Why Poetry Thrives In Times Of Conflict


It accepts its own complicities and concedes that no side is faultless

"think: once, a white girl
was kidnapped & that's the Trojan War.

later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday."

-"not an elegy" by Danez Smith

"You have a poem to offer," Juan Felipe Herrera wrote. "It is made of action." The first Chicano U.S. Poet Laureate, Herrera is the son of migrant farmers and a former campesino. He's written about the horrors of immigration policy, police brutality, and gun violence throughout his life, including his two terms as Laureate. His tenure began under Barack Obama; it concluded one year into Trump's presidency.

At odds with a White House that mandates a border wall, validates white supremacy, and limits rights of the disenfranchised, we find the poets. The U.S. Poet Laureate—selected by the Librarian of Congress, who was last appointed by Obama—has become a role visibly reiterating that poetry can be an act of resistance.

Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith, whose poetry explores grief and racial identity, took the office after Herrera. She recently wrote in the New York Times that poetry "has become a means of owning up to the complexity of our problems, of accepting the likelihood that even we the righteous might be implicated by or complicit in some facet of the very wrongs we decry." In that way, poetry may be the purest form of political writing; it accepts its own complicities and concedes that no side is faultless.

Not only poet laureates task themselves with addressing our current political situation: you only need look to recent collections to see that poets across ethnic, racial, and identity lines are using their words to encourage action and confront pressing issues in American society.

Danez Smith's 2017 National Book Award-nominated collection, Don't Call Us Dead, confronts police brutality and life as a Black person with AIDS; Claudia Rankine's 2014 National Book Award-nominated Citizen: An American Lyric excoriates social racism through a multilayered work; Ross Gay famously wrote an elegiac poem for Eric Garner, focused on his flower-tending habit juxtaposed with his murder.

The above collections are more than protests: They're conversations that prod the reader to action. Poetry is different from debate or other protest language because it is ultimately not a fight between parties or positions—it only offers itself.

And you don't need to be immersed in the academic poetry world to see all of this. Slam poetry, in particular, uses colloquial, direct verse to present a clear message of protest, which makes it especially potent: it's incredibly accessible. Much of that accessibility lives online.

Social media was an invaluable resource for the dissemination of protest poetry during the 2016 election. Johari Idusuyi was shown reading Claudia Rankine's Citizen from her seat behind Trump's podium at a Springfield, Illinois rally; actress Ashley Judd read 19-year-old writer Nina Donovan's poem, "I am a nasty woman," onstage at the Women's March on Washington; and in the wake of Trump's election, Writers Resist groups cropped up around the country. All these efforts were effective in spreading political poetry to the people: Sales of Citizen shot up, Judd's video spread around Facebook (at roughly 9.2 million views from one source), and the website for Writers Resist shows efforts toward a growing author network.

Poetry has a long history of political activism—Plato even fretted that poetry could corrupt and derail an entire society. Don Share, the chief editor of Poetry magazine, told the Atlantic that "poetry and politics are inevitable, yet strange, bedfellows... We talk about political poetry as if it's a kind of effusion about something going on, but the truth is, the heritage of poetry includes politicians." Consider Langston Hughes in the Harlem Renaissance, or even W.B. Yeats' 20th century Irish Nationalist sentiments. Many poets were politicians themselves.

But where poetry meets legislation, there are plenty of challenges. The National Endowment for the Arts, which provides government funds to influential poets, was threatened most recently by a spending bill. In classrooms, poetry is often a supplement rather than an area of study. At the same time, poetry is going through a renaissance outside of school; thanks in part to the internet, readership is climbing, and has gone up 5 percent among adults between 2012 and 2017, according to the NEA.

With small organizations like Button Poetry focused on distributing and funding performance poetry, a wide scope of Instagram-famous poets like Rupi Kaur, and the unending landscape of the internet itself, it's difficult to quiet poetry. Even if verse is gutted from classroom curricula and the Library of Congress shutters its poetry section, the discipline cannot be wiped away; its social impact and import is too pervasive. Too many rising slam stars find fame on YouTube, too many cafes hold an open mic night for all ages. After all, poetry thrives in times of crisis. And as the crises mount, poetry is an art form that can address them. Bertolt Brecht explained this inclination best: "You can't write poems about trees when the woods are full of policemen."

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.