Does Writing Have to be Political to Matter?

 As you may recall, I recently had my flash fiction piece 'Snow' nominated in the 3 Quarks Daily Art & Literature prize 2011 and that I ranked as high as a semi-finalist before not making it through to the final six. The finalists who did get through (found here) became these eventual winners:
  1. Top Quark: Namit Arora, Joothan: A Dalit's Life
  2. Strange Quark: Edan Lepucki, Reading and Race: On Slavery in Fiction
  3. Charm Quark: Elliot Colla, The Poetry of Revolt 

    First of all, congratulations to everyone who was nominated or made it through to the final rounds. The standard of entrants was stunning (I particularly love the Strange Quark winner 'Reading and Race' and the finalist post by Millicent and Carla Fran) and I am thrilled to have been a part of it.

    As I’m sure it will be clear from the titles of the three winning posts, these are pieces with a political edge (presented as an in-depth book review, a personal discussion of slavery in fiction and of the role of poetry and chanting in Egyptian revolts) that deal with complex issues such as racial identity, the Indian caste system, revolution and oppression. My piece, on the other hand, was a short stand-alone fictional narrative about a girl returning to a Japanese ski resort, trying to recapture the feelings of a lost love affair. Considering the everyday content of the 3 Quarks Daily, it makes sense that they would choose pieces with political leanings and a wider real world meaning to win their annual Arts and Literature prize.

    What it makes me wonder though, outside of the context of this competition, is whether writing that does have these added reference points matters, in a way, more than those that don’t? 

    When speaking for/as someone as a writer, should we make sure we speak for those who have trouble speaking for themselves? 

    Or is the personal (regardless of the person) always political, because no-one is separate from their reality and no-one has more right to be heard than another?

    This is a question I am really keen to explore; what do you think?

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