Friday, June 19, 2009

Politics, Szymborska and power

Just to go back to yesterdays post about politics...

I've been doing some more research on it because I really want to know what this politics thing is.

There is this poem by Wislawa Szymborska, Children of Our Era (translated by JoannaTrzeciak and retrieved from

We are children of our era;

our era is political.

All affairs, day and night,

yours, ours, theirs,

are political affairs.

Like it or not,

your genes have a political past,

your skin a political cast,

your eyes a political aspect.

What you say has a resonance;

what you are silent about is telling.

Either way, it's political.


Her position seems clear, although she does qualify with the first line of course, but isn't every era political in some way? The world is never devoid of problems. So I guess that didn't help much as far as defining what is political and what isn't. So I went to trusty old wikipedia which seems relatively well referenced in this case and had this to say:

Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. The term is generally applied to behaviour within civil governments, but politics has been observed in all human group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. It consists of "social relations involving authority or power"[1] and refers to the regulation of a political unit,[2] and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.[3]

"Politics" ultimately comes from the Greek word "polis" meaning state or city. "Politikos" describes anything concerning the state or city affairs. In Latin, this was "politicus" and in French "politique". Thus it became "politics" in Middle English ( see the Concise Oxford Dictionary).

There is no academic consensus on the exact definition of "Politics", and what counts as political and what does not. Max Weber defined politics as the struggle for power.

So it seems power has something to do with it and group (or societies?) as well in which case, is there such a thing as personal politics which people talk about a lot. Can one person be political, or is politics by definition trying to convince people of something, thereby creating a group of people who (supposedly) agree on some issue. If that is true then I would be uneasy about calling any of my work political. I've never written a poem with the intention of convincing someone of something. I'll go back to what John Kinsella said about him wanting nothing more from his work than for it to be interesting. I'm the same, thought-provoking, but only for the purposes of entertainment (or art? - but that's another debate). So that seems clear.

I'd also be uneasy about having a struggle for power in my work. I find that kind of thing pathetic to be honest, the want of some people to control other people. I'm no anarchist by any means, and probably the opposite when it comes to ideas of state control, but it seems those things have no place in poetry. It isn't an exercise in power over the anything, over the reader, over the poem, over the poet. It just isn't like that for me. So maybe I am an anarchist when it comes to writing, I like the words to govern themselves or something, create some kind of rule free utopia without the need for an interfering, pesky poet to control them. I guess the key word there is utopia, in that it those ideas can never exist in the real world, even in the poetic world, but fuck me if I'm not going to try.

So yay! Down with politics! Up with art (entertainment - groan)! Now that sounds like politiking.

And morality? That is another topic. Maybe I'll google that tomorrow. Some pious person must have written a poem on it at some stage. In fact, wasn't there several centuries dedicated to it?

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