THE BLOG
11/12/2012 05:39 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2013

Changing Politics One Poem at a Time

If you've read my last blog post, you know that I believe in the importance of bringing your soul to work with you and that poetry can help to do that. It's apparent, after this election, that politics is in need of soul reviving as well. I'm proposing that poetry might just be the medicine to repair its failing spirit.

Poetry and politics have more in common than it might appear. Both have the common goal of seeking truth, engaging the mind and emotions; both have the ability to lift our spirits and inspire us to higher consciousness and greatness.

Great political figures throughout history have used poetry to connect with people and capture their imagination. Lincoln restated the principals of human rights in his Gettysburg Address and proclaimed a new birth of freedom for all.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it ... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This is considered one of the greatest political speeches of all time. It is pure poetry.

Martin Luther King used poetic language and imagery in his "I Have a Dream" speech.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' [...]

I have a dream today ... I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

President Barack Obama captured the hope and hearts of the American people in his presidential acceptance speech on the night of his reelection.

Tonight ... you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come ... you made your voice heard and you made a difference.

In October 1963, in a ceremony honoring Robert Frost and the Robert Frost Library at Amhurst College, John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech championing the artist and the arts as defining features of American life and liberty.

When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

Ghandi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world." We can start to change the face of politics by responding to it differently. We, the people, can use our collective poetic voices to make the changes we want to see. We can lead by example.

Finding your poetic voice isn't as challenging as you might think. Actually, it can be quite fun. Here are some steps that you can take to find your personal poetic voice.

  1. Write every day if you can. Eventually you'll uncover your feelings. You'll discover what makes you happy, what troubles you and what you truly believe in your heart to be true. Eventually you will uncover your personal mission statement.
  2. Use poetry to connect your head and your heart. Write about a poem and how it makes you feel or what it makes you think about. Start to look at how a poet uses language. Try to follow their example and experiment with language in the same way. Start out with some of these great contemporary poets: Adrienne Rich, Richard Jones, Tess Gallagher and Dorianne Laux.
  3. Create a blog and share your ideas, insights and feelings with the world. When you speak your truth you give others permission to speak their truths. I even started my own blog this past year and it's been a significant step in my personal journey to finding my own voice.

If you find that you're still struggling, here are a few great books that will help you discover your voice and write. A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement, by Barbara Abercrombie, Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem Making, by John Fox and The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, by Julia Cameron.

If we reach out in the world with our collective poetic voice, with poetry of the people, by the people, for the people, we just might change the face of politics one poem at a time.

For more by Carolyn Ziel, click here.

For more on poetry for the soul, click here.

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