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Reprinted from....

Southwest Digest

Lubbock, Texas  - and other newspapers: click here

Poems by Eli Siegel about Martin Luther King and America 
By Alice Bernstein


    As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King and his courageous opposition to racism and economic injustice, I feel people should know of two poems by Eli Siegel, the great American poet and founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, from his second volume of poetry, Hail, American Development (Definition Press, NY). 

    With enormous respect for Martin Luther King, Mr. Siegel expresses what America and every person in our troubled world is hoping for. 

1. Something Else Should Die: A Poem with Rhymes 
        By Eli Siegel 

In April 1865 
Abraham Lincoln died. 
In April 1968 
Martin Luther King died. 
Their purpose was to have us say, some day: 
Injustice died. 
    The stark facts with their power and meaning, stated so simply and carefully, make for large emotion. Two men of different races, living in different centuries, are shown to be akin, united in opposition to injustice. And the music of this poem has us feel both men are alive, warm, near. 

    Abraham Lincoln, as Dr. King himself recognized, wanted the murderous injustice of slavery to end. He considered the Emancipation Proclamation, written in his own handwriting, "the central act of my administration and the great event of the 19th century." 

    Martin Luther King is loved for his bravery, sincerity and enormous energy in fighting for the social and economic rights of people of all races. He spoke out early and steadily against America's vicious, unjust war in Vietnam, saying: 

     "This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows,...cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." 

     He led the Poor People's Campaign to end poverty, and was killed in Memphis while speaking in behalf of the livelihood and dignity of striking sanitation workers. 

     In 1968, just hours after Martin Luther King's assassination became known, Mr. Siegel, in an Aesthetic Realism class, read "Something Else Should Die." I had the immense privilege of being in that class, and I will always remember Mr. Siegel's emotion as he read it and spoke of King's large meaning. 

     Eli Siegel's love for justice and his passion against injustice is the most beautiful thing I know in this world. He explained that contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else" is the source of all injustice: from slavery,   based on using the lives of many people for the personal gain of a few. 

    What would it mean for injustice to die? I think it would mean every person — world leaders and private citizens — honestly answering this question Mr. Siegel asked, "What does a person deserve by being a person?" Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and John Brown — who is in the next poem — answered it in a way history sees as true, beautiful, immortal. 

    John Brown felt slavery was inhuman and had to end; he was executed for forming an army to liberate every slave. Aesthetic Realism teaches that when we see the feelings of others as real as our own, we won't want to be unjust to them; in fact, we'll see justice to them as taking care of ourselves. 

    In the international periodical, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism explains what poetry, and every art, does: 

    "In all real poetry, justice to the outside world is the same as the writer's being himself or herself — richly, freely, thoroughly. That is what humanity needs desperately to see, because people don't feel they'll be themselves, care for themselves, by being just to something else." 

    Eli Siegel had this justice in his life and his poetry, which William Carlos Williams described as causing "great pleasure to the beholder, a deeper taking of the breath, a feeling of cleanliness which is the sign of the truly new" (Something to Say, New Directions). 

2. They Look at Us 
        By Eli Siegel

Martin Luther King 
Is with John Brown. 
Look up: you'll see them both 
Looking down-- 
Deep and so wide 
At us. 
This is deep, musical justice to men whom American history should always cherish, because they felt others deserved fairness from the world and from them. I love the way heaven and earth, high and low, depth and width, then and now, near and far are lovingly, effortlessly made one in this poem. 

     "Injustice will die," Mr. Siegel wrote, "only when an individual no longer can feel that individuality is more served by injustice than by justice; by ugliness rather than non-ugliness." 

    Eli Siegel gave humanity the means of seeing justice as real in every aspect of life. It is urgent that people study Aesthetic Realism so that the justice that King, Lincoln, Brown and others died for is a reality at last! 

     To learn more — including about poetry and the answer to racism — contact the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 212-777-4490,

January 9, 2003

Alice Bernstein is an Aesthetic Realism Associate and writer whose articles on Aesthetic Realism appear in many newspapers, including her regular column "Alice Bernstein and Friends" in La Vida News / The Black Voice of Ft. Worth and Arlington, Texas. 

Also published in

Annapolis Times
Chicago Defender
Long Beach Times (California)
San Antonio Register (Texas)
Baltimore Times (Maryland)
Shore Times (Maryland)
Prince George Times (Maryland)
Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, IL)
Silver-Star News (Memphis, TN)
Tennessee Tribune

arrowMartin Luther King / The King Center
arrowAnti-Prejudice Pledge / Anti-Defamation League
arrowAesthetic Realism Versus Racism
To the educational foundation where the philosophy founded by Eli Siegel is taught

Aesthetic Realism Foundation

141 Greene Street
New York NY 10012

A not-for-profit educational foundation


Alice Bernstein writes:

"As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King and his courageous opposition to racism and economic injustice, I feel people should know of two poems by Eli Siegel, the great American poet and founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism."

Aesthetic Realism vs. Racism


Button image"On Racism & How to End It"  by Nancy Huntting

Button imageAesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism

Button image"Genome & Equality" by Alice Bernstein.

Button image "Fascism, Understood At Last!" by Ruth Oron

Button image"Aesthetic Realism: The Solution to Racism" by Arnold Perey, PhD

Button image"Contempt, the Cause of Racism" by Edward Green

Button image"Queen's Visit to Amritsar" by Christopher Balchin

Button image"In Contempt the Root of Racism Lies" by Allan Michael

Button image"Prejudice Changes to Respect" by Barbara McClung

Button image"Students Learn, Prejudice Is Defeated!" by Patricia Martone

Button image"Mathematics vs. Prejudice" by Lori Colavito

Button image"Aesthetic Realism and the Anthropology of Africa" by Edward Green


In the Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known


Racism Can End June 25, 1997 (Reprinted 2004)
 • The Aesthetics of Equality  January 20, 1999
 • The Right of Every Child December 17, 1997

   Further Aesthetic Realism Resources

Aesthetic Realism Foundation

Eli Siegel Collection
Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company
Nationwide Links about Aesthetic Realism
Aesthetic Reaiism vs. Prejudice
Friends of Aesthetic Realism--Countering the Lies
Barbara Allen: Flutist, Consultant
Aesthetic Realism & Self-Expression
Nancy Huntting, Consultant & Essayist
Towards Middle East Peace: Articles by Ruth Oron
Photography Education
Alan Shapiro, Aesthetic Realism Associate Jazz Pianist, Music Educator
Leila Rosen, Aesthetic Realism Associate, English Educator
Aesthetic Realism in the News