Yes We Can -or- How I Got to the Top of the SPD list

99% of all book receipts have been reported. And if there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer as my first poetry book, from unincorporated territory, has reached the top of the SPD poetry bestseller list. Yes we can!

It’s been a long journey my friends. I want to thank my top advisors, all those who endorsed my book, all the poetry community organizers who invited me to read. Yes we can!

I vow to reach across the linebreak and work with other poets to bring about change in po-biz. There are not fake poets and real poets, there are only poets. There aren’t language poets and flarfists and identity poets, there are only poets. We must all come together to write a more perfect epic. Yes we can!


ok enough silliness. but speaking of poetry and politics, i was recently featured on PoetryPolitic, a project by Brandon Shimoda of Wave Books. Check me out here.

this project made me think about joyelle mcsweeney & johannes goransson’s comments (in various places) on “anthological thinking”. the critique being that this kind of thinking claims to have the power to “represent” whatever its anthology subject matter (country, ethnicity, time period, gender, etc). we might also call this “closed anthological thinking”.

i think that Wave’s PoetryPolitic anthology, however, is one example of “open anthological thinking”. they don’t claim to represent or define what political poetry is (or what the relationship between poetry and politics is); instead, each entry seems to open and redefine what political poetry can be in various articulations/representations.


speaking of the relationship between poetry and politics, i was struck by 3 responses to obama’s victory.

barbara asks:

if the Bush administration’s war, greed, and incompetence are the things that have been fueling a glut of American political poetry in recent years, then what happens next? Does American poetry go back to being complacent, irrelevant, and oblivious to the world around it?

and oscar writes:

The issues that have driven me as a political poet still exist in this new America. The constant uprooting of hard-working families from the slums of the inner-city, to the slums of the suburbs, to the slums of pre-fab communities, and then back to the inner-city is still happening around us through the mortgage crisis which has been bank rolled with their savings and their dreams for a real home. The education system is still a mess that favors the economically and culturally Anglo-centric advantaged. The prison system is still this country’s ghost economy: taking advantage of young men in need of guidance and education and giving them the rule of the overseer and the law of immediate survival as their bread and water, converting them into cogs for a machine that once produced roads and license plates and is now is doing that and making your cheaper rubber products and cultivating organic food for mass sale. The other great ghost economy of the undocumented laborers in our country remains an open issue, which I interpret as a still open wound.

The end of the wars abroad doesn’t mean the wars here at home will end. But I get the feeling that for many poets it will be the end of their political outcry. But if all they’ve ever had is a war that they’ve never lived then they should not fear the death of their political poetry because, in the futile end, they never ever really lived that.

–oscar’s post passionately answers barbara’s question. since i know both poets, i know that both of them will continue to passionately work to raise social consciousness and affect social change through their poetry. the election of obama doesnt change the work we need to do as “social (post)modernists” (forgive me, but i’m reading denning’s the cultural front).


interestingly, gary considers the implications of Obama’s election for flarf:

Cynicism, sarcasm, irony and political outrage all up in air


“Our President is going to be a Muslim-educated African-American black Irish guy who grew up in Indonesia. It’s like the exact opposite of what would happen in one of my poems. Clearly Flarf needs some rethinking in the wake of this.” The phone rang; a condolence call from The Bay Area Society for Incomprehensible Book-Length Abstract Poems.


here’s why this election won’t change my poetry:

New president won’t affect realignment, USFJ chief says

By Vince Little, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, November 6, 2008

TOKYO — Target dates and objectives for military transformation should remain on track under the new administration, regardless of which party captures the White House, the U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Edward Rice also discussed regional threats and the possibility of political instability triggered by the worldwide financial crisis. He said American military doctrine — at least in mainland Japan and Okinawa — isn’t likely to face any major shift with election of the next president.

“We’re looking at how we can best advise the new administration on our strategic areas of operation and get them off to a running start,” Rice said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “The fundamental commitment will continue in terms of our strong alliance. … Japan and the U.S. have a very strong stake in working together.”

He said the Defense Policy Review Initiative, which took three years of negotiations between the United States and Japan, “helps set the conditions for future success … [and] it’s our expectation that agreement we have will be executed.”

Several realignment pieces have fallen into place or at least begun, Rice added. They include arrival of the nuclear-powered USS George Washington at Yokosuka Naval Base; the deployment of Patriot interceptor missiles to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; and the return of a portion of U.S. military airspace at Yokota Air Base to Japanese control in September.

The relocation of 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma’s move to Camp Schwab by 2014 are among the more ambitious goals that remain. Rice said he believes both will be accomplished on schedule.

Addressing regional threats, Rice said “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula is important to all Asian nations and that six-party talks remain the best option.

Rice declined to focus on any other countries, even when asked about his concerns over China and Russia. He said he’s more interested in establishing an environment “that helps us build a more responsible global structure.”

“I look at opportunities to prevent threats [through] a sufficient level of engagement,” he said. “We can develop relationships in a positive way. Around the world, history has shown it’s very difficult to predict the actual threat that will emerge to cause you to take action.”

That approach is especially important now, he added, with much of the world in financial turmoil.

“It can contribute to instability if we’re not careful,” Rice said. “From a military perspective, it’s important we engage with other nations to decrease the element of the unknown.”

He called the U.S.-Japan security alliance the “keystone to peace and prosperity for all nations in Southeast Asia” but said there is no shortage of problems to tackle. They include terrorism, international criminal activity, environmental and health issues, and sharpening response to natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.

In 2011, the United States and Japan will conduct another review of the Host Nation Support Agreement. Rice said he considers it an “important balancing mechanism” in the U.S. military’s role toward defending the country.

“It’s a reasonable agreement,” he said. “[Japan] is getting a great return on that investment.”


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