Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Poetic Mission

The mission of the poet is to express the mind of a people, a culture, a civilization. He extends the myths and rituals, taking them to the outer limits like a Coltrane or Eric Dolphy tune, stretching, transcending all that is, was and will be. His tool is language, from which he cannot be limited by political correction or submission to the culture police on the left or the right.
The poet is a healer in the time of sickness, inspiring wholeness and celebrating the positive. He must point out contradictions and lies. Like Oakland Tribune editor Martin Reynolds defending the bullshit Chauncey Bailey project, that collection of white supremacy journalists supposedly investigating the murder of Chauncey Bailey.

Martin spoke of the glorious task the project has undertaken, but after all these months, the CBP has yet to reveal information on the black murder squad at the Oakland Police Department. The latest revelations of police corruption do not answer the question of who killed Chauncey. We understand it took months before the CBP would consider any police misconduct in the murder investigation. While Martin applauds the work of the project, we ask him about long-time Tribune crime writer Harry Harris who, we have learned, opposed investigating his friends at the OPD. Clearly, Harry Harris has been around too long associating with the police and has thus become part of the problem, making us smell a rat running between the police and the media, Tribune and CBP included.

The poet's mission was well defined in Mao's classic essay Talks on Art and Literature at Yenen Forum. The poet is either part of the problem or part of the solution--is he with the oppressor or the oppressed? Or we can recall the words of ancestor Paul Robeson, "The artist must become a freedom fighter." For whom does he write? Does he write to satisfy Pharaoh and his minions, or is his mission to liberate the suffering masses from ignorance, although he should never consider himself superior, since the teacher always learns from his students. If he listens, the poets will come to know the pain and trauma of his people and his duty is to relieve the pain and trauma with visions, plans and programs for the collective good.

The poetic challenge is to take people to new vistas of consciousness that reveal the soul, individual and communal, which are one. Language is a communal experience that is not the property of the poet. He can add to it with his imagination, but is there imagination without myth-ritual? What is the source of imagery except the collective myth of a culture or civilization.

It time of struggle and crisis, the poet must become a propagandist who whips defeat into victory, sadness into joy. Truth is paramount--there are lives at stake, hence this is no game, no job for money, no position for public adoration, no ego trip. Call it revolution, change of the most radical form.

Martin mentioned the toll of journalists killed in the line of duty throughout the world last year. Yes, the truth is just as mighty as the sword. Men fear truth simply because it destroys lies presented by oppressors everywhere. They do not want the truthsayers around. Silence them at whatever price. Censor them. Let them starve to death as America did journalist Gary Webb or Chauncey Bailey for that matter. Chauncey was arrogant but he lived a humble life-style and he was a dedicated journalist who wrote when you observed no movement of his pen. Yes, Chauncey would interview without tape recorder or notes, but there would be a story. And he paid the ultimate price to carry out his mission. Are you poets, writers, journalists, rappers prepared to pay--or you prepared to tell the truth so help you God?

--El Muhajir (Marvin X)

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