The Rogue Voice


December 01, 2007

Poetry going to hell

Poets and other writers are in style now.
They win prizes named “Booker” and “Tor House”
and – of all things – “The National Poetry
Awards,” name-dropping grants and prizes.

People sit and listen to them read
or recite. Please refrain from clapping in between.
Then, what inspired me, who has influenced me,
when I began to write, why I continue.

But that was before I was invited to the White House.
and refused, offering an acid reply instead.
Or shortly after Tagore renounced his knighthood
which Salman Rushdie accepted recently,

probably as a joke, because he knew
it would make the mullahs mad and someone
would have to run interference for him
with Allah to prevent another war.

Then there’s those more or less squelched
“Poems from Guantanamo” which splashed
in the Wall Street Journal, only to disappear,
quietly, stealthily, like the prisoners themselves

hanging by a thread from some dark rafter.
Do not bespeak madness, torture, suicide.
Do not stop, look and listen in the darkness.
Run for your life into art galleries and cafes.

Keep it sweet and clean, dry, tearless,
antiseptic. Speak no evil. Enjoy the deadly
mystery of words from a distance, drawn
and quartered by the evasive intellect.

—Jean Gerard
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