Robert Burns: rapist?/”Of Politics & Art”

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(poetry diary 160) I ran across the poem “Of Politics & Art” recently, and thought of it when reading one of the articles I posted yesterday on Burns Night re: the idea that Burns Night Celebrates the Wrong Poet.

The article produces evidence that Robert Burns was a rapist.

The author, Stuart Kelly, suggests that we read the poetry of Veronica Forrest-Thomson instead. (Here are five of her poems, published at Jacket.)

I find the accusations against Burns troubling, but I also love Burns Night celebrations and love how many other people (in Scotland mainly, but in other countries too) love them as well.

This poem by Norman Dubie presents a case for continuing to read and celebrate canonical writers. It’s  non-accusatory, but it’s thoughtful and makes an effective point. It might be esp. useful to read for poets who are currently working on their own political poems, or for people who in general are trying to figure out how to create persuasive arguments for their beliefs without driving away those they would like most to civilly converse with.

As for me, I’m still super-conflicted re: my feelings about Burns, but this poem is helping me at least subconsciously argue with myself and sort things out:

Of Politics & Art

Norman Dubie

for Allen

Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.

She read to us from Melville.

Read rest of poem 

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