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How to write a protest poem by Janice Pariat

To write a protest poem you must live in times like these.

The season of Light. The season of Darkness.

To write a protest poem you must expand—not your possessions nor your waistlines—the infernal ‘I’ into ‘We’

It is not easy.

It's not impossible.

To write a protest poem you must be moved by anger and passionate fury. But above all, you must be touched by empathy.

To write a protest poem you must be willing not to sell. Out. To acknowledge that simply everything is not for sale. How would you reply to the poet who asks

“Can you sell me the air that passes through your fingers? Can you sell me some sky? Can you sell me a dollar’s worth of water?"

Yes, say the MNCs and the PLCs and their paid-up LLCs.

To write a protest poem you must end—one thing only—indifference.

To write a protest poem, you first must repeat, like a mantra, these words:

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Cease to split your battles:

For the Muslim.

For the Dalit.

For the Woman.

For the Other.

For the Outsider.

For the LGBTQ.

There’s no single-issue struggle. A cage is a cage from any angle.

To write a protest poem, put away your pen, put away paper. Your fancy superfast computer. Stop looking at the world on a screen. Make a gesture. Leave a mark. Do not be silent. Please.

Remember, you are mythical.

Remember, the protest poem is you.

Follow Janice Pariat's life and work here.


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