The problem with Contemporary After Post Modern Poetry is when it chooses to move into the political realm no one takes it seriously, not even other poets.
It is like that great scene from an early Seventies Woody Allen movie where the tweedy academic verbosely expresses his opinions about Marshall Mc Cluen and even when faced with the actual person refuses to see how vapid is his analysis. Poetry has failed miserably at challenging political paradigms. Poets whose work is taken politically seriously are made to suffer consequences for their work. No American poets are in detention because they are not read by enough people.
Neruda, Akmatova, Vallejo, Avila and many other poets whose work called for political action or focused deep critique on their societies are few and far between. Readers of American poetry are often subjected to the ironic, hipster, or arrogantly intellectual and immediately the intellectual non-cognoscenti are excluded from the inside joke and the political challenge sinks under the weight of pomposity and ridiculous artifice.
When I first bought DeathStar/Rico-Chet by Judith Goldman I was ready to receive the kind of experience that I describe above. This book has all the fetishes of poetry that fills so many an MFAers existence. Beginning with the Blurbs which are so opaque and filled with poetspeak as to eliminate any chance that a non-poet will ever buy the book; to the dedication which seems to equate all sides as equally abused when this is frankly not the case. In entering this work something else happened that I was not prepared for… and it makes one wonder if the blurbs and dedication and other signposts are ways to lull the reader and get across another point?
The first ‘poem’ which is much closer to a Viktor Skhlovsky essay, uses collage and parataxis to bring together a work on a strange phrase “Office of Strategic Influence”. The last line of the section is “Is this Clever or Confused? 9” At this point I have not decided which it is but the use of collage so unabashedly refreshing and the density too is interesting as to make one want more from the book.
So much of contemporary poetry is either neo-formal crap or so long down the road to world salad that it is unreadable but here Goldman has taken collage and made it part of the work in a central way and caused the reader to want to continue to see what is the next bend or punch.
“Tragedy Unites: Scrapbooking a Tragedy That to remember the horrific events will be an intensely personal tragedy” This is clearly the most compelling line in the second poem Off White. This poem has it all Abe Lincoln, Joerg Haider (Austrian Nazi Apologist Politician) Mister Rogers and more and in this poem Goldman shows a virtuosity that I clearly did not expect. The fact that the poet seems to have read deeply is attractive and that she brings this to the work is a way that is not cheap or vapid draws in the reader.
The poem Case Sensitive is interesting but the work is filled with cross outs and font changes that make the work cluttered and dangerously close to parody. But then again when Goldman moves close to the postmodern ravine she pulls back and finishes strong. It would be easy to go down into the Post Languagey Ravine and stay there but Goldman does not do this again and again as if to say—“No. no, no, I am going somewhere else”
There are what you would expect from a poet of this style. There is the obligatory slam at Joseph Ratzinger and his few months in the German Army what this has to do with our current crop of petite Mussolinis is beyond me and there is also a large section of the Hamburg Line of ships and the Holocaust but strangely nothing about the Palestinians and their plight which gave us the fertile ground for the terrorism that now exists in the world.
There is also no mention of Lebanon and the destruction of that nation by American and Israeli foreign policy. This is odd since these issues are so central to Terrorism appeal and would fit into this critique well. There is also a complete lack of commentary on Islam that might have given this book even more texture but you cannot do everything and Goldman has clearly done allot here.
In the end DeathStar/Rico-Chet by Judith Goldman has flaws it sometimes gives into a kind of hipster Socialism that pervades much of After-Postmodern poetry in the USA. But if you spend most of your time in Berkeley or New York this is bound to happen. In spite of these weaknesses she does something that no book of poetry has done since 9/11; she indicts the Corporatist Junta that has been born out of the very real threat of reactionary terrorism. She takes the mask off the monster and makes us see the beast for what it is. She also does something that does hark back to the 1930’s she exposes the mass’s attraction to Corporatism which in another time drew people to Franco, Mussolini, Vargas, Salazar and Hitler.
I for one would put Goldman’s book right next to my copy of Eisenhower’s farewell address as being spot on about the reality of our current situation.