Poets stand in the way of language gunslingers, like the hate radio ranters. They are Gary Cooper in High Noon, waiting alone for that dread train. They show us that language doesn`t belong to the tool heads who use it to jerk us around. It is instead the currency of the tribe. And the shamans are the poets.
The talk show hate-traders deal in the blood diamonds of the language. Diamonds have no intrinsic value, but clever marketing created their immense cachet. Buy with mindless hate and you, too, can own a worthless diamond. We should remember that hate radio exists because it`s cheap. It`s much cheaper to make Rush Limbaugh rich than it is to examine events or enrich the culture. He and his ilk are the spawn of a greed-driven capitalism. Not the kind of moral capitalism that once gave us responsible family-owned media, but the kind of reckless capitalism that gave us the Wall Street collapse.
Communicators, whether they are talking heads in a plastic box or politicians, exercise the inherent vice in language "that part of its cargo most likely to catch on fire or shift and sink the ship "to inflame, distort, spin and scam. That`s how they lie us into wars and pick our pockets while convincing us they`re our friends.
Poets restore the language to its inherent self-respect, the dignity and power of each word, the grandeur of words put together. We do not have to agree with them or even like their work to appreciate that they are restoring the language to the tribe, handing it back to its children. They`re like the stranger who runs after a purse snatcher and returns the purse to the elderly lady. And that is why in every American city "don`t count on the media to encourage this "people go to cafÃ©s, bookstores and other venues to hear poets.
A rare politician, like John F. Kennedy, might love poetry enough to understand this and to allow his understanding to temper his use of language. But for the most part, as we see every day on television and radio, language is used by communicators to dim enlightenment and to lure people to angry prejudices.
If the horrific 20th Century taught us anything it should have taught us that language in the hands of an Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini is to nudge the family jewels under the noses of thieves and thugs. When we listen to rant and screed, designed to stir up resentment, we should ask ourselves what these communicators " don`t want us to know.
Language thugs disgrace our very means of access to each other. They regard language, not as an attribute of divinity, something angels might have granted us, but as a handgun, a blackjack, a grenade.
And now we are seeing this squalid degradation of our ability to comprehend each other in the mouths of our politicians and pundits. But if I were to say, Listen to the poets, not the politicians and pundits, you would say, would you not, that you don`t get poetry, or poetry is not for everyone, or poetry is too airy-fairy?
But you listen to Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, hip-hop, rap, rai, country, right? You read the Bible, the Torah, the Qu`ran, the Vedas, right? Well, that`s poetry. Poetry is not just what university presses publish, not just what the journals of the intelligentsia tell you it is. Poetry is part of your daily life, your own speech. Poetry is in a football huddle, a chat on the pitcher`s mound, the daily patter of the streets. Poetry is what you heard when you watched The Wire and Generation Kill.
And if you trust what you hear out of Nashville or New Orleans or the Bronx or Wheeling, West Virginia, you are smarter than the communicators think you are. You are trusting the artistic impulse to create, to purify, to turn lead into gold, to lift the spirit. Go ahead and make these artists rich, not the politicians and communicators who take you for dimwits and recruits to ideologies that insist everybody is wrong but them.
Anybody who is talking at you is a whole lot less trustworthy than someone who moves you to sing and dance and smile. Anybody who tells you what to think, who caters to your opinions, is not as trustworthy as someone who makes you think again, who lays out a different scenario before you, who shows you how others see things. Anyone who preaches to your choir is your enemy, not your friend. That is what poets know. They don`t want to give you the authorized version of anything because they know it is bad meat smothered in dishonest sauce.
Poets are out on the far reaches of word and meaning. They`re not trying to corner the blood diamond market or jack up the prices of medical care and medicine. They are like infants discovering the magic of sound all over again, seeing things for the first time, learning that you are Ma or Da, discovering whether you are kind or indifferent. They preside over the rebirth of words. They fashion new words and they venture into meaning the way scientists and mathematicians do. They are forever trying to get something right, but the talk radio and TV communicators are mostly trying to put one over on you.
Some say our republic can survive only if we rejuvenate our bought and paid-for press and politicians. I say that is only a beginning. We can survive by trusting our mathematicians, musicians, poets and artists more than our communicators. True, they communicate, but we are not thinking of them when we say Presidents Reagan and Clinton were great communicators.
We have created an oligarchy of the filthy rich served by a class of money-grubbing, mendacious politicians and their media lackeys. To trust a Rush Limbaugh or Lou Dobbs or Bill Maher or Glenn Beck or Jon Stewart more than our mathematicians and poets, scientists and artists, is a tragedy.
But how did this happen? It has happened because the ruling elite and the communications industry that serves it so servilely have elevated these communicators over everyone else precisely because the communicators are in their employ.
That`s why, while we are distracted by witless calumnies against health care reform, the oligarchy sets its sights on control of the Internet, because in the Internet resides a flickering hope that we may hear from the trustworthy among us over the din of ideologues and their rich puppetmasters
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
The pioneering Online Originals (U.K.), the only online publisher to receive a Booker nomination, published his novella, Alice Miller`s Room, in 1999. Recent fiction appeared in Prima Materia (Woodstock, NY), vols. I and IV, and Breakfast All Day (London, U.K.).In his younger days his poetry was published in literary journals including Solstice (England) and Beyond Baroque and Phantasm (California). Recent poems appear in Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review (www.arabesquespress.org), Perpetua Mobile (Baltimore), and Attic (Baltimore). He is the English language editor of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal (www.arabesquespress.org).
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.