The Power of Poetry: How to Be an Advocate Through Your Writing

Rebekah Palmer

Rebekah Palmer

By Rebekah Palmer

When I was 14, I started keeping a composition notebook I used to write down everything I felt and knew about current events in the world. I had written about my day to day activities in journals before, but there was a different feel about this blue lined, wide margined notebook that housed thoughts beyond my personal experience. Suddenly my world expanded. I found myself writing about the September 11th attacks, the treatment of veterans, and other issues I wanted to advocate for as an American teenager.  

Several years later, while taking a creative writing class taught by professor Karen Loeb at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I started another notebook. This one centered on issues I had kept hidden in my heart in high school: sexual assault awareness and living as a single woman in 21st century America. 

The scrawls within those notebooks I kept as a younger person would become the rough drafts for the advocacy poems I used in my first and second books.

If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, an advocacy poem includes lyrics on causes, events, effects and news that lack adequate public awareness. Advocacy poems can be written about anything in the world that the poet wants to provide a different perspective on, call more attention to, or create new solutions about. 

How do you write an advocacy poem? Here are a few good tips:

  • Seek out resources that agree and disagree with your position, especially thoseabout how an issue is handled specifically in your community. This will help you garner better specifics and empathy in your advocacy writing. 
  • Attend rallies and events for the causes you want more awareness on.
  • Free write in a notebook exactly how you and others see, define and feel about the cause. 
  • Free write about the atmosphere and happenings at any gatherings you have attended. 
  • Write down personal memories and/or interviews from others that could help explain your stance to your readers.
  • When writing your poem, try to answer these questions: Is there a physical metaphor I can liken the way I see this issue to? Is there a rhythm to my feelings and thoughts about this issue, and what stanza form will make a reader hear my message the way I hear it? Do the words I have written down remind me of a certain smell, touch or taste?
  • Use your memories and the answers to these questions on your five senses to create a poem in which the reader can really experience your perspective on the issue you have chosen to champion.
  • Have other writers check your work, especially other writers who have already written in different genres on the subject you have chosen.

Above all else, never underestimate the power of poetry. Use the form to spread your voice far and wide. Be heard.