Archive for the ‘political poetry’ Tag

“Poetry is news…” &c.

Two decades back, in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, when the United States and its allies were rattling their sabres mobilizing to invade Afghanistan, many were critical of such an ill-advised adventure, including myself. I cast around for a way to articulate this critical unease, happening, finally, on a column from The Globe and Mail (as described below) that provided the material and impetus to compose a work of verbal art (a “poem” or, in this case, more properly, a “text”) that answered my need.

As I wrote in way of preface at the time:

Saturday 22 September 2001 The Globe and Mail published an essay article by John Barber ‘Wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains’ (F4). Despite its critical stance toward the then impending invasion, the terms of its discourse were so pedestrian my frustrated and bored eye wandered across its six columns. The article read thus, against the grain, oracularly clear, and the experience of that reading what I want to communicate. The sense it made to me leaves its trace in minor editorialisations (where the text has been stepped on). This vision into the essence of our imagination of Afghanistan is as forbidding as the country itself: a land of glacierous and desert mountains and sandstorms and tire-melting heat that swallows whole armies. “Cut the word lines and the future leaks through.” Here, English speaks this vision: in dead or obscure words, new compounds and coinages. Syntactically, at root (or so Norman O. Brown told John Cage) the arrangement of Alexander’s soldiers in a phalanx (the Great, too, stopped in Afghanistan), the language has been demilitarized.

Some stanzas of the resulting poem, Seventh Column, were published in The Capilano Review, in an issue devoted to poetic responses to 9/11. The entire poem was issued in a very limited edition, hand-stitched chapbook, long since sold out. On the occasion of the withdrawal of western forces from Afghanistan, the time seemed ripe to share the poem in its entirety, readable in the PDF, below.

Corpus Sample: “Hamburger Smalltalk”

While I was trying to imagine a set list for my last reading, I had thought to perform poems that, though written in the early 90s, spoke to today’s world situation. One of these would surely have been the following poem, “Hamburger Smalltalk”, composed in 1991 and later collected in Grand Gnostic Central and other poems.

One of the stops during my first visit to Europe was Hamburg, Germany, where we stayed a few days with a couple, friends of my partner at the time. One was widely travelled and had lived some time in Africa. During a very pleasant, evening walk, with our respective partners and the dog, he related the anecdote the poem retells. Accordingly, the poem is spoken in his voice, complete with Germanisms of syntax and expression.

 

Hamburger Smalltalk

 

You’ve seen a picture of a cheetah

on a gazelle:  its teeth in its neck

bent back, its leg

around the gazelle’s hind leg

to break its back.

 

Cheetahs are a serious nuisance

for farmers in southwest Africa.  Lions

and other cats kill what they need

and leave something

for the jackals and vultures.

 

A cheetah goes into blood-frenzies—

if you have a herd of sheep

in the morning you’ll find forty

torn apart and maybe seven lambs

carried off.

 

The farmers know their herds

they watch and know which cows are ready

to calve and if a calf goes missing

they mark the mother

and send her next to the abattoir.

 

Now you’ll see five cows gang up

on a cheetah to protect the calves

and drive it off.

(He shook his head and chuckled)

The white tribe of Africa.

 

BSAC_settlers_Southern_Rhodesia

Jason Kenney rides UCP wave to majority government in Alberta

 

When I read this headline this morning, I was immediately reminded of my friends’ reactions to the election of Rob Ford last summer, whose social media postings I collaged into a kind of poem as they threaded their way to me then.

You can read “Ontario Election Results 2018 in real time“, changing the names and places as needed to make it about this most recent electoral development.

I’ve poetically expressed my own political leanings here, in a long poem from Ladonian Magnitudes (2006).

All I can say is, Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

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Ontario Election Results 2018 in real time

As the results of yesterday’s Ontario election came in and it became clear Doug Ford’s https _www.insauga.com_sites_default_files_imagecache_lead-image-full_article_2017_12_header_photo_0Progressive Conservative party had won a majority, I recorded the reactions of my friends and collated them as they appeared, in the poem (or text) below. Readers can draw their own inferences about the politics of my social circle!

 

Ontario Election Results 2018

 

This is the worst possible timeline

…This will be much worse then (sic) we even know.

Go fuck yourself, Ontario.

Well, I’ve been voting for governments in provincial and federal elections since 1993, and my 100% failure rate is still going strong. Grotesque, Ontario

Maybe compulsory voting and proportional representation?

Based on the predictions that are coming in, all I can say is FUUUUCCCKKKK!!

Wow… Feeling a lot of stunned for my pals in Ontario.

Nice work Ontario, you ding dongs.

That was dumb.

Congratulations Ontario!

… Best case scenario: NDP gets a 15 year mandate to fix things after Ford enacts another Mike Harris-style sack of the province. Some of us may even live to see it.

…Damn… just damn…