The Poetry of Political Inclusion

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Poet Ocean Vuong's message to the incoming president is seemingly apolitical, but speaks to the heart of how our society could better understand one another.
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This week, we asked listeners to write a message to the incoming president, to tell him or her about the issues that are most important to you. We've also been speaking with writers who did the same as part of Poets & Writers' "Dear President" project.

On Wednesday, writer Reginald Dwayne Betts, who crafted a message about the persistence of the image of the superpredator, told The Takeaway that his letter was designed to make "a connection between the rhetoric, the policies, and the inability for us to imagine young folks who get in a bad spot" and fight to overcome that image.

Rather than focus on any specific political "issue," poet Ocean Vuong is focused on the close line between politics and language more generally.

"No language is neutral," Voung says. "To speak is to claim a life — and often our own. If more Americans speak to one another, in writing, in media, at the supermarket, we might listen better. It is difficult, I think, to hate one another when we start to understand not only why and how we hurt, but also why and how we love.”

Vuong is the author most recently of "Night Sky with Exit Wounds," and also the recipient of the 2016 Whiting Award. He joins The Takeaway to discuss how language defines our daily interactions, both politically and apolitically.