When it was announced, early on Wednesday morning, that Donald Trump was also President-Elect Donald Trump, a poem went viral on social media. “Differences of Opinion,” the British poet Wendy Cope’s sharp evisceration of mansplaining, spoke, in its spare nine lines, to a political moment that has been defined in large part by a tense relationship both with women and with facts.
The planet goes on being round. pic.twitter.com/Yd2BgX8abG— Courtney Enlow (@courtenlow) November 9, 2016
“Campaign in poetry; govern in prose,” the old adage goes. This moment, though, has in many ways flipped that idea: The 2016 presidential campaign was decidedly lacking in poetry. Yet in its aftermath, as Americans consider the contours of their new government, they are, often, turning to poems: to Cope and her gallows humor. To Maya Angelou and her songs of self-love. To Adam Zagajewski. To Adrienne Rich. To Riz MC. Vox, on Wednesday afternoon, published a post headlined, “Feeling terrible right now? Maybe some poetry will help.” The Guardian had one listing “poems to counter the election fallout—and beyond.” The Huffington Post, for its part, offered “18 Compassionate Poems To Help You Weather Uncertain Times.”
There are logistical reasons for all that, certainly. Poetry’s succinct form often means that it lends itself especially well to being screen-shot and retyped and then shared on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. But there are deeper reasons, too, why poetry is having, as it were, A Moment. I spoke with Don Share, the editor of Poetry magazine, about the role poems have been playing for people across the political spectrum as they’ve wrestled with the results of the 2016 election—and of the role poems might continue to play for us as we move forward. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.