At the Oklahoma Book Festival, a young lady in the audience asked me if I accomplished anything by mixing art and politics. I had the feeling she didn’t think much of the practice, although I may have read her wrong.
The fact is, making art has always been political. Think about this: when a dictator puts down his thumbs on the necks of citizens, who are among the first to be targeted? Artists and intellectuals!
Artists and scholars are both critical thinkers. They create ideas out of disparate pieces of thought. They make connections, then they make something new out of bits and pieces of the old, out of those sudden revelations of connectedness.
This is not what I told the young lady. I’m a slow thinker, taking my time to pull all ideas together before I write them down…or spit them out. What I did say was that I was pretty sure my poetry didn’t change many minds about politics, but as a political minority in Oklahoma, maybe someone out there like me would feel less alone.
I feel the same way about the political essays I write for Oklahoma Observer.
Here’s the answer I wish I’d given her, the one that came to me well after the fact:
Logic hasn’t worked to change regressive economic and political thinking in Oklahoma. Maybe art can.