Essay Example on Political Poetry

Published: 2023-01-04
Essay Example on Political Poetry
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Politics United States Poem American literature
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1639 words
14 min read

Poetry makes use of literature that has rhythmic qualities such as symbolism and phonaesthetics, as well as aesthetical properties to talk about various issues in the world. Poets of political poetry use their works of literature to address a particular political situation that exists in their region. However, the line that separates political poems from other types of poems is slightly blurry. It is possible for one to argue that everything in life is political and thus all kinds of poems could be viewed from a political perspective. The reason for the lack of a clear definition of political poetry is the equivocal nature of the word 'political.' That opens up the discussion to so many counterarguments. However, such an outlook of the world and poetry is very ambiguous and tends to undermine some of the fundamental rules of poetry. For instance, regardless of the topic, the stance of the poet or the poem has to be visible. Watson from the Prelude says, "What matters is the direction and indeed the directed nature of this song," (1). The 'song' in this case is the poem. That means a political poem should have a direction. It should be clear to the listener what the poem is protesting against or supporting. Also, it should be susceptible to dogmas as well as creeds (Watson 1). Finally, a political poem should contain a certain level of didacticism and morality, regardless of whether morality is based on maintenance or condemnation of the status quo. Therefore, this paper will discuss direction, dogmas, creed, and didacticism as some of the elements of political poetry by using the poems I Woke Up by J. Fitzpatrick and Ode to the Republic by Tony Hoagland.

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The direction is the poem's objectives or intentions. Watson says direction "is loud. It demands attention," (Watson 1). For example, in the poem I Woke Up, the author intends to show the politicization of every aspect of life. Fitzpatrick says, "How difficult my life felt relative to how difficult it was, is political," (line 28-29). In the phrase, the author is explaining the political nature of daily life has made everything in his life feel difficult. Ironically, even the difficult feel of his life is also political. The word 'political' comes out strongly throughout the poem allowing the reader or listener to grasp that the poem is talking about politics. It is also clear that the poem is protesting about the politicization of all aspect of American life. In Hoagland's Ode to the Republic, he takes the same approach by giving the poem a clear direction. Just from reading the first four lines, it is clear the author is talking about international politics. " Old men reading the Times on benches in Central Park will smile and say, "Let Brazil take care of it,"( Hoagland lines 3-4). In that line, the author is expressing his wish to have America be second to others so that its citizens could relax in parks reading about international conflicts. When a problem arises somewhere in the world, they will let other nations such as Brazil to handle such conflicts instead of being directly involved. The reader is under no illusion of the author's side or preferences. It is obvious that the author supports America losing its top spot in the world because that would allow the country to focus on its internal issues. Also, the political tone in the poem comes out strongly and in a direct way. " Language is simple and direct in expressing its radical political orientation," (Watson 3). Unlike Fitzpatrick's poem, which directly includes the word 'political,' Hoagland's poem displays its political nature by touching on topics such as war. Nevertheless, both poems have a good sense of direction that makes it possible for their audiences to know that they are talking about politics.

Another constituent element of political poems is dogma. According to Watson, political poetry should not be immune to doctrine (Watson 1). In Ode to the Republic, the author says," It's going to be so great when America is just a second fiddle, and we stand on the sidelines and watch the big boys slug it out," (Hoagland, lines 1-2). In the phrase, it is understandable that the author is talking about the societal doctrines that require the first to be involved in everything. In this case, America stands first in regards to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Power Index. As a result, the nation is involved in almost all international disputes. Its involvement in international conflicts and disputes is because of the dogmas that the leading country gets to bear the heaviest burden in the maintenance of international order and peace. In that line of thinking, the poem is not immune to dogma. The same case applies to Fitzpatrick's poem. In the opening sentences of the poem, the author says, "I walked down the street in short shorts and a Bob Mizer tank top, and they were political, the walking and the shorts and the beefcake silkscreen of the man posing in a G-string, "(Fitzpatrick lines 3-5). In the phrase, the poet is alluding to the dogmas that associate gay people with a specific mode of dressing. According to the doctrines of society, his short shorts, the Bob Mizer tank top with the silkscreen image of a man posing in G-string were enough proof that he was gay. The dogma of the society required straight people to dress in a certain way that is different from that of gay people. The principles of society say that it is possible to tell a person's sexual orientation through their dress code. The two poets have shown that they are susceptible to societal beliefs and principles.

Political poems should also have elements of creeds. In some cases, creeds may be mistaken for dogma, but the two are different. For example, doctrines are in the form of laws or rules while beliefs are in the form of statements or symbols. Hoagland's poem qualifies as a political poem because it is not immune to a creed. "I thought I had to go down with you, hating myself in red white and blue," (Hoagland, lines 18-19). In the phrase, it is possible to decipher that the author is talking about a symbol. A symbol that stands as a creed to being a member of a nation. The 'red white and blue' is about the American flag. In this instance, the American flag stands as a symbol for a country that includes the land and its people. The existence of the American flag as a creed is the reason the author was prepared to go down with it.

One of the principles of poetry is didacticism. Political poems are a form of poetry, and they have to abide by those principles. Poems are meant to please and entertain, but they also have the roles of informing and instructing. The poem I Woke Up is didactic in the sense that it talks about the realities of life. The poet talks about them in a way to would indicate they are new, but he also reminds the readers and listeners that these political situations have always been existent and it is only in present times that people have become aware of them. The author completes the poem by saying," It had been, this whole time I was asleep," (Fitzpatrick line 33). The educative part is that the politicization of every aspect of American society has always been existent. The only difference is that people have only recently become aware of their society. In Hoagland's poem, there is also a form of didacticism. In the poem, the Hoagland says, "My country, 'tis of thee. I sing: There are worse things than being the second burrito," (lines 28-30). In that phrase, the poet is teaching his fellow Americans on how to perceive their diminishing dynasty. According to Hoagland, there are worse things than being second. He is referring to the United States losing its top position to emerging nations such as China and India. He urges them not to see it as a bad thing because it means they could finally get a chance to relax and view the events from the passengers' seat. Losing the driving seat of world politics and international affairs would allow them to sit in the porch along with downsized superpowers such as Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and France. These countries were once on top of the world, but they lost their position to other countries such as the United States. It is such countries that the author refers to when talking about downsized superpowers. They now get to sit behind and relax while America struggles to handle world affairs.


The poems by Fitzpatrick and Hoagland are good examples of political poems. It has been possible to identify some of the factors that make a poem political using Watson's definition of political poetry. Some of the elements that have been outlined include poems direction, dogmas, creed, and didacticism. Political poems need to have a clear poem direction and language that tells the readers or listeners the poet's stance on the issue. Also, political poems have to include a principle or a set of principles that were laid down by an authority or the society and are accepted as accurate. Also, Hoagland's reference to the American flag stood as a symbol of dedication and as a result qualified as a form of creed. Finally, political poetry needs some educative or informative concept as displayed in I Woke Up and Ode to the Republic.

Works Cited

Fitzpatrick, Jameson. "I Woke Up by Jameson Fitzpatrick." Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, Jan. 2017,

Hoagland, Tony. "Ode to the Republic." New Ohio Review,

Watson, Stu. "Political Poetry." Prelude,

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