by Margaret Rozga
As a person who has long been active in social and racial justice movements, my goal as a poet is to create poetry written from a deep commitment to social justice issues. My books can serve as examples. 200 Nights and One Day is about the Milwaukee fair housing marches in which I was a participant. Justice Freedom Herbs includes poems set at the time of the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising. Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems looks at questions of western expansion, slavery, and women’s roles as they were embedded in the life of Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902).
I admire poets who are attuned to the music of language, the power of form, the way words look on a page, and who marry the beauty and emotional power of language to their deepest and most profound concerns, including social and civic concerns.
Craft and compassion reinforce each other beautifully in Gwendolyn Brooks’ images of post-World War II segregated Chicago. Both craft and compassion are what make Lois Roma-Deeley’s signature poem “Apologizing for the Rain” a powerful expression of women trained to shoulder all the blame. Both craft and compassion make Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It” with its depiction of reflections in the granite of the Vietnam Memorial so compelling in conveying the impact of the Vietnam War.
Images that arise from the poet’s eye and heart attuned to political, social, and community concerns and shaped by the poet’s skillful hand have given us much excellent poetry. As the current Wisconsin Poet Laureate who takes the art and craft of poetry seriously and as a person who takes her identity as an American citizen seriously, I want to live and write in this American tradition.
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