KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Craig Morgan Teicher

This is the third of these poetry previews that I've written in the growing darkness of America. I've maintained that while poets alone can't save us, they can remind us of the necessary virtues that seem to be vanishing from our public conversation — nuance, the ability to hold opposing views at the same time, plain old compassion and understanding. But I won't pretend to feel much optimism. Things are bad, hatred is rampant, and fear mostly seems to be winning.

There is occasional confusion about the nature of the United States poet laureateship: The selection of laureate has nothing to do with the president.

The poet is selected by the Librarian of Congress, meaning the laureate works for a completely different branch of the government. This is a smart and useful separation of powers: An advocate of free speech and education should not be beholden to a president, especially this one.

The poet Carolyn Forché was 27 when a stranger showed up on her doorstep, unrolled a giant sheet of paper on her dining room table, and proceeded to give her a masterclass in Central American geopolitics and the crisis unfolding in El Salvador.

"There is soon going to be a war," the man says.