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In Honor Of World Poetry Day, Let’s Take Back What The Woke Have Stolen

A poet’s job is to point to the moon and transport souls beyond the human dimension. But can poetry bloom under the reign of woke culture? Or is this ancient art destined to become a political tool in the service of woke culture and male-phobic feminism? 

As founder of an international movement like Poetry Renaissance, traveling the world to create spaces of free expression for poetry, I want to put in my two cents.

If we look at contemporary poetry in the West, especially in America, we see that in recent years the presence of woke and feminist themes have become very invasive. The method of this very powerful ideology is always the same: enter the circuit, impose your value, cancel all others. And it works.

Competitions, events, and publishing houses have clearly started to favor poetry of a certain political flavor.

Many (not all yet, fortunately) of the poets laureate who are chosen by public institutions have started, often openly, to smell woke.

And so, little by little, poets disappear to be replaced by conscious or unaware woke activists. It almost seems that you can no longer make poetry if you are not a woke activist. And one does not necessarily have to write a poem about “God,” “Homeland,” and “Family” to be excluded from many poetic circuits. Just don’t write about what they want to impose and you are not welcome.

“Feminist poetry” flourishes as a genre in its own right, as if it made sense to divide poetry on the basis of ideology. If you are not a feminist today it is very difficult to find a proper space in universities, festivals, poetic institutions. And especially among the major publishers.

While, ironically, the most famous American poet abroad remains Charles Bukowski.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, however. I am not advocating for woke and feminist themes to disappear in poetry. It would be nice, though, if they don’t become the only ones.

So the American poetic tradition — the same that gave birth to Walt Whitman and Robert Frost — ended up proposing to the world an inexplicable phenomenon like Amanda Gorman. Unfortunately, I am not an American, and observing this process from the outside, I assure you, I find it even more worrying.

Let’s be clear, political poetry has always had a place in the world of poets. History shows us this very evidently: Horace, Dante, William Wordsworth … many of the great poets also had a political side. Today, in this period, America is pervaded by the politicization of everything, so it’s not strange that there’s a lot of political poetry in America.

But to make poetry you need a variety of colors. Instead, the current political world is black and white.

As the poet laureate Tracy K. Smith said: “Issues are polarizing and you fall into a camp, [but] poetry doesn’t allow that to happen.” And I hope that quoting her in this post is not enough to get her canceled as I will be.

Because in their black-and-white world, everything that’s not the color that they want gets canceled. You’re either feminist and woke, or you’re misogynistic, racist, and homophobic and so you need to be canceled.

And this way of thinking is exactly the opposite of poetry, that tries to embrace the whole and the unity of things.

For a poet, the main problem of wokeness and feminism is that they censor any word that undermines the foundations of their ideology. Poetry is based on the flight of the word. If the word is not free, poetry cannot fly.

Also, poetry should not speak to one group while ignoring  another. Poetry has the exact opposite effect, it should break down the walls of humanity to become universal. Walt Whitman is a great poet not because he was an American patriot, but because he spoke to the whole world from his American experience. 

So this wave that is invading the delicate universe of poetry filters the world through political categories and ends up labeling every person through that dimension. 

But a poet, an artist, is precisely one who uses art to escape from simplistic social logic. I find it difficult to define myself politically, so much so that when I am forced to say I define myself as “anarcho-monarchist,” just like Tolkien. After all, we do not remember Lord Byron for his defense of the Luddite movement, we remember him in the words of Don Juan.

Certainly, in the conservative arena, there does not seem to be much interest in the flourishing of poetry.

For example, since Robert Frost was selected by John F. Kennedy as the first presidential inaugural poet, there have been six other inaugural poets selected by four presidents, all of whom have been Democrats, while Republicans never chose an inaugural poet. This is certainly a mistake that only strengthens the woke agenda.

However, it is not Republican poets that can save poetry from wokeness — but free poets. Poets who know that there is something above all ideological and political divisions. And that “something” is what real Poetry deals with.

Poetry should not walk on human paths, but fly in the dimension of the soul. Poetry is a mystical matter, “mysticism for beginners” as Adam Zagajewski would say. This was expressed very well by poet laureate Charles Wright: “I believe in the mystery of things, and I believe the poet’s job is to try to corral that mystery.” I still hope that he will not be canceled for being unknowingly quoted in this post.

The good news is that poetry is flourishing around the world again. Thanks to social networks anyone who has verses in their heart can respond to the invitation of Walt Whitman “and you may contribute a verse.” My experience with Poetry Renaissance, with all its readings, contests, free activities, shows me that there is no better flourishing for poetry than in freedom of expression.

That is what is so badly needed: freedom, a value that once made America known in the world, but today seems obscured in the prevailing woke agenda.


Paolo Gambi is an Italian multimedia artist, poet, and a contributor to “Il Giornale,” Italy’s primary conservative newspaper. He is the founder of Poetry Renaissance, one of the main networks of poetry in Italy, present in various countries. He has published more than thirty books.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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