The Role of the Revolutionary Poet in Society and a Strategic Vision for the 21st Century

by Mark Lipman

(Vagabond Books, ISBN 13: 978-1-936293-39-1, 2020, $18.50)

reviewed by Michael Novick

This volume of essays and poems is by the former poetry curator of Change Links, Mark Lipman, who is the founder and editor of Vagabond, editor and publisher of a number of award winning poetry anthologies, including The Border Crossed Us (an anthology to end apartheid), and a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade and 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

Lipman calls for unity on the left, those in third parties or working within the Democratic Party, to align with the larger majority of people who are non-voters or non-partisan voters. He argues: “If we are going to win outside the two-party system, we need a united front….without one, all the superficial factional fighting on the left does is further enable the rise of fascism…the left-leaning third parties….must come together around a joint platform”. He sees this combined grouping obtaining ballot access and running down-ballot candidates representing the majority of eligible voters who have no political affiliation. Simultaneously, he advocates supporting the most progressive elements of the Democratic Party (which he calls the more difficult pill to swallow).

To promote this, Lipman offers a number of pointers to remember, such as “Billionaires are not your friends,” and “Partisanship and Identity is what divides us.” He outlines a policy platform that includes the Green New Deal, Universal Healthcare, Racial and Gender Equity, Debt Forgiveness, Demilitarization and Defunding Police, among a “short list” of worthy goals. He also argues against retaliation, retribution and violence in the process of revolution. Although he is explicitly anti-capitalist. Lipman does not use the language of socialism in his solutions. He advocates for Direct Democracy and what he calls a People’s Economy, with jobs and education for all.

Amid these strategic and policy formulations are interspersed examples of Lipman’s own revolutionary poetry, advancing from the skepticism of “The Beaten Generation” (2001) to more insurgent and hopeful verses. In “The Beaten Generation” Lipman laments:

But when I place my hand

onto the wrist of today

I would swear that my world

was dead. Conformity has

sucked the marrow out

of life and replaced

it with lead.

But in his culminating poem, “Until It Is Done,” Lipman writes:

For all those who have

given up hope, …

who have given into fear

and the bitter tears of defeat,

I say, courage is not the absence of fear,

but the triumph over it…

Lift up your hearts, the time is ripe

it always seems impossible

until it is done.

From now until election day, Vagabond is offering a free copy of the e-book edition. Please email the publisher directly at: to receive the e-book file. Copies of The Role of the Revolutionary Poet in Society and a Strategic Vision for the 21st Century, and more, can also be ordered at:



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