Where are the poets?

Today’s installment of “why can’t things be the way they were back in the day” comes from NPR, where Juan Vidal asks a good question: Where’s the poetry?

In generations past, poets have fought brutality and injustice with the power of the word. There’s still a lot of poetry out there, but it’s not being read, he writes today.

Right now, at this moment in history, with so much to rally for and against — from police brutality in our backyard to the massacring of innocent children across the planet — have the poets gone missing? Not exactly, no. Today, in America at least, rappers and slam poets — wordsmiths of a different stripe — appear to be the ones whose work is consistently tinged with fury and social diatribe. There are examples: spoken word artists like Saul Williams and Sage Francis have consistently put out new and provocative material that tackles difficult issues.

And on a commercial platform, we have rappers like J. Cole, whose song “Be Free,” a powerful cry about the police killing of Michael Brown, is the latest to make waves. And then there’s Lupe Fiasco. Listen to “Words I Never Said,” a heartfelt condemnation of the war on terror.

We need our poets now more than ever. In fact, they should be on the front lines — at rallies and marches — questioning and rebuking whatever systems they deem poisonous to civil society. They once fed us, our poets; emptying themselves in the process. Generously, courageously, they brought the darkness to light. They said what we felt, and didn’t mind taking the heat for it — whatever that meant. Did they stop speaking or have we stopped listening?