David Backer Reviews 'Watering the Fires'

Fiction Daily editor David Backer reviewed my 2009 political poetry collection, Watering the Fires. His thoughts here are much appreciated, and capture much of what I hoped to accomplish with the political poetry I’ve written over the years (mostly during the Bush administration).

This echap (as well as Gargling Cinderblocks, and poems published in other places) is only a small sample of a full-length collection called How Much the Jaw Weighs that will most likely never be published (as David points out in his review). This fact alone seems, to me, to validate many of the poems confronting socio-politics and complacency in America.

I feel like I've got a lot to say about this subject, but I really don't feel like saying it right now. I feel complacent. I haven't written anything as overtly political as these poems in some time, and feel I probably won't again. For that reason, I have a good feeling of nostalgia thinking back on writing them, and still of course identify with my intentions.

I would very much like to see How Much the Jaw Weighs published someday, but I have no idea where to send it. I've sent it to a few places here and there over the years, but nothing. I fear David Backer is absolutely right when he writes that political poetry is something no one should write anymore because it will never be published. David asks:
Is that the way it is? Are writers trying to make a living by their writing more than they’re trying to make life by their writing? When I went to the AWP I was shocked at how much it felt like a trade fair. A job search. A place to sell widgets. William Pitt, at that very panel on political poetry, sat behind a Marriott fold-out table with an awkward floral print tablecloth and spoke into a microphone, just as I’m sure any number of military-industrial leaders have.

Am I being unreasonable? Don’t we have an obligation as artist-citizens of the most offensive cultural empire this side of the 20th century to use our talents to point beautiful, un-ignorable fingers at the various interests bent on consuming life on earth to death?

The answer to these questions is probably yes. And “Watering the Fires” is an excellent occasion to ask them again.
Thank you, David...

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