Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Annie Rockson
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Alfredo Jaar offers a powerful reflection on the limits of language and the role of creative expression in times of tragedy. A lament for today’s darkness and a call to find the words to confront these tragic hours, the bold new public intervention displays the arresting title of a poem by Adrienne Rich (1929–2012), a figure of inspiration for Jaar since the 1980s, who observed the limits of words in times of unthinkable violence: “no poetry can serve to mitigate such acts, they nullify language itself,” she wrote in 2011. Throughout November 2023, Alfredo Jaar and CIRCA commissioned a series of poetic dialogues, curated by Vittoria de Franchis, from international writers, thinkers and speakers. Giving voice to those who find themselves silenced or without words, the poems hope to achieve Rich’s ambition that creative expression can reconcile conflicting realities.
We are going through a very repressive moment, when nuance is lost and free speech is threatened. But I strongly believe that the spaces of art and culture must remain spaces of freedom. Artists will not be intimidated. In this environment, I have turned to the words of anti-war campaigner and poet Adrienne Rich to reflect both the limits of language and the frustration felt by many that voices for peace and justice cannot sound out as clearly as we wish. And, as part of the CIRCA commission, I am turning to today’s poets, writers, and artists, to support a forum for creative expression where the clear-sighted demands of humanity and empathy can be heard. In these times when politics have failed us miserably, art and culture are our only hope. Art is like the air we breathe, without art, life would be unlivable. Art creates spaces of resistance, spaces of hope.
One thing I know. by Annie Rockson
Somedays, I feel like I can’t even save myself, let alone save the whole wide world.
But one thing I know is that we are all in this together.
From those who have found themselves silenced whose words have been strangled by fear who have been ssshd and shutdown and shamed into suppression.
The ones who have had their souls snatched from their tongues hung.
Chocked by unspeakable sights that suffocate their lungs and even those that procrastinate trying to find the right words that will resonate.
I pray you taste the peace of freedom beneath your lips one day because we are all in this together.
To the people who’ve lost the language of their souls
who’s heart beats to the drum of war and
wields words weaponised for mass destruction for everyone to hear.
It is never too late to fund your way home even when hate is always near.
You know we are all in this together.
from the communities who organise,
who’ve managed to choreograph people into a chorus full of cries.
Frustrated by the lack of change who wonder how many more voices it will have to take.
I hope you can wait for the future you so long to see.
Hold my hand because eventually we are all in this together.
From the ones who feel, whose voice has broken into pieces from holding the pain of the world on their chests.
Who tirelessly try to piece together peace through fragmented half – uttered words.
To those who gaze at the sun, numb.
Unable to articulate the erosive ways oppression has made them dissociate.
Who find themselves halfway between floating and flailing and fighting all at the same time.
You see we are all in this together.
From the lips that lament for liberation
Underneath colonised tongues yet have found their mouth curdled into hate.
Will it be worth it in the end when you look in the mirror and can’t recognise your own face?
The point scorers, who screech on screens and bite into binaries that pretty pictures of bloodshed behind eloquent monologues and social media feeds.
We are all in this together.
Including the people whose mouth drip full with dreams.
Who paint new worlds between parted lips and beaming hearts?
Whose laughter bursts into a million stars
Who dance to the beat of their own imagination. I know that you will one day create our safe haven.
From the drivers of destruction that sell themselves as saviours to their own corruption.
To the ones that have no idea what’s happening over there and the careless clicks and mindless shares
If we are all in this together and I know the world feels so unfair
But if we are all in this together, I know there is hope for love everywhere.
Annie is a poet and writer of Ghanaian descent she has performed at venues such as The Mayor of London’s Office, The House of Commons and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Her poetry has further been published in the Voices that Shake Anthology and featured in the world’s first Instagram poetry exhibition at The National Poetry Library. Her poems are designed to empower and challenge perceptions. Understanding how it feels like not to have a voice she hopes her poems can empower audiences to speak out and build a more positive community.