Why Poetry Should Matter to Right Wing Dissidents.
Note this was an essay I read on the trial podcast
When I told someone I was starting a Right leaning poetry journal he asked me was “What makes a good poem on the Right? Is it content, style, spirit, or some combination of those?”
It is an excellent question and gave me pause for thought. Initially I wanted to start the project just to push back. To plant a flag in poetry for the Right Wing. To remind people that some of the greatest poets alive were nationalists like W.B Yeats or Ezra Pound. A question like this gives one pause for thought, after all it is never enough simply to exist as just reaction to the current thing. Only contrarian types take pleasure in such motivations.
So I continued to think on the question. All art can be apolitical, poetry is no exception. A beautiful John Donne love poem can be appreciated by anyone, yet the same is not true of explicitly left-wing idealogue poets like Audre Lorde. These poets produce poetry that is banal, negative, and down right bad. We do not need to dwell here on a critique of bad left wing poetry but it is certainly worth revisiting why poetry matters at all and what it is all about.
One of the critical mistakes many on the Right have made in recent years is to embrace the idea that logic, reason, and facts are enough to sway peoples minds. Entire Right wing media empires and personalities are built around this. Think Breitbart or Prager U sputtering away about the latest outrage and how the facts should matter. The unfortunate truth is that facts don’t matter much, neither does logic. Rhetoric matters. Emotional persuasion. If one looks at some of the success people have had against things like CRT it is largely due to good rhetoric instead of abstract logic and reason.
Of course FrogTwitter has understood this for a long time. ‘The Left Can’t Meme’ is undeniably true, the Dissident Right sphere owns the meme game. The memetic spread of ideas through humorous images, Pepes, videos has convinced more people of the absurdity of clown world and its piss earth future than any sober fact based take. Where does all this leave poetry however? If you spend enough time anywhere right of center I can guarantee you one thing. You will trip over a Rudyard Kipling poem, and usually it will be “If”.
“If” is a fantastic poem. It is perhaps overused and overshared by the Right because it speaks to so many truths. Good poetry does this. It speaks to universals of truth, beauty, perhaps even justice. It conveys ideas across space and time. People can actually memorize poems, they can recite them, share them. They are chunks of thought with ideas that are easily transmitted. Not many people would know of infamous Charge of the Light Brigade were it not for Tennyson’s poem. A journalistic report of a failed attack does not convey anything more than the ‘facts’. Tennyson’s poem captures the full spectrum of emotion and history and makes it memorable. It enters into almost mythical status. Think also of how most people in Great Britain reflect on the Great War - it is going to be through John McCrae’s poem “In Flander’s Fields”. These are exceptional works of art but also convey timeless ideas and capture history in a unique way. Poems are part of the wider rhetoric game we must play. They are examples of how important it is.
If the Right does not think poetry matters then it becomes a discarded art captured by the ideological Left (remember which way Cthulu swims…) and driven into the ground. As my mother observed in trying to pick me a fiction book by looking at ‘best of lists’ “Many of them seem to explore themes I feel you are not very interested in eg racism, gender, immigrant experiences etc”. An astute observation from a dear normie. The left have done similar to poetry, and for a lot longer. It is home to most of their resentment about the world. Inward looking and self obsessed or worse we do get their version of historical poetry - anyone recall the cringe BBC New Years broadcast with a poem about the pandemic? It was in part memorable because it leveraged poetic techniques. Rhyme and meter matter! They are what stick in our minds, even if the ideological subject matter is risible lies. If we abandon this most ancient form of story telling we are robbing our future of the knowledge of the past.
Returning to that original question someone posed to me “What makes a good poem on the Right?” the answer to me is clearer. A good poem on the Right is what we have always had with good poetry. It is art that speaks across the ages. But I think the question is perhaps the wrong one to ask at this time, the question instead to ask is akin to the title of this piece. Why should the Dissident Right care about poetry? Because it conveys ideas and traditions worth preserving. It is less about content and more about the Right taking charge of preserving and continuing to promote the art forms that have made Western civilization so unique and worthy of existence. Poetry goes back to the very founding myths of our own civilization – The Odyssey, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. To abandon poetry and culture has been catastrophic, instead of uplifting inspirational works focused on beauty or truth we are left with a sea explicitly ideological woke poetry. We can do better.
Do you have any advice for someone who writes poetry but is not in any poetic circle? How can one evaluate the quality of their work?