“November 15, 2016
A country needs its poets, especially now. Their lines are life lines, keeping us connected to one another and to hope—whether it is a thing with feathers or the assertion, “I, too, am America.”
In the days following the election, we have seen a surge of people reading poems on Poets.org. More than 50,000 people have read Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” And more than 8,000 people watched our pop-up reading “Verses for Hope” online, which we held in Washington Square Park with Brain Pickings.
We know that this is because it’s in poems where we find language that helps express fear, confusion, upset; language that lifts language back up, restoring it from its low usage to degrade and provoke; language that imagines a way out or forward.
As the poet Etel Adnan once said, “Poems are where we imagine freedom.”
Poems also offer opportunities to imagine the experiences of another. The poet Mark Doty has said, “The project of poetry, in a way, is to raise language to such a level that it can convey the precise nature of subjective experience.…Poetry’s work is to make people real to us through the agency of the voice.”
Poets will play an important role in the years ahead, giving voice to the human experience, restoring beauty to our language, and encouraging empathy and compassion.
With you, we will do everything we can to continue creating opportunities for poets to share their work and connect with audiences hungry for their guiding words.
Executive Director, Academy of American Poets