“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t often use enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eyes, your ear, your tongue, your hand"That's so true. I try to abide by Bradbury’s suggestion. Lately I have been reading two poets whose work is relevant to those of us working for social justice- the Australian poet Judith Wright and the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert.
I like these lines taken from a poem of Herbert’s titled Mr Cogito on a Set topic:
with the inexorableand this one from a poem titled “A Small Heart”
passing of years
his count of friends
they went off
one by one
some paled like wafers
lost earthly dimensions
to the sky
so now I sit in solitudeI like what one writer writes about Herbert’s poems.
on a sawed-off tree trunk
in the exact center point
of the forgotten battle
gray spider I spin
on memory too large
and a heart too small
“That his poems are poised midway between his dedication to courage and justice and his profound sense of humility and imperfection. They repeatedly affirm the paradox that the mind fees itself, if at all, only by submitting to its own fragility”Judith Wright spent the first part of her life writing poetry for which she became famous. The second half of her life was strongly committed to citizen activism on behalf of the environment, Indigenous issues and social justice issues.
Wright’s poetry so often speculates on the responsibility we have when faced with wrongs and injustices that occur around us. In the poem Jet Flight over Derby she writes:
And therefore, when land diesAnd in her 1962 poem Prayer she writes:
opened by whips of greed
these plains lie torn and scattered
Then I erode; my blood
reddens the stream in flood
Judith Wright, Jet Flight over Derby
Let me not watch in spite, caring no moreAs for Judith Wright so for us. We all have a responsibility to face injustice. It is this unwillingness to turn away from injustice and suffering, to see it and to be motivated to act to overcome it that is the raison d’etre of citizen activism.
but let my heart’s old pain tear me until I bleed
Judith Wright, Prayer, 1962