Poetry’s Place in the Revolution: The Rant of a Socialist Poet

God fucking cock sucking mother fucking damnit!

Quite a poetic opening am I right? Yes a bit blunt but to be honest I am in a foul mood. I started off the year strong by getting published twice in one month, but ever since June it has been a series of pitches and rejection letters.

I start my work days by checking email, and to be honest I am just getting tired of opening my inbox only to find reasons why literary journals don’t want to publish my poems about the heart, the body, the soul of the creatives in revolution.

Poetry and art are all about putting what is in the heart, mind, body, and soul into a tangible thing for others to experience.

I am a socialist, an organizer and proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America. I love my organization because we are only as good as the work our members put into it, and I love to work. My place in this organization was like a hand in a glove (cliche I know but still) but what has escaped me is a very important question:

What is art’s place in the revolution?

I know some of you might be thinking, “But James, this has nothing to do with your rejection letters!”

I’m getting to that. I am a writer and I will do whatever it takes to make my living doing this. Prior to my complete radicalization, my incorporation of a material analysis into my world view, I was very much just hoping to be one of the next great poets. Someone whose words would just resonate with the times they are in and become a controversial definition of the days it was written. The next Shakespeare, the next Allen Ginsberg, that was what I wanted to be.

But then I realized something, I was creating just to create. I was writing in a totally self expressive way with no political motivation behind my words. “Art for art’s sake” was my original motto, but now I see that does not exist yet. That can never exist as long as the arts are commodified, as long as creatives are at the mercy of wealthy patrons and publishers who want to control the tone of our cultural and political dialogue.

What is the place of the poet, the artist, the filmmaker in revolution? It is not as propaganda agents of a worker’s state as some may believe. No, their place in the revolution is to bring truth to the masses. Their job is to express truth in ways that the petty bourgeoisie artists of the status quo, in other words “hacks”, cannot.

That is what my poetry is about, asking and answering the question about what art or poetry can and should do to aid us on the March of History.

So that is what I write, that is what I pitch to publishers and literary journals.

And what do they publish instead?

Corny hacks who write poems about cookies and daffodils and memories of an over privileged childhood in a way that is so over the top and self indulgent that it would make even Marcel Proust vomit.

I rest my case.

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