The Revolutionary Poem

Revolutionary poems advocating the overthrow of a government or a culture are protected by the First Amendment. You can burn the flag in the United States because of free speech ... or write a lyric like the one below, composed to make a point:

If everyone threw a brick through a window at the White House,

If everyone cast a stone instead of a vote, a rock instead of a telegram,

Maybe then we would have a government for, by, and of the people.

Perhaps you share the same opinion. Chances are, however, that you don't. If you're like me (or most readers of poetry), you're not interested in the overthrow of the U.S. government. So the risk of writing revolutionary poems lies in the fact that relatively few people may want to hear your message — unless your message arrives at a propitious moment in history.

Revolutionary poems live or die by the clock. For instance, when Ishmael Reed wrote revolutionary work in the 1970s, the literary world took note as he sang about black power. But in the more conservative 1980s, such verse had little appeal.

On the other hand, during the 1980s, I was able to publish dozens of revolutionary poems that advocated the overthrow of a culture. The reason, as this poem illustrates, is because the poem was set abroad and the culture was not American:

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