Engagement. Resistance. Witness. Lately, poets have been getting out of their own small confessional towns. In “A Haunting,” Patricia Spears Jones imagines, or carves up, a president deranged by the ghost of John McCain. The president puts wax in his ear so he can’t hear the footsteps. We infer that his staff are predictably anxious. As are we, the rest of us haunted by the president.
Such poems raise up a song begun in the mid-Nineteenth Century, Freedom is Literacy, which came back into our imagines in the late 1970s as poets took up words to protest Fascist oriented regimes in Latin America. When a small band of soldiers, priests, and poets fighting in the name of Augosto Sandino were victorious in Nicaragua, the first banners waving across Managua all spelled “La Alfabetización Es Libertad.”
This political tendency has taken hold. Before there were third wave feminists, there were third wave poets and artists. Frederick Douglas got it. Eden Pastora got it. And we get it. Is there any clearer form of literacy than a well-shod poem? And what will the poet do with the freedom her poem delivers?
Given this engagement, this resistance, this witness through art (when irony isn’t enough), we were surprised to read a small stack of poems from Hiram Larew. His art was playful, nonsensical at times, a merry canter in a pasture of frightening gallops. It’s as if he’s reminding us to spend eighty years trying to write like a child, a shout out to the Franco resister Joan Miro, who always said he wanted to paint that way.
Larew is long accomplished as a poet, and has recently appeared in vox poetica, Every Day Poems, Seminary Ridge Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, Honest Ulsterman, Viator, Huntington Post’s Thrive Global, and Shot Glass. His third collection, Utmost, was published by I. Giraffe Press in 2016.
And yes, he’s won a few prizes. But Larew is best known for being the kind of citizen we could all aspire to be. He spent 40 years as a Global Food Security expert, managing the front lines of world hunger programs. His whole life has been one of engagement, resistance, advocacy, and witness. Yes, he may have had courtesy faculty appointments at the University of Georgia, Oregon State University, Baylor University and Montana State University. And yes, he might be a member of the poetry board at the Folger Shakespeare Library. But he has also produced Poetry X Hunger anthologies that have made a difference.
Recently, Larew’s “Poetry Poster Project” showcased poetry that embodies elegance and fervor, and included J. Joy Matthews Alford (Sistah Joy), Sylvia Dianne Beverly (Ladi Di), U. S. Air Force veteran Diane Wilbon Parks, Native American Edgar Gabriel Silex, Forestine Bynum, and the 2017 Youth Poet Laureate for Prince George’s County Samantha Jackson. Yellow, as Jackson is informally referred to, is a huge advocate for self-care, mental health, youth art and empowerment. The installation can be viewed at the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center.
All of this shows that you can be an advocate, even if your art is not. Your art can take up the struggle, even if you do not, which is why we hope to still publish poems Like “TWEER” alongside the poetry of rebellion.
Odd’s love goes songing —
Where all these ams beg believing
And tweer is what makes us up of
No not say so such but need to
This very bing our knowing
This weird who
That slipes us
Proving lack our ways inside all
This pouring out as much as giving in
This twists us round like truer
And here not many like live us.
If woulder worlds were only real
We’d heartful through our bests for trying
Until we found forever beams
Until our peaks away from here
In lift beyond sprung seeing
Our chidey symes our wants for more
At least as much
As blearing thrums that lead to go but gosh
On songs sung inner out us.