DISCOURSE as quilting

Welcome to the intersection of P. L. Thomas writing about his writing and other writers' writing to explore discourse as quilting.

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remnant 11: poetry of social consciousness, personal experience

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My poet Self is in many ways the real me, but distinct from my social and professional personas.

People who “know” me in my many roles in daily life often find my poetry unlike what they would have expected (in part, not expecting me to be a poet at all, and more significantly, not expecting so much “love” poetry).

Yet, the real me, and often closeted me, is he who sits on the couch alone and watches Notting Hill as often as possible, somewhat to laugh, but mainly to cry. On my iPod tour this morning driving into work, I listened to “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (spectacular opening lines) and then “She” by Elvis Costello. It is the kind of stuff I wish I had written.

A tremendous part of my poet Self is one who writes from inspiration. Poems come to me; I do not write poems by choice, and I certainly don’t write poems from any prompting. [This fact has greatly informed who I have become as a writing teacher—recognizing the failure of prompting others to write.]

Thus, although my scholarly and teacher Selves are driven primarily by a pursuit of social justice, few of my poems are social consciousness pieces; most of my poetry is very much personal experience explorations.

Yet, after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I was compelled by the phrase “they ran.”

When I saw the video of the explosion, I was struck and then haunted by how many people ran toward the blast, the debris and smoke.

As I watched the news coverage and listened to radio coverage, I again was struck with how many people noticed the running toward.

And from that came this:

“they ran (15 April 2013)”

they ran

they ran to win
they ran to be fast
they ran to chase personal bests
they ran to honor
they ran to survive
they ran to raise money for others
they ran to finish

and then the explosion
followed by another

they fell
they stumbled
they ducked their heads
they turned to look

they ran toward the billowing smoke
they ran toward the debris
they ran toward the screams
they ran toward the crying
they ran toward the bleeding

they ran


The poetic heritage of this piece can be traced to Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” a brilliant crafting of poetic expression, deft lination, and deceptively simple language.

For me, as well, the poetry of social consciousness and the poetry of personal experience share a place in the heart, feeling something so deeply at the core of being human that it rises above us, out of us, expands us, and moves us.

The events captured in the Boston Marathon explosion video moved me to tears, and at least one person reading my poem shared with me on Facebook that at the “turn” moment of the poem, she was moved to tears.

I suppose in the end, I am compelled to argue that the poetry of social consciousness is the poetry of personal experience, the poetry of personal experience is the poetry of social consciousness.

They are both of the human heart.

Since they are rare, here are a few more of my social consciousness poems:

“calculating (the erased)”

“choice (Vote!)”


“on imprisonment and freedom”

“the consumers (crimes against the market)”

“the world (frantic)”

Written by plthomasedd

April 17, 2013 at 3:02 pm