A poem can contain a dangerous power—certainly some governments see poems as threats to their authority, and through the centuries many poets have been rebels, agitators and advocates—in their poems as well as their political acts. In the past few years, we’ve seen a Burmese poet sent to jail for his acrostic poem complaining about the country’s military leader, and the Nobel Peace Prize given to Liu Xiaobo, Chinese poet and democracy activist serving an 11-year prison sentence for “subversion.” Today the trend continues, with news of yet another poet arrested in China for publishing a poem urging people to make their voices heard:
It’s timefrom The New York Times:
It’s time, Chinese people!
The square is ours,
The feet are ours,
It’s time to use our feet to go to the square and make a choice.
“Crackdown Continues on Activists in China,” by Michael Wines
“Zhu Yufu, 58, a writer and democracy advocate, was charged with subversion in Hangzhou for writing a poem that urged citizens to gather to defend their freedoms.... Mr. Zhu wrote the poem early last year, as uprisings in the Middle East led a small number of activists outside China to issue an Internet call for a ‘Jasmine Revolution.’”
More Notes on Activist Poets:
From One Laureate to the Next: Who Do the Public Poets Speak For? (2011)
Outspoken Poets in the Old and New Chinas (2011)
W.S. Merwin the New American Poet Laureate (2010)
Poems of Provocation and Witness in a D.C. Festival (2008)
Ginsberg & Whitman: America’s rebel poets a century apart (2006)