VIDEO: The best political poetry of 2017

A young boy holds a placard at the Women's March in New York

A politically turbulent year has brought a flood of gutsy performance poetry. Spoken word responses to the Grenfell Tower fire and the Las Vegas shooting swept across social media and poet Kate Tempest was nominated for the Mercury Prize. In this collection, our poetry editor Jack McGowan presents the most powerful political poems of 2017.

No Alarms by Sanasiino

Yemeni performance poet, activist and journalist Sanasiino wrote this in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

On Hate Crime by George The Poet

“Because you can’t fight violence with silence.”

Researchers believe 170,000 hate crimes go unreported every year.

Spoken-word artist and rapper, George Mpanga (AKA George The Poet), released this poem, in partnership with Equality and Human Rights Commission, in June to coincide with the first anniversary of MP Jo Cox’s murder.

This is not a humanising poem by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan

“Because if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human.”

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (AKA “The Brown Hijabi”) was second-place runner-up at the 2017 Poetry Slam Final of The Last Word Festival.

America by Javon Johnson, Natasha Hooper & Rudy Francisco

“In this poem, black people will be replaced by the word, ‘America’…”

“We see black, I mean ‘American’, bodies disappear every week and there’s never blood on anyone’s hands.”

“America is always in mourning…”

“Please remember in this poem, ‘America’ was always ‘America’.”

This trio formed the team for San Diego Poetry Slam and performed this immensely powerful poem at the National Poetry Slam Finals which took place in August at Paramount Theatre in Denver, Colorado.

This is the Place by Tony Walsh

Tony Walsh, who performs under the name Longfella, performed this poem in Manchester’s Albert Square during a vigil to commemorate the victims of the Manchester Arena attack.

Nasty Woman by Nina Donovan (peformed by Ashley Judd)

This version of 19-year-old Nina Donovan’s razor-sharp poem (see Nina perform it here at State of the World) went viral after American actress Ashley Judd took the stage at the Women’s March on Washington in January.

Ten things you sound like when you say AllLivesMatter in response to BlackLivesMatter by T. Miller

After being ranked third best female slam poet in the world back in 2008, T.Miller shared this satirical poem at Button Poetry Live in March this year.

Pink or Blue by Hollie McNish

“Pink picks a daisy chain: great. Blue picks a daisy chain: gay.”

“Blue is told, this makes a man. Pink is told, this makes a girl.”

“Now, Pink is told to be a lady: do not spit, swear, smell. Blue is told to be a man: do not cry or ask for help.”

In this short film created in collaboration with cinematographer Jake Dypka, Hollie McNish performs a poem about the damaging social construct of gender roles.

It shouldn’t have to be this hard by Eva O’Connor

Actress and playwright, Eva O’Connor, wrote this poem three years ago but it was made popular again in October this year by a new BBC recording which coincided with Ireland announcing its intention to hold a referendum on abortion in 2018.

When is it time to talk about it? by IN-Q (Adam Schmalholz)

“Private guns have killed more Americans since 1960 than all of our wars combined…”

“I can’t take an open water bottle on a plane but I can walk around Nevada with an AR-15…”

“Can’t you hear the children scream?”

In this short film, award-winning spoken-word poet IN-Q (AKA Adam Schmalholz) asks, “When is it time to talk about it?”

Written last year and planned for release on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the poem was instead released after the Las Vegas shooting in October.

Head Over Heels by Emi Mahmoud

“Do I tell her about our bodies, how they are 60% water, but we still burn like driftwood making fuel of our sacrifice…

“I never wear shoes I can’t run in.”

Award-winning slam poet and activist Emi Mahmoud performed this poem at the Women of the World Poetry Slam earlier this year shortly before news of the millionth South Sudanese refugee reaching Uganda was announced in August.

Compassion Fatigue by Ebony Stewart

“No one cares about us but us”

“The United States is still making us pay for the way we look or the guilt it feels”

Ebony Stewart (AKA ‘The Gully Princess’) is a touring performance artist and slam poet and was the joint winner of the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam, where she performed this poem.

Strong and Stable into Ruin by Kate Tempest

Kate Tempest
, nominated for the 2017 Mercury Prize, performed this poem at Glastonbury Festival.

The poem is a play on Prime Minister Theresa May’s famous 2017 general election campaign motto.

Poem for Boris Johnson by Luke Wright

Written by award-winning poet, “theatre maker” and broadcaster, Luke Wright, this poem is a response to Boris Johnson’s controversial comments on the Libyan city of Sirte.

Main image taken at the Women’s March by Mathias Wasik.


Editor’s pick: 12 human rights stories from 2017

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