Bobby LeFebre became Colorado’s eighth Poet Laureate in 2019, making him the youngest and first person of color to be named to the prestigious position in the program’s 100-year history. The honor follows an already impressive career in award-winning poetry and drama, the latter with his play North Coastwhich was about the gentrification of Denver.
Much of his current work, according to LeFebre, is done on Instagram, and last week he posted two pieces — call them micro-essays, narrative poems, whatever — that call what is happening in the world today. Specifically, the attack on Ukraine and the State of the Union address.
“As someone who has a knack for listening to someone once in a while,” says LeFebre, “I want to make sure that certain things are hyper-present and at the forefront of how we think about politics and the way the world sees war. It’s all connected.”
The format of LeFebre’s messages is as austere as their messages, with a white square field written in black Courier font. “These are things that I don’t edit,” LeFebre explains. “It’s just stuff that literally comes out. But I feel like that’s the responsibility of the poet: to respond to the moment in a way that distills and creates conversation and discourse around what we’re going through.
LeFebre does not suggest politics; he does not plead for a position. “I just want to ask the question,” he said. “I ask people to look at other world conflicts, other places of war, suffering and encroachment, with the same prism through which we look at the current conflict in Ukraine. I think we collectively have a selective compassion. You see it playing out in the news, [with] journalists say that Ukraine is this seemingly civilized place where things like this shouldn’t happen, and what they really mean is that these people are white.
It’s not just white supremacy in the world that fuels our myopia regarding Ukraine and other conflicts around the world, says LeFebre. But there is a reason. “And that’s the one we can cite around the world,” he adds. “This raises the question of value: what does the world value? What do we value? Why? Where does this come from? How can we undo this? How do you ask people to see everyone the same way in times of crisis?
LeFebre is quick to point out that he is not trying to downplay the struggle currently unfolding in Ukraine, or anywhere in the world. “It’s complex, and you can’t write an essay in an Instagram post. But I try to capture what I feel and hope people resonate with it. I think we’re doing our best with this I don’t know what the answer is, but what we can do is question the words our leaders are saying, and tie them to historical behavior and see if they are congruent or not. this is not the case, we must ask ourselves why, and it is in this that we can discover other important stories.
Read more about Bobby LeFebre’s writings on his Instagram.