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Flower Flag by Wally Hedrick (ca. 1954) was painted during the McCarthy era in the United States (1950-1954). Liberal political leaders and citizens were in danger of being blacklisted by anti-Communist witch hunters attempting to improve their social or political standing by accusing others of disloyalty to the United States. This period of fanatic political repression contributed to the rich political backdrop that shaped Waldman’s childhood. Both Waldman’s poetry and Flower Flag project an awareness of the danger and potential brutality posed by self-righteous political oppression generated by extremism.
Much like the explosion of raw feminist energy Waldman unleashes in her poetry from within the male-dominated Beat movement, Flower Flag challenges masculine concepts of discipline and order by replacing the regimented stars and stripes with small white flowers, symbols of femininity and peace. Flower Flag’s simple colors reflect the excitement exhibited by Waldman’s poetry through her use of simple poetic forms and plain language. Waldman grounds her poetry in primal emotions such as fear and anger which in turn trigger higher levels of reflection in her audience.
Within poetic and political discourse, Waldman’s writing occupies a space similar to that of Flower Flag–an uneasy balance between peace, productive protest, and meaningless violence.
flower flag, Wally Bill Hedrick, Anne Waldman, beat poetry
Hedrick, Wally Bill, "Flower Flag" (1954). ENGL 4310 – Heart Beats Exhibit. 13.