cover image State of the Union: 50 Political Poems

State of the Union: 50 Political Poems

, . . Wave, $14 (112pp) ISBN 978-1-933517-33-9

Politics are on everybody’s mind. Wave editors and poets Beckman and Zapruder enter this slim gathering of poems—charged with cynicism, seething, sadness, surrealism and schadenfreude—into the discussion. From big names (John Ashbery, Lucille Clifton) to contemporary favorites (Terrence Hayes, Peter Gizzi) and newcomers (like Mathias Svalina, whose “Forgiveness” is a highlight: “This is a lesson on/ forgiveness: the scar/ forgives the knife”), many of these poets come at politics with hip aesthetics and liberal leanings. In her spare, affecting opener, Noelle Kocot writes, “Look at the landscape,/ A lot of damage, no?” Matthew Rohrer, addressing Dick Cheney, admits “it is a very good thing/ to watch you die.” Yet many of these poems seem reluctant to answer what may be their central questions: What exactly is a political poem? What is a poet’s responsibility toward politics? What can a poem accomplish? Or maybe the uncertain attitude often on display is a kind of answer for an America where it’s become so hard to trust or tell what’s going on, where, as Joe Wenderoth says, we must look to “transparency after transparency/ adorning whatever it is that moves us/ no closer to knowing.” (Sept.)