I’ve been thinking about Venn Diagrams lately.
Okay, bear with me. What I mean is, I’ve been imagining one circle representing poets and lovers of poetry, and the other representing fervent supporters of Donald Trump, and wondering if there’s any overlap. I’m guessing not much. And, for the record, I’m pretty damn happy about that.
That does beg a question, though: do all poets and lovers of poetry have similar politics? More to the point, when it comes to political poetry, is it possible to have variety and depth, or are political poems just two dimensional sermons to the choir? Taking that one step further, how do you write political poetry that resonates with equal parts passion and craft? Is that even possible?
Enter Cortney Lamar Charleston, whose generous, complex, well-honed poems answer that question like nobody else.
The obvious challenge when it comes to political poetry is that passion, by its very nature, gives us tunnel vision. It’s probably evolution’s fault (philosophy doesn’t help you outrun a rampaging herd of mammoths) but no matter the reason, it’s rare to find politically meaningful verse that also happens to be lyrical, punchy, and fun to read.
That’s a strange word—fun—especially when it comes to issues like deep-seeded racism, but there’s a certain transcendent joy that emanates from great poetry, no matter its subject, and that joy is everywhere in Cortney’s verse. There’s derision, too, but that derision reminds me of Walt Whitman condemning slavery or John Guzlowski and Primo Levi writing about the Holocaust: dark, yes, but lavish, like a lyrical pyrotechnic that blasts off the ground and falls only after it’s beautifully stained the cornea.
So join me in welcoming Cortney Lamar Charleston to the Atticus roster.