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Poetry to ponder over the holidays …

Two poems surfaced over the past few weeks that relate to the particular kind of percolating being explored here. One is from anti-poverty activist, SD, who read it at our forum the other week, with apologies to William Shakespeare:

Who is PovNet? What is she? That all these friends commend her

A news place, an ear trumpet
to catch
the rumble of the rabble
a butterfly net to snag the thoughts of the thoughtful
and all the rages

What is PovNet? Who is she?

An archive
Like the quiet deep stacks in the library
Where is that old report
Stashed it somewhere but
Who knows where in the mess of files
The ones that moulded
Or got folded into something else,
PovNet! She is there.

Who is PovNet? What is she?

A community
Of people who care
About poverty and housing and social assistance
And pissy governments who cut taxes
And think that infrastructure
Is only about roads and bridges
Not welfare
and health care
and child care

A community of people
Slumped in front of their computers
Groaning in unison
Across the province
When politicians lie
About how much housing they are going to build
Right here in Inlet City

A community
Ready to burn their sweaters
Just because
Especially blue ones
Hold no promise
Of a compassionate government

A community
That knows that
Hope is not a feeling
But a discipline
A community that reconstructs hope
Over and over again
Sweeping into it grief and disappointment
But reconstructing hope
We know we can
Do better

What is PovNet? Who is she?

The other is older, by Bertolt Brecht, and was given to me by Ursula Franklin as we talked about this project a couple of months ago:

Bertolt Brecht
translated by Scott Horton

To what end goodness
If the good are immediately struck down, or those
To whom they are good
Are struck down?

To what end freedom
If the free are forced to live among the unfree?

To what end reason
If only stupidity puts the bread on the table
That each of us needs?

Instead of just being good, make an effort
To create the conditions that make goodness possible,
And better still
That make it superfluous!

Instead of just being free, make an effort
To create the conditions that liberate us all,
And that make the love of freedom

Instead of just being sensible, make an effort
To creat the conditions that make the stupidity
of the individual
Into a bad deal!

— Bertolt Brecht, Was nützt die Güte (1935) in Gesammelte Werke, vol 4, p. 553

One Comment

  1. Diane wrote:

    I love the poems. BB and WS? I love them both, equally. But I have to confess I don’t know the Shakespeare reference and I would love to look up the original.

    Do you know or will you ask SD and publish it. I bet I am not the only one who doesn’t know….db

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

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