David Roderick’s “American Imports: The Return of the Civic Poet”

“…the poet’s role in any culture includes documenting collective experiences and revealing to fellow citizens what is invisible.”

I came across this essay in Southern Humanities Review. It introduced me to the work of Sarah Gambino, who writes on the Poetry Society of America’s website:

“For American poetry – any poetry – to remain vital/relevant, poets and the structures that support poetry must work diligently and arduously to make sure to listen to the changing voices of the world they hope to minister to. To listen and then to act.

Roderick writes that Ilya Kaminsky’s “willingness to implicate himself in the triumphs and flaws of our country’s project make him a great civic poet.”


by Ilya Kaminsky

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we

but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)

lived happily during the war.