Teresa Puente

Teresa Puente
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Chicago, Illinois, usa
Birthday
October 11
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blogger
Bio
Teresa Puente is a journalist, journalism professor and blogger. http://about.me/teresapuente @chicanisima @tcpuente

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NOVEMBER 7, 2011 9:32AM

Can poets change the world?

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James Baldwin plaque at The American Poet's Corner

Contemporary poet Javier Sicilia is leading a campaign against violence and the drug war in Mexico.

Poet and writer Piri Thomas, who recently passed away, wrote of race and inequality in the United States.

Writer and poet James Baldwin once said, "Artists are here to disturb the peace."

I've been reminded of all three of these poets recently in various ways.

Last week I read news accounts about Sicilia. He led a protest caravan across his country.  Now he's taking his message to the United States. Sicilia spoke about the violence in Mexico and how guns smuggled from the United States into Mexico are fueling the violence. More than 40,000 have been killed since President Felipe Calderon took office in Mexico in 2006.

"We can't keep thinking that the arms industry is decent. It is immoral and you should pressure your government to control it. They are killing our children," Sicilia said in Washington, according to CNN en español.

Sicilia knows first hand the impact of the drug war. His own son, an innocent victim, was killed with six friends in Cuernavaca, Mexico in March. After his murder, Sicilia said he would not write another poem.

This was his last poem:

The world is not worthy of words

they have been suffocated from the inside

as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs

the pain does not leave me

all that remains is a world

through the silence of the righteous,

only through your silence and my silence, Juanelo.

I mourn the last words of Sicilia. This poet turned activist is trying to change his country and also remind us north of the border that we are responsible too.

If there was no drug consumption north of the border, there would be no drug war south of the border.

Thomas, known for his seminal book, Down These Mean Streets, wrote about poverty and race. His own story, emerging from prison to become a writer who then went back to teach writing to inmates, is inspirational.

I read his book as a teenager and returned to his poetry after reading of his death last month at the age of 83.

Here is an excerpt of his poem, "Sermon from the Ghettos."

Oh America, hey world,

For while you are smiling and living well,

black children, brown children, red children,

yellow children, white children, multi-colored children,

children, children, children,

because of your hypocrisy,

because of greed

are dying, physically,

mentally, spiritually,

and secretly in broad daylight,

broad daylight.

His poem resonates today.

Baldwin was inducted Sunday into The American Poet's Corner at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York on Sunday. Baldwin became the 44th poet inducted since 1984.  

It was a moving tribute to the writer and the man. His former assistant, David Leeming, said that Baldwin thought we should move beyond placing labels and categories on people.

Baldwin understood "the ability of words to move and change people,"Leeming said.

Baldwin. Thomas. Sicilia. Three of many poets who have changed and still change the world.

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Comments

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Excellent reminder! I do think that the Sermon from the Ghettos says so much... these children are dying while we are wasting our time on small hobbies and shallow habits. Fathers are so necessary. Here, poetry is raw, edgy and very naked...a beautiful thing all the way around!!!
What beautiful words. It is so sad that Sicilia will write no more poems. I am filled with admiration for these poets and their lives.
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