Revolutionary Letter 47.2

TO BE FREE we’ve got to be free of any idea of freedom.
Today Egypt fights for democracy; and an American
complains about the price of gas.


To be honest, I was not a huge fan of Diane di Prima. When I begun reading, I couldn’t help but be reminded of all those people I can’t take seriously with the conspiracy theories and their diatribes about our Fascist government. When she writes about what foods we should have stocked up so we can be prepared for the day when civilization falls, I lose interest.

And then, I read the news.

As the sun rises on the seventh day of mass protests, riots, and revolution in Cairo, I am contemplating what to write about Revolutionary Letters. Suddenly, it all seems rather clear.

What I dislike about this collection of poetry is being echoed across the world in the voices of the people of Egypt. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has been reporting from Cairo all week and he wrote a rather interesting blog entry about two women who stood up to a group of pro-Mubarak ‘thugs’. When he asked them why they were there and putting their lives on the line, one of them had this to say: ““We need democracy in Egypt,” Amal told me, looking quite composed. “We just want what you have.””

And there it was. They want what we have. This amazing ability to speak, to have an opinion, to vote, to walk down the street at night without fear of government curfews or terrorist organizations obstructing us.

Now, I am aware that our government is far from perfect. I’m not about to get all patriotic on you guys and sing to the heavens that America has the answers. It’s just really hard for me to take seriously the paranoia I find in most modern American Revolutionaries when there are so many places in this world where Fascism, Genocide, and the complete obstruction of basic human rights is a day to day reality. The fact that I [a young woman] can, right now (nearing midnight), walk two blocks to Safeway, buy some Ben and Jerry’s, sit on the curb to eat it, then walk home without a rational fear- Why, I’d say that’s pretty revolutionary in itself.



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5 Responses to

  1. I found this to be really easy to identify with, as at first glance it does seem that di Prima is just another “revolutionary” poet, paranoid and angry. But it is important to take a look at what is going on around the world to fully grasp her meaning. It’s so easy to feel detached from the outside world in the little bubble of college, caught up in our midterms, papers, or petty personal drama, but we all need to step back and see the bigger picture and be truly thankful for the lives that we are able to lead.

  2. anniehargis says:

    Yes, this is wonderful. I feel the same way about people who wish to revolutionize America. I agree that our country isn’t perfect, but we have it so much better and so much easier than most of the world does. To me, “revolutionaries,” aren’t sympathetic to those other countries, but are in fact taking for granted our country. Thus, this is why I had a problem with di Prima as well.

  3. Molly, I have to say that I’m so glad I stumbled across your post because I agree, and I felt as if I might be alone in my reactions to di Prima. Don’t get me wrong, I think she possesses the ability to be an incredible scribe at times, producing wonderfully compelling stanzas. Sometimes I even think the questions she asks are fantastic ones: “what are we/holding onto when you guys/are the only art that’s News” (From “A SPELL FOR THE CHILDREN OF THE POOR” pg 99). But several times…”paranoid” is the exact word I thought of when reading. Today, we certainly DO live in a different world, and yes, I’m sure we DO have it much better off than she did…but that only goes so far. Yes, a lot of the issues she brings up concern me greatly…but at some point I’d much prefer to stop complaining and physically do something…and I’m a poet! I guess what I mean to say is that oftentimes it just seemed like “a whole lotta talk”. I think it was excellent that you brought up Egypt for this because a) you are anchoring your experience of this poetry in a current issue and b) it really helps to illustrate your point nicely. America isn’t the idealist-land-of-the-free-land-of-opportunity that many seem to give it credit for…but yeah, a solo-midnight walk to Safeway without fear is pretty nice…and I’m not gonna complain about it.

  4. mochnicki says:

    I agree with your sentiment regarding the way di Prima’s poems seem to generally fade into the vast ocean of existing complaint and protest about the government and industries today when you first read through them. Your take on putting them into perspective with the recent events in Egypt though, makes them a little more real to me now. It seems that perhaps we’ve already had our revolution and are now spoiled and just want more and more, while we forget there are others around the world crying the same cries but with more reason to do so.

  5. proseboy says:

    I must also point out the fact that we do live in somewhat of a bubble. Ask the folks in New Orleans how democratic they feel America is.

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