On Poetry and Culture Shock

The Pamphlet Effect (How not to Write part 8)

Without political literature there’d be no Iliad, Aristophanes, Plato, Milton or picaresque novel*. Denouncing injustice creatively (in fiction, in verse, in drama, in essays) is wonderful. But it’s probably the hardest genre of all because the risk of self-indulgence is higher than ever. Make sure that your ideals are not making up for bad writing. Boring, unoriginal, preachy, clichéd. Like Inga Muscio's A Declaracion of Independence, for example.

Some of the very worst poetry (and some writing, too) I’ve ever read was political, and a common mistake as big as plain bad writing is to tell how the poet feels towards an injustice. Who cares? Never assume that your reader shares your ideology. In fact, never assume that your reader is even familiar with the injustice you are reacting against. What all successful political creative writing does is either to describe the situation with a manipulative appearance of objectivity, or to give a call to action to people who haven’t realised yet of the urgency of the problem, or both. Think of “Blowing in the wind”.

*And without picaresque there would be no Fielding, and without Fielding no Jane Austen, and without Jane Austen the world would be a sad and dreary place.

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