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caption: Poet Jamaica Baldwin
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Poet Jamaica Baldwin
Courtesy of Stephen Lestat

Liberals: This poet wants you to rethink that 'stay vigilant' idea

In the immediate wake of President Trump's inauguration, Seattle poet Jamaica Baldwin wrote a series of poems, including "Vigilant," excerpted below. KUOW's poetry correspondent Elizabeth Austen talks with The Record's Bill Radke about the ways the poem gives voice to an emotional reaction that is both larger than that single event and feels freshly relevant with each daily newscast.

It's hard to remain human

on a day when mercy is a frozen river,

when the news informs me tomorrow's

as bleak as it was yesterday, tells me

yesterday couldn't have left love

lingering listlessly on my bed all eager

hands and doe-eyed, says

there's no room for beauty in this fight.

Liberals tell me, we must remain

vigilant. We can't rest, relax,

let down our guard, but

don't they know I've been vigilant

all my life? Yielding to white spaces

like ocean to keel.

Excerpted from "Vigilant"

Baldwin is a fellow in the 2017 Jack Straw Writers Program and a recent graduate of the MFA program at Pacific University Oregon.

"Vigilant" was originally published by Seattle Review of Books. (Read the whole poem online.)

Web extra: Baldwin reading "All That Splendor," as part of the 2017 Jack Straw Writers Series.

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