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Can Poetry save the World?

In Godard's film "Notre Musique," the palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish contemplates on the role of poetry in social/political/national conflicts. His main example is Greece. He says he is looking for "the poet of Troy." He wonders if poetry is a tool or a symbol of power, i.e. whether the Greeks took Troy because of their poetic superiority, or if their poetic superiority was a symbol of their overall superiority.

What then is the role of poetry in contemporary conflict? Can it help ease the tension between nations? Can it give power to those who need it? Can we make poetry a part of our identities, and a tool for our progress? Or have we given that right only to our technology?


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  • May 26 2011: Shouldn't "poetry" include drama, tv and cinema, prose fiction, musical lyrics and so on? That's to say, arts that use language and/or narrative. If you include these, then it's clear that poetry changes the world every day. Here in South Korea, a popular song begins with the phrase, "It's my life!" This is the opposite of Korean traditional culture and 120 years ago would have been an inconceivable lyric here... In a very real way, this pop music "poetry" is playing a role in the transformation of modern South Korea, in this case spreading formerly Western notions of individualism. But of course poetry is also changed _by_ the world... politics, science, technology. "It's my life!" is spreading an attitude, but it's also reflecting a change that's already occurred. The relationship seems complex and difficult to parse with clarity.

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