The poetry of protest

In small and large ways resistance to oppression, needless pain, foolish policy and injustice occurs all the time. Over lunch yesterday my Muslim friends talked about the many acts of support and solidarity that have occurred during the week (their faces alight, their voices positive and animated). The student strike for climate action, with thousands attending, was a couple of weeks ago now, and down south, the local Extinction Rebellion group (here is a link to their facebook page) decorated the southern expressway with climate action messages this week. It was great to receive the link to a video of the event. Thanks Mag and Nicky, and to all the group for the cheerful reminder that there is another way, and that it is good to play a part in moving things in a more life-affirming direction.

This week (on 21 March) it was also World Poetry Day (and the full moon and the equinox). Poets too have played their part in acting for change, using those marvellous tools the pen, the imagination and words.

Here are a couple of poems (including a song) of protest in honour of those who work for change.

Big Yellow Taxi
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot
Hey farmer farmer
Put away that D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Please
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot
Songwriter: Joni Mitchell
Next up are the first couple of verses of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘To a Foil’d European Revolutionaire’, which I like in part because it specifically includes reference to women, and to the long term work that is involved in making change:

Courage yet, my brother or my sister!
Keep on – Liberty is to be subserv’d whatever occurs;
That is nothing that is quell’d by one or two failures, or any number of failures,
Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by
any unfaithfulness,

Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes.

What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents,
Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is
positive and composed, knows no discouragement,
Waiting patiently, waiting its time.

And finally here is a beautiful, very pain filled poem of witness and sorrow:

Simic

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2 Responses to The poetry of protest

  1. Jayne Jennifer says:

    Thanks Elizabeth for those wish words, Jayne

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