Sunday, August 19, 2007

Poetry falls upon hard times ...

Dan Chiasson is the author of three books and teaches at Wellesley College. In today's New York Time he wrote an article, condemning a short book of 22 poems by detainees at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He notes, poems that have been cleared for release by the United States military.

He writes, ... reading “Poems From Guantánamo” is a bizarre experience.

In what sense could these poems, heavily vetted by official censors, translated by “linguists with secret-level security clearance” but no literary training, released by the Pentagon according to its own strict, but unarticulated, rationale — “speak”?

Given these constraints, a better subtitle might have been “The Detainees Do Not Speak” or perhaps “The Detainees Are Not Allowed to Speak.” But the best subtitle, I fear, would have been “The Pentagon Speaks.”


He goes on to say, But imagine a volume of Osip Mandelstam’s poetry released by the Soviet government in 1938, or an anthology of poems by Japanese internment prisoners released by our government during the Second World War. The government’s disingenuous resistance to this book’s publication aside (a wooden official statement denounces the book as “another tool in their battle of ideas against Western democracies”), the Pentagon ought to get an editor’s credit on “Poems From Guantánamo.”

5 comments:

Peter said...

"You have to be in the mood for some death-defying Orwellian back-flips, then, to read “Poems From Guantánamo”,
the New York Times notes.

Let's nominate the author for the understatement of the month award...

AscenderRisesAbove said...

wow. it makes me really really want to read the poems

womanwandering said...

Lol, let's Peter.

Who imagined the book could be greeted with anything except skepticism when they knew who the censors were ... it's surreal thinking.

I can imagine, ascender. Maybe they can be used as leaping off points for other creative folk who are free and uncensored.

ren.kat said...

Sounds like the linguists have translated poetry into prose and stuffed ideology into the line breaks. The Pope demanding drapery over penises in the frescoes.

I wonder if the poets know what has happened to their work. I wonder if the Pentagon knows that if these men are ever released, they'll be facing a death sentence for the translations. I wonder if that was the intention.
(sorry to go on so)

womanwandering said...

Your 'going on' was much appreciated ren.kat It's all true.