“Poetry is language at it’s most distilled and most powerful” – Rita Dove. In the past I have been interested in words as an art form, however I always found truly incredible when a poet can captivate their audience enough to make a change in their thinking and a difference in their lives. One of the more specific things that got me into activist poetry were clips from the show Def Poetry Jam hosted by Mos Def. A lot of the spoken word pieces that were performed on the show had themes of social commentary, feminism, and other forms of activism. Apart from this show I had some difficulty finding where to begin. Although activism in poetry is a large topic, I found very little official organizations dedicated solely to the research, reward, and people involved in making change with their words. Poetry in activism is not something that is new, there is no specific date, source, or language or origin. The Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism only recently started in 2014 that honors one poet a year that has demonstrated tremendous possibilities for social change and political reform.
At first when doing research I was surprised that this award, only in circulation for two years was practically the only thing that I could come up to that had an equivalence of an award for activist poetry. This was extremely surprising due to the extensive history that activist poetry has. Poets like Langston Hughes, Dr. Seuss, Sojourner Truth, and more have created works that have changed the way the people perceive the world. Upon doing further research I realized that what I was looking for fell under names other than just “activism poetry”. It was hidden titles like “poets for peace”, “poets against war”, and “poets for change”. Through these more refined searches I found a rapidly growing movement called “100 Thousand Poets for Change” that was created for the international use of poetry and union of poets for change. Through this research I found another poetry collection titled “OccuPoetry” which once was an organization dedicated to poetry that provided a voice for social change, justice, and equality.
However, after all of this research into poetry I still would like to do more, I think that there is too little written about what has done so much. Poetry is a very broad art form that combines rhythm, words, meter, and rhyme all in concentration which is what makes it powerful. The emotion, truth, and personality in poem that makes a difference is often overlooked and under appreciated. Learning more about activism in poetry has shown me the vast power that it has over how we perceive our world today.