"[A]ll poetry is political," says celebrated American poet-against-the-war M.S. Merwin. To prove it, at noon on Wednesday, March 5, he and a couple of other comrades-in-ink will descend upon Capitol Hill to present to a few anti-war politicians 15,000 anti-war poems allegedly penned by some 12,000 anti-war poets. Gadzooks! The Muses are wantonly breeding! Merwin flew all the way from his digs in Maui to deliver these weapons of mass distraction as part of an "International Day of Poetry Against the War." Or maybe he heard the rumors about terrorist threats against Pearl Harbor.
Merwin has mixed feelings about the extravaganza. "I hate politics," he says. "They're boring and aggravating." Anyway, "most political poetry doesn't turn out to be poetry in the long run." The politics of Merwin's poet mob are certainly boring and aggravatingonly to be exceeded in this (as he anticipates) by their poetry. Think "Hell no, we won't go!" 15,000 times, without the rhythms or the rhymes, and you get the general effect.
For more serious politicsand poetryyou might take a look at a new edition of Herman Melville's first book of poetry, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War: Civil War Poems, edited by Richard H. Cox and Paul M. Dowling, reviewed by Catherine Zuckert in the latest Claremont Review of Books.