Have you ever read a poem that took a hard look at us humans and the way we live in the world? The lines and stanzas illuminating our actions? Shining light on our behaviors? Brightening our blind spots?
Now we’re asking you to be the bearers of that flashlight, pointing your beam at the elements of day-to-day living that are so routine that they often go unquestioned, unscrutinized, even unnoticed. Here’s what we mean:
In the first stanza of “The Country of Perfect Weekends,” notice how American poet George Witte critiques a very mundane and common behavior (watering the lawn), suggesting a connection between a seemingly harmless
behavior and a dramatically harmful
For months on end we had no rain,
The weekends wheeled by, spokes around
A parching sun that flung off light,
Satellite of drought transmitting
To our state. No one seemed to care—
Terrific Day! was the watchword—
And while whole forests burned to ash
We watered our laws, secretly
At night against the governor’s
Decree, sprinklers drawing their fronds
Like pale girls in prom gowns over
Cool thick grass.
And in the beginning of “Zeros & Ones,”
Write the World’s kanigi7 builds toward a different critique of quotidian (everyday) living:
The antisocial become the real world.
The lonely and awkward become the popular.
In a world where bullying
No longer occurs in a circle
But travels down the grape vine
On a string of zeros and ones.
Where not knowing catchphrases in a vine
Is worse than committing a crime.
Faster than we answer our mothers.
Sometimes subtle and sometimes fiercely insistent, poems have the power to help us better see ourselves. And in brightening our blind spots, perhaps these lines and stanzas may help us to live differently, or at least a little more consciously. “Poetry,” wrote Audre Lorde, “lays the foundation for change.”
Your turn. Write your own poem that examines quotidian living. Your critical lens may be insistent or subtle, harsh or forgiving, gloomy or hopeful.