January 16 2020
This is an anthology of poems in the Age of Trump—about much more than Trump. These are poems that either embody or express a sense of empathy or outrage, both prior to and following his election, since it is empathy the president lacks and outrage he provokes. There is an extraordinary diversity of voices here. The ninety-two poets featured include Juan Felipe Herrera, Richard Blanco, Carolyn Forché, Patricia Smith, Robert Pinsky, Donald Hall, Elizabeth Alexander, Ocean Vuong, Marge Piercy, Yusef Komunyakaa, Brian Turner, and Naomi Shihab Nye. They speak of persecuted and scapegoated immigrants. They bear witness to violence: police brutality against African Americans, mass shootings in a school or synagogue. They testify to poverty, the waitress surviving on leftovers at the restaurant, the battles of a teacher in a shelter for homeless mothers, the emergency-room doctor listening to the heartbeats of his patients. There are voices of labor, in the factory and the fields. There are prophetic voices, imploring us to imagine the world we will leave behind in ruins lest we speak and act. However, this is not merely a collection of grievances. The poets build bridges. One poet steps up to translate in Arabic at the airport; another declaims a musical manifesto after the hurricane that devastated his island; another evokes a demonstration in the street, an ecstasy of defiance, the joy of resistance. The poets take back the language, resisting the demagogic corruption of words themselves. They assert our common humanity.