the power of poetry

Posted on May 6, 2011


“I am signaling you through the flames.” “Wake up, the world’s on fire!” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” (Mary Oliver)


Resulting in direct action:
Why so afraid to stand up?
Someone will tell you, ‘sit down’.
But herein is the truth: someone will always tell you to sit down.
The ones we remember . . . kept standing. (Ruth Forman)



Truth triggers awareness within, awakening us

…to that which has been dormant

…to that which we have have become blind

…to that which we have become deaf

…to that which we have forgotten.

Reminding us what we already know.

Truth opens the eyes to see more clearly.

The poets and the prophets of the age

speak truth awakening inner truth.

Truth shakes us to the core,

bringing us out of our stupor.

Truth is often disruptive

like an earthquake leaving nothing unturned.

Truth sometimes brings comfort,

an inner peace anchored in the soul.

Poetry illuminates the inner and outer

landscapes of our lives

. . . allowing truth to be seen.

Listen to the poet.



‎”The only thing that can save the world

is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world.

That’s what poetry does.”

(Allan Ginsberg)


“Poetry may make us

. . . a little more aware

of the deeper, unnamed feelings

which form the substratum of our being

to which we rarely penetrate;

for our lives are mostly

a constant evasion of ourselves.”

(T. S. Eliot, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1948) God_Bless_The_Freaks_16x20-8x20_Poster



We sleep and the world passes by;

eyes pressed shut,

lips pressed shut,

. . . about things that matter,

fists clenched seeking comfort

. . . as the world turns,

. . . as the world burns.

May the flaming words of the poets,

of the prophets of the age bring an incendiary awakening

. . . to collective consciousness

. . . to individual consciousness.

Speak up for the voiceless.

Stand up for the trampled.

Lift up the downtrodden;

The battered and bruised,

The tattered and torn.

Don’t just speak about equality…

Don’t just believe in equality…

Live out equality…

in each moment,

in every decision,

in each situation,

in every encounter

with each and every person.

Without compromise…

no matter what!



The numbness and the numbing power
The blindness and the blinding of fortune
The comfortableness of privilege
underlies and begets
The oppression of the poor
The crushing of the weak
The drowning of the less fortunate
insulating and isolating us from
the voices of truth
the poets of reality
the cries of the prophets of the age

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest) is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Elizabeth Alexander


“Poetry is the art of hearing yourself say things you didn’t want to know”

“Poetry is language against which we have no defense”

(David Whyte)



Pity the nation whose people are sheep

and whose shepherds mislead them.

Pity the nation whose leaders are liars,

whose sages are silenced,

and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice

except to praise conquerors

and acclaim the bully as hero

and aims to rule the world

with force and by torture.

Pity the nation that knows

no other language but its own

and no other culture but its own.

Pity the nation whose breath is money

and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.

Pity the nation, oh pity the people,

who allow their rights to erode

and their freedoms to be washed away.

My country tears of thee Sweet land of liberty

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti (author and poet)

As read by Ferlinghetti in an hour long interview on Democracy Now!



Maybe the poet is gay

But he’ll be heard anyway

Maybe the poet is drugged

But he won’t stay under the rug

misfits Maybe the voice of the spirit

In which case you’d better hear it

Maybe he’s a woman

Who can touch you where you’re human

Male female slave or free

Peaceful or disorderly

Maybe you and he will not agree

But you need him to show you new ways to see

Don’t let the system fool you

All it wants to do is rule you

Pay attention to the poet

You need him and you know it

Put him up against the wall

Shoot him up with pentothal

Shoot him up with lead

You won’t call back what’s been said

Put him in the ground

But one day you’ll look around

There’ll be a face you don’t know

Voicing thoughts you’ve heard before

Male female slave or free

Peaceful or disorderly

Maybe you and he will not agree

But you need him to show you new ways to see

Don’t let the system fool you

All it wants to do is rule you

Pay attention to the poet

You need him and you know it

(Bruce Cockburn)


POETRY AS INSURGENT ART Lawrence Ferlinghetti is author of the new book: Poetry as Insurgent Art.

In a review of Ferlinghetti’s book, the San Francisco Chronicle article states:

“I am signaling you through the flames,”

he begins in the new section from which his book takes its title.

“The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.”

Poetry, in this vision, must be a political statement, arrows slung for freedom of expression, thought and resistance.

“Write living newspapers,” he counsels.

“Your poems must be more than want ads for broken hearts”

– in other words, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht,

to write mere “love poetry” in such times is “almost a crime.”

So “challenge capitalism masquerading as democracy”;

“Liberate have-nots and enrage despots”;

“Don’t cater to the Middle Mind of America nor to consumer society.”

“Be committed to something outside yourself.”

“What Is Poetry?”

“life lived with poetry in mind is itself an art.”

“poetry is the shortest distance between two humans,”

“the anarchy of the senses making sense”

“it is a pulsing fragment of the inner life, an untethered music”

which “restores wonder and innocence.”

“Wake up, the world’s on fire!”



A startling scream of truth and terror.

Lullaby I would not sing you to sleep. I would press my lips to your ear and hope the terror in my heart stirs you.

(Reetika Vazirani)

There seems to be a deep connection
between melancholy / depression
and poets / visionaries / prophets of the age.
I wonder if the creative tension
between what is and what should be
pushes many people right to the edge
of the human struggle
where there is nothing left
but the vision and the struggle.
At this edge, the tension has stretched us too far.
I think this is what Parker Palmer refers to as “heartbreak”
where the heart breaks open in the face of such pain
to greater and great capacity for compassion and vision.
I wonder if tragedy and hope are two sides of the same coin.
The tragic story of Poet Reetika Vazirani breaks my heart today.


*NOTE: Often, from a biblical perspective, we are taught to see prophecy as telling the future when in fact, it is simply speaking the truth to people with the intention of an awakening. Many of the stories of the Bible also include the dire consequences of not waking up; like mayhem and destruction or whatever. But that is not the prophecy itself. Prophecy is something that we need in today’s culture of greed and violence. Poetry is a vehicle through which this truth speaking can come. (This is what I learned during my own bachelor’s level theological studies. For more see this mainstream Christian blog post. Much of Christianity has watered down the function of prophecy by reducing it from truth telling to fortune telling; from forth-telling the heart and will of God to fore-telling the future; and by relegating it to the old testament “dispensation” forgetting that it is a gift of the spirit listed in Galatians)


“Loneliness in one form is essential to our humanity. Loneliness can become a source of creative energy, the energy that drives us down new paths to create new things or to seek more truth and justice in the world. Artists, poets, mystics, prophets, those who do not seem to fit into the world or the way of society, are frequently lonely. They feel them selves to be different, dissatisfied with the status quo and with mediocrity; dissatisfied with our competitive world where so much energy goes into ephemeral things. Frequently, it is the lonely man or woman who revolts against injustice and seeks new ways. It is as if a fire is burning within them, a fire fueled by loneliness.” (Jean Vanier)

Here’s to the Crazy Ones… the Misfits… the Rebels… the Troublemakers… the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently.


ATTENTION: All you rule-breakers, you misfits and troublemakers – all you free spirits and pioneers – all you visionaries and non-conformists …

Everything that the establishment has told you is wrong with you – is actually what’s right with you.

You see things others don’t


ATTENTION: All you rule-breakers, you misfits and troublemakers – all you free spirits and pioneers – all you visionaries and non-conformists …

Everything that the establishment has told you is wrong with you – is actually what’s right with you.

You see things others don’t. You are hardwired to change the world. Unlike 9 out of 10 people – your mind is irrepressible – and this threatens authority. You were born to be a revolutionary.

You can’t stand rules because in your heart you know there’s a better way.

You have strengths dangerous to the establishment – and it wants them eliminated, So your whole life you’ve been told your strengths were weaknesses – Now I’m telling you otherwise.

Your impulsivity is a gift – impulses are your key to the miraculous,

Your distractibility – is an artifact of your inspired creativity,

Your mood swings – reflect the natural pulse of life, they give you unstoppable energy when you’re high and deep soulful insight when you’re low,

Been diagnosed with a “disorder”? That’s society’s latest way to deny it’s own illness by pointing the finger at you. Your addictive personality is just a symptom of your vast underused capacity for heroic, creative expression and spiritual connection. your utter lack of repression, your wide eyed idealism, your unmitigated open mind – didn’t anyone ever tell you?! these are the traits shared by the greatest pioneers and visionaries and innovators, revolutionaries, procrastinators and drama queens, activists on the social scene, space cadets and mavericks, philosophers and derelicts, business suits flying fighter jets, football stars and sex addicts, celebrities with ADD, alcoholics who seek novelty, first responders – prophets and saints, mystics and change agents.

We are – all – the same – you know
‘cuz we’re all affected by the way –
We are – all – the same – you know
‘cuz we’re all attracted to the flame –

You know in your heart that there’s a natural order to life,
something more sovereign than any man-made rules or laws could ever express.

This natural order is called “the Way.”

The Way is the eternal substrate of the cosmos. It guides the very current of time and space. The Way is known by some as the Will of God, Divine Providence, the Holy Spirit, the implicate order, the Tao, reverse-entropy, life-force, but for now we’ll simply call it “the Way.” The Way is reflected in you as the source of your inspiration, the source of your passions, your wisdom, your enthusiasm, your intuition, your spiritual fire – love. The Way takes the chaos out of the Universe and breathes life into it by reflecting divine order. The Way, when experienced by the mind, is genius, when perceived through the eyes is beauty, when felt with the senses is grace, when allowed into the heart … is love.

Most people cannot sense the Way directly. … But then there are the Wayseers. The keepers of the flame. Wayseers have an unexplainable knack for just knowing the Way. They sense it in their very being. They can’t tell you why or how they arrived at the right answer. They just know it in their core. They can’t show their work. So don’t ask. Their minds simply resonate with the Way. When the Way is present, so are they.

While others are blind to it, and society begs you to ignore it, “the Way” stirs you inside. Neurological repression blocks most people’s awareness of the Way – censoring all thoughts and impulses from the unconscious is their prefrontal cortex – the gestapo of the brain –  nothing which violates its socialized programming even gets through; but your mind is different. your mind has been cracked wide open to the Way – by some miraculous genetic trait, some psychotropic chemical or maybe even by the will of your very soul, your brain’s reward pathways have been hijacked – dopamine employed to overthrow the fascist dictatorship of your prefrontal cortex – now your brain is free of repression, your mind free of censorship, your awareness exposed to the turbulent seas of the unconscious – through this open doorway divine light shines into your consciousness showing you the Way. This is what makes you a Wayseer.

90% of human civilization is populated with those who’s brains are blocked to the Way.  Their brains are hardwired to enforce the social programming indoctrinated since birth. Unlike you they cannot break out of this programming, because they have not yet experienced the necessary revolution of mind. These programmed people take social institutions and rules very seriously. Society is full of games programmed to keep peoples’ minds occupied so they will not revolt. These games often cause sick fixations on peculiar protocols, power structures, taboos and domination – all subtle forms of human bondage – This distinct form of madness is not only tolerated by the masses but insisted upon. The programmed ones believe in rules so forcefully they become willing to destroy anyone who violates them.

Wayseers are the ones who call their bluff.  Since Wayseer minds are free to reject social programming, Wayseers readily see social institutions for what they are – imaginary games.  Wayseers comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Helping those who are lost in these games and refuse to help themselves is a calling of many Wayseers. Since Wayseers are the ones who keep contact with the original source of reality – they are able to disrupt societal conventions and even governments to realign humanity with the Way.

The Wayseers are an ancient lineage. A kind of priesthood – carriers of the flame – ones “in the know.”  There must always be Wayseers to reform the dizzying psychotic spinning gears of society – giant mindless hamster wheels obscuring the pure blue sky, keeping humanity shackled in a darkened cage – so Wayseers are called – to shed light on the madness of society – to continually resurrect the timeless transcendent Spirit of Truth –

Wayseers reveal this divine truth by devoting themselves to the birth of some creative or disruptive act expressed through art or philosophy, innovations to shake up industry, revolutions for democracy, coups that topple hypocrisy, movements of solidarity, changes that leave a legacy, rebellions against policy, spirit infused technology, moments of clarity, things that challenge barbarity, watersheds of sincerity, momentous drives for charity

We are – all – the same – you know
‘cuz we’re all affected by the way –
We are – all – the same – you know
‘cuz we’re all attracted to the flame –

This is your calling, Wayseer.
You’ve found your tribe.
Welcome home.