Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Emperor Has No Clothes

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
We may feel the need to be that voice crying out. . . "The emperor has no clothes!" Most of us will not be spearheading protest marches. . . masterminding boycotts. . . or leading the charge against oil exploitation. But we do what we can. We write. (Mary Pipher, PhD, Writing to Change the World, pp. 29-30)
You remember the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Emperor's New Clothes," a cautionary tale about the danger of believing what's not real: Caring only about his appearance in the finest clothes, this Emperor's vanity led him to believe a couple of swindlers who told him they could weave clothes in which he'd be invisible to those unfit for office or unusually stupid. He thought he'd be able to determine who in his empire was unfit.

Of course, neither he nor anyone else could see the clothes but all were unwilling to admit they could be unfit or stupid. Finally, as he rode through town a little child said, "But he hasn't got anything on!" Only then would others acknowledge the reality.

This tale signifies the importance of speaking the truth when we see it, no matter what the social pressures. And nothing is more powerful than communicating at a symbolic level. When we look at our planet's increasingly failing capacity to support us, for example, we're appalled to note how many people still insist they're seeing the emperor's fine new clothes. How can writers and poets convince others of the naked truth in time to make a difference?

Perhaps by transporting readers into a starkly imagined future in earth's "silent periphery / on one of the cooler planets / far removed from walls and barbed wire / crosshatches of lies and alternative facts . . ." (from Poetry First Prize winner Claire Scott's "A Mote of Dust" in Bacopa 2017).

More about the intersection of art and activism to follow.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Poem is Not a Political Protest, or is it?

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
If you are a person who truly cares about the environment or politics or equality in matters of race or gender . . . these concerns will naturally emerge in your poems. Your only job is to follow your instinctive, personal, idiosyncratic sense . . . and to see what emerges . . . "What Poetry Can Teach Us About Power: Political Poems Use Language in a Way Distinct From Rhetoric." Matthew Zapruder, Literary Hub,  August 16, 2017
The article above points out the danger when poets try to consciously bend their work to a political message. The author quotes Keats: "We hate poetry that has a palpable design on us." Instead, the most powerful poems carry a political message by re-enlivening and reactivating language in a way that invites attention and raises awareness.

Such is the power of Adrian S. Potter's "This is Not a Protest Poem," Bacopa Literary Review 2017's Poetry Honorable Mention. Poetry Editor J.N. Fishhawk and I loved this poem from the title alone, knowing Potter would reactivate the meaning of "this is NOT."  Instead readers are simply invited to watch . . .
a grown man shooting baskets
at a deserted playground
under partly sunny skies.
"This poem is not a metaphor," the poet assures us, "not code / for some political agenda," It's "not an allegory / about activists and antagonists." Yet readers will not be able to forget this "quiet guy practicing / shoulder fakes, pivots, and drop steps . . ."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

From The Dark Side

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
The intersection of arts and political activism are two fields defined by a shared focus of creating engagement that shifts boundaries, changes relationships and creates new paradigms . . . "Art and Politics, The Power of Creativity and Activism Across the Globe," Annette Blum, Huffington Post, THE BLOG, 03/21/2016.
It's intriguing to ponder how art itself can take an activist stance, rally followers, change minds, shift people into new ways of thinking. That's the theme you'll find in this year's Bacopa Literary Review, now available at

It's immediately obvious that persuasive writing can influence thinking through rational means. We can also give voice to the voiceless, instigating empathy and compassion from readers by providing an inside view of experiences completely different from our own. Even more subtly, our metaphors can act quietly below the level of rationality's conscious defenses.

The metaphor of "dark matter," for example, describes all we cannot see, known only through astrophysicists' math. We writers can support more obvious activism by planting our metaphors outside the spotlight, part of the dark matter of raising consciousness.

This is exactly where you'll be left after reading our concluding piece, Jim Johnston's "Dark Water, Silent Grace." Ostensibly about a boy's experience in the lake at camp, persuaded by older boys to take a frightening dive into murky waters, the subtle undercurrent of this piece will tow readers to Johnston's deeper message, "how the seeds of courage are planted in darkness."

Bacopa Literary Review 2017 now available at

More about the intersection of art and activism to follow.