Why we need dissident poets and artists

In the days, months and years ahead, life for many of us promises to become increasingly uncomfortable in the United States. Under the direction of a man who could only charitably be called a despot-in-training, he’s threatened to undermine what remains of our democracy.

From where I stand, the arts are made for times like these. I tend to find the overlap of magick and arts manifesting the most in a discipline that I can actually participate in, on a canvas (if I’m being honest) that is more often digital than physical and that, not through lack of trying, includes words more than images. In other words, through writing do I manifest my own hope.

When I heard about the new film Neruda, it made me squee with poetry-nerd delight. It also bolstered my wounded, socialist heart. On the In These Times website, the first few words of the headline about the film felt positively scintillating — “Dissident-Poet on the Lam.”

This is what we need now, I thought, maybe through the antihero do we once again show the importance of the arts.
I thrilled at the first paragraph:

If ever there was someone overdue for a biopic, it’s Pablo Neruda—a globally beloved Nobel-winning poet who was also a defiant leftist crusader, who also, persecuted by his fascist government, became a spy-like fugitive in his own nation, eventually escaped the massive manhunt on horseback across the Andes and then lived on for another quarter-century as one of the world’s most famous Socialists. And, of course, who also wrote love poems that ring in the hearts of millions, many of whom quote him from memory but know no other poetry.

I don’t know if the movie could possibly live up to the write-up it received, but I’m hoping to see it soon.

Artists, the politically-minded, people who think about the conversation being held between generations of ancestors, past and future, deserve to take the reigns of the narrative away from the masters who would dictate to us. The conversation is too important.

But long-defunded, the arts are little more than a specter in American culture, only spoken of when going up in flames, when the heart of a young generation of artists is literally turned to ash.

Will this moment force others to sit up and reclaim their culture? The inheritance left to the ages?

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