You must have a good way to manage your knight noah.If yor are a lucky guy ,you can earn so many knight online gold by yourself . But if you are a not , I just find a nice way to get knight online noah. If you need , you can buy cheap knight gold at our website . Go to the related page and check the detailed information . Once you have any question , you can connect our customer service at any time .

Making Rose zuly is the old question : Honestly there is no fast way to make lots of rose zulie . Sadly enough a lot of the people that all of a sudden come to with millions of rose online zuly almost overnight probably duped . Although there are a lot of ways to make lots of rose online zulie here I will tell you all of the ways that I know and what I do to Arua ROSE zuly.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Really trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading..
World of Warcraft
 
I have been visiting various blogs for my dissertation research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information... Regards
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?