Are you interested in the relationship between poetry and politics? Do you believe that your own poetry has political implications?
I almost joined the Army once. Amazing but true. I took the intelligence test and everything. This was actually not all that long ago. After basic training, I was going to enter officer school and work in some kind of legal area. I had or was given the impression that it would be like A Few Good Men. Luckily I backed out before signing anything serious. These days, I pass the Army recruitment office every morning on the way to work, and I've gotten to be chat-level friendly with the recruiters. One guy in particular, the commanding officer I think, still asks me when I'm going to come in and sign up. "I can't today," I usually tell him. "My boss would kill me." He chuckles and throws me a little shrug.
When I was considering joining up I thought that being a poet, or anyway identifying myself as one, might be one of the many alienating experiences I'd have in the armed forces. This made me tense because I don't like the idea that poetry, rather than making space for communion, only puts us deeper into our own little worlds. It's difficult because poetry so often seems like a very insular, even provincial, concern, and its connection to politics is tenuous at best, often no more than a kind of color commentary—like a verse equivalent to Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh—for a situation from which it's increasingly dissociated.
But I didn't stay out of the Army because of poetry. In truth, things just got very intense and frightening, and I bailed. I don't know if it was a good decision or not, but the whole experience has, for whatever reason, led me to believe that writing political poems is really important. While I'm sure any political poems I write will be no more relevant than my vote, I hope they'll be a little ballsier than I am and somewhat more willing to carry a gun.
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from Forget Rita
With the same slow tackle of seasons touching,
the morning pressed into the back of my eyelids
that opened with a car key's clang in a toilet bowl.
Hours later, not sure where the day got off to,
my whole head filled with time
that shot like a laser through my ear canals,
a thin jet of seconds in its wake.
Late last night I turned on my bedroom light
in an electric confession:
"I lie down to stand on my underside,
the ceiling another wall I can't walk to."
It's why she hates overhead light,
or an adolescent taking down the trashy poster
taped over his bed—we all prefer subtle ironies.
From Forget Rita, chosen by John Ashbery for the PSA New York Chapbook Fellowship competition. All Rights Reserved.
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