Reading #12 – 4/4/2018 – Raquel Salas Rivera

A good crowd turned out to see the Poet Laureate of Philadelphia Raquel Salas Rivera be interviewed by Sean Lynch and share some poems. A lot of Rivera’s work dealt with class and inequality, and it was truly a moving and inspirational experience.

One of the questions Sean asked explored higher education and the elitism sometimes associated with it. It reminded me of a quote from writer Mike Rose, who says of education: “We need an orientation to instruction that provides guidance on how to determine and honor the beliefs and stories, enthusiasms, and apprehensions that students reveal.” I interpret this as saying that educators must acknowledge students’ backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge. In college, this means instructors must not focus just on the ‘one story’ of higher education but rather on honoring the many stories of members of the college community. Rivera discussed this in their response, and their work definitely showed the struggle to find one’s own story in a world that is not always supportive.

This whole event brought me back to the question I have wrestled with for years, the role of the poet or artist in society. If Pablo Picasso was right and art is ‘an instrument of war,’ then the artist has no choice but to actively involve themselves in what occurs around them. Burying your head in the sand is not an option.

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