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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Critiques & Reviews
100 Days of Daze
by Jeff Smithpeters

Author's Links

One Hundred Days, ed. Andrea Brady.
Barque Press, Cambridge, UK.
184 pp.


One hundred days into the purloined term of office of George W. Bush, it was already possible to see what we're all in for, for the next 45 months: the economic agenda Nixon might have fantasized about but dared not initiate, an energy policy that exhibits more compassion toward all those previously endangered carbon dioxide molecules than toward our national alveoli, and a foreign policy easily summarized in a two-word command often uttered by Joe Pesci in Scorsese movies.
      Compassionate conservatism apparently applies only to Bush's relations with campaign contributors, since he's plenty conservative and plenty compassionate to their crying need to dominate, deceive and destroy. As for leaving no child behind? Bush's contribution to our education system is a miniscule increase in the federal expenditure and a new round of darken-the-oval exams for teachers to gear all their efforts toward. Never mind paragraphing, or learning how to identify bias on the Fox News channel. Johnny, memorize THIS, so my colleagues and I can get good marks in the newspapers.
      The human reaction, of course, is anger. And with anger, especially the anger of those victimized by brazen and unprosecuted theft, numbness often ensues, and corresponding inarticulacy. If you feel someone pull the watch clean off your arm and see them run off giggling, you're liable to stand there slackjawed. The first sound you make is apt to be something like "Wha---?"
      Or something like one of the poems in 100 Days, the anthology of poems sent to the Barque Press in response to an online request for poems summing up Bush's first three and a quarter months in office. As the book's editor, Andrea Brady, explains on the backmost page, "over ninety artists replied to a web broadcast invitation" issued 70 days into Bush II's illegal tenure.
      These replies range all over the electoral map in terms of style, strategy and rhetorical effectiveness. And it must be said that there's a fair amount of creative writing workshopese, poetry written solely to show off one's syntactical and linguistic prowess, or one's ability to rattle off T.S. Eliot quotations. It's material like this snippet from an Alice Notley poem that probably caused Bush voters to swear off poetry in the first place:

      You will die of your minor hearts, your monotoned thought, your purses of shadows, die worshipping god and weaving death blankets for all but your own children, own friends, own offices. I am the office. I cast you out, erasing your lacklove, you, the elected.

The poet is addressing the Bush constituency--surely symbolized here by a Madame LeFarge-like lot, eh? The turnabout of the last lines in the excerpt is cute; the disenfranchised poet does to the not-so Grand way-too-old Party what it did to the poet and to the world.
      Meanwhile, in a smug, unhelpful essay entitled "The First One Hundred Days of Sodom: Fucking, Sucking, and Sodomizing in the Bush Interregnum," Anonymous luxuriates in the license for bluntness that's always his/her birthright. Anonymous explains the famously disturbing electoral map, the one that shows the Gore counties in blue, the Bush ones in red. On that map, the northeastern and western beaches are minty blue, and several jagged blue rivers run through vast expanses of blister red Bush country. According to Anonymous, "people tend to be smarter the nearer they are to water: the Atlantic, the Pacific, and even the Great Lakes seem to have an intellectualizing--although geographically limited--effect."
      The question must be asked. What does such writing accomplish for the left, or for readers in general? Does'nt this kind of writing give the right exactly what it wants? Aren't we saying exactly what they want us to say and--worse--in precisely the terms they'd prefer us to use?
      The right loves a smug, elitist leftist almost as much as it loves a cut in funds for social programs or environmental policy enforcement. A leftist who wants to DO something in the world can only read such poetry and wince. It's like watching the team you root for do obnoxious dances in the end zone when you're down by 28 points.
      Luckily, the book also contains work that makes you wonder if it's possible to read the Bush non-phenomenon with more exactitude. Rod Smith, author of In Memory of My Theories among other titles, seems to have accounted for the Dubya species with a simple analogy to the Mary Tyler Moore show cast, but with one crucial tweak: "Now imagine if Ted were Lou, if Ted were the boss. You know how incredibly fucking brainless Ted is, but let's imagine he understands & is willing to use force. That's the situation we're now in as Americans."
      I for one will remember Smith's theory for at least another 43 months, but I won't remember much else from this uneven conglomeration.

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